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b2ap3_thumbnail_P10405671.jpgThis week I did something I've never done before, something that I, and I'm sure many people out there, have wanted to do, even if just to cross it off their bucket list: I climbed a mountain. Not just any mountain, either, but Slieve Donard, the highest mountain not only in Northern Ireland's Mourne Mountain range, but in the country all together. I wasn't originally going to; my friends and I just wanted to go into the Mournes, because they're pretty and I know songs about them. The woman at the visitor center pointed it out, though, and informed us of its status, and we thought, "why not?" 

Well, there are a good many reasons "why not." It's exhausting and takes forever, and just when you think you're almost there, you round a bend and see a whole other portion you couldn't before, and you can almost hear the stupid mountain mocking your pain. Then you get to the top and have to hang on tight because you feel like you're going to be blown clear off the other side. I don't know if I'd ever had quite so clear a demonstration of the "fear of God," before, but the peak of that mountain painted a pretty spectacular analogy for me. By the time I was done I was spent. I had blisters, my feet were no longer positive they knew how to function properly, my legs felt like jelly and I was starving. 

And it was incredible. 

I think anyone who has ever done something like this can liken it to a life lesson or something philosophical. There are certainly enough songs out there to prove it (ex. "Climb Every Mountain," "The Climb," etc.). Most people have "mountains" in their lives and it's nice to hear songs that encourage you through them.  However, actually pounding the pavement, so to speak, definitely gives you a fresh perspective, (as well as a good deal more respect for the characters in Lord of the Rings). 

Standing on the top of Slieve Donard, I felt a lot of things. I wasn't kidding when I said I was afraid I was going to be blown away, because I was legitimately terrified; the wind was quite literally pushing me around. At one point it actually knocked me over. I wasn't kidding about the "fear of God" comment either. As petrified as I was of it, I was in complete awe of the gusts' power, and really, genuinely grateful for it the last few feet up the slope, because I wasn't positive I'd make it if not for that push.

 I also felt wonder; I don't think you can look down at the world from that high and not experience a sense of wonder. This earth is truly a beautiful creation, and this island is a chilly little paradise as far as I'm concerned. One of the biggest things I felt, though, was a crazy sense of “Wow." Wow, look at this; wow, I'm on top of a mountain; wow, wow, wow, I did it, I made it. On top of all of that, too, I knew I couldn't have done it without a little help; I kept sending silent wee prayers up periodically, and I couldn't help but send up one of thanks when that strong wind forced me up that last stretch. I hate to sound cliché, but it felt like one of those life lessons to me. I didn't think I could make it, and with His help, I did. I think that says a lot. 

So yes, it was hard; yes, it was grueling; yes, I was genuinely afraid I was going to die. There were points I wanted to stop and go no further, but I am forever going to be grateful that I kept going. Because, at the end of it all, it was amazing, and so, so worth the trouble. 

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_resized.jpgThe first week here in Ireland, I and all of the other international students had lots of things to do. We had meetings to go to, classes to schedule, activities planned for us and shopping to complete. Meanwhile, we were all getting settled into our new home and conquering jet lag. 

However, after all of that, we were rewarded with the real reason we all really came to Ireland- a little bit of traveling.  Everywhere we've been has been incredible. There are artifacts in museums from B.C. that are really well preserved because of the boggy landscape of Ireland! There are artifacts from the 1600s and before, and it boggles my brain that the ones from the 1800s aren't as big of a deal here, when that would be the pinnacle of most American museums. 

Derry/Londonderry has a wall running through it that dates back to the sixteenth century! We visited a castle- a castle! And we were allowed to walk around and through it, to touch it and to take pictures. It was absolutely gorgeous and thrilled me through and through.  The history here is so well preserved and tangible and it's really easily accessible to the public, all of which has my little history-major-heart dancing. 

However, as stupendous as the history is, it manages to pale in comparison to the land itself.  One of our most amazing trips was to the Causeway; it's a place that is so strange, unique and beautiful, unlike anything I have ever seen before. The cliffs of the Irish coastline, too, are absolutely breathtaking; they are something that you could just stare at forever and never tire of their allure. 

The inland is full of rolling hills and mountains, and the colors on a sunny day- or, you know, sunny 20 minute spurts- don't really seem real. They seem like something that someone photo shopped to make more vibrant. This country sometimes seems unreal; it takes my breath away.

 That's the point, I guess.  The manmade things are wonderful, and I really can't get enough of the towns and their histories. But the things that aren't man made, the things that God etched onto the world for our pleasure, are infinitely more magnificent. These things that He made are an incredible reminder of how man can do amazing things, but even then God is so much more powerful and awe-inspiring. It's slightly terrifying, actually, but at the same time an amazing comfort. 

 

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I have always believed that service is an important part of society, but before my time at Waynesburg University, I had never been the type to give it. Not because I ever thought I was too good to serve, but more because I had never felt good enough to serve. Joining the Waynesburg community meant having to serve at some point during my college career, and I was anxious of how I could make a difference.

Little did I know, enrolling in service learning would change my life forever.

Having always loved animals, I chose to conduct my service work at the Humane Society of Greene County. Walking in on my first day, I had no idea what to expect.

