1. Move in was only 2 days

2. Sedona Hall was considered a far walk for dorm life

3. You know what Cobrizos and Jazzman’s is

4. You remember when there was only one pool

5. You could walk around campus in the wee hours of the night and not see a soul

6. The fact that the Union was “beach” themed is now a distant memory

7. People would highlight your name to check you in at Chapel

8. The largest classroom building was COE

9. There was no turf anywhere on campus when you were a freshman

10. You remember when you could park on campus for free

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I remember my toddler self getting sat down on the time out chair and my finger wagging mother telling me in a very stern voice, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I remember from then on that saying would echo inside waiting for me to one day tell my kids that.

Now I still have a loose mouth when it comes to the harsh words I say. I’m no where near perfect with the words that get shoved out by an intense emotion. But one thing that haunts me is the fact that we cannot apply this basic principle to online comments and writing. We have become cowardly in our writing and posting when it comes to commenting passive aggressive, rude or unnecessary words for no other reason but to offend.

What happened to this teaching that traces back to kindergarten? If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all.

The negative repercussion of online communication is that it dehumanizes people. It is now easier to ignore the fact that when we comment towards a news article or on a picture or even try to state our political views, that it is towards people. Not images. Not profile pictures. Not some blank article that is lost into space. It’s towards people.

The new rule of thumb is now, “If you can’t say it to their face, don’t say [post] it at all.” But even that doesn’t sit well at all. I’m not saying that we need to water down our opinions or stifle our beliefs but we need to know how to communicate them effectively without causing harm or insult to the people around us.

Most of our arguments, comments, and negativity are knee jerk reactions filled with emotion instead of logic. They are reactions to things that people have said to get under our skin.

I have 43 drafts of articles saved to my computer. Why? Because most of them are overreactions to emotional topics that got me heated or angered. So I wrote and  the words flowed from my brain to my finger tips. But I have a rule. If something angers me or causes me to have a emotional reaction, I write it. But I also hold off on clicking that “Post” button.

I wait 24 hours.

I go back, read what I wrote, and it usually stays in the drafts folder.

My arguments are shallow, my sentences don’t make sense and my story telling is convoluted to nonsense.

We need to become better communicators, just arguers and overly cautious of the fact that people are people no matter the platform in which they communicate. If we allow 24 hours to craft our argument, let our emotions sit and settle, and then decide with a clear mind if it worth posting, our views might change. 24 hours.

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Driving down the winding and twisting roads of the outskirts of Galway City Center, I found myself surrounded by family. I looked to my left and my right and I saw my brothers and sisters. I felt so comforted and loved and cared about. It was as if we were driving to a cousin’s house for dinner and good company.

Now rewind to the beginning of the school semesters. The entire semester is a count down. A count down to the end of the semester…. gross, I know. Now what happens with this countdown. We loose track of time. We begin wishing time away. This precious gift of time now being wished away for the quick fleeting of a bit of pain, stress, anxiety or discomfort. I remember starting each semester with a terrible mindset of “oh what can be done in a short period of 16 weeks?” That’s not enough time to do anything significant, right?

Being in Ireland, I have never been so happy to be proven wrong and to have a harmful thought pattern being rearranged.

Three months. That’s all it took. A handful of delicious dinners. A couple coffee dates. Hours of board games. Long walks on the prom. Intentionality. That’s it. Just like that I have an amazing new family.

Let me tell you a secret though…. it didn’t even take three months. By the time when I was originally supposed to leave (six weeks in) I still felt the heartache of leaving this family. It didn’t even take 6 weeks for someone to accept me. For me to be welcomed in. For me to feel as if I belonged to something sacred and special.

When I drove to a lovely family’s house on the last evening of my time in Ireland, this hit me so hard. I felt so comfortable and it was if I was there my whole life. This presents a challenge for me, and I challenge you to do the same.

What is six weeks of quality conversations? Coffee dates? Board games? Intentionality and unity in the Spirit? It’s family. That’s what it is.

I have been challenged that no matter where I go, who I am surrounded by or what I am doing, that this lesson be forever imprinted on my heart. That I don’t just limit it to six weeks. But I strive for this in a daily habit and a way of living. So that everyone that we may come in contact with may feel welcomed and loved and cared about just as our heavenly Father pours out onto us.

