“Insert Title Here” by Amanda Hawkins

Have you ever wanted to write an amazing title, but all you could think of was something lackluster like Romeo and Juliet, Emma, or Tom Sawyer?

Well, okay. Maybe titles do not make or break true masterpieces, but fast forward to the Information Age, where many different distractions compete for readers’ attention, especially in online articles. Even the few articles that people do choose to read, they do not read for long. In fact, according to Time, most readers will quit reading this article right now. Why? Because fifty-five percent of readers of online articles spend fewer than fifteen seconds reading an article (Haile, “What You Think You Know,” par. 8). Terrific titles are essential for authors who want to persuade readers to invest in the rest of the words on the page.

Dr. Kenneth Covinsky, associate editor of JAMA-Internal Medicine, explains, “Your title really matters! … [A]udiences only read a small fraction of the content in print journals…. If the title is boring or uninteresting, they will proceed no further…. Don’t let all of your hard effort developing your paper go to waste with a bad title” (“Advice to Authors,” pars. 1, 5, 7).

People in scientific fields, such as Dr. Covinsky, are beginning to recognize the importance of having creative titles. But even if authors want to produce effective headlines, many do not possess a system for composing them. Before my sophomore year, I found myself in that exact position. Even after I was convinced that I needed to construct improved headlines, I did not have a system for composing classy titles. Thanks to Dr. Marv Hinten, Friends University professor emeritus, I now have some creative ideas to boost my papers to a whole new level. Dr. Hinten shared with my fall 2016 editing class five ways to craft clever titles.

First, use allusions. In other words, refer to an idea that readers are familiar with without explicitly mentioning the original source. For example, an author writing about the need for positive role models in society could title his/her article “Superkids: The Amazing Power of Multitasking in Youth.”

Second, use puns, which are plays on commonly used words. Dr. Hinten shared the example of an article titled “Everything You Auto Know on Car Care.”

Third, incorporate rhymes into your titles. The title of this article could have been, “Why Is My Title Vital?”

Fourth, be a superhero and use alliteration to create tantalizing titles. Clark Kent, Peter Parker, and Wonder Woman all have alliterative names.

Finally, present paradoxical statements. When something is different than it seems it should be, it typically attracts the reader’s attention. Doesn’t the title “The Kindness of Cruelty” want to make you keep reading to see how this can be true?

Vivid imagination and clear direction—these two aspects combined are what a clever title will include. Not only will authors and readers be inspired to think more creatively about the world, but also clear communication can take place between the author and the reader. All of us,

whether we are Shakespeare lovers or Einstein followers, have something to communicate. So, next time your paper is one of a pile of twenty-five on the professor’s desk, make it stand out from the stack with a terrific title!


Photograph made available by Mike Tinnion via Unsplash

“Go and Relax” by Madalyn Swinicki

Have you ever been sitting on the couch watching Netflix when all of a sudden there is a earthy smell in the air? You sit there, ponder on the smell and realize that your window is open. Do not get up to shut the window. Get up and go outside.

Our generation were the last to make mud pies and climb trees. We have lost that form of entertainment to the infamous smart technology. Remember how fun it was to explore in the woods and jump over streams? Doing dangerous things that you parents would disapprove of? Today starts the movement of bringing back time in nature.

There is no need for 18-23 year olds to go making mud pies but taking a step outside to admire the beauty of God will bring an abundance of joy to your life. Surrounding yourself in God’s artwork distresses yourself. There are a few ways to do this. Instead of cooping yourself up in a small room with white walls surrounding you, go outside and do your homework. Grab a hammock, grab some friends and see how high you can stack hammocks together. Take a nature walk. If you are one of those people who do not like getting dirty, go to the zoo and find some peace! If there are too many things going on inside, I challenge you to decorate your room with flowers and greenery. Studies have shown that nature is stress relieving. It decreases your heart rate, relaxes your muscles, and contributes to your overall well being. Nature also has scientists researching its effects on mortality.

