Tuesday, December 15


This semester has been one of the absolute craziest times in my life.
I've juggled stress and academics and faith and friendship and pushed through a lot of little things that very easily could have gotten me down.
I've had late nights and I've gone to bed ridiculously early on some occasions.
I passed Physiological Psychology with a B+ (which is not a small feat!).
[No, I didn't 4-point this semester because of that class; I am learning to be okay with that.]
I journaled a lot. I prayed a lot. I cried a lot.

But one thing I did not do was blog a lot.

Part of me is disappointed in this, as I don't have the photos and memories assembled so neatly as to be able to scroll through them and see the highlights of the semester. I didn't share what I was feeling in every given week or process through publicly everything on my plate. My plan to blog through my 20th year of life in photos failed miserably.
But I think, for once, that that's okay.
Life isn't something you can just effortlessly document and relive in any given situation. It's messy and confusing and there aren't enough words in the English language (or in the little bit of Spanish that I currently know) to portray things.
That's one of the things I guess I'm learning this semester; sometimes all you can do in life is just keep living it, through good days and bad days and long days and overwhelming days and hard days and days when you pretty much forget everything except your own name. It's life and you just have to keep going.

So how is life now?

Well, finals are rough. At this point, I have three finals down with one final and one (very large) research proposal to go.
I presented on "The Autonomic Physiological Effects of Non-Compulsive Self-Injurious Behavior in the Brains of Non-Psychotic Individuals" and I'm drafting a research proposal entitled "Effective Means of Improving Latino Client Satisfaction in Clinical Social Work Services." I've researched and studied my butt off.

Three days until I'm home free for the holidays, which will bring with them their own set of craziness and chaos, along with lots of coffee and cookies and memories. (And hopefully a white Christmas. As much as I dislike always being cold, which happens year round, Christmas just isn't Christmas without a foot of snow, and not having it right now is making me a little angry.)

Three weeks from tomorrow I'm getting on an airplane and flying to Guatemala, where I will live for just over four months / 17 weeks. I'll be taking a total of 22 Spanish language credits and auditing 3 or 4 cross-cultural credits (not 'work' heavy, but required experiences, including...) climbing volcanoes, swimming in the ocean, hiking ancient ruins, being a part of the world's largest Holy Week gathering, touring a coffee plantation (drinking LOTS of coffee) and living with a Guatemalan host family (along with so much more yet to be planned or discovered.)
I would be lying if I said that I was not absolutely terrified to the core of my being for this trip. I'm throwing to the wind all of the comfortable things that serve as lifelines for me: regular routine, comfortably, predictability, family, modern convenience, close friends, care packages and safe, hot running water. We've been prepared for a whole slew of potential circumstances that honestly I don't dare disclose because family members would have heart attacks and refuse to let me leave the country. I know what to do in almost any emergency imaginable, though, so no worries there. (And I will be INCREDIBLY well cared for. I can't stress enough the faith I have in Paul and Libby, two points of reference in Antigua, that will see to it that we're all safe and happy.)
But in addition to this fear is just a level of excited anticipation and peace that I never would have expected to find. I'm moving abroad and yet I have a level head and absolutely no question as to weather or not this is truly the right choice for me. I know that it's what I'm called to do and where I'm called to go for the next season in my life, and no amount of fear has shaken this confidence.
I'll probably update this blog another few times before I leave, but for my Guatemala experience I'll be keeping everything in one place at:
"Julia in Guatemala"
[click for link] That's where you'll find posts and photos and glimpses of life as I'm preparing for the trip and updates while I'm there. BONUS: If you're fluent / near fluent / speak any amount of Spanish at all, you'll get to laugh along as my knowledge of the language grows. Posts will be in both English and Spanish, so that (1) you know what's going on, and (2) we can watch my command of a beautiful language grow. Some stuff may only be communicated in English, others only in Spanish. Another piece of this is that the Spanish allows for my blog to be a teaching tool for students at Zeeland Christian School in their Spanish classes. This blog will help them connect language and culture, and the Spanish posts can be used for some of their homework. EXTRA CREDIT: If you DON'T know Spanish, make friends with someone who does and let them translate for you. Yay for new friends!!

Saturday, October 3

two letters.

An open letter to a friend,
who will inevitably be able to identify herself after reading this post
{though maybe there will be some nuggets for the rest of you} --

I think I understand now, even if it's just a little bit.
It's not like I know everything, and it's not like I didn't notice before.
It's just...
You put me in a reflective mood today.

The way society says "this is your only option, to choose another will never work out."
The way you stood by the wayside when the spotlight was on everyone else.
The way you gave everything you had for a dream that so few other people saw.
The way you waited back and worked doubly hard for half of the applause.
The way you learned lessons from the school of hard knocks instead of professors.
The way you were the consistent one, always there to back people up, because they could always count on you to be around. I can't thank you enough for that, but I also promise to pick up my share of the dependability, the answering of desperate texts, and the offering up of chick-flicks and ice cream.

You dreamed bigger dreams for yourself than we ever imagined, while the rest of us poured ourselves into studying, dreaming of a degree and the 'real world' in which you were already living.

You waited so patiently, served so diligently, planned so wholeheartedly, with so much faith.

Go, pretty girl, chase your dreams. Live the life you have always imagined.
Be vulnerable. Be sassy. Be brave. Be fabulous. Be yourself.
Make a home for yourself wherever your feet carry you -- and may they carry you far.
And know that I will always be waiting for you on our dock, whenever you're ready to come back and visit the place you called home.

An open letter to the rest of humanity,
who sometimes need to be reminded of things
{and props to you if you already know them} --

There is no one way to do things.
There is no one path to life that's cookie cutter fit for everyone.
There isn't a "this is how to make it through your 20's and live a fulfilling life" manual,
because dreams look different for everyone.
So applaud the people whose dreams look different than we expect.
Applaud the people who are doing exactly what you expect.
Better yet, just applaud everyone,
Because literally everyone you meet is fighting battles you will never know the extent of.
And though we deny it, us 20-somethings long to hear "good job," "you're doing it right," and "I'm proud of you" as much as we ever have, if not more.

Be an anchor. Be a place to call home, a place to run to.
But don't sink the ship.
Let go, let us launch...no matter how normal or weird launching looks.
Maybe it's what you would do.
Maybe it's something you'd never do.
But it's what we're doing. It's how we're living our own lives.
We're creating beautiful lives, and we'd love to keep you in them, but we're also learning how to let go of everything that holds us back.

Thursday, October 1

Spiritual Life Retreat

This is the highlight of my past week...quite possibly a semester highlight as well.

This is the group of us that went on the 44th annual SLR (spiritual life retreat, although we don't like that name particularly because it makes it sound like all we do is get up early, sit in silence and read our bibles like monks, eat rice and beans, and then have theological conversations long into the night.
Yes, this is a conversation we had.."the connotations of 'SLR'" :)

We took off from campus on friday afternoon, and spent our weekend just doing life together. Worship, meals, four-square, naps, hikes, teeter-totters, homework, devotions, bonfires, canoes, donuts...you name it.
I got quite a bit of homework done, which was nice, but the fresh air and emotional space were very, very much what I needed.
I didn't know all of these people coming into the weekend. I don't know all of them incredibly well now. But I did get to meet a couple people, and I did get to worship alongside each of them. Stories and testimonies were shared openly, transparently. It was honest and beautiful and probably the most real, grounded weekend I have had in a very long time. I think it was 18 people that ended up being baptized in the lake on Sunday (there may or may not have been tears).

I'm so thankful that I get to call this campus home, that I get to live and learn and worship with these people on a daily basis. I'm glad I was able to go to my second SLR, and I look forward to next year doing the same(:

Sunday, September 20

how to love this college student: a step by step guide.

