Monday, August 8, 2016

Take a Minute: Love This Place

I left for India from a nation with its flag at half mast....There's a fire station in Madison that I always drive by where you can't help but notice the flag pole out front. The flags on it stand out so vibrantly against the dark building so it's always easy to notice if our country is in mourning that particular day. On the morning I left for my trip, I glanced over as I always do, and for what seemed to be the one hundredth day in a row, the flags lifelessly hung halfway down the pole. I remember being somewhat glad I was leaving the country. With all of the chaos that had been going on, I felt that the rest of the world was possibly safer than here. "This place is falling apart," I disgustingly thought to myself.

We flew from Atlanta to Amsterdam and spent some time touring the city because of our long lay-over. It would be an understatement to say that I fell madly in love with Netherlands. The air there is so cool and clean to breathe, it's like you can't get enough of it. It feels so good filling up your lungs. The people are so friendly, and the shopping is incredible. And you know those few foods on earth that, even if you're being healthy, you just don't give two flips of guilt about eating because they're so good. Let me tell you that I ate a chocolate croissant the size of my face in a bakery there that made it okay for me to go ahead and die after I finished it. It was that good. I was actually upset that it melted so quickly in my mouth. On another high note, my history-loving heart was immediately stolen by the Anne Frank house, and all at once I found myself happily one hundred percent infected with the travel bug. However, Amsterdam in all of its European glory still didn't feel like home. And as I found myself traveling and loving every inch of the world I had never laid eyes on before then, I found even more love in knowing that when it was all over I got to go back to my house, to my home.

Despite my jet lag, I was then ecstatic to hop on the plane in Amsterdam and jump off in Dehli, India, our destination.


One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Dehli was a taxi with these words written on the back: "This Taxi Respects Women." (Most things are written in English in India because of their being under English rule for so long. No grandma, I did not learn Bengali while I was there.) I remember thinking, "Well that's good, I guess that just means that the driver is nice to women when they get in the car." However, I quickly found out that this phrase on the back of the taxi referred to the taxi actually stopping if there was a female in the road. How crazy, right? Who wouldn't stop for a human being in the road just because of their gender? But a week prior to our arrival, a ten year old girl had been hit by a bus and actually died from the accident, solely because the driver of the bus would not stop for her because she was female.

Listen, I get it. America has feminist issues. If I was in the same job as a man and did not get paid the same amount, I would be really upset and confused, but while we are pushing ahead to solve more issues like this one, may we also be really proud of our progress. We have a woman running for president for crying out loud! Not so sure she's the best girl we could come up with, but that is about as big an act of feminism as it gets. The reason I want to bring this to attention is to say this: Next time a man holds the door for you, or pulls out your chair, or a waiter asks your drink order before the males out of respect, please notice and appreciate it. It's hard to understand how good we as American women have it until you're in a country where a car won't stop to avoid hitting you just because of your gender.


When I got back to Amsterdam, my heart broke as I heard about all that had happened in America while we were away, the largest incident being the Dallas Shooting. I don't know what happened in the incident to spark it because, to be completely honest, I wasn't there (and neither were you). All I know is that I have been taught my whole life to respect authority and be honest with them. However, I also know that in every profession in this world there are twisted employees, and there always will be. That doesn't mean we need to eliminate the entire human race. That doesn't mean that anyone has to right to take out any innocent group of people.

The reason that this incident especially touched my heart is that I realized such a love and honor for the American police while in India. Some Indian girls, caught and forced into the Red Light District, have pretty much only one hope, which is to somehow notify the police. (The Sex Trade of India is "illegal" there believe it or not). Nonetheless, most of their police are so caught up in the trade themselves, they never do anything about it, even if they do get a report or phone call. Sometimes, they pretend to not see the girl when they arrive to search the building, or they just ignore the situation completely. Can you imagine? Picture you get taken in America, and you get to a phone and call the police. You have a long conversation with them, and then they never show up to rescue you. Or they show up and pretend not to see you and leave, and suddenly your last glimpse of hope is obliterated.....I have full faith in our police officers that if I were ever in trouble and could stay on the phone and explain where I was and what was happening, I would be rescued, no question. And so would you. Don't ever take that for granted or disrespect that protection while the rest of the world has to try to survive without it.


