wintertime in waco

Why is it freezing in Waco, Texas?  I have no idea, but I sure am glad that it’s starting to feel like winter.

I’ve had so many priceless experiences in Waco over the past few months, and I’m blessed and thankful for my time here.  I’d like to share a few experiences that I’ve had in the past week or two–since Waco became somewhat of a winter wonderland.

  • Georgia
    Georgia in front of the Christmas tree.

    I spent…uh…Brown Thursday? shopping for a Christmas tree.  Cason and I decorated ornaments to put on the tree, which I hope will become an annual tradition.  I also got stockings for Cason, Georgia, and myself and hung them on the mantle.  I love decorating for Christmas each year, and I have so many fun memories.  Most years, I decorate  the family tree with my mom, hanging thumbprint ornaments from my childhood.  Then throughout undergrad I would decorate the common rooms with my roommates–Kristin, Alli, and Katlyn during my sophomore year and my ADPi sisters in the house during junior year.  This year is different, but I like the new traditions and new stockings!

  • My guilty pleasure: when the holidays roll around, I love to watch those cheesy Christmas movies on Hulu/Netflix.  They are so predictable, but honestly that’s what makes them great.  This season I’ve already watched a movie about an adorable little Jewish boy who just wants to celebrate Christmas and another movie about a girl who falls in love with her boss’s fiancé.  Cason makes fun of them the whole time, so he’s not allowed to watch them with me anymore…seriously.  I’ve been watching them while I complete my take-home finals…and while Cason is at work. (Since I started writing this post a week ago, I’ve watched at least 3 more cheesy Christmas movies, and I made Cason watch one.)
  • I also have been giving assessments to children for one of my classes.  (This semester we administered the WJ-III and the WISC-IV.)  It’s hard to believe that after just a semester of grad school I now have the basic know-how necessary to give some of the more widely used IQ tests in our field.  Also, since I’m not from here I had a harder time finding students to assess.  So, I reached out and was blessed with an amazing connection.  I now hopefully have at least a few parents I can call on who are willing to let me assess their kids throughout my time here at Baylor.  I’ve had great experiences with the families and the students all while gaining experience.
    Last week I met a sweet family with four boys, and the youngest fell in love with my teacup poodle, Georgia.  His mom told me later that he decided that Georgia needed her own play room with dog treats and legos, in case the boys came back to play.  I honestly think that Georgia would LOVE that.
  • February_2012_0114
    February_2012_0114 (Photo credit: cmiked)

    On Saturday, Cason and I went Christmas shopping for our family for the first time.  We got some amazing local items from the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market, and we are excited to share them with our family.  We also made a cute ornament to put on the tree!  Going to the market is always a great experience.

  • I’ve sold a few prints from my Etsy shop, which has been both an encouragement and a blessing.  It’s nice to know that people enjoy my work.  It’s an added bonus that I have a little extra cash in my pocket for the holiday season.

Overall, it has been a sweet holiday season in Waco, but I think it’s safe to say that Cason and I can’t wait to be home for a week.  I’m thankful that the semester has winded down and I have a little bit of time before we make the long trip home.  I know it’s gonna be quite the ride, but it will definitely be worth it.  Several of my family members have countdowns until the day I arrive.  I have tons of wedding planning to do.  I will get to see several friends, whom I haven’t seen in who knows how long.  Plus I will get to see several relatively new additions to the family, including my nephew and first cousins, once removed (yes, this is the correct terminology for my cousin’s children–no, they are not my second cousins).  Regardless of terminology, I am excited to see my family!

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the proposal

My sisters are chatting about candle lighting ceremonies.  My cousin has made herself available to help with questions and contest entries.  Local friends have given me names and websites for photographers. My aunt and mom have already started planning.  I now own several magazines.  I have a rather large rock on my hand.
It’s official, I’m engaged!
For the story of how we met, click here.
And without further ado, here’s the detailed engagement story you’ve been waiting for…

Our engagement story:

On Friday, November 1st Cason went in to work and I planned an afternoon of shopping followed by an evening of studying.  I was at Target when Cason texted me to let me know they had too many people for his shift, so he got to go home.  I asked if we were making plans for the night, and he said he wanted to have a nice date night since we hadn’t planned one in a while.  (This is not unusual–we like to randomly plan fun nights, spur of the moment, where I put on a dress and he wears something besides athletic shorts.)  He picked me up at 6:30pm and we ended up going to dinner downtown at a place called Sam’s on the Square.  They had about 10 different kinds of tacos to choose from–I got fish tacos, and they were surprisingly delicious.  At dinner we did our fair share of people-watching; we constantly overhear tons of hilarious conversations among “college kids.”  So at first I didn’t notice how quiet Cason was being.  Towards the end of dinner I remember asking why he was so quiet–come to find out, he was super nervous.

