Tuesday, October 30, 2012

First NFL Game!

This post is exactly a month late which I didn't plan for it to be, ha. October has been a busy month!

On Sunday, September 30th, my friend Amanda and I went to a Jacksonville Jaguars' game for free! It was the first NFL game we'd both ever been to! How did we manage to score these free tickets, you ask? Well, let me explain.

In the middle of February, I moved out of my first off-campus apartment and into a room in a 20 something couple's house in San Marco, one of the most vibrant and beautiful places in Jacksonville. Anne happens to work for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Phil is a physical therapist at St. Katherine's in Riverside. From the first email to meeting them in person, I had a good feeling about these two. After careful consideration, weighing the pros and cons and talking to my family back in Ohio, I made the decision to move in - and I haven't looked back! If you know me, I am very much a cat person. I guess after living in this house, I have slowly decided that dogs aren't that bad. Fred and Nolan, their puppies, have gradually pried open my heart and crawled inside. :) Never thought I'd ever say that. I still love only you, Tiggeroo! :)

Back to the Jaguars: Anne had mentioned awhile ago that she gets free tickets to all the Jags games so if I was ever interested in going, I was more than welcome to use the tickets and go to a couple games. I decided on September 30th's match-up not really realizing who the Jaguars would be playing - the Cincinnati Bengals! haha I more or less chose that game because it didn't start until later in the day. And to be honest, I'm not huge fan of either team but I wore teal and goal to support the city I am currently calling home. I won't cheer for any Ohio team (college of professional) except maybe the Cleveland Indians since their logo is cool.

We had a great time enjoying the sport live and catching up a bit. Though we didn't shell out money for the stadium food, we had nice seats, a jaguar paw fan to catch a breeze (it was SO muggy in the stadium!) and a downpour to cool us off the rest of the way!

In the end the Jags lost (which was to be expected) and the last couple minutes of the game got rained out.  Amanda and I had a great experience, though, and that's all that matters! :)

One piece of advice: never bring an umbrella with you to an NFL game. Even if you try to carefully hide it behind a dumpster near the entrance, chances are it will get stolen anyway! Blasted Florida downpours. ;-)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Más que orar (More Than Prayer)

I'm not writing this post so that I can boast, but rather I'd like to show just how human this challenge made me feel.

At the end of September I felt like I was stuck in a rut. I kept getting rejected by potential employers and was wondering what I should do next. I felt like my Spanish was plateauing and that frightened me. Who would present me an opportunity with another internship or full-time job? I didn't know the answer but I figured God would. I needed a challenge and it was almost the beginning of October. A new month, another chance to start over. To do something new. So I decided to develop a new habit: pray in Spanish at least once everyday for the next month.

If you speak another language besides your native one, be very careful when praying in your second language. It's great practice and will definitely help you build fluency but don't take it lightly. Be prepared to experience extreme opposition and challenges each step of the way.

It's nearly the end of October. That is the best piece of advice I can give anyone who might consider trying this challenge. I have gone about praying in Spanish once a day for the last 28 days. Here is what I have learned: expect your life to get harder, not easier.

A short list of things I observed:

*My first prayer was short and during my lunch break. And it was slow. I reverted back to thinking in English because I was unsure of what to say and how to say it. I felt like a child.

*I missed a couple days praying in Spanish.

*A couple times I prayed more than once in Spanish.

*I fell asleep during one of my prayers at night.

*I literally cried out to God in one of my prayers and prayed the fastest I've ever prayed in Spanish.

*I prayed for two strangers who had no idea I was praying for them.

*Other people were mentioned in my prayers - it's not just all about me.

*I prayed for my Spanish skills to continue to grow in Spanish.

*One of my prayers was in Spanglish. Another had just one word in English and the rest in Spanish. I had blanked on the word in Spanish

*I've noticed in the past couple days the speed in which I pray in Spanish is nearly comparable to that in my English prayers.

And lastly...
           ***I'm writing this post in English!***

It was not and has not been an easy task. This coming from someone who is absolutely in love with speaking this beautiful language...

Only a few days remain in this challenge.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Effectiveness of My Testimony (and Life)

"You're going to get to know these people."

Typical day riding the metro (subway) in Sevilla.
This single thought pierced my mind one winter afternoon as I was riding the metro in Sevilla, Spain, listening to music on my Zune. That day was over two and a half years ago but I still remember it as if it was yesterday. Truthfully, that thought startled me a little. I knew it was from God, but what did God mean by that? My next thoughts were: "Oh, no, am I going to start witnessing to the Spanish people on the streets?" and "Or does 'get to know' mean I'm going to become a missionary and sacrifice a bunch of things just to live here?" Needless to say I was confused in that moment. And while I put to rest those thoughts of worry and doubt, little did I know that it would take me nearly a month from that day to start to see the meaning behind that prophecy, if you will.