I'm not writing you all of this to persuade you that America is not as bad as it seems in the news. I do believe we're at war, and I do believe we have large issues we must handle to move forward as a civilization, but I am writing this to tell you that I've been to a place where the police are truly not on the civilians' side--and it is not what you want. It is frightening and unnerving and makes it hard to fall asleep at night. I've also been to a place where women are truly treated like dirt, and it is nothing like our culture.

So, next time you hear of an incident and want to take to Facebook, dogging the country you live in, don't. This culture has told you, screamed at you, that you deserve to be heard. You have to share your two cents on every problem that falls across your path, but God whispers something different. In the book of James, God makes it really clear that he isn't about all the complaining and empty chatter. It's actually where the phrase: Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk, comes from. James talks about how someone as a Christian should go from hearing about an issue, to doing something good in return. Never does he mention, "and in between, share with all of your friends your complaints and how stupid you think the world has become." God knows this one truth about the planet we've been put on: there will always be: an ISIS, lying, cheating, gossip, hard Presidential Elections that divide groups of people, sickness, death, SIN. But hasn't life has always been about the test of what you will do with what has been dealt? Whether it's a country-wide issue or a personal one...did you add to the world's dark chaos and empty chatter, or were you different and making others different, too? Let's appreciate what we've got. Let's appreciate this place.

Let my actions outrun my words. Let my life outrun my song.

Infinite X's and O's,

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Dear Reader,

This is a long post, for which I apologize. I vowed to myself when I started this blog a couple of years ago that I would keep my posts short and sweet. However, the more separate stories I wrote while in India, the more I noticed that they all echoed the same message about choices. So I tried my best to listen to the words and stories God wanted me to tell you and to compile them here. Enjoy.

Infinite Xs and Os,


I love my house. I always have. It's a khaki-colored Craftsman, nestled on a back road in downtown Madison, overlooking Mrs. LouAnn's pond. Over the years, my parents have added their special touches, giving it even more beautiful character. My mom has worked hard planning and planting enchanting gardens that anchor good ole 153 Maple (which our newest dog, Scout, thinks is pretty enchantingly fun to destroy). My dad picked out long, black hurricane shutters that add a sense of beachy security and stability to the place. The large, chunky, front-porch lanterns send a welcoming glow of hello, and the wide front porch swing says, "Come on over here and stay awhile." And no matter where I roam from home, I have a small, metal reminder that jingles on my key chain, whispering that no matter what happens, or how far away I go, I always have a choice to return to this safe, beautiful place.

That place where I sleep in until 10:00 on Saturdays, wake up, throw off my fluffy, warm comforter, and shiver as my feet hit the cold, wood floor. Then I take off, doing the same jump-hop down the stairs I've practiced since I was 6, and swing open the front door to find Tom McKee on his fourth-ish cup of coffee, sitting in a front porch rocker, reading the "paper" on his iPad. He looks up with, "Hey, girl!" and pats the rocker beside him, inviting me to tell him about the highs and lows of everything recent.

That place where I head out for a run, come back, grab a water and crash into one of the leather chairs in my parents' room, underneath the ceiling fan, which I have deemed, after extensive research, the coolest possible place in the house. And every time, my mother walks in, asking me questions I don't have the lung air to respond to quite yet, almost like a dental hygienist asking what your future plans are while she holds a metal toothbrush in your mouth.

That place where I'm just about to catch some shut eye when I see my door crack open with all sorts of light rays coming in, only to see Abbie's grinning face appear in the door crack, waiting on me to say, "Come on in." However, she has never given me the chance, and runs and jumps into my bed to tell me all that's happened in her day.

That place where I promised at age nine I would be the next top baker of the world, as I continued to wreck the kitchen that was my paradise, always doing something like leaving the flour out of the brownies.

So I love that place, that house, as I'm guessing you love yours. Houses hold our memories, dreams, and lessons captive, reminding us that they are the buildings on the Earth that have done the most for us. I don't feel that I have ever taken the shelter my parents give me for granted. I never say anything I don't like about my house, and I remind my parents often of how much I love it; I try to say thank you for everything I've been given. I knew India would probably make me more appreciative for what I have, but I didn't think I'd really be shocked by anything. I've seen poverty throughout my life. My parents have been involved in areas of town people don't dare to go; I'm so glad they drug me along, too, because it kept my head and heart humble. Because of my going to these places, I don't live in a middle class, first world country fairy tale where I ignorantly believe my life is all there is to know. But I do think God laughed at me when I thought I knew the worst poverty could show off.


