Wherin I Share a College Essay

Good morning, beautiful people! For those of you living in the Northern Virginia area, I hope you are enjoying the lovely snow as much as I am. For those of you who don’t have the joy of experiencing the white fluffiness, I hope this picture makes you realize what you’re missing 🙂

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I have always loved snow. As I get older, that love hasn’t wavered. I don’t enjoy playing out in the snow as much – too cold and wet – but I do enjoy watching it as much as I used too. Snow makes life seem more innocent and bright. And snow gives us busy people a chance to stop, breathe, and reflect. In this case, the snow has afforded my family with a few extra days to rest. The flu has run its course through each of us four kids, and we are still suffering from the aftershocks. Can my cough and stuffy nose and fatigue just go away? Pleeeasse??

As most of you know, the college application process is behind me. Good riddance. But I must admit, I didn’t mind writing college essays all that much. For one thing, I love to write. I love writing assignments (most of them). And I love writing for a specific audience. Put those things together, and you get college admissions essays! While some were definitely more enjoyable than others, there are two in particular that I was especially pleased with the outcome. For times like this, when I don’t have anything to write about, I’m going to post them here for your reading pleasure.

To start with, my William & Mary essay. The prompt? “Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know that nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh.”

Here goes!

W. E. Hickson was a Liar

I wait. The ocean rolls under me, threatening to thwart my balance. Anticipation bubbles up but slowly fizzles as nervousness wafts into my stomach. I watch the waves in front of me. I hear, “Here comes a good one,” as I flip around to face the shore. I start paddling through the water. Salt spray. All I can see. Roar of waves. All I can hear. But then, piercing through the roar, “Arriba!” I cautiously push myself up on the board. I see nothing but ocean. I hear nothing but my own thoughts. I start to feel myself falling forward. Instinctively, I overcompensate and fall backward, the ocean closing over me.

Today is my first surfing lesson. I had been begging my dad to allow me to try for years. Finally, the summer before my senior year, he agreed. The instructor, Art Mcmurtrey, just happened to be walking down the beach the day before. And he just happened to have an opening the next day, during the time of year when he is booked for weeks straight.

I had convinced my brother to try surfing with me. After all, who wants to fail alone? That was my first mistake. Not the brother part. The trying part.

As I fall into the ocean again and again, I begin to become discouraged.  I optimistically think,  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” And if my failing wasn’t bad enough, I watch my brother score a 30mph ride for about 20 feet. Art can’t stop talking about it.

I get back on the surfboard. “Arriba!”

I push.

I stand.

I slip.

Again, I climb past the breakers. I get back on the surfboard. I wait. “Here comes a good one.” I flip around.

Thoughts swirl around in my mind. You’ve always wanted to try surfing. You can’t let your brother better you. Phebe, you can do this. That last thought in the forefront of my mind, I start paddling through the water, each stroke attempting to drive deeper than the one before. Salt spray. All I can see. You can do this. All I can hear. “Arriba!” As if on cue, I draw my arms to my chest and push myself up to stand. I stare straight forward. I bend my knees and sit back on my left leg. Holding my arms out wide, adrenaline courses through my body. Everything disappears as I focus on the thrill. Joy. All I can feel.

I ride.

I soar.

I surf.

Walking back to the beach cottage with Art, I excitedly tell him, “Thank you! I’ve always wanted to try surfing!” He looks me in the eye. “Phebe, you didn’t just try surfing, you surfed. Never tell yourself you’re going to try something; tell yourself you’re going to do it.” I suddenly realized the truth. W. E. Hickson had lied to me. That simple poem I memorized in elementary school convinced me that trying was success, when, in fact, a mindset of trying is a set up for failure. For when I told myself I could do it, then I truly surfed.

Faith of Our Fathers

What would it look like if we told God that we would do anything for Him? And what if we actually did it?

This morning as I was reading the Bible, my eyes were opened to the faith of Isaac and Rebekah. We often talk about Abraham’s faith in leaving his home town, trusting God for a child, and then being willing to sacrifice his son. What the Bible doesn’t say specifically is how Abraham succeeded as a father to Isaac. Some men of great faith have sons who walk away from God, but Abraham’s son followed in his father’s footsteps. Isaac had great faith, just like his dad.

