humble & hopeful

lokai-bracelet-by-michaelmatti

A couple of weeks ago was Fall Break and my family decided to take our annual trip to Destin. It was such an awesome week. I got to spend it with my favorite people, eat home-cooked breakfasts, lay on the beach all day, and stuff my face with seafood at night. It was such a perfect week, and I’d love to go back and relive it.

 

With that being said, the week before Fall Break, I had midterms. Four out of my five classes scheduled midterm tests, two being on the same day. I was pretty stressed out while I was studying and preparing for them. I tore up my textbooks with a highlighter, made countless note cards, and reread my notes a lot. I kept telling myself, get through this week and you’ll be laying on the beach.

 

And I did get through that week.

Then the week at the beach ended.

Now another week of school has gone by.

 

Time flies.

 

I was trying to decide what my next post should be about, and I just couldn’t think of anything, until I looked down at my wrist and saw my bracelet.

 

I had on my lokai bracelet. For those who don’t know anything about these, let me explain. The company itself is awesome. They donate 10% of their profits to charity (which I didn’t know until I was on their website).

 

The lokai bracelets are made up of little gel beads. Some bracelets have clear beads, while some are red, pink, purple, rainbow, camo, etc. Regardless of the color of the majority of the beads, there is a black bead and a white  bead on every single bracelet. The black bead is said to have mud from The Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. “Sometimes you’ve hit a low, stay hopeful.” The white bead is said to contain water from Mount Everest, the highest point in the world. “Sometimes you’re on top of the world, stay humble.” Another thing I learned when on their website was that the clear/colored beads are for the owner of the bracelet to be able to tell their own story of balance because we all have different stories. The bracelet is meant to offer a feeling of balance when you’re wearing it.

 

The founder of the bracelets shares, on the website, that for him the mud represents when his grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The water represents when he “was struck by a feeling of immense gratitude for where [he] was in [his] life.”

 

Even if you don’t have one of these bracelets to look at for a physical, constant reminder, keep in mind that “Life is full of joy and sadness, and we can all relate to its highs and lows.” -Steven Izen, Founder of Loki.

 

Life moves so fast and nothing is constant or permanent.

 

So when you’re at your highest, whatever that looks like, thank God; when you’re at your lowest, whatever that looks like, just hang on and trust God, because either way, time’s moving and things are changing and there’s nothing you can do to stop it or slow it down.

Advertisements

Onions on the Ocoee

ocoee-river

I love meeting new people. Like it’s seriously one of my favorite things. I love when you’re getting to know someone and you realize how similar you are to each other or you realize how insanely different you.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people “people watch.” I relate so much to this. Watching people is so cool. I wonder where they’re going. Did they eat breakfast? How many pairs of shoes do they have? Yes, I realize this is kind of creepy, but these are things I seriously wonder. When I would ride in the car when I was a kid, we’d pass houses and I’d always wonder what was going on in there that second. If I could see tv light, I’d wonder what they were watching. If I could see people, I’d wonder how long they’d been standing there, visible to the road. I just thought it was so cool that millions of things were going on right around each other at the same time and no one has any idea.

Anyways, I think it’s crazy how different people are. With that being said, I feel as if society-myself included- bases so much judgement on first impressions. First impressions are hard to get rid of and most often you never forget the first impression you have of someone. Sure, sometimes, they’re accurate. But a lot of the times, they’re not.

Yesterday, I went white water rafting with a group of people from a campus ministry. It’s the second week of October, also the second week that the river is technically “open”, but I rarely pass up an adventure or a chance to be in nature, so I was pretty excited, despite knowing the water was going to be freezing. One friend that was also going, was extremely nervous, but she was also excited

Once we got to the site of the company that we were rafting with, we had to take a bus down the river. So we put on the bulky life jackets, grabbed the awkward helmets and paddles and loaded up. On the bus ride, I got to talking with two girls I’ve gotten pretty close. We talked about all kind of things. I discovered one girl was also into crossfit and we discussed checking out a gym soon. We made future plans for a camping trip. And of course we talked about classes. The topic of families and cousins got brought up and one girl told us she didn’t have any cousins her age. They were either way younger or way older. My mind was literally blown. When I was in high school, I had 10 cousins that were also in high school. Yes, ten. (I’m pretty sure I said eight at the time, but going back and counting I realized I left two of them out. My bad.) But yeah, they thought that was crazy. They couldn’t imagine having a family that big. But to me, this was nothing new. It was all I’d ever known.

