What Can I Say?

What does it mean to worship? Adoration, glory, exaltation are all synonyms. In terms of loving Jesus, worshipping is not limited to putting your hands up during worship music or praying before you step on the field. Our God is so big that he is worthy of so much more worship than those simple actions. At UTC, I learned how to truly surrender my heart to Him.

I sit here writing this post in awe of the week I recently experienced. A week ago, I arrived home following a 17 hour (super eventful) drive from Ft. Collins, Colorado. What brought me there? The Athletes in Action Ultimate Training Camp.  A life changing, heart transforming experience that I will never be able to write about to its entirety. God MOVED people. But, anything I say will not do this camp justice. It was easily the best week of my life. I would love to be back there right now.

150 top college athletes gathered together for seven days to learn how to worship God in sports. There is so much more to it than that though. From the moment we walked in, the energy at the camp was through the roof and it stayed that way every single day. We got to know each other the first days by going bowling and having a friendly (non-athletic) competition. Then the principles began. We learned five different principles that apply directly to our sport and also are able to be applied when we enter real life (workplace).

The biggest lesson I learned this week was that no matter where I go in life, God will be able to use my love for people and work ethic. I will not be able to play soccer forever, so knowing that I can glorify God in everything I do is powerful.

The camp as a whole was so incredible. I struggled with words to describe the camp, so I decided to ask other campers what UTC did in their lives.

I met Alex during the draft process and we got to lead our team together through the SPECIAL. He wrote a personal account about what the SPECIAL did to his body and heart.

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered

What a priceless gift, undeserved life
Have I been given
Through Christ crucified

Sweetly Broken, Jeremy Riddle

For the past 20 years of my life and throughout the 15 years of my competitive career, I had always thought that I was doing things the right way: worshipping and bringing glory to God’s name through sport. The Ultimate Training Camp revealed to me that there is so much more to a relationship with your Creator than what I had originally understood.The SPECIAL broke me down in a way that my body has never been broken before. Exhaustion set in about 10 hours in to the 20-hour experience leaving me with nothing left to offer emotionally, physically or mentally. Through the cramps and unending drops of sweat, I learned that I could not rely on my own strength. I asked the Lord to fill me with His grace, strength, favor, and love in order to finish the tasks at hand and lead my team in a manner that reflected Christ as much as possible. He appeared in each competition, filling each of us with the mindset that He is our one and only source of motivation: our Audience of One. While my physically body ached, my spiritual body grew stronger as His unfailing love showed itself throughout the SPECIAL. Before this, I was too prideful to fully give my heart to my Savior. The SPECIAL left me sweetly broken, wholly surrendered. I had no choice but to drop to my knees, lower my head, lift my hands, and submit all I had to His Kingdom.

That act of surrender was the best thing I have ever done in my life.

As humans, our nature desires control over our own lives. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”God wants us to repudiate our selfish nature so that He can bless us in overwhelming abundance. He wants us to feel His unfailing love. He wants everything you have to offer, and it is all for the best. That is why He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus died the death we deserve so we can live this undeserved life. May 25th to 31st in Fort Collins, Colorado changed my life forever. The SPECIAL opened my eyes to the true sacrifice and love of Jesus Christ. He broke down the worldly idols that had previously motivated me and built a renewed mind. I realized that through my relationship with Jesus Christ, I already have the ultimate victory.

       Alex Matthews

University of Pennsylvania- Football

camp10My best friend, Kayla McDowell, had the opportunity to experience the camp with 19 other Missouri athletes. So I asked her how she would bring back what she learned. I am so genuinely happy for her desire to surrender her heart.

A lot of times we have really emotional experiences where we encounter God and then after that experience we feel that we need to be back in those same circumstances in order to feel the same things. After UTC it would be easy to say to myself “I just want to be at camp because it is easy there.” It’s easy to be vulnerable with other Christians, it is easy to surround yourself with believers, and it is easy to make God your priority. Those are the three things that I personally need in order to continue to grow near to the Lord, this summer, post UTC.