Being away at college is a wonderful and beautiful thing.
I love it here, it's where I'm supposed to be. My heart is full of joy and my head is (sometimes a little bit too) full of knowledge. There is no doubt that Spring Arbor is the place I'm called to call home for the time being.
But yeah, it can be a little weird. You feel like you have two separate lives in two different places, and trying to balance responsibilities as a daughter, sister, resident of Zeeland, etc., alongside those of a student, friend, and individual..it gets a little hairy sometimes, especially when the demands here at school can be a lot more intense than those at home.

It's just that here is where I get to be physically, where I live my life right now.

Want to help bridge the disconnect?

Words are my biggest love language, followed by time and gifts, in that order. Facebook messages are nice, sure, but I love getting letters and packages so much. It's a reminder that people back home still take the time to think of me, to make me a part of their lives, even while I'm at school.

How to prepare an AMAZING package:
(1) write a letter. tell me what you're doing. share a bible passage. tell me something stupid you did yesterday. share your favorite quote. color me a picture. I don't care, just keep it real.
(2) knickknacks! YAY!! As nice as it is, sometimes cash and huge gifts aren't what I really need (and, let's be honest, where's the fun in that?!) Some random, fairly inexpensive ideas of things that are super helpful are gum, nail polish, washi tape, dried fruit (current obsession, actually, the stuff is AHHHMMAZING), stamps, sticky notes, photos, tea, and the like. Just little stuff that you encounter while you're out and about that just kind of scream "I bet Julia'd love that!"
(3) Pack it. UPS has those flat rate boxes, which I assume help if you've got something randomly super heavy? But the more decoration the box has, the more fun it is to open. My family sometimes wraps boxes in newsprint paper so they can color all over it. It's just the little things that scream 'I took the time to do this for you because I care!'
(4) I try to make a point of thanking people and telling them when their letters or packages arrive, but it's not exactly one of my strong points. Please don't hate me if I don't get back to you or don't share a long, heartfelt reply. Life is crazy, and I truly treasure every little letter that I get, but life is crazy here, especially with the academic demands of this semester and all of the preparation I have for this spring.

Send your little letters or packages to (yes, packages can be sent to a box number:)  :

      Julia Klynstra - box 403
      Spring Arbor University
      106 E. Main St.
      Spring Arbor, Michigan

Friday, September 18

water leaks!

Well, there are currently four maintenance men in our little dorm suite. Thanks to random mini-flooding twice in 14 hours and an air conditioner that I can't use because it smokes up the room and makes the whole hall smell like death, they're spending some pretty significant time around here.

Out of respect for them and the crazy chaos that's happening, I'm not running around and taking pictures right now, but I can show you the aftermath:

We've been running these noisy fans for 48 hours straight, trying to get the carpet all of the way dried out again. (We're still not there yet...)

In their leakage investigation, they took out a cinder block from one of our walls (sledgehammers and picks, whole nine yards), pulled out some piping, put some PVC in, and did their best to cover it back up with a grate.

While we were getting the whole water leak figured out, we also threw out the fact that somewhere in the pile of maintenance requests on their radar was the fact that my air conditioner is unusable due to the fact that turning it on fills my room up with smoke and makes the whole floor smell like death.

Basically, this has been an exercise in patience and the ability to laugh at my situations. God's got things under control, and He throws me for a loop sometimes to remind me to rely on Him.

Sunday, September 13

photo update!

It's pretty much impossible to sum up my last week of summer in just one photo, so you're getting three.
My last day at the factory was super anticlimactic, running around covering breaks and making people happy and just thankful to know it was almost done.
My last meal was chinese takeout with my father from Mr. You's while we snuck in our last two episodes of Grimm because, let's face it, we're obsessed and we do our best to watch all of them together.

I house sat at two different places, one of them back at the corgi, the other snuggling with a super personable plott hound and a cat who sort of thinks that he's a dog. That house is more like a second home to me and those animals are almost as much fur babies to me as my own, who was obviously pretty not happy about my leaving for school, either.

She's super smart, and once my plastic tubs came into the living room, she knew what was up. I insisted on our ceremonial 'last goodbye for a while' photos, and she was more excited about bolting out the door, attacking my stuff in the truck, and generally getting the focus back on her silly sassy little self.

The dorm room is back to being 'home,' though for the first time in my entire life I have my own room. Half of a suite in the air conditioned basement that I can say is 'my room' and no one else's. I have two lovely suitemates, Corina and Megan, who make this experience all the more enjoyable, as well as a portion of my group of friends living just down the hall.

Finally, we have this past week. The six of us girls in the picture were the brave ones that decided to adventure up north and go camping for a weekend. Tent, outhouse, campfire cooking, almost-freezing temperatures, the whole nine yards. We had so incredibly much fun, even though we were perpetually cold, unable to start a fire the first night thanks to everything being damp, and a little bit freaked out by all of the wild turkeys (that we found out roosted in treetops overnight. who knew?!).
All in all, a very worthwhile weekend getting some quality girl time in before it got super cold and our schedules all got even crazier.

welcome home.

I am so very thankful to be back on my 'home turf' here at the arbor.
After a summer of lots of work, a fair amount of crazy, a few naps, oh, and more work, I am back to the place of color-coordinated schedules and school supplies running my life.
I'm one of those crazy people that just genuinely loves school. I love the routine and the learning and the being pushed by profs to really reach out and make myself better.

I'm taking 'just' four classes this semester, though each of them will be challenging in their own way and they bring me up to 14 credits, near the crazy busy end of 'full time student' classification.

  • Physiological Psychology
    This is the class that terrifies me slightly. I'm not going to lie, the professor is intimidating. This class has a reputation for being one of the most difficult classes on campus, but I'm going at it full force. We'll be studying brain physiology and it's implications on psychology. We'll be covering everything from sexuality to schizophrenia to prescription medications and how each topic occurs within the brain and body at a neurological level.
    It's no secret that science isn't always my strong point. However, knowing that (1) I'll be able to apply it in my career field on a daily basis because (2) I really am leaning towards to working in a clinical setting. This will be day-to-day stuff for me as a working professional. Overwhelming, but also oh so exciting!

  • Statistics for Behavioral Analysis
    Math, the other of my less-than-favorite subjects. However, the prof is the single sweetest grandmotherly type woman I have ever met. She's 67 years old, intent on retiring after this year, and also a genius. This is another class that's going to take a lot of work for me to do well in, but it's all work that's going to be able to benefit me after I leave the arbor for 'work world.' A lot of it will be directly applicable to understanding how research studies are conducted and the implications of such methods on interpreting studies.
    Social work application? Reading study after study of new research, medications, and hypothesis on human behavior in order to better serve clients. Right up my clinical social work alley.

  • Research Design
    As it turns out, I haven't actually had this class yet. We'll meet every Wednesday night for three hours. The prof is my academic adviser, who's a sweetheart, but relatively new to the teaching portion of our social work department. However, I'm confident that she'll be amazing. Research design is the practical, hands-on side of stats, where we'll really be working on decoding (and possibly conducting?) some research in order to better understand the process and validity of findings and such.

  • Core 300
    Oh, the COR program. Core 100 is Spring Arbor's freshman orientation type class. I opted out of Core 200 because of my Spanish minor (and because I have NO wiggle room in my schedule for fun stuff beyond a one credit here and there, which I prefer to think of as nap breaks in semesters instead of holes to fill). Core 300 is officially entitled "Christian Faith: It's Practices," but it's always just referred to as Core 3. The class is up to a lot of interpretation based on the professor that teaches it, but all center around faith formation and personal faith development.
    Ever since hearing Dr. Laura talk at a chapel last spring, I've had the desire to figure out a way to take one of her classes. However, she's a youth/camping/general ministry prof...not exactly room in my schedule. When I found out she taught Core 3, it was one of the first classes I plugged in because I knew I was going to find a way to take it. She's just the kind of person that you want to be around and soak up their wisdom. I have so much respect for her and am looking forward to listening to her lecture and talk with us.
    (Also, one of our assignments is to take a bible, journal, and food with us to someplace completely quiet or isolated in nature and hang out there for three or four hours and just practice listening for God. This is so right up my alley!)

