Make A Difference (through music) Monday

Hi Everyone!

Just a heads up, this will probably be my last post before heading to Camp Care Thursday-Sunday then immediately off to a beach vacation for a week with my family.  I’m trying to “unplug” for this time, as I always do during camp, but you never know what I might get inspired to share with you all during a week on the beach.

I wanted to share a little something about Camp Care before I go though.  I thought, what better way than through music since music becomes a huge inspirational diving board for our morning and evening meetings.  This will be my 6th Camp Care session now, and these two songs have kind of become a perfect definition of what Camp Care is for me and for every one of the therapist staff, volunteers, kids and their families. (Note: get your tissues for the Matthew West song…)

Tenth Avenue North-Love Is Here

Matthew West-The Last Ones

For my readers that don’t know much about Camp Care, please check it out here. It is an amazing, completely free, therapy and recreation camp for children with special needs. Any of my SN parents readers or peers, if you are in the area anywhere driving distance to Connecticut (and even if you’re not) it’s worth checking out for you or your child.  Therapy focuses on both manual therapy techniques and functional therapy. I might have been a few years late on the bandwagon, but it has truly made the biggest difference in my life in terms of other therapies.  At least, that’s how I feel now that I’m an adult and have tried various things for myself. (Second note: you do not have to be of any specific religious affiliation to take part in camp or its activities.)

I know so many of you reading this have been such a huge source of support for me over the years through all my different trials and triumphs and I thank you immensely for that.  Many of you have supported my fundraising efforts in the annual Columbia Classic which benefits Camp Care.  This is so important since the camp, and its therapeutic riding program, are entirely run on donations. Thank you.

Even though I choose to participate in Camp Care as a volunteer first and foremost, when the time comes to participate as a camper, I thank God that I have so many of you praying for me and hoping for me. It makes all the difference in the world for me and my spiritual, emotional, and physical successes during Camp Care. Thank you.

All I ask is that you continue to keep all of us involved in camp in your thoughts and prayers over the coming days. All my love.

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Just say it

About 6 months ago, I installed the “God Wants You to Know” app on my Facebook page. In the beginning I didn’t necessarily put much stock into them. “It’s just some random person getting paid way more than I ever will to craft inspirational messages” was the thought in my head. But then things started getting weird and, well, I’ll read my message today for yourself…

“If all you had to do was wish for something and you would have it, life would be pretty boring, wouldn’t it? God placed barriers between us and what we want, so we can enjoy interesting and satisfying lives. God hid our biggest rewards behind the highest barriers – our deepest fears. God wants us to face our fears, and hold ground in their presence, and let them go, and that’s how we get out biggest rewards. What are you most afraid of? Say it, just start by saying it.”

Yeah, that happened. Just so you know, I don’t believe in coincidences.

Our Cross to Bear

I was deeply moved to write a post today, Good Friday, due to some beautiful words I read today from my girl Lindsey at Arms High, Heart Abandoned.  Thanks love! 🙂

Many of you know, or have at least figured out by now, that I am very strong in my faith and it is something that, in the past few years has really become a much bigger part of my daily life.  What some of you may not know is how much Good Friday changed my life and my faith a few years ago. Well, not the actual day itself, but the message that it brings to us.

In my junior year of college, I went on a retreat in which each night represented a day of the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday).

The second night, we had Veneration of the Cross.  Being still so “young” in my faith, I didn’t really know what this was, and as I sat there listening to our priest, and watching others take their time to pray and kiss the wood of the Cross, I wasn’t sure I was ready to do something like that.

I wasn’t ready to fully realize that Christ died for us–to save us, and out of extraordinary love for us. And that all of us included me as well. He bore a cross; a heavy burden in every sense of the word, so that we may live the life His Father planned for us. As I sat reflecting and praying, this amazing feeling began to wash over me. To this day, the only way I can describe it is a feeling of understanding; and in the moment, I got up and knelt down at the cross, kissed the wood, and let all my emotion come pouring out.

I firmly believe that moment was the beginning of my faith story.  In that moment, I began to understand. I understood why the Father gave Jesus His cross to bear, and why He obeyed, even in the times of betrayal, pain, and ultimate darkness.