Being vulnerable is difficult in the first place, but we were not made to do life on our own. When you share struggles, you are not only seeking counsel but, you are able to process things out loud. A lot of times we listen to ourselves, instead of speaking the truth to ourselves, so having another believer to help me recognize Satan’s lies is something that I need to continue to grow. When you have someone you are real with, you not only have accountability but you are able to encourage and be encouraged. I struggled to surround myself with believers the first half of this past year, but moving forward I know that God has placed some really amazing people in my life. I know that we were meant to be in community with other believers so I am going to surround myself with other people who love Jesus. Together we can not only have a blast, but do things the right way to glorify him.

Lastly I want to make God not only my Savior but my LORD. I know that I need him to forgive my sins but I want to make him my number one. I want him involved in every part of my life. I know that I need to be intentional about giving him EVERY area of my life, not only the areas that I feel comfortable surrendering. Doing things my own way hasn’t really worked in the past, I think it’s about time to surrender every part of my life to Him. Even though I think sometimes that I know what is best for me, I feel freedom as I give everything up to him. I am SO excited to see what God does not only this summer, but this next year!

Kayla McDowell

Missouri University- Basketball

camp8One of my SPECIAL teammates powered through an event during the SPECIAL. Her reliance on the Lord was awe-inspiring. (We also shared a collective fear of T-Mac)

“Everyone grab a wall!’ T-Mac yelled on his unbearable sounding microphone. Already exhausted from the hour-long concentrated game of ultimate Frisbee and tug-of-war, I found the furthest spot in the basketball gym where no intern or assistant could see me. When T-Mac told us to pick a spot on the wall for wall-sits, I assumed he would only make us go for 3-5 minutes. Well, I was unfortunately flawed.

The horrific starting noise of T-Mac’s microphone sounded and it is time to go. With my legs in a perfect 90-degree angle, I sit against the wall, arms folded, feeling superior to everyone else; “This is my time to shine”, I think to myself. None of the interns or coaches are telling me how long I’ve been up for but everyone around me is dropping like flies. I know I am doing well when the 6’4, 260lb Mizzou strength coach drops to his knees after the unspecified amount of time of wall-sits.

At this point, out of 150 athletes, there are about 30 let in this competition, including myself. My quads are beginning to vibrate and my lower back is feeling like it’s going to cramp with any wrong move I make. So, as the devil begins creeping in my head telling me to give up, I begin repeatedly singing the lyrics that I generally listen to before my track meets:

ryann “Oh what I would do to have the kind of strength to stand before a giant with just a sling and a stone. Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors shaking in their armor wishing they’d have had the strength to stand. But the giant’s calling out my name and he laughs at me, reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed. The giant keeps on telling me time and time again ‘Boy, you’ll never win! You’ll never win.’   But the voice of truth tells me a different story and the voice of truth says ‘Do not be afraid!’ The voice of truth says ‘This is for My glory’. Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”

 For a short moment, I suddenly gain my strength back. It is unbelievable how God is pushing back the dark in my head. Feeling like I have the strength of Samson in the Bible, I continue singing to myself:

Already feeling on top of the world, one of the interns appears in front of my eyes and with a certain passion and love in her shaky voice she reads Matthew 17:20, “He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith.’ Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” With the grave nature of her voice, she looks into my eyes and says to me “I know your faith is far larger than a mustard seed, so move mountains girl!” At this point, my eyes are tightly closed, body curled up as much as possible in a wall sit position, and I begin to weep uncontrollably.

In this very moment, with my eyes now shut, I envision the atrocious journey Jesus Christ takes to His death. I picture Him being beaten and whipped almost to the point of death but enough to keep Him alive. I see Him carrying the 300-pound cross on the Road to Calvary, in His fragile state of life. I imagine Jesus as He is being nailed to the cross with everyone ridiculing Him. Making it more personal, I am now looking from His perspective. Jesus Christ was envisioning me, thinking about me specifically when He was suffering on the 6×8 piece of wood. Jesus came to this earth to complete what His Father set out for him to do and I was His motivation for finishing the race.