I challenge you next time you want to get up and close your window because the smell of nature is ruining How I Met Your Mother, take a deep breath, turn off the television, put on those walking shoes, go to a park and just walk. Allow yourself to focus on breathing and de-stress. You will become addicted to the effects nature has on you.


Photograph made available by Anthony Tran via Unsplash

“Carrying Capacity of Fox Squirrels on Friends University Campus” by Heather Chamberlain

Carrying Capacity of Fox Squirrels on Friends University Campus

By Heather Chamberlain

Introduction: Fox squirrels can be found throughout much of Central and Eastern United States, as well as further north into southern Canada. These squirrels are identified by their brownish-reddish fur and orange underbellies. Surprisingly, fox squirrels are omnivores. Though they may prefer to eat nuts, they will eat just about anything they can get their hands on; from wild fruit, seeds, insects, mushrooms, even occasionally bird eggs, to tree bark, and anything trying to sprout up in your garden. In summer, they build nests of leaves and/or twigs high up in forked branches of a shady tree. They do not hibernate, so in winter a preferred nesting site would be a hollow tree in which plant material can be brought in to create a warm rest area.

In Kansas, fox squirrels are the most commonly encountered type of squirrel of the three species inhabiting the state. Friends University in Wichita is an optimal habitat for these squirrels to thrive. However, every supporting ecosystem has its limits. Carrying Capacity is the maximum number of a species that an environment can sustain before its resources are depleted. Even an ideal environment, such as Friends University, can only carry so many squirrels for so long. The resources fox squirrels benefit from at this university are an abundance of multiple species of shady trees, and about half of them nut- and fruit-producing. According to Darwin’s idea of biotic potential, a population of squirrels in an area of bountiful resources will continue to grow. As it does, the population will need to expand to new grounds or risk exhausting resources, or even possibly extinction. The objective of this report is to determine how many fox squirrels the Friends University campus may successfully sustain.

Methods: The Friends University Campus measures 54.5 acres. The experiment was conducted using a sample of trees from roughly 2 acres of campus landscape. The trees in this area were measured by circumference and determined as nesting and/or food sites. The number of trees examined in this sample equaled approximately 54. On the 54.5 acres of campus, there are 18 buildings. Using the dimensions of the largest building on campus, estimates were made as to how many of those acres contain biotic vs. abiotic features. One acre is the equivalent of 43,560 square feet. Davis Hall measures 77,474 square feet. Rounding this number up, the building equals roughly 2 acres. If we roughly estimate the other 17 buildings on campus as about half the size of Davis Hall, also incorporating additional features not directly measured like walkways and other small areas non-sustainable for squirrels, this roundabout estimate leaves us with 35 acres of land left. There are just about as many parking lots as there are buildings, and they measure an even greater number of feet; not to mention the length of the football field. We’ll take another 25 acres off our total for those features as well.

Results: What is left is a very rough estimate of 10 acres for wildlife habitat. If we take our calculations for the 2 acres of land examined, and apply it to another 8 acres, it should give us an approximate idea as to how many squirrels can sustainably live on Friends University. Of the sample of 54 trees examined, 49 were deemed suitable for nesting. Based on the circumference of each sufficient tree, numbers from previous experiments may determine how many nests each tree can support. By analyzing measurements gathered in this experiment: of 54 trees on 2 acres of land, in 49 ideal trees optimal for nesting, 85 nests could be supported. If each nest can support 2 squirrels, by these numbers, an estimated 170 squirrels can comfortably live on these two acres. If we multiply this number by our rough estimate of an available 10 acres of habitat, an approximate 850 squirrels can adequately be sustained on this campus. Experts say that eastern fox squirrels are not territorial, so it is possible that they could overcrowd on a land if they do not disperse.