When the director began discussing what I could do to help, I began praying they would involve no animal interaction whatsoever. In fact, on my first two days I kept busy scrubbing the inside and outside of every door in the building, setting packages of food on the shelves and working the front desk, answering phones and interacting with customers. I wanted to help the cause, but at a distance. Still, I felt my heart yearning for more.

That's when I was approached with a new request.

The director began talking with me about some of my passions and when I mentioned photography and writing, her face lit up. With a new website and an overload of incoming animals, I was asked if I could help. I could see where the conversation was going, but I wasn't sure I could do what she wanted me to.

Taking photographs of and writing articles about these animals meant getting up close and personal with every single one of them. It broke my heart to think I would have to see their suffering firsthand and tell them they wouldn't find what they were looking for from me; I couldn't give them the love and stability they were desperately searching to find.

But seeing the hope the director had, I accepted her proposition.

As I began working, I realized I had a lot to offer. I was nervous about using my gifts to serve, but God gave me the opportunity to shine and what began as a course requirement quickly developed into a passion for the greater good—helping animals find their “forever homes.”

In the words of Frederick Buechner, "The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."

To me, volunteering at the Human Society has not been fulfilling community service hours. It is a commitment fueled by a passion to make a difference in the lives of the animals, who can't do it for themselves. I know I made the right decision when I walked through those doors on the first day.

I know I was led there to make a difference the best way I can—through the gifts God has provided me. I thank Him, and the staff at the shelter, for encouraging me and allowing me to find my passion for serving.

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This past week marked the halfway point of my internship with Mary Kay. Five weeks finished; five more to go. In between my 40-hours of work per week, I have either been eating, sleeping ... or playing softball with the Cross Timbers Community Church members.

No, playing softball is not included in my internship for credit, but I consider it a part of my summer internship experience. If not for my internship opportunity bringing me to this neck of the country, I would not be in Texas for the summer, able to play softball with Cross Timbers.

As I have already disclosed in previous posts, I am not an athlete. Sometimes I like to dress the part and pretend to be one, but my lack of knowledge about the finer points of the game in combination with my inability to run fast or jump high will always speak the truth.

I am not an athlete.

During one particular softball game, my athleticism and know-how of the game was put to the test. It was one of those times when the bases were loaded, my team had 2 outs and I was next to bat.

Terrific.

As I approached the plate, I made it my goal to hit the ball as hard as I could and run.

Just hit the ball. Just hit the ball. Just hit the ball and then run fast! I thought.

First pitch was a strike. I told myself I had two more pitches to swing at, but when the umpire judged the second pitch a strike and an out, I was confused. I thought I had another chance. Three strikes and then you're out, right?

Well, it was that moment when I learned a new rule in slow pitch softball: you approach the plate with 1 strike and 1 ball already under your belt. I felt like an idiot for playing more than half of our games completely ignorant to that rule.

As easy as it was to beat myself up about it, I decided to make a positive experience out of it. The silver lining to being the third out with the bases loaded was that I would be sure to never make the same mistake in future softball games.

It turned out to be a great learning experience because I played my best in our last softball games, and my team (appropriately called the Blue Team because, you guessed it, we wore blue jerseys) went undefeated in the tournament to end our season! Blue Team even received t-shirts that name us as the 2013 Tournament Champs.

While rookie mistakes can lead to disappointment, they can also lead to far more improvement with a slight adjustment of perspective. After all, even champions have made rookie mistakes before.


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Clip-clop. Clip-clop. Clip-clop.

In a 13-floor building where women represent 63 percent of the employees, the sound of both high and low heels echo throughout the building. It is the very first thing I noticed on day one of my internship. The sound of women's shoes is especially prominent in the mornings, when everyone moves from the parking garage to the Mary Kay Building to their offices.

Now, I know heels are not a novelty item in American society. Yes, I have worn heels in places besides the halls of the Mary Kay Building. But when I wear heels at school or to other events, all I think about is when I can take them off. If you've ever visited the Waynesburg University campus, you would agree that heels and hills do not work well together.

At Mary Kay, however, the sound of heeled shoes represents hundreds of women making a difference in the workplace. It represents a company of people celebrating 50 years of progress and success. It represents women being bold in the workplace and being leaders. The sound of clip-clopping heels reminds me of the founder Mary Kay Ash, a woman with a great vision and heart for helping others.

Mary Kay is an organization that values people and values women. The Mary Kay Foundation helps in the fight against domestic violence and strives to see the elimination of cancer from our society. The company was founded on the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Even in the office, I see men always holding the elevator doors open for ladies. It is a simple gesture, but it makes me appreciate the culture within the Mary Kay Building even more.

Hearing my shoes clip-clop in the hallways with the other ladies in the Mary Kay Building reminds me every morning that I can make a difference as a female in the workplace, that I can be a leader. It reminds me that one woman, Mary Kay, took a huge step of faith and leadership 50 years ago and has since influenced and impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of women.

Including me.

I unfortunately did not have the honor of meeting or talking to her, but I like to imagine Mary Kay took that first step wearing a pair of heels... Maybe even pink heels.


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