I was in so much pain from a measly 13-minute wall sit. That did not even begin to compare to the amount of pain and betrayal Jesus felt on the day of His death. For the first time in my life, I felt the Holy Spirit fill me up and a peace come over me. I realized how much Jesus loves me. Letting the pride of winning go and opening up my heart completely, I fell to the ground weeping. I had never felt or understood a love like that until that very moment. In a short flash, I felt every sin, every fear, and every part of my heart that had ever been broken taken away from me. I was healed. God healed my heart and forgave me of all my sins. I felt it. For the first time in my life I was free.

Ryann McEnany

University of Florida- Track

Their contributions are greatly appreciated and they truly helped capture the essence of the camp. I could talk about this camp all day, so if you have any questions or are interested in going, please get a hold of me and I will point you in the right direction!

As always, Jesus loves you!
Sami

The Crooked Smile Chronicles

I have great joy in the Lord because now at last you have again expressed your concern for me. (Now I know you were concerned before but had no opportunity to do anything.)  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in any circumstance.  I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:10-13 (shoutout to my best friend Kayla for sending this)

A little over two weeks since the injury and a week and a half since surgery. 5 doctors, 2 surgeons, a bunch of nurses, 2 hospitals, and one plastic surgery later, I am healthy! (okay not a real plastic surgery)

IMG_3533

The enthusiastic before picture.

As some of you may or may not know or may or may not care, these past two weeks have been a roller coaster. Either way, I am giving everyone an update.  It was April 12 and we were playing Miami University at Miami. I went up for a headball and my face hit the better half of the opponent’s head. Right then and there was the worst pain I have ever been in. Within 30 minutes I was sitting in a hospital bed with IV fluids and a nice healthy dose of morphine. Very long story short, I broke the left side of my face. One of the fractures damaged a nerve so half of my face is numb. This could last up to a year. So I will continue to rock the crooked smile for a while. Also, before surgery I could not open my jaw. Not cool. I had to get an urgent surgery to reset all of the bones and put some titanium plates in my face. There is a lot of scientific stuff that I could say but let’s be honest, none of us would know what I am saying.

So I have been eating every slurpable (not a word) food possible. Which is actually not much. Smoothies and mashed potatoes can only go so far. I am planning on patenting this experience as a weight loss plan. I think that has been the worst part of this whole experience. Eating is kind of my thing. And at every moment, I am craving a big juicy cheeseburger. A girl can dream.

I have learned a lot about the human body and just humans in general this week. The human body is pretty dang cool. I know you’re probably thinking, ‘how could she think that when she is in so much pain?’ Good question, but remember that I was on some pretty strong (fun) drugs. Anyway, the silver lining out of all this is that my brain is okay. For most people that is a good thing. For me that is an INCREDIBLE thing. After having four concussions, there is not much more trauma that my brain can withstand. But praise God I get to play many more soccer games in the future . God created us so perfectly. He created the skull and face bones to protect the brain and that’s exactly what they did. I find it hard not to believe in God after seeing this happen. We were all fearfully and wonderfully made. There was detail in the creation of every bone in my body. And the fact that I can get hit so hard to break multiple bones but have absolutely no damage to my brain is just a God thing. There is no other way to put it.

