Love

In the words of my good friend Elizabeth Griffin, “I LOVE LOVE!” I think she may get a little more excited about wedding announcements than I do, but I still agree with her. However, Valentine’s Day? Not really my thing. Not in a “oh I’m so depressed that I don’t have a valentine” sort of way, just in a “I don’t really care” kind of way. Even when I have had a valentine, it hasn’t really done anything for me. So this year, instead of being mopey like some people, it was just a really great night with some ladies that I love. I got to watch my roommate’s boyfriend win a tennis match, had actually the most delicious pizza with my other roommate (Greek + artichokes + portobello mushrooms + Italian sausage = WIN), and had a really great night out in a swanky wine bar with fun conversation. I’ll take embarrassing first kiss stories over date night pressure any day! I did have a loving Valentine’s Day, just one of a different breed. I LOVE love!

And when I saw this little video, I fell in love. Darling Magazine is a new online magazine that preaches a seriously good message. They are totally taking what the world expects out of a magazine and turing it on its head. “Darling is a catalyst for positive change; leading women to discover beauty apart from vanity, influence apart from manipulation, style apart from materialism, sweetness apart from passivity, and womanhood without degradation.” Besides how much I like it based on the graphics or the photographs, I like what they have to say and this video they made for Valentine’s Day is no different. Kinda makes you think.

“Something that makes me whole.” Love comes from God. He gave us the ability to love and shows us what true, perfect, pure love looks like by sending his son to die on a cross for us. He shows us through our relationships with one another, though they can be messy. He shows us through the beauty of the mountains and the oceans, though they may cause fear. They are little glimpses into what his love for us can be and how much better he is in comparison. Thank you, God, for giving me Valentine’s Day to remind me that YOU are my true love, February 14th or any other day. Sometimes I get side tracked and fall in love with the wrong thing, but your love knows no bounds and guides me back every time.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

LOVE, Caroline

Windy Gap

I’m so spoiled. Just got home from a great weekend at Windy Gap Young Life Camp with a great group of freshman girls who let me lead them. Apparently, with over 580 in camp total, the Greenville area has officially brought the most people that Windy Gap has ever had. Even though I’ve been back probably 10 times since I did work crew in 2009, the memories from that summer have yet to be lost. I look at the big hill and see the time I face planted in grand fashion on the way down with Phoebe. I see the willow tree and remember the hours I spent under it, drinking Cheerwine slushies and laughing until my sides hurt. Entering the cabins, I think of the stats I clocked walking in and out, lugging buckets of dirty water and singing at the top of my lungs. Every time someone gets a scrape or a headache, I inevitably remember the pain of cleaning toilets and mirrors with two broken ribs and what felt like a broken arm after falling out of my bunk. (Yeah, I’ve always been THAT girl. The doctor and I were well acquainted) Before, the faces of those memories belonged to Turner, Kathleen, Ryan, Rob, Kayla and Texas Pete. The memories and faces are still there, but now they’ve expanded to include those of Elizabeth, Mills, Leah, Ellie, Clare and Lil’ Neon to name a few.

Though my life may change as I enter into different seasons, Windy Gap has been a constant to be thankful for. Now, I can look back and see how the Lord was working in my life in a way I could have never even imagined. While I still didn’t give him the full credit he deserved then, I know that I encountered him there. My summer on work crew was full of God’s ever-present love. I’m so spoiled that I get to return and relive that same love over and over and over again. How beautiful that I get to see, through memories, the ways in which he was providing for me then, ultimately leading me to the path I am on now. Memories that the girls I am now leading could be making, & that is the reason for it all.

Through the seasons:
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My beloved willow, always beautiful

With many friends:
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All memorable, all crazy, and all special. Even though it may be beautiful, the incredible people there make it what it is. Every time I go, I see someone from that summer. Some of my friends from work crew are married now and some have decided to go in other directions. Honestly, I don’t keep up with most of them. But I love them all, same as my Mann girls and fellow leaders. Those friends stood by me through mono seclusion cabins, cluelessness, camp crushes, and snowball fights. The best people in the world belong in the best place in the world, obviously.

Love, Caroline

P.S. Drew and Ellie Holcomb. Ryan Long. David Haskins. Cletus and Clyde. A program team to knock your socks off. Best program I have ever seen in all my YL camp attendances. Windy Gap Session 3 2009.

