wrapping up the semester

Forgive my absence…in the past several weeks I’ve accomplished the following:

  • Received an A on a ridiculously intense group project. (Seriously, this is a miracle.)
  • Finished up the semester with a 4.0, which I am truly thankful for.  For me, achieving a goal of all As again this semester reminds me that I have truly found my passion. I’m on the right track.  I’ve always had a passion for education and helping children, and I learn new things each day that will empower me to be a great school psychologist.  I am truly thankful to have found an area where my God-given talents and passion intersect. (Seriously, this is also a miracle, given the four years I spent borderline-hating my undergrad education.)

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  • Mailed out Save the Dates to almost all of our closest friends and family. (Woo! Less than 250 days!)
  • Spent time with my dad while he was out in Texas on a work trip.

dad

  • Had a phone conversation/celebration with my little cousin, who only missed ONE question on her math CRCTs.  Glad somebody else in the family got the math gene!
  • Spent time with two sweet couples playing Just Dance and eating BOGO FRO-YO. (Doesn’t that have a great ring to it?)
  • Shopped, packed, re-packed, shopped again, and packed again for my trip to Costa Rica. (P.S. I’m still not done packing.)

puravida

  • Attended pre-marital counseling with the fiancé. (It’s going great, by the way. Perhaps I’ll talk about more in the next Wedding Wednesday.)

I’m thankful that this spring semester is over, and I am very much looking forward to this summer and all it has to offer!  I do hope you will continue on this journey with me.

wedding wednesday: our wedding website

Header BecomingtheStones

Hey, it’s Wedding Wednesday again!  This week is the official debut of our wedding website, becomingthestones.com.  Yes, we are super cheesy and we love it.  Feel free to click the banner above and head on over to the site.  We would love, love, love for you to fill out the online guestbook so we know you stopped by and checked things out.

Just a quick post this week, but I do hope you’ll hop on over to the wedding website and let us know what you think!

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.

engagementday-0001-2

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.

and the countdown continues

THREE WEEKS…and the excitement is currently overwhelming.  I get excited/overwhelmed and cry at everything.  I don’t sleep.  It’s going to feel like the night before Christmas for the next few weeks, and honestly it may get a little ridiculous.  I feel like a hormonal teenager, but I’m honestly just super excited.

This week everyone in my cohort found out their graduate assistantship positions.  By the grace of God and extreme devotion and hard work from our program director (and potentially others, behind the scenes), everyone in our cohort has 100% tuition remission for the fall and spring!  That means we pay nothing but fees for our first year in grad school!  If you don’t believe me, here’s the email:
TR

In other exciting news, I got my first book for grad school today!  Along with my professor, this book will teach me all about the DAS-II…don’t ask me what that is.  Just kidding…it’s a “psychological assessment instrument” (aka, a test) that measures certain cognitive abilities for children from the ages of about 2-17 years; at least, that’s what I gather from the first page. 😉 Here’s a photo of me with my happy face and my new book:
DASbook

I think I’ve really found where I’m supposed to be.  I’m ready to get to Texas.  I’m ready to start learning.  I’m ready for the next chapter.  I don’t doubt that it will be difficult.  I don’t doubt that it will take work.  I do hope, though, that for the most part it ends up being fun work, and I do believe that it will all be worth it.  I forgot how much I love to learn, and I’m just ready to get back in the groove.  I’m ready to have more of a schedule.  I’m ready for everything…except the rest of the packing that I still have to do.  Oh, and the drive.  I’m not ready for the 13-hour drive.  Other than that, let’s get this show on the road!

 

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.

limbo is real…

…I know because I’m stuck here now…in limbo, I mean.

Truthfully, that’s why I haven’t stopped by to write in a little while.  Everything seems to be in limbo right now, and I was trying to wait for some things to fall into place before I wrote about them.  Anyhow, things seem to be moving at a turtle’s pace in most areas, and I’m still playing the waiting game.  So, I decided to just go ahead and post an update of everything that is going on.  After all, this blog is supposed to be reflection of all of the paths in my life, not just the ones where everything is moving just as I would like.  So here we go…

China
I still have not received my official invitation to come and work in China.  I cannot apply for my visa until I have that, so I’m still in limbo until we get the letter.  We did however contact the program to see if I would still be eligible for the monthly stipend now that I will not be there for 5 months.  Good news on that is that I WILL be eligible to receive the same monthly stipend.  Praise for all of that working out.  However, I’m still undecided as to whether I will be going or not.  I guess it really depends on how long I will be able to go.  I know that any amount of time would be a life-changing experience, but I’m really starting to wonder if now is the right time.  Don’t get me wrong, I would still love to go.  The situation has just changed, and I think the wisest thing to do right now is to re-evaluate all of my options to determine if there is a more suitable choice for the time being.