So that's what my semester is going to look like from an academic perspective. Honestly, this will probably be the most challenging semester of my entire academic career. I'm excited for the challenge, anxious for the work load, and basically just all around ready to give it my all and see what God does on campus and in my life this semester.

Tuesday, September 8

WSPW '15.

I interrupt this usual blog stream of photos and life updates to talk about a cause very near and dear to my heart.

This week is World Suicide Prevention Week.
Weather or not people know about it, take it seriously, or realize the scope of the issue, suicide is something that is very, very real.
WSPW, then, is a chance to talk openly and honestly about something that affects each of us in some way.

Can I throw some stats at you?

  • Someone dies from suicide in the US every 13 minutes.
  • This comes out to 38,000 lives per year.
  • Not including the 250,000 yearly survivors.
  • For people in my age group (15-24), suicide is the second leading cause of death.
    • This number is more than those who die of cancer, AIDS, heart disease, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and lung disease COMBINED.
  • Over 80% of those who take their own life at this age show clear warning signs.

I could go on, but honestly, if this doesn't hurt your heart then I don't know what I can do to make you understand how very real this is.

I have almost lost two people very close to me to suicide, one about a year before we became friends, and one with whom I was close at the time. And these are just the individuals I know about.
In serving in a position of leadership last year, I handled the topic of suicide with numerous different individuals on countless occasions.
I can honestly say that there were chapters in my life that I wasn't so sure I was going to make it through alive.

Now can I take a hot second to dissipate some myths?
  • People who commit suicide are NOT inherently 'crazy'. 
    • They may suffer from very real medical conditions and chemical imbalances, be going through unfathomable amounts of emotional turmoil, or have any number of other factors lingering just beneath the surface.
  • Talking about suicide will NOT an individual more likely to make an attempt.
    • Honestly, if you have reason to suspect someone may be suicidal, the likelihood is that it has already crossed their mind. You're not giving them ideas. Instead, you're giving them a safe space to process everything they're dealing with.
  • People who talk about committing suicide are NOT always just looking for attention.
    • A vast majority of those who end up making a suicide attempt have exhibited clear warning signs. Knowing the warning signs and trusting your gut when you're speaking with the people you care about could very easily save a life.

One of my favorite nonprofit organizations, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), does a campaign every year for WSPW.
This year, the slogan is 
"We'll see you tomorrow."
Can I tell you how much I absolutely love this?
So many reasons, so much good, wrapped up into a simple, four word statement.
It establishes a personal connection between the speaker and recipient (We'll see you), it gives a concrete time (tomorrow; insinuating that 'you don't have to hold on for forever, one day at a time'), and it tells the recipient that they're not in it alone, that they are surrounded by a team of people who love them without limits, who need them in their lives, and who will fight alongside them.
The campaign then challenges you to find your own reasons to hold on.
I'll see you tomorrow because ___________________________ .

Why will you all see me tomorrow?
Because my story is not over yet. Because there is so much more I have been called to. I have not been so much 'pulled from' death as I have been 'redeemed for' life. Because I have chosen to fight every day, to have honest conversations with those around me, to spread awareness and bring hope in my own subtle ways, to use my voice to build others up, and to always believe in the promise of a better future.
I'll see you tomorrow.
And every tomorrow, Lord willing, for many years to come.
Because hope is real, help is real, and each of our stories carries so much importance.

Friday, August 21

BOOKS: my first love

This week's photos are brought to you by my first true love in life:
I go through phases of reading a lot, and then not reading a lot, and then having to read so much for school that I never want to read anything ever again, and then I'm back to spending every spare second with my nose in a book because I love it. Well, this week I've fallen back in love.

First, <<<<<THOSE books came in the mail this week. Thank you, thriftbooks.com for potentially being the death, bankruptcy, and ruin of me.
{5 books, $15 = HAPPY JULIA!}
All of these are books I've been encouraged to read by business partners and mentors to work on personal and business development. Um, YES!

Then THESE>>>>> beautiful babies are part of what can only be described as an overwhelming pull back to the arbor. I am so ready to go back to school. I'm ready for the schedule and the routine, the checklists and late nights and homework and papers and activity and bustle and friends and just the way that life has unfolded for me there. My family knows that I love them more than words, but that right now, Spring Arbor is just my home, and it's where I want to be more than anything.
I am seriously SO blessed to be able to have found a community that makes me want to go back so badly.
Anyway, these are textbooks. Yeah. Devotional Classics, Mudhouse Sabbath, Life You've Always Wanted... textbooks.
{Along with Clinical Psychpharmacology Made Ridiculously Simple, obviously.}

I'm just really ready to go back. We start late in comparison to most other schools, and for the first time, I'm not moving in early (because I'm not a freshman or an upperclassman with a leadership position on a freshman floor like I was last year.)
Two weeks of work left, then a couple of days to pack and sleep and spend time with the people that I love, and then we pile everything in a truck and make the trek.

We had a 'last day' party at work for the summer help today. Maddie's last day was today, so they decided to just do both of us at once. Costco cake with our names on it, gourmet cupcakes for each of us, whole nine yards(:
Honestly, all of them are just sweethearts. Both last summer and now this summer I've been placed in work environments at Royal where I've meshed well with personalities, picked up on things quickly, and even managed to have a little bit of fun while getting paid to do work that a monkey could do.
Ideal? No. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Though I don't know what next summer holds, I do know that the past two years have been a hoot and a half out in Hudsonville.

Tuesday, August 11

the past month in photos

Ok, long story short, we had major laptop issues. It crashed without explanation and eventually we discovered that this laptop, that we bought 'new', had a refurbished, off-brand and semi-functional hard drive. This hard drive jostled and everything stopped working. We made some new friends at the tech place in Zeeland and some lifelong buddies at a repair center in Grand Rapids that got everything replaced for as little cash as possible.
So, with a non-functional laptop, blogging fell to the wayside. For over a month.
Then I wrote this blog post in its entirety and had the second half of it deleted sporadically. I was very very much not a fan.
So now, all at once, here's some pictures. They might not be exactly one a week, but they cover the month and a half that we've missed. This post will consider us caught back up on the 'photo a week for my year of being 20' escapade.
Deal? Deal.
So sit back and enjoy my summer!!

The kid and I ran the Zeeland Zoom 5k in late June. She kicked my butt, as was thoroughly expected, but I took all of 6 whole seconds off of my time from last year's race and came within a minute of my goal time. Am I incredibly proud of this fact? No, not really. But we're choosing to stick with the positives. My legs work. My lungs usually hold up pretty well. It's a good deal for all involved.

This picture was taken circa 4:30am on the fifth of July. I spent the 4th with my second family and a new amigo, Jake. After backyard fireworks, laughing until we cried, and listening to a lot of music, we tried to go to Taco Bell. All of the T-Bells within a reasonable radius were closed. Then we went to McDonald's. We discovered that McD's does NOT have ice cream OR french fries in the wee hours of the morning when all normal people obviously want ice cream and fries. However, we laughed a lot and took pictures and laughed some more and drank frozen strawberry lemonade. It was great.