Humans are pretty cool too. I am going to sound like a broken record when I say this but I am overwhelmed by the amount of love and prayers I have been receiving. It truly brings me to tears when I think about the people that love and care for me. My Crossroads Welcome team, my soccer coaches and teammates, the NKU trainers, my close friends and family, the BCM, my awesome roommate, old teammates, old coaches. That is just a short list of the incredible people in my life. God has really blessed me with a supportive community. My mother gets her own shoutout just because she has been treating me like an absolute queen and is probably more stressed than I am about this whole ordeal. But seriously, words will not do any justice to how thankful I am. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

This situation has taught me to celebrate the small victories just as much as I celebrate the big ones. As an athlete, I find myself getting excited (or disgusted) by how much I can squat or what fitness tests I can pass. But at this point in my life, I am finding joy in being able to open my mouth, being able to see out of my left eye, eating solid foods, going a whole day without pain or anti nausea medicines. God wants us to remember that there is excitement in every victory big or small. I am not defined by my athletic abilities, but by the love that Jesus has for me.

So bringing this all together, if you haven’t already noticed, God is awesome. I haven’t had the best week of my life but He has been with me every single step of the way.

Jesus loves me, my crooked smile, and He loves you too!
Sami

Community

Community is an awesome thing. To me, community is a group of people that you are surrounded by who will support you. It provides a sense of belonging and security. In high school, it is very simple to be part of a group because you are forced into the community that is your school. Mason was my community. The encouraging and loving environment I had in high school was nothing short of incredible. The support system I had throughout those four years helped lead me to a successful high school career.

Leaving the comfort of high school and heading off to the unfamiliar land that is college can be a treacherous transition. You are faced with a lot of decisions. I can choose not to go to class.  I can choose to eat unhealthy foods. I have the option to sleep past 12. The freedom is inconceivable. I could easily decide to go to practice and classes and be content with that lifestyle. But I need more than that.  You have to make an effort to go outside your comfort zone and join a new group. You just have to trust God’s plan. The end result is so worth it. It’s important to have a group because there is a lot of stress that comes with adjusting to the busy lifestyle of a student-athlete. Lucky enough for me, I have multiple groups that can keep me sane and I wanted to give a little insight into what these groups are and what they provide for me.

Communities (groups of people that are full of love and support) I have now:

My Family: First and foremost I have to include my family because they fit my description of community. They are constantly supporting me, caring for me and loving me. I might not have had the choice to be a part of this community, but if I were to choose a family, I would pick this one. I have a mother who is my best friend. My dad is a little quiet but is possibly the funniest man on the planet. My oldest brother may live across the country but his courage to start a new life out west is inspiring. And my genius brother Cody, who just got accepted into Harvard Law, lives in Alabama and is the best big brother a girl could have (even though his extreme intelligence drives me up a wall). I love my family more than anything and every moment spent with them is special.

Mason: This is the first community I have been a part of. I have a lot of love for this town because of all the opportunities it provided me. I made lifelong friends in Mason. I went to the state championship while in Mason. A lot of memories were made here and I know there is a group of people that I will be in touch with in the future. The principals, counselors, and teachers at Mason High School all made a major impact in my life and I will always have a place in my heart for them. Mason will forever be my hometown. No matter where I end up, I know Mason will be there whenever I need it.

NKU Women’s Soccer Team: Finding friends in college can be a large challenge for some people. This team provided a sense of belonging as soon as I walked on campus. Being a part of a college team is much bigger than I imagined. A lot of time is spent with these people and this team is a pretty cool bunch to spend a lot of time with. Every single person on this team can make me laugh on any given day. The best part is, my best friends in college are on the team. Some of the best memories from freshman year come from the soccer team. I love this group and cannot wait to experience my college career with them.

Baptist Campus Ministry: In the past couple weeks, I have learned that this group is necessary to my life. God has blessed me with a leadership role at the BCM. Being surrounded by these people has provided a plentiful amount of positivity. Walking into the BCM building is uplifting and I don’t even need to talk to anyone (although talking to these people bring so much joy and love). This is purely Jesus working. God lead me to the BCM to get to know these people so we can learn more about Him. Tuesdays have become my favorite day of the week, not because I don’t have class but  because I get to worship and study the Bible with everyone. I have made some awesome friends at the BCM and have so much hope for the future of this group.