Graduate School
I have been hesitant to post about my graduate school application process (even though I’ve already shared some with you), mostly because I have this fear of public failure.  To post about the schools I applied to and got interviews with would invariably be followed by a post about the schools that I did and did not get into.  BUT! I’ve decided that I’m getting over that fear, and I’m going to be very real about this whole process.
I’ve applied to Baylor, received an invitation to interview, had a Skype interview, and now I am waiting to hear back, hopefully next week.
Appalachian State wants me to come and interview on March 22nd.  Obviously I’ve been in limbo about this interview because I have been in limbo about China.  If I go to China, I’m not sure what happens with the interview, but if I don’t go to China, then I will head up there for the interview and see what’s up.
I also got an email from Georgia Southern saying that I was accepted into their program.  So, no matter what happens I will be going to grad school!  That’s exciting!
I am excited to hear from all of these grad schools.  This process has certainly been an adventure, but I am glad that it will be coming to a close soon.  It feels good to be much closer to completing this process at this point.  I know that actually attending graduate school is going to be another time of growth and learning more about myself, but for right now I am thankful that the growth that comes through the application process is almost done.  It really has been an intense process, but I’ve gained a lot of confidence as well as humility, and I am very thankful for that.
Also, I can’t help but wonder what my professors said in their recommendation letters.  Whatever it was, though, I am very thankful.  I know that I wouldn’t have made it this far without their support and encouragement.  It really means a lot to me.

There is one other area that also feels like it’s in limbo right now…but in a good way.  I won’t say much about that, but I will leave you with these photos:

sunflower

cupcake

until the dawn appears

mpjdawn

I’ve been listening to Matthew Perryman Jones on repeat for days.  There’s something so soothing about his voice, and his lyrics speak straight to my heart.  This one song resounds in my mind long after I’ve turned the music off.  The first two verses of Until the Dawn Appears reflect the past year or more of my life, but the song reminds me that the struggle isn’t the end result.  There are far better eternal days ahead than the fleeting ones of the past, and that truth brings hope in light of worldly despair.  I mean, how awesome is it to know that we are justified by our faith in Christ and promised life eternal, free of sorrow and tears?  “And my heart will hang on until that dawn appears.”

Check out the song and tell me what you think.  I’m thinking about making another print for the last few lines of the song, but I thought I’d go ahead and put this one out there.

I’ve been turning up the stones in my own discontent,
And I’m finding out where all my hidden sorrows went.
They’ve been laying there for years;
I kept them out of view,
But it’s time I dust you off and take a good look at you.
Oh, how long?
Oh, how long?
Well it’s easier to clench your fists and grind your teeth
Than to look into the sadness that lives underneath.
Well you can kill off all those feelings,
They’ll just turn to ghosts;
They’ll take over your house and become the host.
Oh, how long?
Oh, how long?
Well a man of sorrows walked the shores of Galilee,
And his eyes were cast with joy towards the Crystal Sea.
Well the shadows will be gone and all these bitter tears,
And my heart will hang on that until the dawn appears.
Oh, how long?
Oh, how long?
Oh, you, you won’t let me go….

it’s my choice

pastlikeananchor

As my final semester comes to a close, I have been thinking over the inevitable question, “what’s next?”  Obviously I have pretty solid plans in place for China and graduate school, so I’m not spending a whole lot of time thinking about actual plans for the future.  Instead I’ve been pondering something much less concrete.  Lot’s of questions.  What’s next for me, personally? Who am I going to become? Will I change as much in the next four years as I have in the past four? Will they be changes for the better?

The only thing that is certain is that things will change; I will change.  I think that I’m becoming okay with that.  And as far as the quote above goes, I’m not so sure that I agree anymore.  I see the past more as a foundation for the future; right now, it’s the only thing solid underneath my feet.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that I’m about to sit down right now and cling tight to the past.  But I do think that the past contributes to our future more than we want to give it credit for.  We can either let it hold us back (like an anchor) or propel us forward.  I think it’s easy to think that we have to completely let our past go or bury it in order to move forward, but that’s just not how it works.