These are my people. These two. I don't even have words that accurately describe how much they have and are continuing to change my life. They see the seeds of greatness in me, they nurture them, and they pull them out of me. I flew down to North Carolina for the second time to attend a business conference, this one significantly smaller than the last. A few thousand people, a weekend of incredible service and inspiration, of building dreams and laughs and so much good.
My heart was so full coming out of this weekend. So much changed in me for the better that I can't fully put into words. One such example of this is the story of how I got home. My plane left early, without me, from Charlottesville, Virginia. Instead of having a full blown panic attack at 6 in the morning with no clue how to get home. They gave me a ticket from VA to Chicago, but had no seats guaranteed from Chicago to home. I called home, I called the airlines, I handled an inability to transfer money to my debit card-so I was essentially broke, but I got the tears of stress out in about a five minute window and got back to thinking rationally. I grabbed Chickn' Lickn' with Hope, the woman in the center of this photo -- my business partner, coach, mentor, friend, and host -- before getting back to the tiny airport on a later flight. I prayed my way to Chicago, doodling and journaling and just doing life, miraculously without a major meltdown.
It was on this flight that my new mantra got solidified:
the cross before me; 
a team beside me; 
my past behind me
I was terrified, but I also have never felt more alive.
So I land in Chicago and make a beeline for the first airline desk I see. I briefly explain the situation, I ask if there are any flights available in the next few hours. The stewardess looks at her flight board and tells me that the only one leaves in five minutes. I panic slightly. Chicago O'Hare International Airport is a huge place. Unlikely that I can catch a flight in five minutes. So I ask the stewardess about it. It had been delayed for between 20 and 30 minutes. Now we had a slice of hope. I ask her where the flight is boarding... and it's at the gate RIGHT NEXT TO the one I just got off. I take a deep breath, preparing for her to ask me for my debit card, which has nowhere near enough cash on it to pay for the ticket according to the airline price earlier that morning. Ready for this? MY FLIGHT WAS FREE. The airline acknowledged that leaving early and without a passenger was their mistake more than mine, and I boarded the plane after a very brief, but stressful wait on flightside to see if seats were available. I sat next to a pilot on his way home to see his kids, and I was back with my family before supper. Relieved and HOME.

Whistlepunk Pizza of Muskegan. My family has a knack for finding the most hidden away, homey, beautiful places with incredible food. Whistlepunk was no different. Probably some of the most delicious pizza I have ever tasted...it was way out of the realm of 'normal' pizza, but it was worth the drive. My personal favorite was the Bull Cook. As it may or may not be known, I'm a pseudo-vegetarian. I have no problem with eating meat IF I know where it comes from, if it has been raised and killed ethically. So locally funded sausage and pepperoni, made from scratch in their kitchen, was phenomenal. Took the trip out with them, ordered three pizzas for the four of us, ate them all, and even played a game of classic operation in there.

It happened. The day came. My baby sister went to college.
There were a lot of feels, but no tears, so we'll chalk that up to a successful move out for her. My kiddo is now a resident of Lawrence Technological University, studying architecture and running cross country. She survived camp, and right now she's hanging out in some very posh and spacious temporary housing. Not even kidding, there's more square footage in her apartment than my parents had in their first house...for just three girls. Two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, full kitchen, living room, front-loading washer and dryer... the kid is living the high life right now while the BRAND NEW freshman dorms are being completed. I guess you could say she picked the right year to start college, because everything is lining up in her favor right now. I remember all of the feels of my first year at the arbor very clearly, and I can only hope that she finds herself a community and a place to call home there like I have at SAU.

Finally, we have the picture from this past weekend. Momma and I took a trip up to Lake Leenauau to visit her parents, who get to hang out up there and camp for three weeks. Usually we have one of those weeks, but due to the chaos of said kiddo moving in to school and everything else that's been going down lately, they volunteered to take that week off of our list of things to do. Instead, momma and I visited and crammed some of our favorite things into about 38 hours or so... shopping in two little towns, a campfire, coloring, lots of coffee, and ICE CREAM AT OUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM PARLOR IN THE HISTORY OF EVER. Blue Moon Ice Cream in Cedar, MI. If you ever find yourself in the remote vicinity, it's worth the trip. {Leah was a chaperon on a middle school youth group trip this summer and made them drive 45 minutes to go...totally worth it.} Mom and grandma got Jacked Up Tennessee Toffee - their unquestionable favorite, and this is the only place we've ever been able to find it - and I got my go-to bowl of happiness: Ashby's Amaretto Cherry.
It's just an all-around beautiful place up there. It makes my heart so happy, even if there are a million other things going on and the weather is questionable and people get crabby... even then, it's still someplace so special to me.

{This is my camping mug. It has been my camping mug for the last few years. No one else drinks out of my camping mug. Only coffee goes in the camping mug. I take the camping mug with me all day and take pictures with it and just live in my element. HAPPY CAMPER!}

Sunday, June 21


Summer -- the time when all of your days start to run together because adulting is exhausting and if you're going to keep up with blogging you need to invent a way to get more hours out of your week.
Apologies, but oh well. Here's the past two weeks in weekly photos.

First, the Pendinator. Gosh guys, this little corgi totally stole my heart and could totally work her way into even the most angry, dog-hating soul. I am not kidding, she just radiates joy and energy and trust and this crazy, total, unapologetic love of life.
So while her rescuing humans were gone, we took naps and went on walks (and she even took me on a run:) and made a trip to the weekly church league softball game, where she unofficially became the good luck charm and team morale booster in about .2 seconds.
This was the last week her humans were gone and the last week that I could just go hang out with her on a whim whenever I felt like it. It was good stuff, and the softball game was just the icing on the cake.
Running...ohhh, running.
So I may or may not have (ok, yeah, I did) gotten talked into running a 5k this upcoming week, which means last week training had to really kick in.
I'm still perfectly comfortable with little one or two mile adventures, but this day (Tuesday I believe it was) was the first 'long' run in quite awhile. [I don't know if 3.25 miles really constitutes a long run, but compared to what I've been doing, we'll call it that. Tonight the kid and I are trying to go four, so we'll see how that goes.]
This run was at one of my favorite places to go adventure running: the Zeeland Wetlands. A mixture of paved, gravel, dirt, and boardwalk bridges that has me running in lots of little circles, but I don't even care. It's beautiful, it's quiet, and it's usually pretty empty.
Mentally I had to get my stuff figured out for this run...and I was reminded of my 'thirds' mentality that keeps me going on longer runs... the first third with my legs {because I can run, gosh dang it!}, the next third with my head {because shoot, I've trained for this}, and the last third with my heart {because I want this and I refuse to quit}.

Sunday, June 7

Penny the corgi.

Every week I tell my self that "this is the week my photo of the week is going to be up on the blog on time!" and every week I'm wrong
Oh well, you get the gist of it anyway.
To compensate, this week will have THREE photos of the same glorious little furball in order to attempt to convey the joy, sass, energy, and hilarity she brings to every moment.

Without further ado, meet Penny the corgi!
She actually does love me, I promise (:

This beautiful lady had a pretty rough start to life; they think she was bought as a present for a little girl who didn't care & became a breeder dog, living for seven years in a cage getting abused and having puppies. Now this beautiful momma has adopted new humans who love her very much, but also love to travel. Luckily for both of us, I'm the go-to dog-walker, poop-picker-upper, plant-waterer, puppy-snuggler, etcetera.

Especially considering her background, Penny is so incredibly affectionate and trusting. One of the things we're working on {aside from simple stuff like 'sit' and 'come'} is getting her to receive my typical Julia forehead kisses without spazzing. 

Like I said earlier, her sass is hysterical. She's already learned how to manipulate her people and her expressions have me rolling almost every day.
Some of Penny's favorite activities while we're together include taking me for long walks and runs, randomly stopping suddenly in the middle of said runs to rest in the shade, napping in the sunshine, being an uncooperative participant in photo shoots, watching movies, refusing to go potty when you need her to, and sleeping right next to me on the couch. 