With that understanding, I began to see the purpose for the Crosses I’ve been asked to bear in my own life. Though there are times (still every day–no one is perfect!) when I question, and times when it seems like it’s just becoming too much, I know that there is someone who has gone through this too; Jesus. That can bring tremendous comfort if you let it.

We are asked to bear Cross as He did. Each one of us knows what our own personal Cross is and how it impacts our life. Yet, while it is an individual journey, we are made to remember that we are not alone. Jesus is right there with us, to help us carry our Cross when it becomes too much. Because that’s How He Loves.

Motivation Monday: Ryan Hall

After watching a history-making 2011 Boston Marathon this morning, in which world records were met, an American woman finished 2nd, and an American man finished 4th, I’m quite insipred and quite motivated.

Who was that man in 4th? Ryan Hall. An amazing person, an amazing athlete, and an amazing man of his Faith.

A friend shared this video entitled “How Does Running Glorify God” a while back, and it put my faith, my struggles, my triumphs, and my races both on road and in life, into perspective.

Feel free to check it out, or just keep on reading through your blogroll if this doesn’t interest you. I won’t be offended! 🙂

“My career is basically about pain management. It’s how much pain can you handle, for how long can you handle it?” -Ryan Hall on the marathon

His Love through the earbuds

Today was a day filled with a whole lot of nothing. I worked from home this morning because my dad had to go into work, then I didn’t have much motivation to do anything else. I did work out a little bit this morning and plan to fit in one more later on tonight, but that’s really it. A whole lot of nothing…except thinking, which is something.

I spent far too much time YouTubing concert videos and listening to songs that I haven’t heard in a while. One of the concerts I searched was the Casting Crowns concert I attended last February with some friends from school. For those of you who don’t know, Casting Crowns is an awesome Christian band that I fell in love with the first time I heard this song. This concert was one of the most amazing musical, emotional, and spiritual experiences I have ever had (and I’m longing to experience something like it again soon)! There was something truly awe-inspiring about being in a huge, sold out concert arena where people are singing along and having their own (public) private prayer conversations the entire night, to music in its most pure form.  

The more songs I listened to, the more I started thinking. And even praying in my own way. There are phases that I go through where all I want to listen to is Christian music. I have a playlist on my iPod with something like 300 songs on it. When I get those feelings within me, I know that–for one reason or anotther–I am being reminded to come back to my faith, to take some time out, and to really think, reflect, and pray. Even when, sometimes, I might not feel like I have wandered away.

For me, the music is a beautiful portrayal of God’s love and His grace and gifts that he gives each of us. There are some songs that I might not have chosen to listen to on a particular day, but shuffle puts them right into my ears, and into my heart. Who says God doesn’t work through music? 🙂 

That’s what today’s supposed “nothingness” has reminded me. That I need to take some QT with my playlist, my journal, my Bible, and my Father; gladly.

A Warm Welcome

To all my wonderful readers:

I have someone new to welcome to the blogging community. One of my best college, and for life, friends has started a blog. She is Lindsey over at Arms High, Heart Abandoned. Lindsey recently started this blog and, in her words, it is a blog about “the writings of a Roman Catholic girl trying to live her faith in this world”.

Lindsey is an amazing woman of Faith and I cannot wait to see, and read, more of what she encounters. So, if this interests you at all, you’re looking to expand your blogroll, or just looking for something new to read, stop by and and see what life is like from someone else’s perspective! 🙂

Extraordinary Moments

Reblogged from my friend Jocelyn’s Tumblr account…

30 EXTRAORDINARY THINGS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. 

1. A baby is taking it’s first few steps without falling.

2. Two people somewhere in the world, are falling in love.

3. Somewhere, someone is admiring a breathtaking sunrise, and somewhere else, a surreal sunset.

4. A soldier of sorts is diligently fighting the fight so you don’t have to

5. Someone who suffered from a severe injury last year is back on their feet.

6. A small group of people are building something that will soon make the impossible possible.

7. Somewhere on Earth a double rainbow is stretched from one end of the horizon to the other.

8. One of the next Billboard-chart-topping musical artists is patiently rehearsing in her garage.

9. A piece of literature is being written that will eventually change your perspective on life.

10. A friend is helping a friend rise above thoughts of suicide.

11. People of various religious backgrounds are in temples, churches, mosques and other places of worship praying, wholeheartedly, for world peace.

