About me

My photo

My blog is my escape, where my passion for people & writing come together to create something special. Be inspired. Be encouraged. Be blessed. Much love & keep smiling. x

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Twenty fourteen.

As I reflect on the year that has quickly come to an end, I have realised that there is no better way to sum up 2014 as the "Year of Challenges & Self-improvement", as corny as that sounds. Out of the many valuable things I have learnt this year, I have refined the list down to just five. 

1. Be comfortable with who you are. 
Life is too short to be living each day trying to impress those around you. Do what you want, not what society tells you. Go against the grain. Be different. Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone and try new things. Embrace your flaws, your quirks, your talents and your passions. You are you because of these things and who is to tell you that they are right or wrong? 

2. Listen.
Listen to other people's opinions and thoughts, but be strong in what you believe and have your own opinions. Don't be narrow-minded. Instead, be open and willing to understand other's perspectives. You will not only gain respect from them, but you will learn to be accepting of others. 

3. HSC does suck. 
It's blunt, I know, but it's true. HSC does suck, but Year 12 as a whole has been one of the most incredible years by far. It has challenged me in ways I didn't know I could be - mentally and emotionally. It has been a year of many highs and many lows. I have made amazing friendships at school that I know will last me a lifetime, but it's also made me realise that there are some people I may drift from. There is minimal effort required with school relationships, because 5/7 days a week you are there. That said, the hardest part about leaving school is knowing that in order to maintain those friendships post-school, you actually need to be putting in a lot of time and effort now. 
But the thing I will miss a lot about school is, believe it or not, the uniform. I have always hated Mufti Days merely because I am incredibly indecisive when it comes to choosing what to wear. Uniforms made it so much easier, so here comes my first struggle of 2015. 

4. Do what makes you happy. 
Enjoy simplicity. Take your friends to the park and have a picnic. Go to a lookout with someone special. Take lots of photos. Follow your passions and work hard to become the person you want to. Do what makes you happy. If you aren't 100% committed and saying "heck yes!" to something, then drop it. Decisions can be hard, but ask yourself, will this matter this time next year? Because if the answer is no, then why are you worrying about it?

5. Set goals and believe you CAN. 
Don't give up on achieving your goals, even though I have learnt that sometimes you can try your hardest and still not quite be as successful as you had anticipated. A perfect example would be my HSC results. All year I have had a number plastered to my wall which represented the ATAR I needed to be eligible for my course. A few weeks ago we received our results from the Board of Studies and my marks were much better than I thought. I was pretty happy with how I had gone and as I averaged my marks in my head, I decided my ATAR would be within a few marks of what I needed. Unfortunately, all of my subjects were scaled down and although my ATAR was good, I was extremely disappointed that I had not achieved my goal. It is shattering when you strive to do your best and continually try, yet the results are not what you had worked so hard for. I broke down into tears - which reiterates my third point above. However, after some time reflecting over my results, I soon realised that I may not have received the ATAR required for my course, but I am eligible for many other similar courses. Days later I received an early offer from UWS and although I am still in the process of filtering through which university and course I would like to do most, it has allowed me to recognise that although I may not have achieved my goal, I tried my best this year and I am still able to study courses that I am interested in. Set goals and work hard to achieve them. If it happens to not turn out for the best, then look at it in a positive way and set a new goal, but never, ever stop trying. Because if you don't try, you have already failed.

So as 2015 rolls in, I want to say goodbye and thank you to a year of learning and hello to the year of new beginnings. It's scary and exciting all at once - bring it on. 

Keep smiling. x

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fear.

fearnoun // an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm caused by someone or something.

You didn't ask the lonely boy at the bus stop if he was okay, because you were afraid of his response. You didn't tell your parents about what happened the other night, because you were afraid they wouldn't understand. You decided to skip church last Saturday, because you were afraid of rejection. You ________________ because you were afraid. You fill in the gaps. But the question is, would you do it if you were not afraid?

Fear is something we cannot control and although we may not be able to have the ability to pick and choose what we are afraid of, we can decide how we react.
"Throw yourselves into the world and make your voice count. Do not be afraid of fear or the unknown, because it sharpens you, it challenges you and it makes you stronger. When you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self."
How will you ever know unless you don't try? I'm not suggesting you go and smoke that cigarette because you simply want to confirm that they taste terrible. Rather, I'm suggesting you step back and look at things from multiple perspectives - rationally and emotionally. Recognise the different angles and consider them all first. Don't be narrow-minded and be paralysed by your fear. Try new things and allow yourself to experience the beautiful things life has to offer, so that when your time comes you can look back at your life and have no reason to say, "God, just give me a couple more minutes, I forgot to..."