Sunday, May 31

finger taping!

This week, I learned how to properly tape my fingers when I make wire covers. This may not seem like the biggest of accomplishments, but let me tell you, work is exhausting and if you don't get those fingers taped right, work gets worse and worse every day.
Also, I spent 11 hours in four days making wire covers, so learning how to tape for them was kind of really important. Fingers crossed, I think I've been promoted to bigger and better machines so I'm not spending half of my time on the dreaded *snap*shove*snap*press*repeat* deal. Some of the people love doing it {why is beyond me} and I am 100% okay with letting others do the 'easy machine.' Secretly, I swear that machine is out to destroy all of my fine motor ability in my hands.

So yeah, I'm not in love with the work I'm doing, but as I remind myself {and am also very frequently reminded}, it's good motivation to remind me that I am pursuing a very different career for a reason...because full time assembly work is not for me other than in small doses to pay tuition.

Also featured in this photo: my glorious lunch view.
No, no sarcasm.
I am very much an introvert and, at least for right now, 25 minutes in my [OK, in dad's] car looking at trees is what my heart needs to go back to another 3.5 hours of standing and menial labor. E1400 isn't terribly loud, but it's hectic. It's busy. There's always 27 things going on and the alarms go off for help at least every half hour {and let me tell you, they're worse than any fire or other drill alarm I have ever heard}. So I covet that time by myself.
Maybe by the end of the summer I'll enjoy the air-conditioned lunch room with any number of my 40+ bay coworkers. But maybe not. I prefer trees.

Sunday, May 24

adventures with brubru

This week was spent with BruBru (aka Brutus, aka slobber ball, aka puppy, aka goofball, aka BRUUUUTUS SO HELP ME DOG) the 140+ lb mastiff puppy. I lived out in Borculo with him and his two feline siblings Trout and Rodeo. It was all-in-all a pretty good experience with a healthy measure of exhaustion mixed in.
I'm very much an introvert by nature, so it was so nice for me to be able to just get (1) out of Zeeland and (2) away from people for awhile. I ended up driving back in to town almost every day for some errand or another, but I really cherished my hours of sunshine and snuggles and waking up to make coffee in the Keurig every morning (like seriously, those things are amazing and I'm not 100% sure how I do college without them..oh whale).

So yes, a rather sunburnt but very content Julia is now re-emerging into the world of human interaction and wifi.

Sunday, May 17

A great day to be an east alum!

Okay guys, this week's photo of the week is just me bragging about how cool my baby sister is, ok? Ok.

Now that we've got that out of the way,
my baby sister and her team took FIRST at the regional track meet yesterday, along with a LANDSLIDE VICTORY by the guys!
My kiddo has worked harder and trained crazier than anyone I know. Watching her run makes my heart so happy because I can tell how much she loves it {even though her hurdle face looks like a bit of an axe murderer's} and watching her cruise through qualifying and semi-finals to be ranked the 6th fastest hurdler in the region (15 schools) for her senior season was a pretty great experience.

Yeah, sometimes I run for fun and it's usually a couple miles at a pretty slow pace. These girls, they blow it out of the water and they totally wreck my brain.
Watching them compete just warms my heart, and watching them do well makes me lose my voice. Obviously. Because what kind of big sister would I be if I wasn't the one screaming at the top of my lungs from the bleachers?!

I made the decision to spend this summer back at home again, and it's things like this that make me glad I did. The kiddo will start college in the fall, and I {albeit maybe selfishly...she's pretty cool, ya know?} want all the time I can get with her before she ditches me for bigger, better, and faster things.

Wednesday, May 13

the adventure that has been Beta 3.

Alright guys, time for sentimentality.
I leave this beautiful place tomorrow afternoon, and in the wise words of A. A. Milne,

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying 'goodbye' so hard.

We slept in a tent. It froze that night.
So did we. But we did indeed make it
an entire evening in a single tent...
we started a bonfire all by ourselves
(let me tell you, that was the real
struggle of the evening) and we
laughed until our guts hurt, only to
calm down and start laughing all
over again.
We got pranked by campus safety
at some ungodly hour, we spent
some serious time looking at the
stars, and we roasted our socks
on sticks so we could at least have
warm feet to sleep with.

I am honestly so thankful to have lived and served as the Spiritual Life Adviser (SLA) on the beautiful place that is Beta 3. Over the course of the year, we developed a bit of a reputation as 'that floor that does all the cute stuff'.' We made cards and delivered them to the retirement home, we made and decorated Christmas cookies for all of the groups on campus (health center/student development/academic affairs/etc.), and we surprise gifted some people who we identified as needing a little extra smile.
I couldn't pick just one picture or favorite memory, so in the captions beneath these are some of my favorite memories.

There are always a lot of summer birthdays and usually
summer birthdays go uncelebrated. NOT SO on Beta 3.
About a week ago, before finals really got crazy but
late enough that we were really starting to feel the
stress kick in, we had a mass 'birthday party' for summer
birthdays, for our friendship, and just to spend a little
more time together. And of course we went all out
with streamers, ice cream (and even lactose free
ice cream because so many of us are lactose intolerant!),
balloons, music, games and more sprinkles than anyone
would have thought we could have use for.
In addition to our mass birthday
party celebration, if our birthday
was during the year, every single
one of us woke up to balloons,
streamers, a sign, and a little note.
It was so encouraging to watch
every girl see her little reminder
that this floor really cares for
each other no matter what.
Worship nights were some of my favorite nights all year.
We had a floor with multiple very talented musicians,
be it with vocals, guitars, or ukuleles (: Every so often,
we'd hold a worship night and sing through some of our
favorite songs and take the time to really just worship
alongside each other. I found these nights really powerful
and it truly warmed my heart that the girls really took
100% of the initiative of them. As the SLA, I was the
one that was expected would really be pushing for
spiritual life and development on the floor, but these
girls knew what was up and how to make their own faith
stories a priority.. HUGE blessing.

So now, as the academic year comes to a close, I can honestly say that it has been one of the best years of my life.

Being an SLA was incredible. It really put me in a position to be looking for and to witness so much that God was doing on campus and, more specifically, in the lives of my girls. Sure, there were moments when I wanted to scream and run away from the responsibility, but it taught me a lot about humility, total reliance on God, recognizing my own ignorance, and the true importance of being a woman constantly in the word. 

My physical, emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual health have all been pushed in different ways this semester, but I can honestly say that I'm coming out on top of it with my head on straight and a really big smile on my face.

My grades this year all but blew those of freshman year out of the water, and I'm back on track for my ultimate goal of graduating cum laude. 
I applied for, have officially been accepted into, and am now enrolled for a semester abroad in the beautiful little city of Antigua, Guatemala next year (I leave in 237 days, if you're wondering, not like I'm counting or anything) where I will have the chance to experience total immersion into the Spanish language and Guatemalan culture.

Over two semesters I completed two honors courses, 18 credits within my major, and three for one of my minors -- and totaled 35 credit hours. Though not official yet, my year-long GPA will be about a 3.8. I brewed too much coffee and bought too much coffee, I drank a couple too many energy drinks and got a little bit shy of the ideal number of hours of sleep. I've laughed and cried, sometimes within the same two minute span, but it has truly been a beautiful blessing and one that I would not trade for the world.
Thank you for journeying with me, for surrounding me with prayer, for believing with me and standing beside me. The friendships, mentorships, and relationships that have developed and flourished this year are things that I don't take lightly.