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After dinner we went to one of my favorite places in Waco–Katie’s Frozen Custard.  We get Katie’s at least twice a week because it’s so delicious!  Then we took our frozen treats to Baylor instead of to my house to watch TV, which is perhaps when I realized something was up.  We parked on campus and walked towards Pat Neff Hall, passing the Judge Baylor statue and stopping in the gardens to sit and enjoy our frozen yogurt.  At one point in our walk I got pretty excited about the shrubs because they were cut to spell “Baylor Bears,” and I remember thinking it was strange that Cason seemed indifferent.  (We usually get excited about random/new things, but he had seen the shrubs before when he scoped out the location, and he had other things on his mind–which is obvious in retrospect.)

So we sat down in the middle of the garden looking at the glowing green Pat Neff Hall.  I’m trying to eat my frozen custard, but it was unusually cold outside for Texas so I gave up and listened to Cason tell me the history of the glowing green light.  (I’m still rather shocked that he did his research.)  After sitting for a few minutes I told Cason that I had to go to the bathroom, so he said, “Well then I will make this quick.”  (This is it!)  Then he got down on one knee, with the glowing green building behind him, and he told me how much he had always looked forward to finding the right person, how at times he wasn’t sure it would happen, and how he was blessed to have found me.  Then he said my full name and asked me to marry him.  I said, “Yes” through my tears and I got down to hug and kiss him.  Then he stood up and asked me if I was going to say yes (which apparently happens in more engagements than you would think), and I told him that I did say yes and that I do want to marry him.  So he put the ring on my finger and we smiled and laughed and kissed and hugged.  Then, since it was dark, he pulled out his iPhone and turned on his flashlight so I could see the ring. (It’s perfect, by the way.  We previously looked at rings, so he had a good idea of what I wanted, and he just took it and ran with it. 🙂

engagementday-0001-3

We walked back to the car, giddy, and I asked all sorts of questions like, “Were you nervous? Did you think I would say no?” etc.  (Yes he was nervous but not because he thought I would say no.)  Once we got back to the car, we called my parents and face-timed them so they could see the ring.  Then we face-timed Cason’s parents, who were on their way to Florida with his youngest brother.  It was all very exciting to start sharing with family.  I also called my aunt and my nana, and my cousin’s reaction was priceless.

engagementday-0003

People asked me if I was surprised, but I think the better question is, “Were you pleasantly surprised?”  Truth be told, if I had no inclination that it was coming, I would have been surprised, but I’m not sure that I would have liked it.  Cason’s proposal, for me, had the right balance of expectation and surprise.  So yes, I was pleasantly surprised.  It was a special moment shared between the two of us, which we will never forget.  Even now when I drive by campus at night and see Pat Neff Hall glowing green in the distance, I get this big grin on my face.

taking a turn for the better

Sorry for the delay in posts; graduate school consumes about 70% of my life now (and that’s probably an understatement).  The first weekend of the month I actually flew home to see my cousin get married to her high school sweetheart.  It was beautiful, and it was wonderful to see my family.

casie

Last week I struggled with anxiety, and I was very sick on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Thankfully I’m feeling better.  I definitely bounced back more quickly than I would have this time last year.  I’m thankful to have Cason here by my side.  The move to Texas has been a transition for the both of us, but we are making it through together.  Cason has a new job.  I have new friends, I think (which is a big deal for me).  I’ve even managed to stay in touch with some GA friends, and that’s honestly something I was most worried about; I’m terrible about keeping in touch, even with my best friends.  I’m blessed to have friends who reach out to me especially given that we are all so busy.