Keep smiling. x

Monday, November 17, 2014

No expectations

If there is something I have learnt this year, it's this - live life with no expectations. I don't know about you, but when I am looking forward to something I tend to picture how it will happen, what I will say, everything. I decide how I want things to fall in to place. I don't know why; perhaps I feel so confident with the scenarios in my head that I disregard the major factor of 'what if it doesn't go the way I planned?' I flip the coin, hoping for heads, but failing to recognise that there will always be the equal chance of tails.

I read an article by Mark Manson a few days ago titled "Heck yes or no" (okay, so the first word wasn't actually 'heck', but for the sake of this post that's what I'll refer to it as). Manson introduces the law of "Heck yes or no" which can be applied to friendships, relationships - any decision-making as it suits your current needs. However, if the decision involves two people, they both must be saying 'Heck yes' to the decision in order for it to happen. He says, "If I'm not saying 'Heck yes!' to something, then I say no." I found this a really interesting approach to making decisions about various situations in life. If you aren't one-hundred percent committed to something, then why let it consume you?

My Nan said something to me the other day that really made me think twice about everything. She was telling me a story about one of her friends (keep in mind, this friend would be about seventy-something) and how she only ever sits in her home by herself watching television. She never goes out of her way to meet new people let alone look outside every once in a while. My Nan believes, "that's not living, that's existing." I found this so powerful, particularly because my Nan is also seventy-something and I am only eighteen. If she believes that, then what am I doing with my life? We are only given one shot at it, so why not make the most of it and not just exist, but live?

So after lots of thinking, I've decided I am going to try my best to no longer create expectations in my head about things that are going to happen in my life. This doesn't mean my life goals are going to be thrown away, but rather I am going to make the effort to take each day as it comes and be realistic about it too. I am going to take on the "Heck yes or no" approach to my decision-making in life and I don't want to just exist, I want to live! I don't want to let my life be consumed by 'what if's, because I have realised that if we live with no expectations of the people we know or meet, no expectations of the places we travel to and no expectations of situations happening in our life, it's a win-win. We won't be as disappointed if things don't go our way, because there won't be a prior agenda we were trying to achieve. And more often than not, you will find yourself surprised with the outcome, because you hadn't already decided how it would work. Why try to control things that weren't meant to be controlled? No expectations. No regrets. 

Keep smiling. x

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

HSC? Done.

Oh hey life, I've missed you. 15 days, 7 exams and 17.5 hours of writing. That's it. Done. HSCyaLater. 

The stress; the nerves; the last minute cramming; the messy bedroom floor; the endless supply of black pens; the constant struggle of only highlighting the "important parts" but rather making it a challenge to see how little words can be left untouched; the countdown to freedom that feels like it's taking forever; the past papers and of course, the tears. 

I honestly can't believe that it is over. It came and it's gone and it all happened so quickly. I have this theory. You're either really good at Math or really good at English. And if you are lucky (or not so lucky?) to be blessed with the brains of both, then you have just proven my theory to be wrong. For me, I am definitely not a Math person. Give me words any day, but numbers, no thanks. The only numbers I like to see is your mobile number ;) *insert cringes and nervous laughter here*. (I know what' you're thinking - that was brilliant. You're welcome). 

It's funny though, the day before my Math exam I was outside studying in the shade. At one point, I began to feel really overwhelmed with the content I wasn't confident with. The questions were too hard and I was freaking out. I couldn't do this. How was I supposed to survive the 3 hour exam tomorrow? I was outside for about two or three hours and during that time the sun had moved (hello captain obvious) and I was now sitting in the sun, getting a mean-as sock tan mind you. 

The simple shift from shade to sunlight made me realise that time doesn't stop for anyone. Those three hours of absolute hell tomorrow would be over in less than 24 hours. We have to make the most of the time we have right now, because we will never, ever get it back. This motivated me to continue studying and do my best, because in a couple of days all of this would be over. And here I am, out the other end of the dreaded HSC month. 

Everyone has days where we are just sitting in the shade and it is not until the sun moves that we realise time keeps going. Make the most of the time you have with the people you're with. Enjoy the little things. Simplicity is what reminds us that life is beautiful, despite the HSC exams, the tiring work, the relationship issues...whatever you may be struggling with. Everything happens, but then everything finishes. So when you feel like your world is on a downwards spiral, remember that spirals eventually get smaller and smaller and when they reach the smallest point, they stop. The sun will move soon and the shadow keeping you down will shift. Trust me. 

Keep smiling. x

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

No limits.

