Indulge endlessly in all that inspires your soul. You’ll never get bored.

“When we submit to God’s plans, we can trust our desires. Our assignment is found at the intersection of God’s plan and our pleasures… Each of us has been made to serve God in a unique way… The longings of your heart, then, are not incidental; they are critical messages. The desires of your heart are not to be ignored; they are to be consulted. As the wind turns the weather vane, so God uses your passions to turn your life. God is too gracious to ask you to do something you hate.”

As Christians, we are taught to follow God’s Plan for our lives, and ask for His guidance when we feel lost. Mere months after getting the promotion I asked and worked hard for, I found myself, instead, being pulled down a different, but old and familiar path. So I prayed, asking God for a sign. Days later, I read the devotional above, and knew the path I felt compelled to walk again is exactly where God was leading me.

A year ago, I left my news job in Lubbock to live out my life in Austin. “You’ll miss it,” one coworker told me my final day. Though the possibility of that becoming truth couldn’t formulate in my mind at the time, his words never left me. Now, just 12 months later, I was feeling pulled back into the newsroom. I did miss it.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift; the purpose is to give it away.” I’m not sure whether to attribute the quotation to Pablo Picasso, William Shakespeare, or some other person, but it seemed fitting, reading it the same week I was offered a job back in news – this time where I feel most at home, in Austin. The process of applying, interviewing, and accepting the offer went so quickly, I knew I was not only following the desires of my heart, but also the path God created for my life.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

God wants us to thrive, so everyone sees the beauty of Him, through us. I left the news industry because I felt discouraged and distraught, but that doesn’t mean being a part of the industry wasn’t part of God’s Plan; it just wasn’t His timing. I believe God puts passions on our hearts as signs, leading us down the path He has mapped out for our lives. If you wake up each morning and ask yourself what God’s Purpose is for your life, take a moment to think about the scenarios you daydream about, what inspires you, and what persuades you to be a better version of yourself. I truly believe living in Austin and working for the news are two passions God placed on my heart for very deliberate purposes, and at very deliberate times.
And I couldn’t be more grateful that He did.

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God Bless Texas

“I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study, and the passionate possession of all Texans.”

– John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

It’s been six months since I’ve moved to Austin, and I’m more in love with Texas than ever before. When I moved to Lubbock 5 1/2 years ago, I questioned why all my classmates were obsessed with the state. I didn’t have anything against Texas, but their obsessive love made me defend my belief that it was “just a state,” as was every other state. Nothing special.

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At work a few weeks ago, my boss interrupted me to point out, “the girl from Ohio is wearing a Texas necklace.” The tables have turned.

A week before receiving the gold chained state with a heart precisely where Austin resides, I gushed to my cousins about how great Texas is, in an attempt to get everyone to move to my oasis. The truth is, I’ve become that boastful Texan, proud to flaunt my license and ready at any moment to talk about my Lone Star home.

But I don’t think the expansive landscape is what caused me to fall head over heels; it’s that, this place I call home, is what shaped me into the woman I am today. Stepping out from everything I knew at 18, to come to Texas for school, alone, forced me to define who I wanted to be.

Now, more than five years later, I can look back and see the transformation and growth my life has lived. I am proud of whom I’ve become, what I stand for, how I present myself, and where I foresee myself going next. Discovering myself has brought happiness to my life, and recognizing that happiness makes me want to help others find their happiness, which, spoken like any good Texan, means moving South.

Negotiating: It’s About More Than Just Money

Benefits at your new gig are about much more than just your paycheck every two weeks. Many people think of asking for a few thousand dollars more a year when they go into the office to negotiate a deal, but salary isn’t the only thing to take into consideration.

† Insurance

The majority of working people can’t say no to insurance. It wouldn’t be a smart decision come flu season, not to mention wellness visits and dentist checkups. But, if you are under 26 and your parents allow you to stay on their insurance policy – DO IT.

Insurance is a major deduction from your paycheck. If this is your first major job out of college and you have no children, you’ll be able to save up a great deal of cash if you forfeit insurance. And not only does it benefit you, keeping your hard earned money for yourself, it’s great for your company too because you are one less person they have to pay for, should you need surgery or medications.

A good place to start is how many years you don’t need an insurance plan. If you are 23, ask for an extra $3,000 because the company won’t have to pay anything toward your medical expenses for three years.

† Paid time off/sick leave

As someone who was given only two holidays off a year and had no vacation days for the first six months, paid time off is a big deal, especially your first missed Christmas home. Again, if you are forfeiting a health insurance plan, ask for a few extra paid days off in place of a higher salary.