12. An elderly couple is celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

13. Two best friends are laughing so hard that they aren’t even making any noise.

14. A firefighter is running into a burning building to rescue a perfect stranger.

15. Someone in your hometown genuinely wants to be your friend.

16. A new mom is lying in a hospital bed and holding her baby twins for the very first time.

17. Someone is taking a shower and singing happily at the top of their lungs.

18. There is someone out there who smiles when they think of a specific moment they once shared with you.

19. An alcoholic just celebrated one full year of sobriety.

20. Volunteers in major cities all over the world are working at homeless shelters caring for those who are less fortunate than themselves.

21. A high school athlete just broke their own personal record.

22. Two teenagers just received their very first kiss ever from each other.

23. Someone is hugging a friend who desperately needs it.

24. Someone just placed their spare change in the charity collection cup at the grocery store.

25. A small group of friends are sitting around a table sharing funny stories and cheerfully reminiscing about the good old days.

26. Honest people are working for various government entities to help protect your basic human rights and civil liberties.

27. An emergency room surgeon is in the middle of saving his patient’s life.

28. Someone is holding the door open for the person behind them.

29. Someone out there is missing you and looking forward to your next visit.

30. We are reminded that extraordinary things happen to ordinary people, and that there is beauty and wonder in everyday life

Photo Credit: OpenFX.org

Charity:Water

I’ve been playing around with my template and background for the blog all day! My apologies if it’s been different every time you’ve looked at it for the past few days! 🙂 I’ve changed the background, template, images etc. at least 3 times this week, only to end up changing it back to the original theme. I just can’t seem to find anything I like!

One little addition you will notice though, is my lovely SocialVibe badge on the right. SocialVibe is an organization that partners with different charities to raise money for them by putting these badges on the site and hoping they receive clicks from site viewers. Basically, how it works is you (the visitor) will click the badge. A screen will then open up asking you to complete an activity (anywhere from a survey question to a game of some sort) completely free of charge to you. For every activity you complete from clicking on my badge, I receive 100 points to be converted into charity donations. I just did four activities and it took me about 3 minutes.

What is Charity:Water? I’m going to be changing up the badge every few months because I don’t like representing one charity exclusively, but for now I’ve chosen Charity:Water. This is an amazing organization that was brought to my attention in a few ways. Charity:Water provides clean drinking water for many developing countries in need (Central African Republic, Haiti, Ethiopia) through drilling and installation of manageable clean water wells as well as delivery of clean drinking water.

I first heard of Charity:Water from a friend who attended their Annual Ball last weekend because her roommate gave up/pledged her 21st birthday to raise money for the organization. The power of America’s youth adults. I was really interested to find out more about it just from talking to her and looking at pictures. The next night, I happened to be watching the 20/20 special Be the Change: Save a Life and what was one of the charities they were featuring? Charity:Water. I love when that happens! As my mom and I were watching the amazing organizations they were showcasing, we decided that next year we want to give up our birthdays, or donate in the name of family members for Christmas gifts. There is so much need out there. And here. I don’t want to make it seem like I don’t care about our own country. There is just something that draws me to the international realm.

Those of you who know me personally, know that I have always been about volunteerism, giving, anything of that nature. What you might not know, is that I have faced one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make because of this intense passion.

On January 12, 2010, an earthquake struck Port Au Prince, Haiti. I had friends who were boarding a flight that day to make a mission trip to an orphanage in the town of Duverger. The orphanage had not fully opened yet. In fact, at the time, there was only one child living there. In a Grace most fitting with this mission, the orphanage was relatively untouched by the earthquake, but immediately saw an influx of close to 100 orphans because of this terrible natural disaster. They were not ready to open, but there was no other choice. My friends did not end up boarding their flight to Haiti, as all commercial flights were immediately shut down. Like so many of us, my heart ached for those people and for those children. I found myself unknowingly ending up on CNN and other news channels while trying to write papers, and I constantly had my e-mail open waiting for updates from the individuals who live in Haiti permanently. I felt like my body was here, but my heart had gone to Haiti. When commercial flights opened back up in March of last year, I was approached with the offer of the last plane ticket in the group to travel for a weeklong mission. My heart was overjoyed. But I knew this wasn’t a decision to enter into lightly. I thought and thought, prayed and prayed. My parent’s weren’t really sold on the idea for fear of aftershocks, not to mention accessibility in a developing country. (Sidenote: Do any of my bloggers know anything about this/mission work, etc.?) The more I prayed, the more torn I became. Though my heart wanted to go to Haiti, I knew I wasn’t going to. It wasn’t where the Path was leading. 