Crossroads Church: I have been attending Crossroads Church for a little over a year and it wasn’t until this past month where I have felt like part of the church. My first year at Crossroads consisted of me going to service with some friends, maybe my mom, participating in worship, listening to the sermon, and leaving. No communication with anyone but the people I went with. I loved the church but it lacked the community feeling. I decided to join a serving team so I could meet more people and be involved. Right away, I felt welcomed and loved. The group I serve with became my friends immediately and I felt like I belonged. So now I hold the doors for everyone that walks into Crossroads. I give a smile and a hello and meet a ton of new people along the way. This is a very new group to me but I can only see it getting better.

I encourage you to find something you’re interested in and join a group that meets those interests. If you are already part of a group, reach out to those who are searching, because that was you at some point.

As always, Jesus loves you!
Sami

PCB SB BR 2014

Panama City Beach Spring Break Beach Reach 2014 (it’s a mouthful)

54 Salvations
7,250 Van Rides
13,974 Salvations

Holy cow. I’m sitting in a passenger van squished between two people for a 13 hour car ride and I couldn’t be happier. Panama City beach was an adventure. An adventure that I got to go on with Christ and 500 other beach reachers. PCB was even crazier than everyone told me. But underneath all the craziness was just a bunch of college kids looking for their purpose in life.

I started off my days at sunrise with a run on the beach alongside two other beach reachers. It was hard to not be amazed by the beautiful world that God created on these runs. Most of our afternoons were free but we also got the opportunity to serve pancakes a couple days. This was a chance to meet up with people we met in the streets or just connect with people while they were in the right state of mind. When we weren’t working pancakes, we spent some much needed relaxation time at the beach. Praise God the only sunburn I got was my right foot. Our evenings were filled with team dinners and incredible worship. Nothing starts a night off right than some good, uplifting music. After that we were ready to hit the clubs. Just kidding, kind of. We stood outside of the clubs which is pretty much the same thing. The vans were ready to drive and we were ready to walk. The streets were wild. I need to give a shoutout to our guys who kept all the girls safe from all of the intoxicated men who might be a little aggressive. The vans were pretty awesome just because the people who got on pretty much had no choice but to talk to us. Just kidding again, kind of. Even though walking the streets and riding in vans until 2 was exhausting, we woke up the next morning bright eyed and bushy tailed ready for a brand new day to spread the love of Jesus. I was constantly surrounded by great people who gave me energy on these long days. There were opportunities to meet other Beach Reachers from different schools. It was just cool to see 500 people coming together to share the Good News. The NKU BCM group are all incredible people and I am so happy I got to spend a week with them.

There are a million and one stories I want to tell but they all have the same outcome: God is great. There were so many spring breakers who were saved by the incredible grace of God. This week was about spreading the good news to as many spring breakers as we could. It could have gone one of two ways. People could have been willing to listen and receptive of the information. Or they could completely question everything we believed. Like I said before, we were in PCB to talk to people about Jesus but it was so much more than that. We were there to plant seeds. It was easy to get caught up in the good things we were doing. But we quickly reminded ourselves that this is God’s work and we’re here to spread love, not get commended for good deeds. When someone questioned my faith and threw questions at me that I had no idea how to answer, it only made me grow closer to God because it was necessary to lean on Him in these conversations. I have never truly experienced the greatness of God until my faith was tested by these questioning people. I learned a lot about our great creator this past week. I learned that there is power in prayer. I always thought prayer was important but I never knew how great it was. When I was engaging in difficult or even easy conversations, my group was praying for me (with eyes open for safety). There was also a whole room dedicated to praying for the people on the streets. Those prayers greatly impacted my conversation. I also learned that there is power in testimonies. I didn’t grow up in a church so I could easily connect with a lot of people in Panama. My fellow beach reachers all had testimonies that related to somebody they encountered. They were in awe that we admitted to our mistakes and claimed that we were not great people. The last thing I learned, I said it before, and will say it again and again for eternity is God is great. This doesn’t need an explanation. But I know that the streets of panama were blessed this week. The vans we rode in were watched over by the big man. And the pancakes we served to people were made with a love greater than all of us. Seeds were planted in thousands of spring breakers. And us, the beach reachers, grew in our faith. Through all of this, we were humbled by the power of Jesus. He was visible this week and if I keep my eyes open, He will be visible all the time.