For me, this process of moving forward has been about embracing the things I love about my past and tweaking the things that need a little work.  Sure, there are some things that we can let go of, but to completely let go of the past would mean letting go of who you were.  I guess that’s the point that the quote makes, but I don’t think it’s right.  Who you are now and who you will be is based off of who you were in the past, and I just can’t let that go.  I can change certain things I don’t like and build upon certain things that I do like, but I can’t just let go of or ignore any of who I was in the past.  The past itself is not an anchor–it’s all in how we handle it.  We can hold ourselves back by living in the past, or we can embrace it and move forward.  Ultimately, it’s my choice, and I like the sound of that.

graduation announcement

This graduation announcement is one of the many drafts I went through before I finally created one that I absolutely loved.  (The final draft is going out in the mail this week!)  I have used most of my free time the past couple of days playing around with graduation announcements in Photoshop, and now that I am done I am realizing that creating and mailing graduation announcements means that graduation is SO SOON.  It seems strange that there are only 10 class days left and a week of finals.  I’m not so sure that I really understand what it will mean to be a college graduate, yet.  I don’t think it will feel real until January rolls around and everyone is moving back in without me.  I already have days where I get pretty emotional, so I cannot imagine what move-in day is going to feel like when I’m packing for China instead.  Don’t get me wrong–I am stoked about China.  To actually print, “Jessica plans to teach English in Beijing, China…” is thrilling and terrifying all at once.  It makes this a reality.  I am starting down a new path, and I can barely see the road ahead.

For the longest time, I was afraid that not being able to see down the path in front of me was a bad thing.  I have wrongly assumed that having uncertainties in my future meant that I had chosen the wrong path. I know that I’m going to China, but I have no idea what to expect.  I know that I’m applying to grad school, but I have no clue what will happen after that.  Surely that’s a sign that these are the wrong choices for my life, a lack of confirmation from God.  Well, I don’t believe that one bit.  In the past several months, I have learned a lot about Christian liberty, and that has been, well, liberating.  I have come to realize that I have the liberty to make choices in life that lead me down paths that I believe to be beneficial and enjoyable, as long as I seek to glorify the One who has made these paths for me.  When morality and the law do not prohibit an action, God grants us liberty to make life decisions using the wisdom that He has given us.  Even if I chose the RUF Internship or Teach for America, God would still use me.  Knowing that makes it less tempting to question my decisions and ask, ‘what if?’

homecoming no. 8

Do you ever have one of those days that takes you back several years and at the same time makes you wonder how the future will turn out?

My best friend from high school was nominated for homecoming court for her university.  When I found out about this a couple of weeks ago, I was not surprised at all.  Carmen is the kind of person who seems to instantly click with anyone she meets.  Carmen genuinely cares about people, and that really inspires the way she interacts with others.  It’s no surprise to me that everyone sees the best in her because that’s exactly what she does–she sees the best in everyone.  I am very proud of her for staying true to herself throughout college and for loving and inspiring others around her.

This is a photo of Mary Kathryn, myself, Carmen, and Carmen’s sister, Joy Beth, from the homecoming game today:

Honestly, the fact that Carmen was on the court was not what took me back to the days of high school.  It was more of the fact that this was one of the few times Carmen, Mary Kathryn, and I have been together since high school.  The summer right before my freshman year in high school, Mary Kathryn and I met when we were trying out for cheerleading and volleyball.  Carmen and I met the week before school started when we were both shopping for school supplies in Office Max with our moms.  I remember her mom picking up a rolling backpack with light up wheels, and we all laughed about how much we would get made fun of if we had those for the first day of high school.  In those moments, I had no idea just how much these two would mean to me over the course of high school.

This photo is from the first day of my junior year of high school.

Looking back on how far we have come together, and sometimes apart got me to thinking about where we will end up in five, ten, fifteen plus years.  We all seem to be going our separate ways: getting married, applying to Teach for America, living abroad in China.  Our lives really couldn’t be taking us in more different directions, but there is something in me that really wants to believe that the past we have all shared together is stronger than anything in the future that will threaten to pull us apart.  Perhaps that is wishful thinking, or perhaps that is exactly the kind of thinking that keeps good friends together–probably the former.  And even if we do not remain close (because let’s face it, we don’t always talk or hang out like we used to), we still have our memories that we have shared together.  I know that sounds trite, but there really is something powerful about a memory, don’t you think?

To close, here is one of my more recent favorite songs about high school memories:

When I think about you, I think about seventeen;
I think about my old jeep.  I think about the stars in the sky.
Funny how a melody sounds like a memory, like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night.