We also got to talking about tubing. Anyone who knows my family, knows we take tubing serious. Like, so serious. I knocked my two front teeth out tubing. Okay, correction, I knocked them loose, and they were sticking straight out of my head. A cousin’s friend broke his nose on the tube. Numerous blisters and rashes have covered our stomachs, arms, and legs from staying on for hours. We’ve lost more bathing suit bottoms than we can count, because we were too stubborn to let go and fall off even when we felt them around our ankles. As they were talking about how high they’d gotten on tubes or scary it was, I just smiled and laughed. I loved hearing their stories and the way they’d grown up and experienced the same things in different ways. It was so cool to me.

Once we got off the bus and to the loading site, we spilt up into two groups for two rafts. We were joking around and deciding which seat to get.

“Hey, wait. I want to be in one of the middle seats,” one of my friends told us, the one that was nervous.

“You’ll get in whatever seat I tell you to get in,” this came from our raft guide. We looked at him, assuming he was joking. We waited for a smile or a laugh, but neither appeared. We realized he wasn’t kidding. Oh okay.

“I’m an ex-marine drill-sergeant and I don’t put up with anything. It’s just how I am.”

Well, alright. This was going to be interesting. We all kind of exchanged looks, not really sure how to handle this.

Once we got on the river and started rafting, he immediately began barking out orders. I’d been rafting twice before this, so I imagined I’d feel pretty comfortable. But he started to stress me out because we’d get turned around and stuck and he’d scream for us to paddle backwards, nonstop. He seemed tense, we made the atmosphere of our boat tense.

My friend that he had already called out once was sitting beside me and was not having the best time at the beginning of the ride. A couple of times, the “T-grp” slipped out her hand and he chewed her out, every time. She wasn’t letting go of it on purpose, it was just flying out of her hand. (The t-grip is the handle part of the paddle and apparently is known for breaking noses and knocking out teeth.) Thankfully, this didn’t happen, but I did give her a hard time, saying I’d had braces for a couple years and I wasn’t about to turn back.

At one point we went through a huge rapid and she sunk down in the boat and didn’t paddle.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOUR PADDLE DIDN’T EVEN GET IN THE WATER!”

“It’s okay. I made up for it,” I tried to offer up a solution.

“Yeah, and that’d what makes it bad.”

Seriously, dude? I couldn’t see anyone’s face, but I could tell we all rolled our eyes at this.

Once we got on down the river and we were in smoother water for a few minutes, he loosened up a little.

I was in the back of the boat, right in front of him. Naturally, I tried to strike up conversations. I definitely get this from my dad, he’s never met a stranger and he loves asking random questions to strangers. This sometimes is crazy annoying and everyone is like dad, chill. But I’ve noticed myself doing it a lot lately, so I guess I can’t really give him a hard time about it anymore.

“So how long have you been a rafting guide?”

“I left the marines about 20 years ago, so about 18 years,” he informed us between shouting out orders for us to paddle harder. Dude was intense.

“Oh okay. Well how did you get this job?”

“I was living in the woods and one of the raft guides asked if I needed a job. I didn’t really want a job and I was happy being on my own in the outdoors, but I figured I’d check it out.”

Wait, what?

“You mean you just like camped all the time? Like you literally lived outdoors?”

“Yep,” he said, acting like that wasn’t crazy

“Wait! Have you ever heard of the book, Into the Wild?”

“Yep.”

“So was it like that?”

“Yeah, kinda.”

Into the Wild is by Jon Krakauer. It’s about this guy being so fed up with society that he goes to live in the wilderness. It’s one of my favorite books. It’s also a movie, but obviously the book is way better.

But I thought that was so cool. I’d never met anyone who lived in the woods or even anyone who even thought about living in the woods.

Throughout conversations, I learned some crazy things about our cranky tour guide:

            -He’d been shot twice.

            -He’d been trapped under a building after a bomb explosion or fourteen hours.

            -His legs were crushed and under so much pressure a blood blister the size of a cd appeared on his back.

            -He got bit by a copperhead when he was a kid and waited two days before he told his mom.