Abraham set a legacy. Not only did his son have great faith, but so did his closest servants. When Abraham sent his top-dog servant to look for a wife for Isaac, God was faithful and led him straight to Rebekah. She appeared at the well and followed the script perfectly (of course, she didn’t know it at the time). She even offered him a place to sleep. If I was the servant, I would probably let out a sigh of relief and pat myself on the back. But the servant immediately, “bowed down, worshiped the Lord, and said, ‘Praise the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not withheld His kindness and faithfulness from my master.'” (Genesis 24:26-27) His response wasn’t, “Wow, I did a great job picking out this wife,” but instead, “Wow, God, you are so faithful.” I can’t help wondering whether Abraham’s faith set an example for his servants.

If I had been in Rebekah’s place, I probably would have been skeptical. A man arrives from far away, alone, and wants me to go with him? I see all sorts of red flags flying up. And if I were part of her family, I would have been a little suspicious too. But their response? “This is from the Lord; we have no choice in the matter.” (Genesis 24:50) They trusted God so much that they were willing to do anything – even sending their daughter away from home to marry a man they had never met. As is only reasonable, Rebekah’s family did ask if she could remain with them for a few more days to say good-bye. Not a few more years, a few more days. The servant was ready to get home though. Rebekah simply responded, “I will go,” (Genesis 24:58). Woah. How many times have I heard God telling to go speak to that person across the room or across the street, and I come up with excuses? “Um, God… I’m not really ready. I have my friends to catch up with. Somebody else will talk to her. Or maybe she doesn’t even want someone to talk to her.” What would happen if I just said, “Sure God, I will go”? 

So, Rebekah goes. Isaac loves her. She comforts him after his mother’s death. It is a great marriage, except no children. Genesis 25:21 says, “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord heard his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived.” Let’s be honest, what do we usually do in times of trouble? We try to figure it on our own. We ask our friends’ advice. We stress. We worry. And then as a last resort, we ask God for help. Or, maybe that’s just me. Instead of worrying, Isaac asks God for His intervention. He trusts that God cares about the details of his life and recognizes that God is in control. All the time. That is great faith.

These are stories that I have heard time and time again, but God is teaching me new things as I commit to reading His Word. Stepping out in faith is scary. The unknown is unsafe. But if we take that first step, God is right there to hold our hand. Abraham’s servant stopped at a well to find a wife for Isaac. God brought Rebekah. Rebekah left home to marry a man she didn’t know. God blessed her marriage. Isaac prayed for his wife to have children. God gave them not one, but two little boys. All this to say, God rewards us when we step out in faith. Sometimes it won’t be tangible. Maybe it will be in the legacy we leave, like Abraham. But our obedience does not go unseen. Praise God!

– – Phebe

Exciting News!

Guest Post!

I have some exciting news to share! I have the special opportunity to guest blog for the new Tirzah Magazine. This morning my post was published about my trip to Africa. Follow the link above to read it.

I apologize that I have not blogged recently. Classes started back this week, so I have suddenly found myself swimming in school work. In addition, I got sick, so my body is battling a fever, cough, runny nose, fatigue – all that lovely stuff. In the midst of my illness and growing to-do list, I’m having a hard time being thankful. So in an attempt to look on the positive side, here are few things I am thankful for…

My wonderful siblings. They have been writing me encouraging notes, getting me to laugh, and doing errands for me.

My amazing mother. She has listened patiently as I complain about how horrible I feel, and she has interrupted her schedule several times to make me food or tea.

My duvet. After spending almost the entire day so far in bed, I have a love-hate relationship with my bed. But I am so thankful for my cozy duvet that makes me feel like a princess even on the worst of days.

Stay positive!

– – Phebe

Good Girl Gone

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I am a good girl. Or at least I try to be. In our society, being a “good girl” often means that this person has it all together, or it appears like she does. Good grades, good reputation, good friends, etc. Adding Christian makes the connotation even worse. Being a Christian means you have to be good, right? I’ve heard people remark, “what a good, Christian girl,” about people they hardly know, all because their outside looks, well, good.

I am done trying to be good.