I sat on a school bus in a pool of my own sweat to go pick kids up from the Kolkata trash dump. I actually thought I heard the man incorrectly when he told us "the dump" is where we were picking up the children, but sure enough, we rounded a corner of typical housing and businesses to see a massive trash dump. The bus pulled over, and I watched in utter disbelief as a small boy jumped on the bus exclaiming, "Good Morning!" (in English, mind you) and opened up about half a sandwich bag of dry coffee creamer--his breakfast. I looked at my friend Alyssa's face, which I'm guessing looked the same as mine. We talked about the incident later, and 'Lyss brought up the fact to me that often during the week when we're at school in Birmingham, we go to Target with our other roommate, Abby, and stare at the fridge full of over 15 different choices of coffee creamers. We always joke about getting some ridiculous flavor like Birthday Cake Ice Cream Dreamsickle, but Hazelnut is usually the lucky winner we throw in the cart. You see, I choose everything.

I choose not to eat dry coffee creamer for breakfast. I choose what college I attend. I choose where I will live at college. I choose what I will study there. I choose whether I will throw on a t-shirt and Chacos or dress up for class. I choose what I eat for lunch. I choose my friends. I choose my boyfriend. I choose if I will grab Starbucks or Juice Bar for a pick-me-up; I choose my job; I choose EVERYTHING. But the snake that is poverty has a funny way of wrapping around and around as it gets worse and worse until it is so restrictive and choking to a person that they can't move. They can't choose anything. They get what poverty allows them to barely grasp and they take it.

Another thing I knew about India was that I would be meeting women who had recently left the sex trade, and I would be experiencing an organization that then provided them with good jobs. I didn't know how I would be with this; I just prayed for strength and love.

I didn't have a mere thought of what was coming.


We arrived at what looked like every other city street in India, and went into a four-story building to meet the man and woman who started the organization Freeset. We sat down with coffees and teas in big comfy chairs in a cool room, and as I began to get about the most comfortable I had been in India, my heart began to grow more and more uncomfortable as I listened to the words the founders began to say. Less than a mile from where we sat was one of the largest red light districts in the world. My selfish, worst-case-scenario thought was that maybe I should send Tom McKee a dropped pin just in case an incident from the movie Taken began to play out. I felt unsafe and I couldn't believe we were so close to "The Line," what the Indian people call the district. However, the founders explained to us that in order to reach the most women possible, they needed to put their organization in the dead center of it all. They needed to be these women's neighbors and friends, and hopefully, one day, their work managers. The hairs stood up on my arms as they told us that the building where we were sitting had been used by the Sonagachi (the people who keep the red light district going) for all sorts of evil. When Freeset began remodeling the space, they even found an illegal abortion clinic behind a wall. I got that horrible, raw, stinging feeling in the back of my throat and in my nose as I tried to hold back tears. Tears came anyway. And just when I thought my heart had been pricked and prodded and stabbed enough with upsetting emotion I could not control--Nina walked in.

Nina looked like a sweet, southern grandma who used too much butter in her recipes, except she was Indian. She had this certain toughness about her. Maybe it was her tone or the way she held herself. I couldn't understand a word she said because she only spoke Bengali, so one of the founders translated her story for us. I think this made it worse, too, because I watched Nina struggle through a few Benglai words, trying to fight the tears, and I desperately wondered what she had just said, trying to come up with maybe what it was in my head before the man translated it. And every single time, what the man translated for us was so much worse than what I had guessed. I want to share Nina's story with you, and I only pray that I do her the justice she has deserved for a very long time.