A Bountiful [and slightly orange] Harvest

“You crown the year with your bounty and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.” Psalm 65:11-13

Ah, a new year. Goodbye 2013. I will miss you and look back on you very fondly for the rest of my life. Between the bad (the very, very, very bad) and the good (interning with the Historical Society, living with my best friends, and of course traveling to India), I think I welcomed 2014 fairly unscathed. Especially when it involves a fire pit, s’mores, and great friends to share it with. Now that I am finally done with India work and have absolutely nothing to do until I go back to school, I have been enjoying doing just that: nothing. Today, not unlike the last week, was spend in my pajamas watching the Property Brothers on HGTV (they are SO cute). Don’t worry, I (usually) get up and do things, too. This afternoon I helped my dad and brother pick oranges, did multiple loads of laundry, took a daring walk with my mom on which we crossed a “busy” street, and went into downtown St. Augustine, where we ended up seeing a couple get engaged (!!!). Then I went back to the TV and watched the Jimmy Fallon memory lane special. In between the “What the heck am I doing with my life?” moments, I have really been loving my time at home, relaxing before going back to a fresh semester. For me, there will be no resolutions or expectations this year, just life. It’ll be grand.

Here are some shots from our afternoon of picking satsumas. A big freeze is coming so we had to salvage what we could. I just love them. I also love how Psalm 65 so beautifully captures this moment. We’ve had a great year, a bountiful harvest. The Orange Bowl, too, of course and now loads of these delicious things. All worthy of shouts and song. Go Tigers!

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Love, Caroline

PS- Feel free to check out this rather interesting video of my dad explaining why satsuma trees look weird. The other day I watched him dig up another orange tree in our backyard and replant it right behind our kitchen window. He is quite passionate.

My First Serious Blog Post Title

Why India? Why not.

Why Young Life? Why not.

Why Campus Outreach? Why not.

Why are you the way you are? I say why not be.

My two months abroad in India are rapidly disappearing before my eyes. Thursday is my last full day. Thinking about going home, hugging my brother, drinking syllabub, decorating our Christmas tree, and seeing my grandparents are all things that make me so ready. But so much of me wants to stay. Maybe forever. I will never get tired of the colorful hubbub, constant festivals and celebrations, and adorable brown eyed babies to stare at. Sometimes I feel like my life here is a dream and if I wake up, it will all be gone. One of my absolute favorite things about this country is the idea of peace and harmony. People respect each other here, different cultures, languages, and religions don’t affect daily life from happening. It is like God decided to put all of the world’s religions and the universe’s biggest paint set into a blender and out poured India. It is a rainbow of spirituality to say the least and I love it.

If India, a country stricken with extreme poverty and depletion of resources, can manage to harbor a community of mutual respect and religious toleration, why can’t the United States? Why was the most common question I received before I left “Why India?” and the second most popular comment “Be careful. Did you hear about [insert religious extremist circumstance here]?” Yes, India has more Muslims than Pakistan. Yes, India has had instances of extreme religious intolerance. So what. You know what else India has? India has the most welcoming, accepting, peaceful, helpful, truthful, and respectful people I have ever met. Organizations like NGO schools do everything they can just to pay their teachers while feeding us coffee, cookies and expensive clean water. People we have never met open up their homes and families to us. A panel of a Hindu professor, a Muslim professor, and a Chaplin taught us of the respect different religions have for each other. They finished each other’s sentences.  Hindus pay respect at Sikh temples and listen to Sufi music. While I am getting treated like a princess, people at home are still concerned about safety due to proximity of religious populations. Yes, religious toleration is definitely something I’ll miss.

I don’t think intolerance exists only on a broad level, either. It makes me sad to say it, but Furman even has intolerance within mutual faiths. Why is this a problem for us? We are all worshipping one God and we are all striving to represent him well by our organizations. The competition between groups is disgusting to me. It was a problem before I came to India, it’s just more on my mind now. I desire to live in a community of believers that support each other. I desire for that community to be larger than my close group of friends, but all believers. I desire for Furman students who attend the same church to recognize each other on campus instead of mentally segregating each other into different Christian campus organizations. We hurt each other by asking why on earth we would want to be part of a certain religious organizations. What we are missing is that by doing this, we are just prolonging the inevitable of a lost campus. Is that what we really want?