For Christmas, my parents gave me a book called Graceful: Letting Go of Your Try-Hard Life by Emily P. Freeman. (Disclaimer: I now want to give this book to all of my high school and college aged girl friends.) Emily is a self-proclaimed “good girl.” But in her book, she explains how the “good” is destroying the “girl.” I found myself relating with almost everything she said. I try to look perfect. I try to make high grades. I try to hang out with reputable people. Throughout the book, Emily introduces her readers to eight “good girl” personalities, each one hiding behind something different. Although I could relate with each, I identified most with the “Girl Next Door” (hiding behind her good reputation), the “Activist” (hiding behind her causes), the “Heroine” (hiding behind her strength and responsibility), and the “Judge” (hiding behind her rules).

I hear the voices in my head… You have to impress… You have to make an impact… You have to be strong, responsible… You have to be perfect…

LIES.

My identity comes from Jesus. What I believe impacts how I act. So I must believe that I am loved. I am accepted. I am secure. When I believe the truth that is so clearly displayed in Scripture, then I can live a life of grace. I can be confident. I can have peace. I can trust.

Instead of holding on to my fears, and saying, “I need to figure this out myself,” I need to recognize that Jesus is already carrying my load. Living a life of grace means that I receive His love and let Him be in control. Just like Elsa in Frozen (sorry, I had to throw this reference in somewhere), I need to let go. Stop trying so hard. Stop hiding.

I don’t need to try to be good enough, because Jesus is enough. Last night at youth group we sang, “Your grace is enough for me.” Do I believe it?

Our youth pastor, Matt, encouraged the youth to pick one word to describe how we want to live this year. Then we write that word on a card and place it somewhere we can always see it. Grace is a word that I am just beginning to understand. But God has been teaching me a lot about it recently. The theme seems to be appearing everywhere – in the songs I sing, the seminars I attend, the books I read. 2014 is the year I want to begin applying what I have learned.

Application is never easy. I will probably come back to the theme of grace a lot this year, because I constantly have to be reminded of God’s truth. But as I begin to focus my eyes on Him, the try-hard life is slowly fading…

The GRACEFUL life is rising like a bright, warm light from above.

New Year, New Me?

According to Forbes, approximately 40% of Americans (about 126,800,000 people) make New Year’s resolutions; however, only 8% actually keep those resolutions (25,360,000). Yes, I just did math during winter break. Be amazed. For most people I know, New Year’s resolutions are a bit of a joke. And I tend to agree. The statistics just prove that most people aren’t resolute about their resolutions. 

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Yet nothing happens unless you decide to do that something. If you want my personal opinion, I love goals. A goal is something you are reaching towards. I find purpose in accomplishing goals. But I think people tend to rush to come up with a list of resolutions for the new year. I always think of good things to do or say after the fact, no matter what I’m doing. So here’s a brief list of some goals I plan to accomplish this year. I almost wrote “want to accomplish,” but my surfing instructor told me to never say I’m going to try something; instead, tell myself that I’m going to do it. Throughout the next few months, I will be adding to this list. There’s a new tab on the top of my blog titled “My 2014.” If you ever feel like checking it, please do. As I accomplish things, I will cross them off my list. Some are lifestyle changes, others are things I want to accomplish. And keep me accountable too!

 

 

 

 

For 2014…

Read the Bible in a year. I’ve started a blended plan that mixes the Old Testament and New Testament. Reading the Bible in a year has been something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, so when my friend Hannah asked whether I would be her accountability partner this year, I jumped on the opportunity.

Graduate high school (June 8, 2014)! It may sound like a given, but I’ve got to work hard this next semester to graduate. 

Spend an hour each month in prayer and reflection. I did this last spring during Holy Week, and loved the time so much that I wanted to start doing it regularly. 2014 is the year to start!

Get my driver’s license. I’ve been waiting until I turn 18, and with my birthday just a month away, it is about time I started working to accomplish this goal.

Learn to be content with my current surroundings. I tend to be a person who consistently looks to the next thing. This year I want to stop, take a deep breath, and focus on the right now.

Go to a summer music festival. Ok, this one isn’t completely in my control, and it is a dream. But a girl can dream, right?

Go sky diving. In Virginia, I’ll be legal when I turn 18!