Nina was born in Pakistan which went through a civil war when she was a child and split. The area she is from is Bangladesh today. She and her family were placed in a refugee camp during the war. While in the camp, a woman befriended Nina and offered her a job as a maid in India. With her family already in poverty, they decided this was the best decision for her future. Nina told us that she has forgotten most of the trip from the refugee camp to India. However, she recalls that when she arrived in Kolkata, she was given a Coca Cola. Nina, being a small-village girl, had never had a Coke before, and therefore did not notice that it probably tasted funny because it was heavily drugged. The next morning she woke up in a room with two men she had never seen. She quickly realized that within 24 hours, she had gone from a refugee camp survivor to the newest addition to one of the largest red light districts in the world. For the next many years Nina would live on The Line and would eventually become an alcoholic to try to numb the pain that was her life.

When Freeset was introduced to Nina, she took the chance and got a job there. She was one of the first 20 women who chose to work for Freeset and come off The Line. Now she is one of their managers and is involved in the planning of new locations for the organization. She returned to Bangladesh to try and find her family once she was safe in Freeset, but found that by the time she returned, they had all passed away. Not only did Satan take most everything from her, but he also took her time with her family. For women like Nina, poverty doesn't give them a choice. Poverty tells them that to provide for themselves, for their families, they can't move from where they are. But God speaks freedom in choice.


So what can we do? Well, for starters, Freeset needs more business from the United States. Whether it is birthday or Christmas presents, or your company or sorority is ordering tshirts, log on to to give more women the decision to choose true life. The more we buy, the more freedom can be given.

I pray that my words touched you in some way. If you can take some piece of what I took from India--take this. You and I, we get to choose. What will you do with your choices? Will you use them for good? We get to choose most everything. We weren't given that right for nothing. No, you and I were trusted with the freedom of choice so that we would make the right ones. Choose good. Choose freedom. Live a life you and God are gonna be really proud to look back on someday.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

When God Gives You More Than You Can Handle (and He will)

In the middle of a busy week the last thing I thought was coming was a phone call that my dad was in the hospital from a bicycle accident. I looked up, angrily crying at God and asked, "Why?" And while this hasn't been the worst time of my life, its hasn't been easy. But it did get me thinking about my worst time.

 What was the worst time of your life? What was the day, the experience, the year, or the person that made you look up, angrily shaking your fist at God and ask, "What are you doing? Why me?" Maybe it was a time from your childhood, maybe it was a person that was a horrible influence on you, or maybe you're going through an awful experience right now. Despite when this time was or will be for you, there is one steady truth about the worst time in our lives--we all have one.

I don't like to think about mine, and when I do remember it, when it sneaks up on my train of thought during the day, I immediately think two things: 1. I think about how awful it was/how much it hurt me. 2. I ask myself: How in the world did I get through that? And looking back, I know the answer, which is that God of course helped me through it and was holding me up the whole time. However, the worst time of my life is pretty far removed from me now, and I recently fell into a trap of thinking nothing bad would ever knock at my door again. It didn't help that I found a quote that I became quickly obsessed with that fed me a lie about bad times in life.

I'm embarrassed to tell you that the quote I am about to share is ironically one that I pinned on one of my Pinterest boards a few short months ago. I found such comfort in it. I loved it. I remembered it easily and would go back to it all the time like a Bible verse. It made me feel like this type of armor was around me, as if I were completely untouchable. I felt strong and happy, but the promise made through this quote is unfortunately a very empty one. So, here it is:

"God will never give you anything you can't handle." 

Isn't it great? It's empowering, beautiful, and promises such a bright and wonderful future. Here's the kicker: I went to a women's conference earlier this year and the speaker basically called BS on this quote, and I am too.

Throughout the history of the Bible, the history of the world, and even of history of my own life this quote is far from the truth. 

Do you think that Abraham, ready to sacrifice Isaac, looked up to the heavens, knife in hand, and said, "Hey Lord, thanks for not pushing me too far on this one." ???  I'm going to guess probably not.

Do you think that Job, covered in bloody blisters, alone, homeless, "abandoned by God," being tortured by Satan, asked God for just a couple more sores because he knew he hadn't had enough??? I'm going to say no again.

When I was in my darkest, most empty place, I can tell you with utmost honesty and confidence that I did not look up and say, "Thank you God for giving me just enough that I can handle."