Year 12 is winding up and life into adulthood is quickly approaching. I am currently in my last week of school, ever. I am trying to find the best way to explain how I am feeling right now and this will suffice. Imagine you have a hundred small pieces of paper in your hand and each one has a different emotion written on it. These feelings range from excited and enthusiastic to sad and nervous. You are holding the paper next to a fan and switch it on to high and all of a sudden they are scattered everywhere in a mess within a few seconds. 

School has been all I have ever known for the past thirteen years of my life. When you stop and think about it, you spend a massive chunk of your life there. My HSC exams are coming up in less than a month and what really does my head in the most is that you learn and study so hard in your final years just for six or seven exams. That's it. 

I think something I have learnt from school is that you can accomplish anything if you do not accept limitations. Whatever you make up your mind to do, you CAN do. I flicked over to Philippians 3 the other day and these verses really stood out to me.
"I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: by no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward - to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back...let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us." 
It made me realise that despite the HSC being a huge part of my life, at the end of the day it doesn't determine the person I am. My walk with God is the determinant in my life and that is something that I often forget. Particularly over these past few months with the stress of trial exams, major works, assignments and now the HSC, I haven't been able to focus solely on my relationship with God. James 4:12 says that "God is in charge of deciding our destiny", so why can't we just step back and let him takeover? 

Life was never meant to be easy, but I encourage you to step aside and say 'okay' to God. His plan for your life is so much bigger and better than you could ever imagine. No ATAR score, HSC exam or assignment mark can ever determine who you are as a person and where you will go in the future. Have a goal, be motivated by it and do your best. Never give up, because if you live confidently in the direction of your dreams you will end up living the life you imagined. 

Keep smiling. x

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Genie in a bottle.

I got home from school this afternoon to find out one of the world's most loved comedians and actors, Robin Williams had passed away. He was an incredible actor in "Mrs. Doubtfire", "Night at the Museum" and "Aladdin" just to name a few. I read a post on Facebook saying, "Genie, you're free now." Four simple words, yet it said so much. 

Robin Williams spent his life making others laugh and putting others first, but forgetting about being happy himself. His jokes, smiles and laughs were all a mask for the pain hidden underneath. 

This made me think; how many other people feel like this? A genie trapped in a bottle, putting on a mask, making others happy but feeling little, if any, happiness for themselves. There's only one way to feel free - to escape. 

Depression isn't something that can just simply go away. It is an illness. We have the responsibility to make sure those we talk to and spend time with are okay. All it takes is asking "how are you?" to show them you care. To give them life when they feel lifeless. To give them love when they don't feel loved. To make them feel special when they feel worthless.

Everyone deserves to be happy. Talk to that boy you saw sitting alone on the bus listening to music. Ask that lady serving you at the check-out how her day is going before she asks you. It doesn't take much. Sure, it may not fix how people feel and it probably won't fix any problems they are facing, but you are giving them something to smile about for a moment. A brief, beautiful moment where they feel that life is worth living, because as Robin Williams once said, "no matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world." 

Keep smiling. x

Sunday, July 13, 2014

God's Canvas

have spent the last two weeks of my school holidays at school; which totally defeats the purpose if you ask me. Yay for HSC! 

On Tuesday I got there at 9am ready for a full day of working on my major textiles project. I realised later that afternoon that I had spent three hours on some embroidery which should have taken no more than half an hour. 

I began to get fed up with my silly little mistakes and when it got to 5pm I was over it. I'd had enough and I was getting frustrated at myself. My project is due in a month and the stress was all starting to build up. I felt like a soft drink can full of emotion that had been shaken over-enthusiastically for what seemed like forever. I was ready to explode. I decided I should go outside and get some fresh air before the classroom became a crime scene. 

I walked out and headed towards the bathroom and on my way I looked up at the sky. It was absolutely incredible! God had painted his canvas with splashes of pink and orange. I couldn't believe it, but I found myself smiling. What had happened to me? I was about to strangle someone less than a minute ago! How had a simple sunset like this changed my whole attitude? 

It was as if God was looking at me smiling, shaking his head and saying, "Jess, what are you doing? Don't get worked up over small things like this. Keep going, you can do this. Chin up kiddo." 


His beautiful artwork reminded me that it may not be a good day, but there is something good in every day. You just have to look for it, because like a sunset, it might not last very long, but it can change your entire mood. 

Keep smiling. x

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The House with the Pretty Garden

As she reached the end of the street she stopped and looked at the house in front of her. The old wooden gate was open, displaying a beautiful, inviting garden. The brightly coloured flowers looked like a constellation of stars unwilling to fade away with the moon as morning broke. The lawn was freshly mowed and the smell of the grass permeated the air around her. The garden was well looked after and welcomed anyone passing by. 