            -His thumb was bitten off by a snapping turtle and sewed back on.

            -He left the marines when they tried to take him out of the field and make him work behind a desk

            -He was 65.

            -He put up with no nonsense.

Holy. Crap.

We all cringed at his stories and were pretty shocked when he threw in his sense of humor. We all were even a little sad when the ride came to an end. Once we got on the bus, he showed us one scar on his back from being shot. It was long and it looked like it was pretty deep. He even informed us he had another gunshot wound on his butt and wanted to know if we wanted to see. All of our eyes got pretty wide, not sure what to say. Then he started cracking up and let us know he was joking. Ha-ha, good one…

When we parted ways with him, he came up to my friend he’d given a hard time from the beginning and asked her if they were cool or if she was mad at him.

“Oh yeah, we’re cool,” she smiled at him and I think they fist bumped or something.

On the car ride home we all talked about the day and obviously our guide.

“Ya know, he was actually a pretty cool guy,” said my friend that was now friends with him. We all agreed with her.

He was like an onion,” she said, “you just had to slowly peel back his layers and get to know him.”

            What a cool visual.

Peeling people back and getting to know them little by little.

If we all took the time to “peel” people back and get to know them instead of going solely off our first impression of them, the world would be a much better place.

I know that I didn’t really get to know this guy that well in the few short hours I spent with him, but I did realize how wrong my first impression of him was. At the beginning of the day, I thought he was just a jerk. But leaving that day, I had so much respect for him, learning just a few of the things he’d been through.

So this week, I challenge you to caution yourself before forming an opinion about someone. Get to know them and their story before you begin making assumptions. Make the world a better place by peeling people’s layers back, just like you would an onion

MIND/MATTER

img_9422

 

My mom is an optimist. My dad is an optimist. My grandparents are optimists. As long as I can remember, I’ve been told I have an optimistic attitude.

“Ugh. I wanted a large coffee, but they’re out of the cups so I got a medium.”

“At least you didn’t pay as much.”

“True.”

 

“This test over three chapters is going to kill me.”

“I agree, but at least it isn’t over four or five chapters.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

Sure, it’s not too difficult to stay positive in those types of scenarios. But what about when you’re singled out? Put down? Made fun of?

I’m white. I’m a female. My family is middle class in a small town. Obviously, moving to Chattanooga has shown me that the world is HUGE and that there are so many different lifestyles. However, I still don’t really know the first thing about diversity. I recently went to Mexico for a week this summer. That was about as diverse as it’s ever gotten for me, but I really only saw the “commercial areas” that the citizens wanted the tourists to see. So moving to a big city has obviously been very eye opening for me, in a good way.

I recently went to an International Festival because one of my friends was representing El Salvador. It was so cool to see all the different flags, sample all the types of food from across the globe, and watch the performances from different countries. Even though the festival only lasted a couple hours, it really made me think about how different people are from each other. It also made me realize I’ve been tucked away in a corner my whole life. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it was just interesting.)

But anyways, a few weekends ago, I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. This is an awesome organization! I was slightly hesitant to wake up early on a Saturday and spend the entire day volunteering, but it turned out to be well worth it. When my group got there, the guy that is over everything took us through a brief training process. He informed us that today the typical construction work that Habitat usually does was going to be put on hold. Instead, he wanted us to all partner up and walk door to door asking homeowners to take surveys.

In these surveys, Habitat wanted to know some of the things people wanted for their neighborhood. They wanted to know what ways these residents wanted their neighborhood to grow, they wanted to know what they loved about their neighborhood, and they wanted to know which areas they wished to see an improvement in.

I was pretty pumped. I love meeting new people and interacting with people. But I was also kind of nervous. My partner and I were slightly skeptical about just knocking on doors. Would they be friendly? Would they be open to discuss aspects of their lives to complete strangers? We only hoped so, otherwise this was going to get really awkward, really fast.

With brave faces, we – along with a couple other groups – set off down the road to begin. The first few houses we knocked on didn’t get answered. We were disappointed, yet slightly relieved.

Once we did a few houses, we fell into a sort of routine and became more comfortable. One person would read the questions and the other would circle or jot down the answer. It was a pretty good system for my partner and me.