Now, this moment is where a lot of Christians give up. It's where I did. At nine years old, during the worst time of my life, I could not fathom a God who "loved me" yet still let me feel so much loneliness and pain. People often ask these same questions about other awful things such as: "Why does God let horrible things happen?" "What kind of God allows things like ISIS and 9/11, poverty and slavery?" These questions that so many of us ask and mourn are the same ones that make the quote above so, so terribly incorrect. God WILL allow you to get way more than you can handle, He always has and he always will. However, the moments when you've been given too much, and you hit your knees, are the same moments God is waiting for you to come to him with all your baggage and problems. God had to let evil into this world so that you would lean on him, genuinely. He created a God-shaped hole within you, so that when nothing else in this world filled it, He could.

"God will never give you anything you can't handle, without HIM."

When you're about to give up, know there is a God who never will. When you can't deal with what's ahead, know there is a God that is completely able to tackle anything you've got. Go tackle life, with God.

infinite X's and O's.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Fear Not : What's up, 2016?

What have you feared lately? I know for me, at the end of a busy semester, there is a lot I have been fearful about. I have feared how I finished out the semester with grades. I have been fearful of even thinking of all of the packing I needed to do to haul all of my things back home for Christmas. I've feared the idea that the real world is getting closer and closer, and I'm not sure what exactly I'm going to do. Then there are the bigger fears that far outweigh my packing list and report card, fears like: ISIS, the presidential election, World War III? So how in the world am I supposed to screw a lid on the jar of all my fears? Especially during this busy time of year, how do you and I live joyfully, without being scared of the future?
For me, I have learned through this past year that I actually struggle with fear more than I realized. However, as I began to understand what a worrier I am, I also learned of how to go forward without letting my fears stop me from the living the life I was meant to live. When I am going through a difficult time, I usually make myself think of all the times in the past that the Lord has pulled me through or out of a situation and used that situation for good. It helps me so, so much to focus on God's faithfulness in my times of doubt. It equips me to truly understand that if God has been by my side every time I have questioned or doubted my situation before, why would He not do the same now?

As I was thinking of how much this exercise has helped me this year, I couldn't help but think of a story that had so much room for fear, yet it is now known as the greatest story you and I know--The Christmas Story. Now, don't roll your eyes too quickly. Yes, I know you've heard it a hundred times. To which I would like you to know: So have I. And yes, I know during this time of year you've heard it an extra two hundred times. And to that thought of yours I would like you to know: I feel your pain. But there is something so crucial about the Christmas story that does not get told enough, a part of the story that will make you understand why getting rid of fear should be your New Year's resolution for 2016 and for every year after that.

Take the Christmas story that you know oh so well, and let's go back 400 years before Jesus was born, in the end of the Old Testament. The Lord promised the Jewish people, who were living in a corrupt world much like ours today, a Messiah to come and save their lives from the darkness and sin of the world. Can you imagine? God speaking to a group of people and telling them not worry because he is sending a man, his only son, to save them from every piece of sin in the world. I can imagine those scared, fearful Jews were very relieved and excited, but then, picture this--Those same people wait 400 hundred years before God speaks to them again and the promised Messiah is sent to Earth. FOUR HUNDRED YEARS!! That is four generations of the world getting worse and worse and worse, as people fear more and more and more. If God promised you something, and then kept silent for four hundred years after you have already died and gone to deliver His promise, wouldn't you be possibly even more fearful than before?

The story gets worse for the Jewish people....If God promised you a man to save the world, what kind of man would you picture? I would hope that if it was just one man coming to save this horrible world, he would be a big, strong, warrior-like man riding a horse down from the clouds with lightening bolts in his hands. I feel like that's about what it would take to intimidate and change this dirt wad, and I'm pretty sure that's what most of the Jews at that time were hoping for as well. However, it is very far from what they received. Their Messiah, their superhero, their warrior with all the power in the world, was born a baby to parents in a cave-like stable in a horse trough. Wouldn't you be a little concerned with the God you put your every hope in after that action? Wouldn't you be fearful of your future and the world's future after seeing this part of God's plan? I know I would.

Luckily for you and me, we know the Christmas Story, we know that that little baby did save the world. The four hundred years of silence before he was born is just what we know from a sentence we read, but I don't believe that we really understand it. That small part of the Christmas story means ginormous waves of peace for the life you're living and will continue to live. If God could wait four hundred years for an already-bad world to get worse, then send a baby to save every person in it, why would He not pull you through now? Why would He not plan a future for you as amazing as Jesus'? Fear Not in 2016.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Day God Asked Me If I Was Truly Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope you are full and happy and oh so thankful. As it came closer to Thanksgiving I knew I could not help but share this story I wrote my junior year of high school. It's a true one, and it taught me a lot about being thankful for every single thing I've been given. I hope it does the same for you.