However despite it's obvious beauty, the silence was deafening. The house stood still and quiet in the background, masked by the serenity of what lay before it. What was happening inside those walls? Was anyone home? It was impossible to know. 

Something inside her stirred. She wanted to know. She walked through the wooden gate, down the paved pathway and past the flawless canvas of flowers, thinking that people are like houses; the ones with the neat and pretty gardens are often a mess inside.

Keep smiling x

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Flying high.

I was sitting at the park by myself the other day (I have friends, I swear). I was about to open up a book to read but was distracted by a little girl laughing. I watched her as she ran as fast as she could to allow her kite to rise off the ground. Once she had reached top speed the kite started to lift itself into the air. A short time later she began to get tired from running and her run turned into a jog, which quickly converted into a walk then a complete stop. Meanwhile, the kite was losing all its motivation to stay off the grass.

Just before the girl collapsed to the ground exhausted, an older boy, who I assumed was her brother, came to her rescue and collected the kite in his hands. He began running at full speed and with a face full of determination, it was clear that he wasn't giving up anytime soon. The little girl looked at her brother smiling and found the energy to get up and run along behind him. 

If someone was to ask me what I did at the park that day, they probably would think I am a total creep watching children play. All I know is that those kids taught me a lesson. There are things that are challenging me in life at the moment and sometimes it feels like flying my kite is getting tiring and honestly, it is exhausting. Constantly running to keep it in the air can be difficult and just when we lose all momentum and start to fall behind, our kite begins to drop. The best part is that right before we collapse and feel like we will never get back up again, God comes along and picks up the kite in His hands. He holds onto it and never lets go, running full speed and not losing sight of where we need to be.


So if all you get from this is that maybe watching little kids at the park isn't all that weird, that's okay (unless you are a middle-aged man, then that's not okay). The point is, maybe we can learn something from other people and their actions. Trying to keep your kite off the ground gets difficult sometimes, but we need to remember that just before we give up and it falls, God is there to fly our kite for us and He never lets go. We just have to get on our feet again and run with Him, because when it comes to flying kites, He is the expert.

Keep smiling. x

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Powerlines

I just got back from a week away serving the small community of Nyngan. Saying it was amazing would be an understatement. It was life-changing. I was able to strengthen not only my relationship with the kids there and those within the STORMco team, but also with God. There were times during the trip where I felt drained of energy and found it challenging to wake up the next morning with a smile on my face. I found that praying gave me bursts of strength and energy that I didn't know still existed.

A lot goes through your mind when you are travelling on a bus for nine hours. You get a lot of time to stop and think about everything. On our way home on Saturday I was able to reflect on my week away in Nyngan. I realised how much of an impact I made on the children there. Even though all I did was spend two hours a day with them for four days playing tip, throwing a ball, piggy-backing and holding their hand, I had made them happy. One girl asked me if I could stay in Nyngan forever with them and didn't understand why I had to leave. We had been the hands and feet of Jesus through our actions. Through our service we had shown them God's unconditional love that He has for every single one of them. We weren't paid to go over to Nyngan. Instead we gave up our free time during the holidays to go to the middle of nowhere for a week, but seeing the smiles light up their little town was priceless.

Another thing that I realised was that our faith in God is like powerlines. The powerlines stretch out long distances finding a connection where they can reach their power supply. The telegraph poles help the powerlines in reaching the supply and spreading the electricity where it is needed. Our Christian journey and faith in God is similar to this. We are constantly searching for that supply of energy, strength and power that we need to continually grow. God is like the telegraph poles that help us stay off the ground and keep on going. We rely on Him to give us the stability we need in order to maintain positivity and faith in Him.

Once we get to the cross of the telegraph pole, God allows us to continue on our journey, but He is always there supplying us with the strength we need. We have the opportunity to share that with other people wherever we find a need that we can fill. This Easter, I encourage you to remember that God died on the cross for every single one of us, despite what you are going through now or what you have already been through. He loves us no matter what and even through the storms and blackouts we experience in life, He still stands. When we connect together as powerlines and fix ourselves to His never ending supply, we can be the change and light up an entire city.

Keep smiling. x

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hey God.

Last week really tested my relationship with God. I got home early during my double study period on Wednesday afternoon. I was emptying my lunchbox when I realised only one of my two dogs were home. 

When I said hello to my parents I asked where Mango was; our crazy little red-head Border Collie, and they said that she was at the Vet. She was in the middle of an operation where a hole was being drilled into the side of her head to release pressure that had built up over time. This was the second time she had an operation to remove the pressure. Even though it was causing her pain, on the outside she looked like the normal, crazy, cheeky, fun and energetic dog we looked forward to coming home to every afternoon for the last eight years. 