How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? Romans 10:14

Jesus love ya!
Sami

Prepping For PCB

Panama City Beach during the spring months: crashing waves, tanned bodies, broken bottles, college students, raging parties. PCB is a crazy scene throughout the spring break season, or so I’ve heard. I have never personally experienced the rowdiness that is PCB spring break, but this year I will be diving into the wild party scene head first. Not for the same reason most college kids attend the warm weather destination. I will be traveling with a group on campus called Baptist Campus Ministry to do mission work on American soil. I was a little hesitant on deciding whether I should go or not but I felt like this is something God has put in my plans. I have had a lot of anxieties in preparation for this trip, even when I know the Bible clearly says not to be anxious:
And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-9
This will be my first mission trip ever. Part of me is excited that I am staying in the U.S. but part of me is a little more skeptical. Some say that doing missionary work in the United States is more difficult than traveling outside the country. The American culture is very image centered with a lot of judgement and not as much love. Other countries are so eager to hear about love and have open hearts and minds. Panama City will be a diverse group of individuals who could either be eager or annoyed to hear the Word. There has been a lot of prayer and reassuring by my fellow classmates who have previously been on this trip, but the nerves still creep up from time to time. My anxieties stem from not knowing what to say, how to say it, and what these people will think of me. All three things are irrational because God will provide the words and direction, and it truly does not matter what people think of me. The game plan for this trip is to share Jesus’ love in an environment where individuals might not know anything about God. We will serve free pancakes for spring breakers in the morning and worship and serve in the evening. There are three teams I will be working on. The street team literally walks around on the streets by the bars and prime party scenes.  The van team is essentially a free taxi cab service for those who may not be able to drive themselves back to their hotels. Conversations will be started on these teams and the idea of Jesus will be a seed planted in these strangers’ heads. The third team is a prayer group. There will be a number for street and van team members to text in the case of a needed prayer, or if someone accepts Jesus into their life. I have never been a witness to anyone so this will be a powerful trip.

I am experiencing a lot of excitement as the departure date draws nearer. I will be meeting new people in a popular vacation spot while sharing God’s love. Woah. We have an awesome God who creates awesome opportunities for all of us.

We have had a couple meetings before we leave for the trip so we are as well prepared as we can be. Every meeting and prayer group brings me more peace. We leave March 7th and it couldn’t come soon enough. I will provide a recap of the week after I experience PCB in a different way. I normally feel uncomfortable asking for prayers, but during that week and the rest of the time leading up to the trip, I would greatly appreciate prayers for my group. Thank you so much.

Jesus loves you!
Sami

It’s My Birthday!

Today is February 12. A couple of years ago this meant nothing to me. But now this date has a lot of value. Today is my spiritual birthday. Two years ago today, I gave my life to Christ. Two years ago today, my life changed forever. I will remember this day for the rest of my life.  I will set the scene: It all started February 10. My second family (the McDowell’s) took a group to a church in Over the Rhine to work with inner cities kids. The pastor there was talking about testimonies, being a Christian, following Jesus, stuff like that. At the time, this was all a bunch of gibberish. I had been going to church with my best friend (Kayla) but didn’t know what it truly meant to follow Christ. Fast forward through to two days later. I went to church as normal but Kayla and her mom (and God) had greater plans for me. They brought me to Panera and sat me in a booth (I try and sit in the same booth every time I go to Panera). They started asking me questions and seeing what I thought about our experience at the Over the Rhine church. Mrs. McDowell explained what it meant to be a Christian and things started making sense to me. It was at the moment when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. Wow. That’s a pretty awesome thing. Actually, it’s the best thing to happen to me. I have been given the gift of eternal life. God’s great love and grace is now a part of my every day life. I am no longer living for myself but for something greater: God.