Cason and I also believe we have found a new church home.  The worship music is an excellent combination of contemporary worship music and new renditions of old hymns; it reminds me of RUF worship at Mercer. (Shout out to the RUF band! Miss you!)   The sermons provide informative historical backgrounds for the verses each week, and I really like his preaching style.  It’s all very Bible-oriented, which should be a no-brainer for the church, but these days it’s harder to find someone who actually preaches the Bible.

hymnpainting

Anyway, now to school-related things.  The past couple of weeks I have advised my undergraduate students to evaluate their midterm goals, so I decided to make a few of my own.  I’ve encouraged my students to be open and honest, and I tried to do the same on my evaluation.  Writing these goals down helped me get the ball rolling in some areas.  I’ve already met a couple of goals on there, like talking to my professors, scheduling more time for coursework, and studying with my peers.  Perhaps I should add some more goals to this list!  Graduate school is bringing out a whole new side of me, and I like it!

midtermgoals
My brutally honest midterm goals evaluation.

I have my first exam in Ethics of School Psychology (<–short version of the course title) on Monday, and I’ve made a study plan to help me tackle all the information from 7 class days, an entire textbook,  our program handbook, 10+ articles, and multiple PowerPoint presentations.  Needless to say, I have a lot of studying to do, and it has already begun.  Hopefully my brain won’t be fried after class and I can keep studying this evening.  Even though I’ve only been there a couple of times, Common Grounds is one of my favorite places to study.  Expect to find me there all weekend.

studying

Lastly, today is my 1 year anniversary of this blog, and it’s Baylor homecoming week.  Sic’em.

How I decided on a graduate school

  1. I decided on a program.
    I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, but I decided to pursue another passion in college, psychology.  Along the way I realized that I still wanted to be in a school setting and make a difference in the lives of children.  Then I discovered the field of school psychology and I realized that I was made for it.  So I looked for graduate programs in that field and to my excitement found a 3-year Specialist program.  This would give me a year of full instruction, a year of instruction and work in the schools, and finally an internship year.  When I first realized I would have to go to grad school, I honestly was not thrilled about more school.  However, this program seemed to be tailored to my needs in that it would allow me to actually start doing what school psychologists do under the supervision of professors and other school psychologists.  Plus, more education in a field that I am thrilled about is actually appealing to me now.
  2. I decided on a region.
    When I was young, I was a homebody.  I never ventured far from my parents.  As I’ve gotten older, my comfort zone has expanded somewhat, and I knew that I still wanted to be in the south for graduate schools.  I looked at schools in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas.
  3. I applied to most of the schools with my program in the region.
    I applied to Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, University of Alabama,  and Baylor University.  School psychology is growing but still relatively new, so it’s not a program that everyone has.  I know it looks like I was pretty selective in where I applied, but I honestly had pretty slim pickings.  The good thing though is that these are all incredibly amazing programs.
  4. I interviewed with schools via Skype and in person.
    Georgia Southern accepted me without an interview, but I Skyped with three of the faculty from Baylor, and then I did an all day interview with the five faculty at Appalachian State.
  5. I made a pros and cons list.
    This is somewhat of an inside joke for anyone who saw the pros and cons list.  One school had all the pros.  We will just leave it at that
  6. I picked the program that was the best fit for me…
    …and that program is BAYLOR UNIVERSITY!  I am so pleased to announce that I have been accepted to their school psychology program for this fall, and I have accepted their offer.  (Many of you know this already, but it feels more official now that it is on the blog!)  I will actually be visiting next week, and I am thrilled!

JWalkerBaylorChevron

I was so excited once I finally accepted their offer that I could not sleep.  I stayed up making poster prints like the one above to hang in my apartment in TEXAS.  This feels like an absolute dream come true, but looking back I realize that I worked my whole life (up until this point) for this.  The goal has always been to do well in school, find a job that I am passionate about, and do what it takes to get there.  This is just another stepping stone along that path, and I am so blessed by and thankful for everyone who has helped and supported me along the way.  I recognize that this achievement cannot be credited to my work alone.  I needed the help and support of my parents, family, friends, and teachers.  Who I am and what I have achieved is a combination of my experiences and interactions with others, and I don’t take that for granted for one second.  Finally, I must acknowledge that my Creator and God had his hand over all of this.  I can look back and say that there were definitely times along the way when I wanted to give up, and I would not have made it through without my relationship with Christ as the foundation of my life.  All the glory goes to Him and the way He has placed people and experiences in my life to form me into the woman I am today.

final China update

Here it is…the post that you all knew was coming, and the one that I have honestly been putting off for a while.

I’m not going to China.

I still don’t have the words to explain why or what changed in my heart, but something changed.  It was taking forever to get an invitation from the government, and I saw the potential time I would be spending there slowly dwindling.  I didn’t like that.  I wasn’t a fan of the fact that my 5 months in China was going down to 4 and eventually only 3.  Sure, any length of time in China would be an experience of a lifetime, but I was putting my entire life here on hold and it was unhealthy.