XX, Claire 

"Do Your Best, Be a Leader." 

    My seat suddenly becomes uncomfortable as we turn off the familiar road and onto one of filth and darkness. I see a sign announcing “Westlawn Village” and try not to stare at the strange sights and sounds of people yelling and men staring. I immediately miss my quiet, comfortable Wednesday drive to church with my father. Why did we have to pick these kids up? This isn't our job. These kids are not our responsibility. I remember my dad telling me that Westlawn Village had the highest level of violence of anywhere in the city, and I shudder at the thought. I turn and look at my father in the driver’s seat of the truck to see if his face shows any signs of fear. To my surprise, he is smiling. He actually rolls his window down and waves to people as we drive by. I sink lower in my seat, trying to hide myself from the window, but the truck might as well have been made of glass, for I felt that when I tried to dig myself closer to the floorboard, they saw me even better. Thoughts race through my mind of what I would do if one of the men came up and pulled out a gun, and I fidget around more in my seat. I try to imagine myself somewhere normal, somewhere safe.
    I hear the back door open, and the lights come on inside the truck. This scares me because now everyone outside the vehicle can see my white skin glowing even more. The smell of sewage and mildew enter the truck, along with a black-skinned boy and girl who look at me, eager to see what I will say and do. My dad introduces me to them, and I do my best to smile and ask them how they are doing. The girl, Qui, smiles and replies, thankful that I am not as snobby and mean as I look. The boy, Timothy, just grins, but then looks out the window as we drive along with a look that makes me wonder what has made him so sad.
    We get to church, and I hop out with them. “Do your best. Be a leader,” my father happily calls as we get out, the phrase I have been told every time we depart since what seems like the day I was born. I roll my eyes and enter the church, wondering if anyone will notice how long it took me to get my hair to curl in these perfect sections. I take these new strangers to the youth group with me, and we sit down. My discomfort starts with my new tight-fitting jeans but worsens with the smell of their unwashed clothes; the smell lingers like a cloud with them wherever they go. They stick out in our church like chocolate chips on a vanilla cookie. They look uncomfortable. I try to make small talk with them, but they have clammed up. My youth minister, Darren, meets them, and I introduce them to my friends.
    Why did they have to come? I quietly think to myself. I liked my normal routine. This is so far out of my comfort zone. I try to just think about next Wednesday, when hopefully it will just be my dad and me again. I realize I have zoned out of listening in class, and I try to re-focus on the words Darren wants us to understand. His talk that night was about “If you want to gain your life, you are going to have to lose it first.” He went on to talk about how the more you sacrifice your life for God and others, the more satisfied you will be with yourself. I look up and think these words as I say them to God - Ironic lesson.
    After church, I say goodbye to my friends and find my dad. We go out to the truck and head back to Westlawn Village. I go ahead and prepare myself for the nervous, uneasy feeling I’m about to get as we turn onto the same, still unfamiliar road. It’s dark in the village, and there are huddles of men in between the housing units. We pull up to where we picked Tim and Qui up, and we say our goodbyes. I dread the opening of the doors, when the lights will show my scared, white face to the ones outside the truck. I watch as Tim and Qui walk with heads held high right into their house, which is smaller than the size of my garage.
    A load of relief leaves my weak shoulders as we turn onto the road home. I thank God for giving me all the things I have. Then it hits me that Tim and Qui do not just drop off people in Westlawn Village. They do not spend only a few overly uncomfortable minutes in that dark, scary place. They live there. It is their life. They don’t get to climb into a warm, comfy, safe bed tonight in clean clothes with a wonderful promise of a beautiful tomorrow. They won’t jump in their new car and drive to a private school the next morning where there are few problems and almost never any kind of violence
    They will not come home tomorrow night to parents who love them and ask them about their day and help them with their homework. The stinging of a cold tear burns the side of my cheek as it runs its unused trail down my face. I realize how good I have it and, without thinking, say to my dad, “Do you think we could pick up Tim and Qui on Sunday and take them to church again?”