Vote in my first election.

Attend college. With the acceptance letter already attained, now I just have to get there.

Read one fun reading book a month. Last year, I felt like I never had time to read for fun, but this year I’ve learned it’s a matter of making time to read.

Write letters to the people who have influenced me for the better. I want to write all these letters the summer before I leave for college, to show my appreciation.

– – Phebe

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A Year to Remember

I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
his great goodness to the family of Israel—
Compassion lavished, love extravagant.
He said, “Without question these are my people,
children who would never betray me.”
So he became their Savior.
In all their troubles, he was troubled, too.
He didn’t send someone else to help them.
He did it himself, in person.
Out of his own love and pity he redeemed them.
He rescued them and carried them along
for a long, long time.

The above passage is from Isaiah 63:7-9 (The Message). This past Sunday, we attended church with our grandparents in Raleigh, and the pastor spoke on these verses. He admonished us to remember and recount God’s faithfulness, for we become what we remember. Inspired, I have decided to make a list of some of the exciting memories from 2013. I usually do this in my journal every year, but now I have a blog so I can share it with you all. Bear with me, this could be a long post! 🙂

A Year of Firsts…

– First official college visits

– First time taking the SATs

– First time taking two AP classes and exams

– First internship (Ken Cuccinelli for Governor)

– First time going to South America (Costa Rica in July)

– First time surfing

– First time caving

– First time going to Africa (Liberia in November)

Random Favorite Moments of 2013

Spending my 17th birthday (on a bitterly cold night) going out to eat in Shirlington and attending Alvin Ailey at the Kennedy Center with three of my bestest friends!

Dancing the night away during the Father-Daughter Dance at my home church, BCC. My dad is an excellent dancer (no, he did not pay me to say that) and it is so freeing to dance surrounded by little girls.

Dancing with my family at my cousin’s wedding in May, and eating yummy barbecue at the pig roast that followed. I love outdoor weddings! 🙂

Going go-cart racing with my family (another “first”). I was actually scared but ended up loving it.

Spending two weeks at the beach in August – the crunch of the sand under my feet, the rush of the ocean over my body, and the blaze of the sun on my skin.

Staying up until early in the morning, reading Christian pick-up lines aloud, and laughing ’til our sides hurt with friends from dance.

God’s Faithfulness in 2013

This was a year of God teaching me about His faithfulness. I am learning to trust that His plan is best and to believe that He is truly in control. There are so many instances where I clearly saw God’s faithfulness this past year, but I chose two specific stories for this blog post.

During the last school year, a group of juniors and seniors composed the leadership team and planned a spring dance concert called “Unbound”. We designed a program that focused on how God sets us free from our chains of sin and gives us a new identity–free. For the first year, a dream of mine came true and Children of the Light was able to dance at my home church. I felt a lot of pressure, because it was my church. I was also feeling disappointed, because I was unable to book the Worship Center and we ended up on the shaky student auditorium stage. But God was faithful. More people showed up than any other performance; it was standing room only. All of the dances and testimonies went smoothly, and the audience responded to the alter call. Even though I was discouraged, God was working to change lives that night!

Last winter I had to make a decision whether to attend a missions trip to Costa Rica with my church youth group. In my journal I wrote that I was conflicted for three reasons: “1) The financial aspect, because I also have the opportunity to go to Liberia in the November. 2) I don’t know many of the youth well or I am not comfortable around most. 3) Should I go my junior or senior year?” Looking back, God took care of each of my concerns. First, my parents offered to pay my way to Costa Rica instead of going to a summer camp, so I could go to both Costa Rica and Liberia. Second, during the trip to Costa Rica, I grew much closer to all of the youth on the team. I was able to see the heart of many of the teens, and I found myself “falling in love” with my youth group again. There was a unity between the team that I had not expected. Third, I found out that our youth group would not be making a trip back to Costa Rica this summer. If I had waited until my senior year, I would have missed the opportunity. God heard each of my fears and was faithful to calm each one.

2013 was a challenging year, but it was also one of my favorite years yet. I grew academically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. God was with me each step of the way, and I am so grateful for His blessings. I look forward to seeing His plan for 2014!

– – Phebe