This afternoon, however, was quite different. I sat down on the floor with Maxi by my side, our black and white Border Collie. I distracted myself with my homework and decided that I should pray. I talked to God for about ten solid minutes. I thought it was a pretty good effort. I asked him if he could heal Mango and make sure that the message from the Vet to my mum would be positive feedback. "Amen."

About twenty minutes later the phone rang and Mum answered it. She had it on loud speaker and I listened, waiting patiently for the 'positive feedback'. His answer was not what I intended. It wasn't what I asked God for only minutes prior to this moment. 

"Cathy, we are in the middle of the operation and things aren't looking too good at all. Mango's skull is actually black, it is soft and crumbling. It is literally falling apart. The cancer has spread around her head and the pressure will only just keep coming back. She is in so much pain and I believe the best thing to do is to keep her asleep. Of course though, it is your call. What would you like me to do?" I looked at Dad, thinking that he would tell Mum to allow them to wake Mango up so we could say our last goodbyes before she was gone forever. But no. It was, in fact, the exact opposite that happened. 

"No, if she is in that much pain and it is that serious, don't wake her up." Really God? Really. Did you even hear me or was I just talking to myself? That's it. She was gone. Just like that. 

I guess, at first, I blamed God for it all. For taking our beloved dog away. She was part of the family; Maxi's best friend. And now, he was going to be lost, wandering around waiting for her to never return. It was heart breaking watching him look around the backyard for her. Many tears and tissues later, I began to really think about what had happened rather than just flood myself in grief. God wasn't to blame. He had heard my prayer, but he had also done the best thing for Mango. I was so selfish. She was in so much pain and all I could think about was myself and how much I would miss her. 

It was only then that I realised my family had to be in pain for a short-time emotionally in order for Mango to be physically pain-free forever. I suppose sometimes we really need to stop and remember that God's plan may not always go the way we hoped, but His plan is always better in the end. We just have to scrape past the initial surface to see what lies beneath. The little bumps along the way may hurt us; emotionally or physically, but these things make us stronger and with God's strength, we can make it through anything.

Keep smiling. x


Friday, February 14, 2014

Free hugs

February 14. A day where couples buy each other small gifts to show their love for one another. A day when best friends are silly, write corny jokes and stick them in each other's lockers. A day when husbands 'surprise' their wives with some flowers or chocolate. A day when it is apparently acceptable to sell a single rose for a ridiculous price of up to $5.

Today, we did things a bit differently at school. I decided we should make Valentine's Day a fun day where everyone could appreciate the friendships they have with their school mates and share the love. I made small cards with a few words from the Bible saying how much God loves us and the Year 12s handed them out to all the students. We dressed up in red and pink with signs that read 'Free Hugs'. Kids would run up to us and get a hug, then we would give them a label reading, "I've been hugged. Have you? Happy Valentine's Day." To be honest I think they enjoyed getting stickers more than the hugs. Some kids would come over and say, "Can I just have a sticker please?" and I had to try and tell them, "Well sweetie, you have to get a hug first." Then they would run away as I opened up my arms. I'm not that scary, really.

One little boy in Grade 5 was sitting at a table with two of his friends. I went up to them and asked if they wanted a free hug. The other two friends looked at me weirdly and were clearly not interested. I assumed the little boy would follow what his friends were doing and not want a hug either, so I was about to leave when he jumped up excitedly and said, "Wait Jess, can I have a hug?" I turned around smiling and of course I said yes! I gave him a hug and a label and then moved on to the next bunch of kids sitting at a lunch table. A few minutes later the same boy came up to me again and said, "I know I've already had a hug, but can I have another one?" I was amazed. This boy was going out of his way just to get a hug. 

It wasn't a big deal for me, dressing up and giving hugs to the kids at school. I was just spreading the vibe of Valentine's Day and sharing the love. Girls were coming up to me with stickers plastered all over their uniforms. Not even halfway through lunchtime and I had a group of Year 7 girls following me hugging other kids and sharing their labels. It made me realise how much of an impact us 'big kids' have on the younger ones. They look up to us so much and just by doing simple things like remembering their name or giving out free hugs made their day. What really made me smile was the fact that they were joining in and spreading the love too. A chain reaction; almost like a domino effect of hugs.

So next Valentine's Day, go out of your way to make someone else smile. It can be as simple as giving them a hug or just writing them an unsigned note saying 'someone loves you.' Those things make a big difference, whether you know it or not.

Keep smiling. x