It was a tough decision to turn down that offer, and even tougher when it came time to see everyone’s photos from the trip and hear amazing stories of love, hope, and the power of the human spirit, but my mission was, and is currently, to be here. Serving others the way I serve; the way I was made to. It is my hope that this simple act of a Charity:Water badge can be just a small part of that.

Thanks for listening.

Meaning of Christmas

It dawned on me today that Christmas is less that a week away and I have yet to acknowledge it, one of my favorite and most important holidays, on the blog! Opps!

Now that I’m older, I can honestly say that the joy in the season for me really comes from it’s true meaning now. For the past few years, I’ve not cared about the gifts so much (although presents are always nice) and really just enjoyed the time spent with my family and my own private time spend reflecting on the birth of that beautiful baby who changed the World forever. 

I don’t want to get too strong here, for those of you that read the blog and could care less about my faith or my religious beliefs–although, you’ve been getting a lot more of that than I originally intended of this blog (that’s God for you!).  There’s just two things I wanted to share with you tonight about the beauty of this Christmas holiday.

First, Sarah over at Stand Tall Through Everything wrote an amazing post today reflecting on the Fourth Sunday of Advent (today) and the power that one woman’s “Yes” had on every single of us who live this faith. Sarah was probably the second blogger I started following regularly, and her posts are really wonderful and well-written.  Please take the time to go check it out! It really moved me. Thanks Sarah, for letting me post it up on my blog!

Second, is one of my all-time favorite Christmas quotes. Bear with me as I tell you the quick story of where it comes from. The quote is from the longest running soap opera Guiding Light, which ended its 72 year run on September 18, 2009. I know some of you are probably judging me right now for pulling a Christmas quote from a soap, but this wasn’t just a tv show in my family. Guiding Light was sortof an undetectable gule in my family. It binded generations (my grandmother, to my mother and my aunt, to me and my sisters), and it brought us together for an hour each day, whether in person, over the phone, or simply in heart. My grandmother was always the go-to person about GL questions as she was the one who’d watched (or in her case listened) to the show the longest. Anything Grandma told you, you never questioned. My grandmother passed away in 2007 and I remember one of the last conversations I had with her was calling to see if she watched today episode and what she thought about the writers bringing some of the old characters back (and more importantly, if their storylines were truly accurate!). Watching GL was never quite the same when my Grandma passed away, but I remember calling my mom everyday to have the same conversations if I was away at school, and DVRing each episode to watch with my mom if I was home for a weekend or on a break. For those, and many more, reasons this quote holds a special place in my heart. Merry Christmas Everyone.

“When times are tough, we have to stop and appreciate what we do have, what’s important to us, and what keeps us waking up in the morning; our family. Our lives may not be perfect. We make mistakes, but we survive, and we forgive, and although the future may seem uncertain, nothing is ever lost as long as we have faith. It’s Christmas. Where the unexpected gift from the least expected person can turn everything around. Where there once was darkness, there may be light. And above all, there is that one gift that costs nothing, that requires no wrapping, and that is love. Love. What would Christmas be without it?”

Hope [noun, verb]

1. The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

2. To look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.

The two definitions of hope, courtesy of Dictionary.com. I wanted to start out my Winter Camp Care post with these definitions just to show how broad hope can be, how there are so many ways one can have hope, and how there are so many reasons to have hope. Almost any situation, event, or object can fit into one of these two definitions. We all have different hopes. For ourselves, for our loved ones, for the world, the list could go on and on.

As I mentioned in my MM post (I hope you enjoyed those songs!), hope was the camp theme this session. Our shirts were printed with Faith. Hope. Love. on the back; hope a little more bold and upfront than the other two. We all knew this was going to be an amazing session, but we always think that.