It only seems fitting to close this year with the words of Gary Allan and a song that randomly got stuck in my head today but could not fit better with how I'm feeling about the end of this crazy journey of sophomore year.

life ain't always beautiful
sometimes it's just plain hard
life and knock you down,
it can break your heart

life ain't always beautiful
you think you're on your way
and it's just a dead end road
at the end of the day

but the struggles make you stronger
and the changes make you wise
and happiness has its own way
of takin' it's sweet time

no, life ain't always beautiful
tears will fall sometimes
life ain't always beautiful
but it's a beautiful ride

life ain't always beautiful
some days I miss your smile
I get tired of walkin'
all these lonely miles

and I wish for just one minute
I could see your pretty face
guess I can dream,
but life don't work that way.

but the struggles make you stronger
and the changes make you wise
and happiness has its own way
of takin' it's sweet time

no, life ain't always beautiful
but I know I'll be fine
hey, life ain't always beautiful
but it's a beautiful ride
what a beautiful ride

Sunday, May 10

sentimental Beta 3 stuffs

Last week's photo of the week is a little bit late because I'm 98.5% sure last week took all of about 3.7 seconds from Sunday to Sunday.
To say that things are crazy is a little bit of an understatement.

First of all, "finals brain" is a real condition where your brain begins to turn to mush because the end is so close that you can almost taste it, so biologically your body starts giving in to summer and yet you still have to get stuff done.
It's like senioritis, only worse.

BUT these lovely ladies here, let me tell ya, they're making every minute of it worth it.
I'll save my long, sentimental SLA post for another day where I have a little bit more mental capacity, but living with these girls has been an experience to say the least. Each of them has pushed me to be a better Christian, friend, student, and leader in their own unique ways. We took pictures together the first week of school and it was like a bunch of strangers just getting to know each other. Now last week we took some again in the same places, and it's so obvious that so much has changed.
Yeah, there's been drama and chaos and tears and laughter, but it's been such a beautiful experience and I thank God for each of these girlywhirls.

Friday, May 1

the calm before the storm.

Finals are fast approaching, and 'overwhelmed' is a pretty good word to describe where I'm at with that whole shindig.
Honestly, it's exhausting. My professors all had the great idea to make finals week a little easier on us by making everything due this week.
Well, if one or two of them had that idea, it'd be wonderful. But when all of them have it, it just means that there are two separate and equally devastating waves of due-dates, presentations, and finals that hit all of about a week apart.
So right now is my calm before the storm. Round one of due dates happen early next week, then there's a week to recover (aka cram like a mad woman) before finals.
Don't get me wrong, I'm sitting in a pretty good place academically right now. Only one class is on my radar for being pretty rough so far and knowing there's a killer final coming (but let's be real, it's an honors gen ed. it's hard and it's not in major. so i'm not trying to flip out too bad...key word 'trying'.)

So lots and lots of coffee, to-do lists, naps, energy drinks (XS=LIFE!), and sunshine are the prescription for survival. Honestly, the beautiful weather is what makes it tolerable. After a winter that didn't really know what to do with itself or how to stop (yeah, it snowed a week and a half ago) and a spring that couldn't decide if it wanted to be summer or winter, this low 70's and consistent son does wonders for the soul.

I've stayed on top of things throughout the semester, I think I'm finally caught up on sleep from last weekend down in NC, and two weeks are all that separate me from being home free for the summer.

Which really isn't 'free,' but we'll take it. I've accepted a full-time factory position with a pretty significant raise from last summer, so basically I'll spend 1/3 of my precious summer minutes destroying all fine motor function in my hands. BUT it pays the bills, and it puts me around the family (BECAUSE GUATEMALA FOR FIVE MONTHS NEXT SPRING! AHHH!) and in a better place to build business and take care of myself.
But all of that is forward looking...and ^^ that ^^ is all of the forward thinking I get for now.
These next couple weeks are going to be about living in the moment, making stuff happen, getting things done, running on fumes, and hopefully sliding in to the end of the semester exhausted, but with a thriving GPA to show for it.

Monday, April 27

Winters Spring Leadership 2015

Kristen, myself, Hope, and Becky
This is this week's photo of the week. Yes, it's late, but it's because I was having the time of my life at a business conference.

These three women in the picture with me are genuine goldmines and diamonds in the making. I got to travel to the Winters Spring Leadership conference and it was incredible.

The one thing that keeps striking me is how genuine everyone on the team truly is and how persistently they showed such strong servant leadership. I was in need of nothing all weekend, even though I was a long way from home and living out of a carry-on bag.
The three of these beautiful women are so Christ-like and humble. They're dreamers and achievers and totally bring me up to a whole new level of thinking and belief. I could honestly write pages and pages on each of them, and I've only been in communication with Hope and Kristen for two months (and met them for the first time this weekend).

I could also write a novel about all of the things I learned this weekend, about myself, my business, my dreams, and my faith. So much knowledge and little nuggets of goodness that I'm still taking in. I laughed and I cried and I processed and listened. 
Too little sleep, so much to take in, a new appreciation energy drinks, and one amazing weekend.

Monday, April 20


This week's photo of the week is, yeah...(sorry, not sorry) a little late.
BUT this was my weekend in one photo:

I spent 72 hours at Youth Haven Ranch in Rives Junction, MI. The ministry that they run from there is incredible and it was a really growing experience for me...

They take kids by referral from the foster care system, teachers, guidance counselors, and other people who work with kids and send them to camp for free. These kids, outside of Youth Haven, would have zero chance to get a 'camp' experience, and they were a handful to say the least.
I worked with a group of 11 to 13 year olds... and man oh mister, I got a whole lot of sass.
I learned a whole bunch of new insults, I found a lot of people who enjoyed telling me that I'm not their dad, got educated on popular vines, broke up a couple almost-fights, tried to downplay some pretty inappropriate jokes, and I even had some girlies super mad at me because they weren't real big on following directions...
Honestly, it was really good for me. Every five minutes I had to take a mental time out to think, "Julia, you're doing this for the kids" in order to keep my introvert tucked away.

Three of the younger kids asked Christ into their hearts for the first time this weekend.
30-some kids got taken out of rough situations and were given the chance to let their guards down for a couple of days.
I watched so many of the kids get pumped up learning worship songs as they were exposed to Christianity for the first time.
I spent time with people I can now call 'friends' from school that I otherwise wouldn't have connected with.
I lived out of a suitcase and smelled super gross at the end of the weekend.
I pushed myself and it was so, so wonderful.

Saturday, April 11

sista sista!

I've really got to work on improving the overall photo quality going on here(:

Anyway, as per the usual this week's photo is coming in just under the wire.

Two reasons for this picture:

(1) Easter Sunday. Easter is a big personal milestone for me every year and every year I let myself take stock of how much I've grown as a person, and especially as a person of faith. I got to be home with my family for a long weekend & got to celebrate the ultimate Sacrifice of my Savior.
(2) This chica in the photo with me. She's pretty neat. As it turns out, this week contained national siblings day or something to that effect. And I could not be more blessed and empowered by the sassy, supremely smart, superbly speedy, splendid sister of mine. I honestly brag about her probably a little bit too much. Every time she runs a new PR? Gotta tell the roommate and the girls on the floor. Signs to run and attend at a big-name architecture school? You better believe I'm telling everyone that I know. Teacher gives her a compliment like "best student I've had in 10 years"? Yup, I'll add that to my rehearsed speech of bragging.
Because, if I'm being honest, I haven't always been the perfect big sister. I've kept secrets from her that have ended up hurting her. I've taken my insecurities out on her. In the spirit of full disclosure, I've probably said some less than stellar stuff...some of it out of jealousy, because let's be real--the kid is amazing. I'm thankful that we we've grown up and after I've moved off to school that we've both done a little bit of growing up and a lot bit of growing together.
I'm not kidding when I say that my baby sister means the world to me.