Once we relaxed and realized how cool this actually was, we started having a pretty good time. We met some of the sweetest and most genuine people and the time we spent with them usually exceeded the ten minutes we promised the survey would take. We heard stories of awesome experiences, crazy neighborhood parties, and even one about someone falling off a roof (don’t worry, he’s fine). A sweet, hilarious woman with no teeth and the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen told us she sprinted after a bus once; then she told us she was 85! My partner and I ended our talk with her nearly in tears from laughing so hard.

That wasn’t unusual, either. We left front porch after front porch grinning ear to ear, feeling totally refreshed. Not only did we get all the info Habitat needed, we also felt like we’d made a new friend.

Until that one house.

We knocked on the door, introduced ourselves, and stated that we were volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for the day.

“How long this take?”

“This shouldn’t take more than ten minutes, and we’ll reward your time with a gift card to Habitat’s store, “Restore” once this is completed.”

“OK.”

“So, ma’am, how satisfied would you say you are living in your neighborhood?”

“Not satisfied at all.”

“OK. Do you care to elaborate more and explain why you feel that way?”

“I’ve been black and poor my life. I’ve never had nothing. Poverty follow black people and it following me. The neighborhood I live in before this is thriving now just because the blacks moved out and the whites moved in. The only time a neighborhood gets nice things and has any value is when white people move there.”

My partner and I gave each other a quick glance, but decided to continue on. With brace faces, she jotted down the response and I proceeded on to the next question.

“Have you ever been involved in the-”

“Hell no, I’m not involved in anything in this neighborhood and I never will be.”

“Oh okay. Well, did you vote in any elections recently?”

“Yeah, I sure did.”

“Well, that’s actually one of the options. Let me read off this list and you can let us know if you’ve ever participated in any.”

“No. I’m done with this. Nobody care about me and nothing going to change around here.”

Then, the door was literally slammed in our faces.

I was completely shocked. And slightly mad. Here I was spending my Saturday, trying to do something that actually mattered and I was getting a door slammed in my face. Seriously?

The thought of banging on her door and letting her know how rude, negative, and inconsiderate she was crossed my mind. I wanted to point out to her that I wouldn’t be out here if I didn’t care.

But what would this accomplish?

I’d never change her mind. I’d never change her finical situation. I’d never change anything that’s going on in the media. I’d never change the ridiculous stereotypes. I’d probably just make things worse. So I walked away.

As we made the walk back to our station, my mind wandered to all the positive conversations  we’d had that day. And I clung to this. I had to. I realized there will always be negativity waiting around the corner. Literally around the corner, in this situation. The devil will always try to turn something positive into something negative. He’s always going to be waiting on a chance to slip in and remind you how small you are and that you can’t possibly do anything that really makes a difference. And in that moment, I almost believed that. Almost.

But instead, I chose to continue surveying the rest of the day. I chose to continue to laugh at all the hilarious stories. I chose to continue to be uplifted by knowing I was a part of something bigger than myself. I chose to see all the good instead of the smidge of bad.

Overall, it was an incredible day. Both of Habitat’s leaders were so energetic and positivity radiated from them. They made sure we left that day knowing we had a place to come back and serve anytime we wanted. They offered us food and handed out waters periodically throughout the day. They asked all of us to write down the address of any house that contained troubled residents so they could go back to talk to them. They were so involved and they actually cared about what they were doing. They actually cared about other people. They actually cared about making a difference. They’re out in the world doing what it takes to make a difference.

Later that night lying in bed reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book Uninvited, I came across a quote that smacked me in the face. “What the mind focuses on, it feasts on.” DUH, I wanted to yell at myself. I’d be insane to let one person ruin my entire day. So I didn’t. I had to make my mind focus on the positivity I’d experienced and all the good memories I was walking away with. I wanted to experience diversity. So here I was, meeting someone who lived a life I didn’t know anything about and the first thing I wanted to do was make her see things my way. Really, Kelsie?  I couldn’t let myself get frustrated and shut down because we were so different. I had to make myself see the bigger picture and I even made myself say a short prayer for her.

So this week, I challenge you to focus your mind on positivity. Whether its a crappy five minutes or an entire crappy day, find something positive and hold on to that. Be a light to somebody and show them that they’re loved, valued, and important. Focus your mind on positivity and let it feast on it.