So every year on this day, I get even more excited about the grace of God. This is an incredible day. I am reminded by how blessed I am. Even though I make mistakes, I will still be loved. Jesus is everywhere. I know that it was God working through the McDowell family but I am grateful for their love and prayers every day. My best friend is now my sister in Christ. How cool is that?

Being a Christian isn’t some “phase” I’m going through. It is how I am going to live for the rest of my life.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Unconditional Love

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 8.39.39 PM

“Dogs are the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” Josh Billings

At my home in Mason, I can walk in the door and have three furry bodies with wagging tails waiting anxiously to see me. Those furry bodies are my dogs, Shadow (black mutt, 14), Buddy (yellow lab, 9), and Frank (chihuahua-pug mix,5) . Three completely different animals with varying personalities. And no matter how bad of a day I have, those big brown eyes never fail to put a smile on my face. Being around them brings me so much happiness. They don’t judge me, they accept me for who I am, and they are always happy to see me. I understand that I may be coming off like a crazy dog lady, but these four-legged friends deserve more respect than they are given. The hardest thing to deal with in college is not coming home to my animals. I have no one to hang out with in the rare occasion when I am in the dorm room alone. I have no one to play tug of war with. I mean I could throw the ball for my roommate but it just wouldn’t be the same as playing fetch with Buddy. I genuinely miss the love that they gave me every day while living at home. They will love me even though I sometimes make mistakes, or say something stupid. Their sole purpose for being on this earth is to love someone like they have never been loved. I can only hope that one day I can love like them. In a long stretch, a dog’s love is similar to the love that God has for us:

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

The only other time I have experienced pure unconditional love is from God. His love is raw and leads me to a life of fulfillment. Before I was saved, there was a hole deep inside that was not filled. Something was missing from my life. In walks Jesus, even though He was there the whole time, I allowed Him into my heart and the world changed. Everything around me was different. Everyone was made carefully with love. I learned why I was here. My purpose is to attempt to live a life that Jesus Christ lived. He loved and still loves everyone. Prostitutes, tax collectors, sinners, me, you; He loves us all no matter what we do. I wake up every day knowing that I am loved and cared for. I make a mistake and God still loves me! That’s awesome! God doesn’t judge me, He accepts me for who I am, and He is always happy to see me. Unconditional love is few and far between, but when you have Jesus (and dogs) it’s everywhere.

Be Joyful Always

What makes you happy?

Google defines joy as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Synonyms include: delight, triumph, elation, bliss.

Such powerful words to describe a raw emotion. A feeling that every human should experience more often than not. The key to this kind of joy is finding what brings you happiness. Everybody has something. For me, eternal joy is found by loving Jesus.  There are multiple studies saying that the simple act of smiling will make you happier. Search for what makes you smile and do not stop looking until you find it. As individuals, we have no reason to keep things in our life that bring negativity. The struggles in this world are created by evil. With every tragedy, there is joy. Joy that there is a tomorrow, that no matter what happens we are still loved. We are never alone and that is something to be joyful about.

My goal is to live a life full of joy. Once a personal level of joy is achieved, that feeling should be spread to others. I deserve to be happy, you deserve to be happy, everyone deserves to be happy.

I decided to create a list of things that bring me joy. After brainstorming ideas, I came to the conclusion that this list is infinite. I could write a million and one joyful things and still not have them all. I encourage everyone to write down what makes them happy. After that, do more of what’s on that list.

Things that bring me joy: God, family, food, friends, soccer, my dogs, working out, making people smile, competition, Bible, teammates, sleeping, Christmas, snow, Netflix, swimming, heated blankets, Starbucks, shoes, documentaries, peanut butter, Chicago, mountains.

Find joy. Smile often. Be happy.