Saturday, April 4

spring has {finally} sprung

The crocuses have arrived & I don't know that I've ever been more excited to see them!
After a strange Michigan winter {where it snowed on Thanksgving, was clear on Christmas, & snowed again into March}, these little beauties are my official go-to sign that my favorite season has arrived. 

Friday, March 27

care package!

This week's photo of the week is the package I received today... My household (a small group within my home church) sent me all sorts of chocolate and home-baked goodies.

I feel like this is a part of God's provision for me in the preparation for the upcoming, crazy month of April.
Three of the four weekends in April will have me off campus, and only one of them will find me at home...the other two will put me far outside of my comfort zone. Combine this with my introverted love of being alone in a predictable environment, and it's going to take me lots of coffee and lots of Jesus.

So a box of blonde brownies, homemade cookies, chocolate, granola bars, and puppy chow... that's what I need this week; an excuse to slow down, breathe deep, take care of myself, indulge a little, work ahead on homework, and appreciate the support system of people I have rooting for me.
Sometimes I'm distant. Sometimes I get frustrated. Sometimes things feel awfully lonely...
But I am loved. I am supported. I am valued. I am appreciated. and shoot dang, I am eating some chocolate!

Saturday, March 21

what happens at 1:00 am

This week's photo is a blurry little representation of what I was doing at 1:00 this morning.

Yup, welcome to college where you do silly things like read good books at weird times just because you're wide awake and you have no finite obligations until 5:30 pm the next day.

So why is this my photo of the week?

(1) One of my new year's resolutions was to read a book a month for pleasure. I'm a little (okay, a lot) behind for March, so I got the first 50 or so pages read at a weird time between 12:30 and 2:00 am.

(2) I'm getting better at managing my priorities and time and doing more of what makes me happy. Books make me happy.
It's kind of ironic how taking on more things (such as being a business owner AND picking up more tutoring hours) has motivated me to make better use of my time and do MORE of what makes me happy (such as reading books at 1:00 am AND clearing my head by playing the piano in the music building AND actually leaving my dorm room to do fun hilarious things with friends like waiting in line for two hours for a concert and getting shakes at 10:00 pm).

Time management, friends. One of the things I will keep learning and relearning and then relearning again and getting better and better at every time.

Saturday, March 14

Spring Break {photo of the week}

This week's picture comes in right at the end of the week(:
Spring break has been crazy, messy, busy, stressful, frustrating, and beautiful.
Some homework got done {more than expected, less than hoped for}, some tv got watched {dad & I are once again almost caught up on Grimm}, some time spent with people I love {everyone from Spanish speaking six year olds to good friends to mentors and grandparents}, and the occasional random adventure. 
Which would be where this week's photo comes in:
For no real reason other than it looked kind f cool and the fact that we could, daddy, the kid, and I took a class in Coptic book binding, a technique used since circa 40AD to make books and have them lay flat when you open them.
Random? Yes.
Crazy? Possibly. 
Worth it? You betcha.

Thursday, March 5

a photo a week, take 2

This week's photo explanation of the world as I see it:

Basically, it's winter, but I'm trying to pretend that it's spring by wearing my spring shoes and drinking cold coffee and cracking the dorm room window and leaving the curtains open and wearing all my spring scarves and what have you.

Because let's be real. It's March. We should not have this much snow... or, in the case of the arbor, this much snow covered by a very crunchy layer of ice.
I'll be on my way home for spring break in 24 hours, and is it crocuses and t shirts I anticipate?!
More snow.
You could say that I'm pretty gosh dang sick of it.
My rule is always my birthday. Snow up until 11:59pm on February 23 is okay, but as soon as my birthday is over, I'm over the snow.

Instead of spring rain and outdoor runs in shorts, it'll be gross snow and going out in layers. I'm determined to make the best of it, but REALLY?! Is the snow still completely necessary?!

Wednesday, February 25

life doesn't stop.

Unfortunately, life doesn't stop for birthdays.
I know... right now you're probably thinking, "Congratulations, Julia! You've managed to comprehend the basic laws of how time passes!"
But seriously, it's kind of frustrating.

On Monday I had a birthday.
Not just a birthday, but a sort of monumental one.
I turned 20.
Two decades of life.
Ron Kopicko (the SAU chaplain:) and I got a little laugh about it at our weekly meeting on Monday because we were talking about how I don't really like beginnings... I don't like new semesters or change or new year's celebrations and he interrupted me and went,
"Life decades?"
Yup, we've got a pretty good chuckle. Because it's true.
I set up crazy unrealistic expectations and goals and then get super frustrated the first few times that I fall short, even knowing that there is absolutely now why that I can get there.

This year? I'm making little goals. I'm aiming to be more productive with my time. I want to strive for health and happiness in as many instances as possible. I want to dream.

One of my little goals is for this blog: to share a photo a week that represents what's going on in my world.
Probably 90% of them will be blurry ipod camera quality kind of deal.
But here's the one for this, from my first couple days of being 20:
A little bit of explanation on this one: I've recently become an unofficial entrepreneur and started my own business as a way to help cover some college and life expenses. My start-up kid and some AMAZING samples came in the mail and I am seriously so excited.

If you're looking for a way to make a little extra money, let me know and I can get your number to a sweetheart and good friend of mine who can explain the opportunity.

If you read this blog because you're related to me, you know me fairly well, or you like me as a human being, your financial support would mean the absolute world. How? Head to my website and look around. Everything you buy helps me put myself thru school. The stuff is phenomenal, too, let me tell you. Getting this package was honestly a highlight of my week and was one of the best birthday presents I could have gotten for myself and knowing that package #2 is waiting for me at home when I'm in Zeeland for spring break makes me super excited.

So yeah, this is me.
Busy. Business owner (eekk! :). College student. Crazy. 20. Blessed.

Wednesday, February 11

spring semester and life stuff.

This blog has been woefully neglected and fallen short of my overly-ambitions plans for it.
Expect some different sorts of post and randomness...I'm hopefully going to get a label/tagging system going on so you can find what you're looking for. I'm also taking down a lot of the old stuff because, let's be honest, you don't really want to read it and I don't really want my high school processing on display for the world. So just hang tight, guys(:
Also, this post is going to be a mashup of a lot of different little things that need to get said but aren't really enough to constitute a post and they're all in my head right now. Again, just hang tight(:

My classes are engaging, challenging, and empowering.
Honestly, I love everything about academics here. My biggest class has 40 people in it, my smallest has 15. I'm learning and growing and... it is so good.
What I'm taking:

  • MUS152H : Honors Music Foundations
    • This is one of those gen eds that I roll my eyes at just a little bit. I took 8 or 9 years of piano lessons. I was a little apprehensive coming into it, but Dr. Kim really pushes us. She's a musical genius and expects a lot out of us because we're an honors class, so it's challenging for me, even with my musical background. (I don't know how some of my classmates are handling it! It's a lot of stuff!!) Funny story: We sang 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' about six times as a class different ways. Just a heads up, it does NOT work in a round. AT ALL. So we laugh, we get really confused, we watch youtube BBC lectures, and we listen to music. All good stuff.
  • PSY306 : Adolescent and Early Adult Development
    • The first class period, Dr. Pardee established that "adolescence is a weird time and adolescents are weird and so in this class we're going to do a lot of stuff that feels really weird because that's how you understand the kids." We were put into semester-long groups based on our favorite ice cream; "Go get in your ice cream groups" is a pretty common thing to hear. This class is kind of challenging because I didn't take PSY100 (Intro to Psych) here because of AP credits. I covered all of the same material and retained almost all of it from high school, but we just emphasized different things so I always feel like I'm half a step behind because the basics take me just a second longer.
      But honestly, I really do enjoy this class. It really solidifies for me that adolescents are my target population. I'm becoming more and more drawn to the field of counseling in some capacity and working with adolescents and children. Understanding how brains and personality work and develop and just how crucial those years are are a huge motivating factor in this and I LOVE IT!
  • SWK335 : Interviewing
    • This class is basically "working with clients and asking good questions 101." The Social Work program has a really strong base in the Strengths Perspective [there are a million different foundations for Social Work. Here we start by focusing what the client (which can be an individual all of the way up to a community or organization) is good at and using that to make positive change]. The class size is kept intentionally small (15 or 16 of us) so that we really have to be vulnerable and get to know each other. We learn how to accept help, how to be the best person we can be, how to conduct ourselves as Social Workers working with individuals, what ethical practice looks like, and so so so very much more.
      The professor is also one of the most sought-after profs in the major, especially because it's his last semester teaching Social Work classes. If you've ever heard of Christian author Richard Foster (I hadn't until I landed here and had Nathan), my prof is his son. He's someone that really genuinely believes in our potential as future social workers and has such a passion for personal development that it blows my socks off.
  • SWK340 : Practice with Individuals and Families
    • Individuals & Families is a pairing class with Interviewing. This one we focus more on logistics of working with clients, writing assessments, researching, and other academic-type professional things. It's a night class, which means that it's a lot of reading and then showing up and talking about it for three hours on Monday nights. Bonnie, bless her heart, refuses to just lecture at us because she knows (1) we'd have serious trouble paying attention and (2) we wouldn't retain anything. So it's all group work, conversation, and practical application of stuff we work through together. Good stuff.

  • SWK341 : Trauma Informed Child Welfare
    • I can't actually speak to this one because it hasn't started yet. This is my online class this semester and, I'm guessing, it's going to be exactly what it sounds like. Online classes all follow a pretty standard read, quiz, discussion board format. I'm excited...so excited I may have already read about 1/4 of our textbook. Yeah... #geekstatus.


I'm very guilty of getting frazzled and running around panicking and chugging coffee trying to {perdone mi franc├ęs} keep my shit together.
I drink a lot of coffee. Probably too much coffee. And if it's after about 7:30 pm, I switch to tea. And then I drink a lot of that, too. I run on caffeine.

This semester is busy.
There's a crap ton going on.
Life is crazy.
Plus, I've got some pretty crazy anxiety issues of my own.
But I am also quite unashamedly in love with every minute of it.
My classes, my friends, my schedule, my future.
This is what I'm supposed to be doing.
This is right for me.

After a really crazy stressful couple of days, I hit a moment of clarity yesterday afternoon:
I love this life.
I can't always say that I've believed that statement.
I haven't always been in this kind of place.
But my little snapshot cross-section yesterday really reminded me of how much I adore it.
It's busy, but it's home, and I am so incredibly blessed to really be able to say that.

Sunday, January 18

pen and pencil

I know, I know, Julia is posting TWO things in ONE weekend?!
I guess that's just the beauty of J-Term and where my heart's at right now.

I love being an SLA because sometimes it gives me a front seat to some of the AMAZING stuff God is doing, and it sure keeps me humble.
The other night I was talking with a bunch of my girls about their NT homework, and I watched one of them go through the same revelation that I did last year:
 Sometimes, the things we grew up hearing about God, spirituality, 
and other weighty issues aren't actually biblically founded.
Sure, everyone means well. No one does it intentionally. But when it comes to taking something that you believe about God, you really have to re-evaluate if it's a sound belief when you can't find a verse that says what you seem to think that it should.
This was attached to a conversation about a theology theory that our theology professors tend to share, which helps make sense of differing views: pen and pencil. Some of the things we believe, we [metaphorically] write down in pen. These are the things that we hold to be true; things that there is no debate over. God loves us. The miraculous mystery of the Trinity. Jesus' birth, death, resurrection, and our redemption. The rest we write in pencil. These are things that we still hold to be true, and that's perfectly okay, but they are not indisputable. God's relationship to time is one of the things my girls brought up; is God constrained by time? Does he know the future? Yup, we hit on the predestination // free will debate for a hot second in there. These are all things that we write in pencil.
When we discover the things that we thought should be in pen are shifting, aren't actually laid out in scripture, aren't as solid as we thought they were...it can be scary. It naturally invites doubt, which brings along fear.
"What are we supposed to write in pen? Can we really even put anything in pen?"
That was one of their reactions to our discussions. When pencil gets shaken or erased to be refined, everything in pen can start to feel like it's in jeopardy.
A few things were tossed around... we put the ten commandments in pen, we put Jesus' life, death, and resurrection in pen. We put God's Sovereignty in pen. We put that God loves us in pen.

After a very captivating and convicting at Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church this morning, God and I had some serious work we had to do. Near the end of the service, we were given time to just sit and listen for the voice of God. The sermon was on God's calling of Samuel, and his response: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."
[That's seriously a really bold claim: to be a servant. The translation of "I have heard you" can also be "my ears have been pierced." The way a servant voluntarily submitted to their master for the rest of their live involved the master driving a nail through their ear lobe. Kind of freaky, but very convicting. When we tell God that we're listening, when we ask Him to speak, we are also volunteering to submit to Him eternally, no matter the pain, no mater the cost, no questions asked. We're essentially telling God, "Nail my ear to your door frame, for I have heard your calling and I'm willing to listen." There's your Greek / theology lesson for the day. ANYWAY..]
So, an entire sanctuary filled with roughly 800 people sat in complete silence, listening for God. My journal came out, and I started writing. It took the form of a letter from God of things that I can truly write in pen; the unshakable truths that I'm all to guilty of forgetting.
When it's written in pen, there are no exceptions.
And I've spent the past few hours processing that, beginning to write in pen the things I know of Him to be true.
I do not claim to have it all together, but I do claim to have one really big God.

I love you.
[John 3:16, Psalm 130:7, 2 Corinthians 5:14]

I complete you.
[Psalm 139:5, Ephesians 3:19]

I protect you.
[Psalm 27:1, Psalm 46:1 & 5, Proverbs 18:10, Proverbs 19:23, Isaiah 31:5]

I know your heart, even deeper than you do.
[Psalm 94:11, Psalm 119:168, John 10:14 & 27]

I long for your joy,
[Luke 1:14, John 15:11, Acts 13:52]

for I Am your Joy.
[John 20:20, 1 Thessalonians 2:19 - 20, 1 Peter 1:8]

I Am your Life.
[Genesis 2:7, John 6:35, John 11:25, 1 John 3:16]

Follow me.
[Matthew 8:22, John 12:26, 1 Peter 2:21]

Let me form you.
[Psalm 139:15, Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 1:5]

Let me transform you.
[Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 15:51 - 52, 2 Corinthians 3:18]

Let me bring about the whole,
[Matthew 12:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 - 24]

[Ezekiel 16:7 & 13, Song of Songs 4:7, Romans 10:15]

flawless life
[Song of Songs 4:7, Song of Songs 5:2, 2 Samuel 22:31, Matthew 5:48]

that I have planned for you.
[Psalm 139:16, Jeremiah 29:11]

You are Mine.
[Isaiah 43:1, John 10:14 - 15]

[Psalm 100:2, Mark 10:14, John 14:6]

My Child,
[John 1:12, Romans 8:16, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 4:5, 2 Corinthians 6:18]

and rest
[Exodus 33:14, Hebrews 4:10, Psalm 23:2, Psalm 91:1, Matthew 11:28]

in peace,
[Isaiah 9:6, Romans 5:1, 1 Corinthians 14:33, Philippians 4:7]

for I have already won the war.
[John 16:33, Romans 8:31, Colossians 1:13]