MONTHS GO BY, and Tim and Qui become part of our family. They now call me their “white sister,” and we laugh when we tell people, “Yeah, we’re related. Don’t you see the resemblance?” They spend weekends with us and even make their own friends inside the church youth group.
    We learn more about their history and how they both have the same mother but different dads. They aren’t even sure where these men are and haven’t seen them in years. Later we learn that the man Tim thought was his father was not, and we’ll be part of Tim getting his new, real last name. Tim and Qui are being raised by their grandma, who is Qui’s dad’s mother. So this woman is not even related to Timothy at all.
    We become the best of friends. Tim and Qui even get used to my dad saying, “Do your best. Be a leader,” every time they leave his presence.

ONE NIGHT I hear my dad’s phone ringing in the kitchen and run to get it. It is Timothy with his weekly call. I run and give the phone to my dad, who is sitting in his home office, and go upstairs to finish my homework. My dad calls us all in the living room later that night and tells us that Timothy and Qui’s mother wants them back and has received custody of them. My dad’s voice gets shaky as he tells us that Timothy cried on the phone as he told my dad he had to move back to Birmingham, two hours away from us. “We’re going to move them on Friday,” my dad says.
    The drive to Birmingham seemed to take fifteen minutes instead of two hours. We pull up to another housing project. It looks nicer than Westlawn Village and even has a YMCA right beside their unit, but Tim and Qui are not impressed. My dad walks us up to where their mother must live. The door opens to unit 22A, and a pretty woman steps out. She introduces herself. She and my dad and mother laugh and talk as I sit and stare at a small TV with Tim and Qui. “You’re gonna be alright,” I say, hoping they believe this uncertain lie I have told them. Qui does her best to smile, and Tim hugs me. We all say our goodbyes and start to leave, walking down the sidewalk and back to the truck. I turn to look one last time at where Tim and Qui will now re-start their lives. I want some sort of closure, more than just a hug from them, a promise that they would be okay, a way to show me that I have helped them as much as they have helped me, but nothings comes.
    I turn and get in the truck and that same tear I felt the first night we picked them up for church finds its place on my pale white cheek again. It stings harder this time, and it feels like a knife cutting my face. My throat goes dry, and my nose feels raw as the painful tears drop onto my seatbelt one by one. I look up and see my family all crying, including my dad as he starts the truck. Then I see Timothy and Qui running toward us and waving. We all roll down our windows and they yell in sync together, “Do your best. Be a leader!”
    I giggle and smile as I realize that they will be just fine.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Let Me Tell You Somethin' About Sisterhood (Why Sororities Aren't Stupid)

        Recently, on my trip to London, my friend Lilla Bea and I met two women from Australia. We chatted with them on our bus tour of the Cotswolds (The English Countryside) about all the differences between our two country's cultures. They began asking us questions which seemed to all be in the context of: "I saw in a movie that _____ is ______ in America. Is that true?" We laughed and giggled at the strange ways our environments were so different, and then began to talk about college life in both countries. One of the women was very interested in sororities and fraternities, and based on the movie she had seen (Animal House)(Of all the Greek Life movies, OF COURSE this is the one she watched.) wanted to know if that was the realty of Greek Life in the states. (Side Note: I have NEVER had to explain to someone what a sorority is, much less also explain why I chose to join one.) She began asking us both questions about rush and the more we explained, the more embarrassed Lilla Bea and I became. We tried to make it sound better by saying we were indeed in different sororities, but that was really about the only plus to our side of the conversation. She looked at us with disgusted eyes as we told her that, "No, some girls just don't get any bids and are never in one." The more I tried to explain, the more mortified I became and then she asked, "Well, why are you both in them?" We froze. We looked at each other searching for words neither of us could find.

      All I could think to say was, "It's just so normal where we're from, everyone does it." As I left that day, completely dissatisfied with my answer, I really questioned why I set out to join a sorority. Was it just because it was popular? Was it just so I could prove to the world that I was a socialite and could make it into the college big leagues? Was it so that I could flash some letters on my car and t-shirts to prove that I had made it? Returning home, still questioning myself and what seemed like a very selfish decision I had made, I finally realized why I was so drawn to sorority life--sisterhood.