We are meant to be the body of Christ; hands and feet, folks! So lets get those hands to board games. Get those words to invite people over to your home. Get those feet to long and intentional walks. Get those arms ready for hugs. Because when we welcome brothers and sisters together in unity, we should be doing it with open arms.

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Here in Ireland for the past few months I have been working on this website. I have poured countless hours in, went through roughly 19 drafts of headings and countless navigation layouts. I had to learn the different spellings of words like “favourite” and “organisation”. I had to learn the heart and soul of this simply wonderful organization and embody it into a electronic platform in hopes of drawing in more customers so they could have a safe place, with a friendly staff, and hear about the good news of Jesus Christ. With the help of the design from Flying Donut Media; ladies and gentlemen, I am overwhelmed to present to you the brand spankin new An Tobar Nua Website.

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When traveling abroad I look at the beauty. I look at the ancient buildings. I look at the stories that echo off the walls of the ancient structures. Sitting watching people pass by I realized. It’s not the location. It’s not the buildings. It’s not the food. It’s the people. It’s the people that make places so enticing.

I sat here with this view. Staring at runners, couples, dog walkers, fishermen. All taking in different accents. Different languages. About various things in life. I think about what has made Galway so special to my heart. Yeah the culture was cool. Yes the chocolate was More than enough to keep me here. But what made it a place to fall in love with. The people made it special. The people made it enticing. The old building were cool but it was the stories that people made in them and about them that gives those old stones a story worth telling.

It’s an enlightening experience when you are able to see people not just as people who walk too slow or things that communicate in words you can’t quite comprehend; but you are able to see them as people. People as people. What a concept. But have you really looked. Have you reall just sat back and looked at people as they stroll by what their story is. How did they get here? what circumstances surrounding their life allowed them to be in this place. Giving these old stone walls a unique story.

I think once we are able to see people as people. We see a bit of Gods heart. We are able to see the uniqueness that God has formed all of creation in. We are able to see stories and hearts of these children of God. When we see people as people.

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What happens when you click that unsubscribe button to Netflix?

Binge watching. Oh the joys of mindless hours spent in front of a computer or TV screen watching Netflix. You know it has been too long when the haunting message of,  “are you still watching?” pops up and you shamefully click, “yes”.

Hours spent in front of Netflix’s red logo hypnotically watching reruns of Friends, Grey’s Anatomy, and How I Met Your Mother. I am so incredibly guilty of this. My family is probably reading this laughing at the irony I am writing about. However, before I came to Ireland I decided to cancel my Netflix account. I deleted it. I know am $40 richer for the two months that I have not paid a subscription fee to. I didn’t want to be distracted by moving pictures. Through deleting that account, I also have discovered a new freedom.

I no longer have the need to binge watch shows. Yes, there are bouts of boredom and twinges of laziness longing to be filled with brainless banter that can only be fulfilled by my favorite sitcom but I discovered something else that Netflix did to my “rest” period. It made my times of rest, lazy!

I was curious what this thing called rest is really and so I did some Googling on what the definition of rest is and one of the definitions that stood out to me was; “peace of mind and spirit” and “free of anxieties”. Sometimes when I say, “I need rest” I really mean, “I want to brainlessly watch TV”. Oh what a crutch this has become. I find rest in watching TV…but I get up feeling more gross and worn out than I felt when I first sat down.

Instead of consuming my free times with moving pictures. I now have rediscovered some of the lost passions and hidden treasures of learning. I rediscovered the beauty and lost art of reading. In the two months I’ve been here,  I have now finished 2 books and am half way done with another (and ordered 3 more books online waiting for me in California). This has allowed me to pursue knowledge in a whole new way. My rest time is actually fulfilling me in new ways and is actually productive. I spend more time writing, reading and studying.

I also have spent many hours watching sermons and TEDtalks. Not because I miss a moving screen, but I yearn to learn and grow. I catch up on missed sermons and series from my home churches  (shout out from Ireland to Pastor Jim from Glenkirk and Pastor Kent from Bethany Bible). Growing in this way became restful. My heart became more tuned to what God was wanting to tell me during these times of rest. Hearing from people much wiser than me, encourages me. Learning from people who have gone before, urges me to tread in new directions. Days seem longer and hours are not wasted away. Instead they are invested in knowledge and rest.