If staying in India meant no one asking me why I am a Young Life leader or why I am involved in Campus Outreach, I just might do it. We are too concerned with the differences between non-Christian religions than we are our own to even see the problem that lies right in front of us. This is my public statement acknowledging I will do everything I can to be a part of this acceptance and I hope if you are reading, you will join me. Being a Christian to me isn’t about forcing my beliefs on others or claiming to be better, but about love, acceptance and an understanding of those around you. I want to share what I know while still respecting those that might not agree. Hopefully if that is the path I take, it would be applied to both Christians and non Christians alike. Furman, the US, and even my own friends and family could learn a lot from this country. I know I already have and I hope it has changed me forever.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” – Psalm 133:1

PS This music video from a movie I saw here is just incredible. You should watch it. NOW.

Love, Caroline

Indian Shenanigans Are the Worst

Well yesterday was a typical Caroline day. I couldn’t not write about it and it gives me a good opportunity to share about everything that I’ve been doing here! But I warn you, it might be PG-13…

I’m just going to jump right into it. I peed my pants yesterday. I thought it would be funny to scare my friend Alice in the bathroom so I climbed onto a chair and thought I could stick my head through the window. However, not to embarrass Alice but she didnt exactly have the reaction I thought she would and we both cracked up laughing. Now, the whole reason I was standing outside the bathroom was because I had to go and well, you know the rest.

The rest of the 24 hours went quite the same way. I woke up feeling sick and I hadn’t slept very well. So I skipped breakfast and went straight to lectures. During the second lecture I thought I was going to puke so I ran upstairs. I ended up just crawling into bed and falling asleep for the whole rest of the lecture. Oops. At least I felt a lot better when I woke up. But this afternoon I washed my clothes which was good, but then when I was hanging them out on the line and Praveen, our Indian best friend, comes running out telling me to stop. Apparently that was the telephone wire. Oops. And when I went back into my room and turned on my little desk light, smoke and flames started pouring out of it. So I ran downstairs like a chicken with its head cut off calling for Praveen and yelling FIRE! No harm done but it was scary for a second.

I think Dr. Knight was trying to comfort me and make me feel better, but when she was comforting me, she called me Christine. Twice. Not so comforting because I have literally spent almost all hours of the day with her, even before we left. But that’s ok. At least she tried. Don’t worry though. She was able to comfort me again with my actual name a few minutes later when I spilt pipping hot chai all over my legs. At least the shorts I was wearing were water resistant. I only had to stay in the same clothes for the rest of the day.

So yeah. I would say be thankful you aren’t me, but I am in India so at least I have that!!! Never wanna come back home!

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Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge. Psalm 119:54

Love, Caroline

mumBYE y’all

I’m going to India today. WHAT? I can’t believe the day is here. I spent the last few days finishing up my work, getting loose ends tied down, and mentally preparing myself (and my roommates) for the coming 2 months. In case you weren’t aware, I’m traveling to India for the rest of the semester to study. There are 18 of us on the trip and we have already bonded over our mutual lack of social lives the past month and a half. I hate leaving Alexa and Teresa, but I’m excited about how my friendships with our group will grow and for the new friends I will meet. Pray for me that I will find good community, exciting adventures, and lasting memories. I can’t wait to share all of my experiences and what the Lord will teach me on this trip. But I’m leaving for the airport in less than an hour and I need to finish making these chocolate chip pancakes with my roommates!

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Love, Caroline

Dear Jacksonville…

For your listening-while-reading pleasure

Dear Jacksonville,

You have officially hit Best City Ever status. And I’ve not only visited some pretty great cities around the world, but lived in some, too. So congratulations! When I was in high school, I absolutely hated it here. Seriously, you could ask anyone because I told almost everyone. I hated moving away from Nashville, hated the heat, hated a lot of the people, and thought there was not a single thing special about this place. I couldn’t figure out why my parents would ever want to live here TWICE. To be fair, you have changed a bit since I left for college, but you are basically the same city. So in honor of my last night here for a while, I’m dedicating this one to you, dear city.