      As cliche as it may sound, sisterhood is indeed the reason I craved a sorority in college. We as women were created by God with a special thirst for community. This proves itself as early as kindergarten, when the threat we told our other girlfriends was "If you don't _____, I won't be your friend anymore." We are terrified of not having other women around us--community around us. We long for it as women and especially in the unsure time of our college years. To be held up by a sorority is such a beautiful way to build confidence, relieve stress, and learn from others in this important time in our lives. As I was pleasantly happy with the answer I had come up with to the question of why I join ole Chi Omega in the first place, another idea hit me: I already knew about true and purely good sisterhood because of my own sister, Abbie.

     What Abbie has taught me is more lessons than I could ever put in one blog post, but above all, I know first-hand the importance of a sister's unending love. I know that when I mess up, fall down, get hurt, I can come to her. I know that when I'm on the top of a mountain, gone further, and gotten rewarded, she will be cheering me on. A sister's love is unselfish and loyal. However, sometimes a sister's love is honest when you need to be told to go another way. Altogether, Abbie has kept me purely good, and that's what every girl on this Earth needs.

   So whether you're thinking about being in a sorority, in a sorority, or way out of college: Find you some sisters like Abbie, it's what you were made for.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Why I don't know where to start when you ask me how college is.

"How's college?" "How's school?" "How was freshman year?" "How are you doing?"

As I and millions of other college students on summer break are asked this question, I stand and rack my brain through memories: classes, books, dorms, concerts, restaurants, friends, tests, campus, off-campus, work, sorority events, and more. Then, all that comes out of my mouth is, "It is amazing! I love it." While these sentences answered are nowhere near lies, I feel as though I have not answered the question justly. Most people continue to watch my face, waiting for me to continue with words I can't seem to find. The truth is, if you honestly want me to tell you how college is, I'm going to need a few hours. Here's why.

1. I have friends I would die for, a sorority I am obsessed with, and a school I will always adore.

People have argued about what point in your life you begin making "friends you'll keep forever." Some say high school, but most say college, and I know why. I have friends who mean the world to me and make my life a joy to show up for. My sorority is full of girls I look up to, respect, laugh until I cry with, cry actual sorrowful tears with, and dance around like an idiot with. I am thoroughly enthralled with my college. I love every part of Samford, and I know it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

2. My classes are really hard, and I feel like I have to work even harder.

The hours of sleep lost, the tears shed over projects/papers/tests, the times I sat in my dorm room feeling as though there was no way I could accomplish what was asked of me, I can still feel fresh on my heart. It's a constant emotional roller coaster of hard work and grades, and it is a very difficult ride. However, it is doable and my, oh, my, is it worth it. Stepping back at the end of the year, looking at how far you've come and how much you've learned and improved is purely amazing.

3. Coming home is a really weird feeling.

The first time I felt the intense realization that I am growing up was the first time I came home for summer. The house I knew so well in high school all of a sudden felt distant from me and not so recognizable. The person I was in high school was a completely different person than the person who is now moving back. I have different friends, different teachers, different places I am daily, and it feels like I'm a stranger somehow swiftly moving back into the past. While I'm so happy to be home with my family, it really seems like someone picked me up out of the life I was living in the spring and plopped me down back into my senior year of high school. So, if I look a little out of place, it's because I feel it.

4. Adventures galore! 

College is an adventure in itself, but then there's fall break, spring break, and summer. More than likely, every college student has done something or gone somewhere new over these weeks of vacation, so it's hard to know where to begin or to know if the person asking about my college experience even cares.

5. Let Go and Let God.

For the first time in my life, I felt completely independent during freshman year. However, with that independence comes decisions left and right that are left up solely to me, myself, and I. Without God in my life as my counselor, on-call 24/7, I don't think I would have made it out of my freshman year sane. He is my rock. He is my fortress. He is strong when I am weak. In this ever-changing time of life I'm living, He is always the same.

So, next time you ask a college student about their experience and all you get are a few words, don't feel like they are acting weird or not making much sense, because we're still trying to make sense of it all ourselves. Much love to all my college kids and much love to the adults who want to know how we're doing.

Here's to the next year!