I was afraid to build friendships and relationships in my hometown.  I was afraid to go back to my college town and hang out with my friends because I knew I would be leaving them soon.  It felt pointless to get a part-time job when I had no clue how long I’d be available to work there.  Everything was in limbo, and while I was doing my best to trust God’s plan for the situation, I was emotionally overloaded and highly stressed.  That’s when it occurred to me that God’s plans for this trip perhaps changed.  I can’t explain it, but I felt and still feel like I need to stay here for now.

It was terribly difficult to decide not to pursue a dream that I had been planning for so long, but after the decision was made I felt relieved.  Life is not always about making the right or wrong choices; it’s about making wise choices that you can live with.  That’s exactly what I elected to do in this situation.  Would I still like to be going to China? Sure!  But do I regret the decision I made not to go? No, I don’t.  Later down the road if I find myself saying, “Man, I wish I had gone to China,” then hopefully I will be in a position to plan a trip at that time.

ItIsWellWithMySoul

And that’s how I feel about that.

P.S.   I know this blog started as a way to document my path to China and my journey while I was there, but obviously that has changed. I definitely plan on updating the blog regularly with info about my life, relationships, and graduate school.  However, I’m still trying to figure out a clear direction and plan for the blog, so bear with me while I work to bring the best to the table here.

where is your faith

prayerCSlewisYesterday my family lost a great man, a man who was married to my Nana and fathered my mother.  I’ve struggled for the past 24 hours trying to decide how to process this loss, and honestly I have been unsure about sharing it on this blog.  However, I decided that my grandfather deserves a tribute from me in the best way I know how, and I’m sure my family would like to know how much I cared.  I’m not always great at expressing myself face to face, and I certainly deal with death differently on some levels.  So even though this blog is a public forum, I hope my family and friends who read this will understand that this is my way of coping.

For the past several years I have watched my grandfather struggle with dementia and the inability to fully take care of himself, so it’s hard for me to not feel joy knowing that he is beginning a new life, fully healed and whole.  Of course I am sad for myself; I am sad that my family has to suffer such a great loss.  Yet, I couldn’t be more happy for my Papa Sr.  I know that’s not the typical outlook, and I’m not entirely sure what that says about me.  I hope though, that it says I believe in a God who keeps his word, and that I’m confident that He is in control.  I believe that He grants eternal life to those who have believed in Him.  I believe that even though death is hard on the living, God draws near to the brokenhearted and brings peace to those who draw near to him.  The psych major in me knows that these beliefs do not significantly alter the grieving process.  I know that grief is very real, and honestly I’m still waiting on that part to sink in.  For right now it seems that the best thing I can do is to be there for my family, knowing that they and God will be there when my grief begins to set in.

psalm347Anyway, my grandfather was 81, and passed away from a heart attack  and general health complications.  He served his country as a Marine for 20 years in Korea and then Vietnam, twice.  He was the kind of guy who wanted to pay for my schooling and a brand new car and a new house, but he would complain about a twenty-dollar steak or a forty-dollar shirt for himself.  Even if he was having a terrible day, he always seemed happy to see me.  He maintained his sense of humor and quick wit, which was always very entertaining.  No doubt there were struggles, and though he didn’t always express it well, I am certain that he loved my grandmother and my family very much.  He will certainly be missed.

On a distantly related note, I am very thankful that my trip to China has been delayed for an undetermined amount of time at this point.  God definitely knows what He is doing because there is absolutely no way that I could have gotten on a plane tomorrow afternoon for Beijing.    I believe the earliest I will hear something is around the 24th of February, but I fear that too much of a delay will prevent me from going at all.  (Going for 5 months allows me to receive a monthly stipend for working there, but a delay would mean working less time, which could mean losing the stipend.  I would be unable to stay there for a few months without the extra income.)

I trust that God knows what  He’s doing though.  I mean he kept me  here to support my family in this time of need, which I am very grateful for.  So we will see what happens in terms of the China trip, but I think I can honestly say that while I would still love to go, I believe that God would use me to do equally great things here if I was unable to go.  I know that His plan is greater than any I can imagine, and I have already seen so many personal transformations just through preparing for this trip.  The lessons God uses to prepare your heart for the things to come don’t disappear if the future changes.  The lessons and the transformations remain, which I am thankful for.