Our morning inspiration started off with one of the therapists reading the Rich Mullins essay, 23rd at 32. It’s a moving story about fear, faith, hope, and the balance between the three. Check it out at the link above. I was playing both sides this Camp; patient in the AM, volunteer in the afternoon, but my session wasn’t until midmorning on Saturday. It ended up being nice enough outside that we took some of the kids (in coats and hats and gloves, don’t worry moms!) to play wonderball, and soccer, and whatever else they wanted. Some kids could run around on their own, some had to be pushed, and some had to be carried. Either way, everyone was having a good time! And we definitely have some future soccer stars at Camp! 🙂 

I played photographer for a bit outside and will post some of those pictures when I get them. Capturing these moments through the lens is always as exhilarating as it is to experience them first hand.

When I went in for my Bootcamp session, which started out with another mini Crossfit workout, I was less than thrilled. I’ve been feeling “stuck” and like I don’t do enough for myself outside of PT sessions. This tends to be a recurring thought every 6 months or so.  With that feeling, I wasn’t really expecting the bootcamp session to go that well. Plus, I’m still getting used to this whole “crutches only” lifestyle I’m trying to live. It’s hard to explain, but there a safety in the walker, knowing that if you let go to lift something over year head, it’s behind you if you lose your balance. With crutches, if you lift an arm over your head, you’re also lifting half of your stability. Without going into major details, it was much harder for me this time, because it was much more active.  Which also gets my brain playing the “this shouldn’t be so hard” game. I don’t recommend it. Not that fun of a game! The second hour stretching felt amazing, though! If someone could come over and decompress my spine for that long everyday I’d be a very happy girl!

My absolute favorite part of Winter Camp is the Christmas Show. It’s a performing arts showcase, but on by the Skating Club of Hartford. They sing, dance, and dress up (no skates!) to perform different Christmas Carols and love-themed songs to represent the Christmas season. The kids love seeing Santa, Rudolph, and Gingerbread men dance around for them, and I love watching the joy on their faces. In the middle of the show,I wish I could tell you what song it was, I broke down crying. I’m not ever sure what sparked it, but something got to me. 

The theme was hope. And with these children, these families, these volunteers, and these therapists–this is the place I feel most hopeful. I sat there for a minute just taking in my emotions and having one of my ever-popular silent conversations with God; wondering where this came from and what I was supposed to do about it.  I made up my mind that whatever He wanted to do about it would be done tomorrow, because all that was left of the day was indoor activities while the 3rd bootcamp session went on.

The third bootcamp session. The deeper I got into conversation, I knew He was willing me to be at the 3rd session. After the way the first session went, I didn’t know if this was such a good idea. But I’m learning it’s better not to question. 😉 Apprehensively, I drove back to Crossroads and asked my PT if the 3rd group was a specific group of kids, or if I could join again…and downstairs I went again. Since all of us in 3rd session had already been stretched in the morning, it was much more active. We worked on core strength, kneeling, crawling & patterning, and sitting. Yes, sitting. For all of us in the group, sitting on the floor unaided either cross legged or otherwise, can be really challenging and quite a workout. I hadn’t worked on sitting or really been able to, since Summer Camp. Or so I thought. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to do it for about 5-8 minutes. And everything else. All while this was happening, two moms were telling stories about their sons, both young adults ages 18 and 23, who had been told to have no hope. Doctors had written them off, therapies had been cut, nothing seemed to be going anywhere. Until they decided to take control, both by coming to Crossroads and Camp and by doing something for themselves and working toward something. The stopped using everyone else’s lack of hope for them as an excuse, and found their own.

As you can imagine, being in a room with 12 other people, all fighting as you have fought can really play with your heart. As one of these moms was speaking for her son Chris, who has very limited verbal ability, all I could do was stare into his eyes, and sit a little taller for a little longer, even though I was getting tired; to keep fighting as he does.This was my moment of awakening, my moment of finding my own hope. I don’t want to say I’d lost hope in the past few months, but it wasn’t easy to find. I was still using every excuse in the book to my advantage. I was still afraid to try. And I still had not found reason for me to hope for myself. That all changed this camp. I realized that it’s not magic fairy dust that gives me the ability to do very well in a PT session, but then not at home. It’s not environmental. And there’s no outside force to blame. Yes, therapies have been cut and doctors have expressed their lack of belief, but it’s been 2 years now. I can’t keep using that as my shield anymore.  It’s all on me. I’m the one putting in the effort or not putting in the effort. And I’m the one holding myself back or propelling myself forward.

There you go, more life lessons learned via Camp Care. Hope you enjoyed!