I don’t know if I will ever open Netflix on my computer again. But for now it is a great freedom that I have discovered. I challenge you, for the rest of the summer; delete that Netflix account, go to the library, Barnes and Noble, or second hand bookstore and get something that will interest you. That will compel you. That will challenge you. Download playlists of speakers and pastors that you admire and listen and take notes. Learn and GROW!

Click that unsubscribe button and see what happens:)

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When I say God changes plans last minute. I mean very last minute.  I mean already being packed and ready to head back to the states and God decides to throw me a curve ball and tell me that I am staying in Ireland another 5 weeks. Yup. You read that right!

I am staying in Ireland until the end of July. The only reason it is until then, is because I have to move back into school a week later! Can you say, “hello jet lag!”.

Through this whole situation, I have been trying to ’emotionally prep’ myself for the situation that I am in. But first it is a praise for thanksgiving!

First off, I thank God for putting me with such an exceptional ministry! When I say that this ministry is amazing, it is doing it a disservice to it’s character. I am unable to properly convey my immense gratitude and amazement for Foundation in Christ Ministries and all they have done for me and with An Tobar Nua in Ireland! I plan on writing a whole entire post about how this ministry does it RIGHT! So stay tuned for that!

Secondly, I thank God for all of my friends and family who have dealt with my mid-day FaceTimes, random facebook and imessage notes, and their constant encouragement. Thank God for my friends who have been my sounding board for this whole situation!

Lastly, Thank God for my mother! This is the best, but since being out here in Ireland, I don’t have an American cell phone service (duh!) However, I did not realize the amount of things that I need a cell phone for. While my mother makes phone calls for me, I sit on skype to make sure she gets the information right! Gosh, she has been a life/sanity savior for me!

I thank God for his unwavering love and constant control over my life. I recently gave a friend some advice that I needed to heed myself. When you feel most out of control…that means God is in control. When I am unable to control a situation or circumstances, I have no other choice but to rely on the soveriegnty and love of Christ!

I sit in the airport right now on my way to Spain for a short holiday with my sister. The entire bus trip, I could not help but think that this was when I was supposed to be leaving Ireland permanently. This was supposed to be goodbye. This was supposed to be an end to an amazing journey. Instead, it is a start to a new season at An Tobar Nua and a huge leap in trusting God’s plan in my life.

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I love my job. I mean it’s the dream for me. I get to do faith based writing that is published for thousands of people to read. And I get paid for it. It can be arduous and a little constricting in writing on behalf of a voice (i.e. my school) but that’s why I have other mediums in which I publish (i.e. my blog).

I get to write things to inspire, hopefully. I get to write about Jesus. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me. However any writer, student or blogger who has ever written in bulk knows that writers block is a reality.

Writers block comes from burn out and lack of passion for a subject makes that burn out come quicker more times than others. Luckily, I am writing about Jesus which I am very passionate about but when you have the same “framework” to write in, it can get a little lackluster. My words seem repetitive and finding creative ways to say “audience” every week is exhausting my thesaurus words. The inspiration lacks sometimes on my day to day.  Sometimes I annoy my co-workers by asking thousands of questions about their opinion on a certain subject just to stir up some new perspective in my brain (not to do the work for me). *shout out to Alysha, Erin, and Kaity!

As writers we need inspiration to fuel our fire. We need passions, we need creativity, we need inspiration. Being in Ireland there is inspiration all around me. The old stone work on the buildings whisper stories to me every day. The stories I hear, the faces I see and the things found in nature gives me hope for passion filled writing. The inspiration is there. But where is the work? I find myself exhausted from full days of this internship and not really wanting to spend any more time on the computer. I want to go out and sit by the Claddagh with a hot coffee and people watch!

In both these situation inspiration and perspiration is favored and one is lacking. So how do we find a happy medium of enjoying our life full of inspiration but allowing ourselves the time for hard work.

1) Schedule Time for Each
Now, this might seem a little counter-intuitive to the inspiration/ on a whim notion of this argument but hear me out. If we are able to make specific space in our lives for fun, for enjoyment, for intentional inspiration, if you will, then we are able to make it a priority. If you are anything like me, usually work, homework, emails, blog writing takes precedent. But if I give myself specific days, times, or even special things to look forward to in finding inspiration, then I am able to not worry when I have to work or am lacking in luster.