When I first left for my semester in Spain and got settled in at my new host family's house, I thought that I would be traveling almost every weekend and certainly during every long break. Well, God had other plans for me. Plans that didn't involve so much travel by plane, train or bus but instead by my feet. And in the same city or nearby it. What I mean by this is that God had people for me to meet during my four short months there in Sevilla. Yes, I did do quite a bit of traveling for someone who took the majority of her classes there in Spanish, but I didn't do as much as other students. That's okay. :) A study abroad semester is what you make of it...and as long as you are content at the semester's end, then there's no reason to compare your experience to someone else's. Boy, was that a tough pill to swallow at the time, though. I met many wonderful new Spanish friends while I was living in Sevilla. I was even invited out to dinner with one friend and her family and I have since cherished that special time. I just talked with this particular friend through Skype. She is so sweet and always makes me laugh. I do hope to have many more dinners and hangout time with her in person whether that is back in Spain or in the US. Since we both have a thirst for traveling and adventure, only time will tell where we see each other next. :)

I learned a lot about making comparisons this past weekend at a CCW Girls' Retreat in St. Augustine. One of the most important things I learned was the importance and value of each individual Christian's testimony. You shouldn't wish to have a harder or easier life, but rather ask God to give you the strength to endure the one you are given. The effectiveness of your testimony, no matter how unfair or difficult life seems at the time, will not be as powerful if it didn't play out in a certain way. In a sense, a lot of Christians who have 'boring testimonies' actually have powerful testimonies in disguise. Not every testimony has to be radical in the traditional sense, I learned, and Christianity needs this type of testimony just as much as it needs the radical types. Actions speak louder than words don't they?

As I look back on my own life and testimony, particularly when I lived in Spain, I find this to be true. I still haven't quite figured out why I had to be the girl who lived with one of the craziest, kindest Spanish women in all of Spain, the one who was late a few times for dinner, the one whose English started to go downhill in the middle of the semester, the one who embarrassed herself in public a couple times and the one who seemed to stay out the latest of all the girls living in Manoli's house at the time. Maybe I'll come across the reason when I'm single or later on down the road when I'm married. I am not sure. However, I do remember handling all of those tricky situations with grace. Not once did I lose my temper or complain. I often times laughed at the irony of the situation or at my own silliness. And other times, I just continued to work hard to maintain my English skills while at the same time doing my best to assimilate to Spanish culture.

So, if you're like me and have a seemingly 'boring, predictable testimony (or life),' think about who is watching you on a daily basis. Co-workers, classmates, family, friends, strangers...anyone who sees you at your best and your worst.

Let your actions simply send a message to the world that you are different.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


"You need to stop comparing yourself," a friend bluntly told me me as we were sitting in Panera together one more during Thanksgiving break last November.

I didn't like hearing that. But I knew she truly meant it out of love and I am so thankful for our 'no holds barred' bilingual friendship. :)

At that point in time, I only had three weeks left before my college graduation and I was once again worrying about my final GPA, the one that would define me for the rest of time until I went back to school and earned my MBA. I had just finished telling her about how I wasted too much time in college fretting over my GPA and tying my self-worth to it. How silly it was for me to think that something as small as a number would determine the path my career would take. It is important to do well in school, but each person's "best" varies on an individual basis which was something I had to learn the hard way many times.

Fast forward to this past weekend. I went on an all girls retreat with CCW (campus ministry I have been involved with for some time at JU) to St. Augustine Beach. We stayed in a condo that was donated by friends of the leaders and it was a wonderful time, but it wasn't wonderful all of the time. In a sense, it was a true retreat for me because I was far away from the distractions of my jobs and phone as I forgot to pack my phone charger. Now for the hardest part: the central topic of all of the breakout sessions. We looked at "The Comparison Trap," series by Andy Stanley. I guess you could say that that was the one topic I had been trying to drown out and run away from ever since last November. It couldn't be that big of a problem in my life, I told myself.