You may think the money is more important than a couple extra days to yourself, but averaged out, $3,000 is only a little over $100 extra a paycheck – easy to spend without realizing it. Try taking an extra day with your family next Easter, and you’ll see a drop in your paycheck if the day wasn’t taken as paid vacation.

† Growth opportunities

You can’t exactly negotiate growth opportunities before you start working. No company is going to promise a promotion to someone they haven’t yet seen hit the books, but setting a time for a raise, say six months or a year, is security for both you and your employer. You are promised a more comfortable paycheck, and your employer is promised time not spent hiring someone to fill your vacant spot.

Conclusion
The next time you go into your boss’s office to talk about a raise, don’t take no to a higher salary as defeat. Negotiate things other than straight cash, and you both can walk out happy. For more on negotiating an entry-level job offer, check out websites like H&R Block or Forbes.

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Image courtesy of Tumblr, wswcmom

A time for reflection, A time to please God: Lent

Lent is a time of reflection and a time to work toward pleasing God, and as a practicing Catholic, I love the “mid-year New Year” where I’m filled with renewed hope and a passion for bettering myself and my community. For Lent this year, I’ve challenged myself to volunteer at one new place each week, to eventually discover where I’d like to continually volunteer for the next while. I’m a little behind, so I’ll be visiting two places next week, but I went to an assisted living center one day this week – and loved it!

Courtesy: Photobucket

I’m not the most patient person, which was something I vowed to improve January 1, so I didn’t know how much I would enjoy time with the elderly, or how much they would enjoy having me around. I was happily surprised.
Being around those that are happy and thankful, in the daylight (I work third-shift. If I’m awake after work, I’m basically sleep-walking, aware of the sun) was so refreshing. I felt renewed, despite not taking a nap that day. They were smart and easy-going, not to mention quirky – they all had a unique personality. I had such a good time that I’ve already committed to volunteering more, though I’ll continue my promise to try a new place each week.
Besides putting me in a good mood for the rest of the day, it has given me the idea to apply for assisted living jobs. I’m not in nursing, but my communication and writing skills can be put to good use when it comes to activities, newsletter and volunteer coordination. I’ve seen some in the past that I pushed aside, thinking I wouldn’t enjoy them, but I’m going to revisit those options. Not only do I think I could enjoy them now, I feel like my work would be purposeful and please God, wrapping it all back around to the point of Lent.

The Holidays: Near and Far

The holidays can be tough for a number of reasons. Maybe you can’t see your family over Thanksgiving or Christmas, or maybe you can… but wish those celebrations weren’t so long.

Choosing a university halfway across the country has cost me the past five wishbone pulls and day-after decorating, but it has opened my eyes to other traditions. I’ve been welcomed into four homes for the famous feast since 2010, letting me in on celebrations from families near and far.
For the past two years, my extended family has ditched gift-giving in place of sending boxes of necessities and treats to active servicemen and women. I’ll be missing Christmas this year as well, but I know from last year, the change was much welcomed; no hard feelings or disruptions from the once a year catch-ups to unwrap something we don’t really need.

What I’ve learned from these two changes from the norm is, no matter where you are, people care about you. When I can’t be with my family on the holidays, other people are willing to reach out to me. And when our military men and women are away, my family does our small part to help them feel close to home. It’s hard being away, but in a sense, it’s easier to experience the real meaning of the holidays: expending love toward one another.

There’s more to life than being happy

Having it all. A lot of people think it’s this balancing act. Great job. Perfect kids. Gorgeous husband. Money. Vacations in The Hamptons.

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I’m a little simpler. I thought having it all meant being happy. Whatever makes YOU happy. If what makes you happy is that balancing act, great.

For me, dreaming about moving in Austin, Texas where I can live an active life and try new things every weekend makes me happy.

But constantly searching for happiness left me discouraged with ever roadblock and challenge that came my way. Then I stumbled upon an online article at The Atlanic that changed my mind. It’s not happiness you should search for, it read, but meaning.

I used to think the two basically meant the same thing. If you’re happy, you probably have some feeling of meaning in your life, and if you feel like you have meaning in your life, you’re probably pretty happy. I now see how the two are different, but I still think they go hand-in-hand.
Finding meaning can lead to a fulfilled life, even though it requires sacrifices that may not always make you happy. Living a meaningful life means giving, which may include giving up sleeping in on Saturdays to volunteer somewhere. But I think in time, the sacrifices won’t seem much like sacrifices. And you can find happiness in the giving nature your life becomes.

So I’m going to start searching for a meaning instead of simply happiness. Go along with where I’m being lead and what I’m being dealt. I don’t know what sacrifices I’ll have to make, but I hope in time, even they will bring meaning and happiness to my life.