2) Give yourself GRACE!
Allow yourself to miss those times of work and frivolity. Of course you want to make it the best effort to fulfill it (there would be no purpose in scheduling it) but what I have learned is that it is easy to get ourselves down about the fact that we didn’t do something. Instead we should see it, acknowledge it, move on and learn from it. Give yourself grace!

3) Don’t expect anything!
Inspiration can be found in adventures scheduled out in your day. But it can also be found in the depths of a brain storming session before writing. Inspiration can also be found at the highest points of the earth looking down at crashing oceans, but so can a closeness with God; where God just wants you to be instead of being inspired. Of course I’m pretty sure bosses/clients might expect your work from you, but it might not come as smoothly as you think. Don’t expect one story idea to stick, if it’s not flowing in the direction you intended, take it somewhere else. I currently have 3 book proposals, 42 blog drafts, and countless hidden pages on my blog that are still being processed, digested, and maybe might not even come to fruition. So don’t expect anything when attempting to tackle perspiration and inspiration all at once.

Just remember that these things can come in any form, from anywhere or anyone!

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I’ve really been struggling with this question lately. I put hours and hours on end working on my writing and my website. But then negativity hit me one day and a little bit of a harsh reality came about. I realize the billions of people in the world. Then I drew that down to the portion of people who try to break into the writing world. With my overall dream to become an author, libraries sometimes depress me. I look at the tall shelves of books that go down aisles on end and I look in the mirror and ask myself how in the world am I supposed to compete with all of this.

I don’t feel entitled that I have some magical story to tell. I don’t have the right answer to it all. I hardly can sort out my own life. And if my blogs get more than 30 hits per day I’m ecstatic.

But if I weren’t to write anymore….would it really matter? Do my words really matter?

In comparison to the writers in the Christian sphere….they’re a lot wiser than me. They’re a lot more experienced than me. Their words flow eloquently through their fingers to reach thousands if not millions. For the most part they are great messages that they are conveying. Conversations that need to happen are exuded in their writing. So I don’t want them to stop. But I’m in competition with them? No.

I am encouraged to write more. To practice. To expand my reach. I am encouraged. I am filled with passion. This is what fellow Christian writers do for my heart and my passions.

So where does that leave me and what I write?
With a world that is so convoluted with negativity, distortion, dumb down commentary and watered down conversation. Why shouldn’t I write?? I’m not saying that my words are the all powerful and will change the world. But if someone spends 5….maybe 10 minutes scrolling through words of encouragement; I think that’s a whole lot better than 10 minutes being talked down to and having a mind numbed out.

Through my words I hope to inspire creativity, positivity and inquiry. I hope that it would change, if ever so slightly, where we go to find our entertainment and what we absorb.

If you find yourself asking if what you do matters, just know that the motive and conversation that happen can go one of two ways positive and negative. So what type of impact would you like to have on the world?

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Hospitality is….

Greeting one another as if they were a long missed friend. It is welcoming a stranger with open arms and no bias. It is accepting people where they are at. It is not sticking a fake smile on your face but it is being real and vulnerable with one another. It is allowing yourself to create one more spot in your life for someone else. It is showing a near stranger around a new city so she can feel a little more at home.

Hospitality is opening up your home to someone who you have just met to serve them a hot dinner so they feel like part of the family. It is offering a lift to someone who you might have just encountered at church and who said they were new in town. It is leaving a space for them at the dinner table. It is looking at them as an equal yet extending grace for the learning curve.

Hospitality is loving unconditionally. It is putting up a sacrifice of your own for someone’s comfort. It is explaining inside jokes so the visitor can be on the inside too. It is not exclusive. It is offering up the chances for new experiences for a newcomer. It is open arms greeting at the front door of a church giving you a hug even though they don’t know your name. It is real and raw questions not for prying but for the most genuine opportunity to get to know the person.

Hospitality is the welcoming and comfort of new people as to make them feel wanted. It is fulfilling the inherent need we all have to be wanted by someone or something. It is the physical expression of God wanting us. It is how we can let others feel wanted and loved just as their Heavenly Father wants and loves them and us.

Here in Ireland instead of “we are happy you’re here” it is “you are very welcome”. That welcome is not forgotten as I continue onto week 2 of this journey.

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