Well, if the message wasn't enough, the extra conversations I had with old and new friends and how all of the planned events and free time played out definitely cleared up my remaining doubts. While I didn't have the distraction of my phone, I had the Internet readily available on my netbook. I did retreat and enjoy the time away from the busyness of my life, but there was one thing I still had to do regardless if I was on the retreat or not: submit posts and blogs to a scholarship website I write for called CollegeNet. I won a scholarship from them in 2010 that helped pay for the rest of my full senior year and since then, the site has meant the world to me. I have never been more challenged or stretched in my personal beliefs, worldview and writing skills than I have writing for that site. And I have met some wonderful people on there that I call my friends. I could go into more detail, but I will save that for another post. The main point was, I still had an obligation to vote for a candidate in the last scholarship tournament (which had much higher stakes than it ever has had in the past) and stay active in this week's election or else my ranking would drop. I also personally made a commitment to myself to not miss a day posting on the site from last Wednesday until the end of January. I was able to submit all 5 of my posts for Saturday in the morning before breakfast, though I was almost late for breakfast that morning. In a way, you could say that all of my good brain power for the day was used up before all of the important discussions I was to have and listen to with that great group of women. I didn't mean for it to happen that way, it just did.

The central message of "The Comparison Trap" could be summed up in Ecclesiastes 4:6 which says, "Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind." (NIV) It really struck a cord in me because I have been 'chasing after the wind' ever since I graduated from college 10 months ago. I've been trying to figure out my place in the professional world while still maintaining the relationships with my friends with our new chapter in life. I wasn't just reminded of that once this weekend, it was a reminder that kept flashing up everywhere I looked. Yes, it was a retreat but it almost felt like torture to me and sometimes that is what we need. To not just see the problem in our life that we need to resolve, but to be reminded of it so much that the only we can do is find a solution instead of continuing to ignore it. Here were the reminders for me: almost all 19 girls who were there (minus a couple) had some type of smartphone that they were constantly on, they all looked prettier and cuter than me, they had pretty much all known each other for awhile, they all had their Bibles in English (I forgot my English Bible and had only brought my Spanish) and they all loved talking to each other all the time (haha). Also, we had beach and pool access during our breaks and free time, but you had to have a key to get to either. It also seemed like I missed the groups who were going to either place by just a couple minutes which further tested my patience.

Now, I'm merely just stating the unexpected struggles I faced over the weekend. I don't need you to tell me I'm beautiful, unique, smart and wonderful to talk to, etc. I know those things are true even though I forget sometimes, I just wanted to get that out.

During the month of October, I have faced some steep 'ups' and sharp 'downs.' Rejection and disappointment in many different forms have almost become the norm for me, almost. I know full well why all of these things were happening. On Monday, October 1st, I started praying in Spanish at least once a day. I have prayed in Spanish in the past, but only in small settings and when someone asked. The thought never crossed my mind to incorporate it into my private prayer life with God on a daily basis. I was feeling discouraged at the end of September so I decided to spice up my life by challenging myself to pray at least once in Spanish for all of October. It has not been the hardest month of my life, just the second hardest. haha I still stuck close to God because He was literally all I had. I could have easily cursed Him like Job had done centuries ago. I knew that deep down that that was not the answer. It never is.

Though I questioned my self-worth, identity and physical beauty often this past month, I finally decided for myself that I would no longer believe the lies that I have believed for countless years. Lies that the world tells me as a woman and as a follower of Christ. What helped me the most through the first two terrible weeks of this month was Matthew West's new album, Into the Light, and Tenth Avenue North's new album, The Struggle. Matthew West's lyrics in many songs particularly resonated deep within me because they spoke and started to heal the hangups I have about my physical appearance and intelligence. Basically, he answered the question, "Am I good enough?" with passages straight from God's Word. I verbalized in a post online that I was no longer going to listen to the lies this world feeds me and for the first time, I truly meant that. I chose to "let the truth of His promise speak louder than the lies" by drowning out those lies with encouraging words and God's truth. Though I have just begun the path to reconciliation with the lies and the truth, it's amazing what happens to your perspective of the world and how different your reactions are to what the media throws at you.

This is not going to be a change that you will see in me overnight, but it will be a change that I hope you will see in me if you interact with me in person over the next few months. I will continue to struggle with image, value and self-appreciation naturally but it won't overtake my life as much as it has been in the past. Just like with anger, it's best to let go of the things you tightly cling to in your two hands and leave one hand open to receive the new blessings God has in store for you. Though you may not see the blessings now, trust me they are on their way.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Guest Post: Chchchchanges

**This is the 3rd installment in my collaboration project. Patty Ganzelli, who studies English and Creative Writing at the University of North Florida is featured this week. Patty and I were introduced online by a mutual friend here in Jacksonville, but we have yet to meet in person. That will happen this Saturday, though! We also share a love for Spanish, Spain and writing and sharing our stories from our different points of view. She tells stories through words AND pictures so I hope this young woman's very creative story will put a big smile on your face!**

Chchchchanges by Patty Ganzelli

Five years.  Five.  Years.