Reasons why you rock…

Jacksonville Historical Society

The JHS is a pretty cool organization unique to only Jacksonville (imagine that). In case anyone was otherwise unaware, Jacksonville had the third largest and most devastating known fire in our nation’s history. You were probably unaware but I’ll let it go if you are taking the time to read my blog. Anyways, the Great Fire of 1901 destroyed most of the downtown area, covering over 145 blocks. So basically everything in our city that dates pre-1901 was destroyed. That includes buildings, documents, homes, family heirlooms, etc. Miraculously, only 7 people died. However because of the fire, the city was built back up bigger and better than ever. We became a city of architects and movie stars. Jacksonville was THE place to be. Unfortunately a lot of the beautiful homes and buildings downtown that were built during the rebuilding phase have now been torn down. During the 1970’s and 80’s business began expanding into other areas of the city and the businesses that remained in the urban core began to expand as well. The buildings that stood in their way became casualties of a modern age. That part doesn’t rock. That part actually kinda sucks. But the Jacksonville Historical Society is the organization that keeps those old, now non-existent places alive. I can’t tell you how many times I asked, “Do you know what/where this building is?” while I was interning there this summer. All that we have left of these places are in photographs and documents and the only place to find those are at the Historical Society. It is a place to be explored and to learn from, and I hope I can continue to do so when I can.

The Jacksonville Historical Society archives are in the Old St. Luke’s Hospital built in 1878. It was saved from the fire by a creek with about a block to spare.

Neighborhoods

When I say neighborhood, I don’t mean the subdivision down the street. In Jacksonville, the neighborhoods are the sizes of cities. All in one city. Because Jacksonville is the (now 2nd by 1 square mile) biggest city in the United States. It’s  HUGE. And the thing is, there is no possible way for you to understand the enormity that is this city unless you have lived here. Even then you might rarely leave your side of town. But lucky me, I got the chance to go to school about as far away from my house as you can get in this city. That meant friends equally as far and scattered all over the place. Believe me, that is not the part I like. I would much prefer gas in my tank. However, because there are so many neighborhoods, each one is different and brings something special to Jacksonville. I live in Mandarin, which is just about the prettiest place on earth. At least the area where my house is. I look forward to driving home from school and getting back under the oak tree tunnel that is Mandarin Road. The beach has the beach (duh) and delicious subs. San Marco has prestige and delicious chocolate. Springfield has real history and also delicious chocolate. (The “Peter” is the same at both places.) Riverside has charm and delicious beer. It’s basically all delicious. Everywhere has the river. There are a whole lot of other places, too, but I don’t feel like naming everything delicious from each side of town (because that’s all that matters, right?).

Right down the street

Young Life

I just got the low down from a friend that Jacksonville is now a “metro” area, meaning that the Jacksonville area is comprised of a few smaller areas. That means more opportunities for Young Life! I almost had a fit when he told me that they intend to start YL at my local area high school sometime in the near future. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW EXCITED THAT MAKES ME. There are so many high schools in this city that can’t benefit from YL because there just aren’t enough leaders. All of my leaders in high school were out of college and maintaining a life while being a leader. While I would never in a million years trade the people that impacted me, this city NEEDS college students to lead who can dedicate more time and effort into leading local kids. And it’s not like there is a shortage of college students. Like UNF is huge now (when did that happen?). There are college students there who could be leading kids right now at Mandarin High. And kids would be able to have leaders that didn’t stay for just a year (my problem). The need for college life is present and I can’t wait for it to finally start (ehemm Ben cough). If you go to UNF, please think about leading! I bet there are a ton of people just waiting for the opportunity. Or maybe you live in Jacksonville now and you were always the “I didn’t go to Young Life because I didn’t like the crowd that always went” kind of guy. That’s lame. As a leader, I know that that “crowd” is the reason Young Life exists. Now is your chance to lead THOSE kids. Times are changing for YL here and I can’t wait to see how this city is affected.

Yep. That would be me at 14 at Southwind.

Yep. That would be me at 14 on the far left at Southwind. Oh you can’t zoom in on my face? Darn.

Just a smattering of reasons why you, Jacksonville, are the greatest. I will miss my Tuesday afternoons at the Cummer, my Saturday mornings at the market, my Sunday afternoons by the river, and evenings with family and old friends. I have never really wanted to come back and live here after graduation, but never say never.

Love, Caroline