Cinco años.


Five years ago, I was a senior at Bartram Trail High School.  I was sixteen going on seventeen, and I knew that I was naïve.

I know saying things have changed in cliché and obvious.  Of course things are going to change, especially over the course of half a decade!  But it’s the way things change that’s the crazy part.  I mean, to think how much one’s personality can be altered by time and tiny circumstances.  It’s insane.  You can only hope for things have changed for the better.

So this is my story.  How tiny events gave way to massive changes in me that I never thought possible.

Let me put this in perspective for you.

When I was in high school, I absolutely loathed public speaking.  Actually, not even public speaking.  Just speaking in general to anyone that wasn’t in my immediate group of friends.  I was terrified.

The year: 2007.  The place:  BTHS hallway.  The transformation: Finding my voice.

Flash forward: Me now.

Next scenario: Sitting next to a stranger. 

Finding my voice was a difficult thing.  Funny part is, people who know me can tell you this crippling shyness was only in a public setting.  You have no idea how many times I’ve been yelled at for talking too loud while around friends or family.  I found it very difficult to shut up (and still do).

With the exception of being around others.

I had often daydreamed about getting up in front of a crowd and delivering a flawless speech at the Oscars for my umpteenth Academy Award for Best Picture, unencumbered by stuttering or nausea, triggering heartfelt emotions in everyone in the audience with such fervor that they applaud me and throw roses at my face and offer me another Academy Award for ‘Most Awesome Thank You Speech.’  But dreams can only take you so far - especially when even saying “hello” to a stranger gives you an anxiety attack.

Finally, all this did change.

Thank the Lord for He is good!

I did not think this would be possible, but I actually can pinpoint the exact reason for my transformation.  It began with getting my first-ever real job at “Random Department Store, Inc.”

I got this job when I was nineteen years old and I am so grateful for it.  Being a cashier at a store whose tagline is “Smile and Say Hi,” you are consistently required to make small talk with strangers.  When I first started, I was, well, not the best at it.

Thankfully, practice makes perfect.

But this habitual act of speaking and holding conversations with hundreds of strangers each week began to boost my confidence.  I found myself initiating conversations with people in my classes, acting like myself in a public setting, not trying to hide who I am anymore.

Not only was I painfully shy when I was younger, I also had the lowest self-esteem I think the world, nay, the universe has ever seen.  This low self-esteem I believe is what triggered my shyness.
Believe it or not, when I was really little (like four years old), I would go up to random people and give them hugs.  Because I was adorable.  And then middle school happened.

Kids are cruel.  There’s no denying it.  And teasing and seeing portrayals of what “pretty” is supposed to be in the media did not help my case.

I did not think I fit the bill for anything considered “pretty.”  For the longest time, I hated my appearance.  I hated everything about it, from my dumb ponytail to my skin to my weight.  I shuddered at the mirror, thinking I was no better looking than Quasimodo.

My senior portrait.

In all seriousness, working at the department store talking to people did indeed boost my confidence in speaking, but confidence in speaking led to a confidence in my appearance because I finally had a reason to take pride in myself.  Years of awkward high school shyness and limited knowledge of makeup and look at me now! 

Yeeeeah, buddy!

In senior year, I thought I had made it big because I was able to go with my friends on a week-long trip to D.C. on a train unsupervised and not get too homesick.  But this past summer I studied abroad in Santander, Spain for five weeks! With limited means of contacting my parents!  The Patty of 2007 would never have even thought in her wildest dreams that she would ever do that.  She didn’t have the guts.

But you know what?  I did.

By golly, I did.

If you had told 2007 Patty that in five years’ time she would have lived with a host family in Spain, written a musical, made a few movies with her friends, acted in a lead role in a play, had written a play that had actually gotten produced onstage and actually DID make people cry, and had started a side-business decorating wedding cakes. . .

She would have slapped you upside the head and said in her best Cher from Moonstruck voice, “SNAP OUT OF IT!”

But I can’t snap out of it.  This is my life.  And it’s crazy how much things have changed.  How I’ve changed.  I can’t believe the opportunities I’ve had, the people I’ve been privileged to know and who have helped me become a better version of myself.  And I just want to say. . .

Looking forward to the what the next five years hold!

~**If you enjoyed Patty's blogging style and would like to see more of it, visit and follow her blog here:
Midnight Porkchop by Patty. Also, please leave some feedback about this post here in a comment if you enjoyed it!**~