Food producing trees in a squirrel’s habitat greatly affect carrying capacity as well. Again, of the 54 trees examined, a total of only 22 were found to produce a food supply. A squirrel’s primary food source is nuts, and then, if necessary, berries and seeds. Eighteen trees were discovered to produce nuts or berries. Four trees were conifers and, therefore, produce cones (which a squirrel may substitute in its diet). Results from a previous study determine that, due to a tree’s size, of our 18 nut and berry producers, a total of 47 squirrels can be supported. An additional 7 squirrels can be supported if cones of conifer trees are supplemented. These totals suggest only 54 squirrels can be supported with food resources from 2 acres on Friends University campus. Again, if we multiply that to include our additional 8 acres of available environment, we find that 270 squirrels can be supported by food resources.

possible food

possible food 2

Discussion: If a potential population of 850 squirrels can comfortably live in an area, but only 270 are supported by food, what do these number variances mean? One possibility may be that not all of the squirrels are eating their preferred food sources. They may be resorting to other sources listed above, such as insects, or green sprouts. Perhaps a study could be conducted to calculate in these other food sources. Our inhabiting squirrels may be foraging in more distant territories than Friends University campus. However, a squirrel usually stays pretty close to home (an estimated 10 hectares or less). Those squirrels living on the edges of campus may have home territories within 10 hectares but not on the property of the college campus. One research article stated that a single squirrel may build several nests. Our squirrel numbers might be lower than we estimated if we decide to take this possibility into consideration.

Our calculations in this study represent the maximum number of squirrels that can theoretically be supported by the resources available at Friends University. This may not represent realistic population numbers. An addition to this research may be to reevaluate the dimensions of this experiment to create a more realistic representation. Squirrel populations experience a fairly steady mortality rate, but reproduction rate is pretty stable as well. Also, how squirrels obtain water resources on this campus would be an interesting aspect to look into.

Works Cited

“Fox Squirrel Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior.” Animals Time, 7 Mar. 2016.

“K-State Research and Extension.” Tree Squirrels.

Squirrels (Family Sciuridae).

“The Perfect Trip” by Courtney Kruger

The Perfect Trip
By Courtney Kruger


If you were to ask me how I feel about traveling/flying I would tell you I love being in the airport, for the most part, especially during the holidays. I don’t know if it’s the decorations in the terminals or the excitement of going home during Christmas break for a month (probably the latter), but I’ve come to love the out-of-state-student tradition of traveling to and from my home state during the holidays.

If the trip goes as planned, I will leave for the airport a little over an hour before the plane should be taking off. I’ll listen to music, browse social media, buy some Dramamine and a water, text friends, and give my parents updates.

I’m through security.

I’m at my gate.

I’m on my plane.

Love you, see you soon.

I’ll sit back and relax (as best as possible) in my single A row seat. Around an hour and 45 minutes later I should land in Chicago O’Hare, happily making my way to my favorite dinner spot: Manchu Wok, located in the food court right outside terminal G. I will be able to do this because I will have a 3-4 hour layover. I will get double orange chicken and fried rice or chow mein, depending on my mood, with a diet coke. I will take my tray and walk over to my favorite spot in the corner; the table by the railing right next to the walkway. I will not eat all of my food, but I’ll come pretty close.

Eventually, I’ll decide it’s time to move on and visit my other favorite place in terminal G: the bookstore. I won’t need a new book, but I won’t care. It’s the holidays and I always like to buy “an airport book.” Very rarely do I actually keep reading this book once I’ve reached my destination, but again, I won’t care. Sometimes, if I’ve picked a winner, after I’ve boarded my TOL bound flight, I’ll keep reading. Otherwise, I’ll keep listening to music. When the plane lands, I’ll have the confidence to stand up immediately in the aisle when the fasten your seatbelts sign dings off. I won’t hit my head on the lowered ceiling. That’s for amateurs! I’ll open the above compartment and easily grab my backpack.

Items may have shifted during takeoff? Ha. Not mine.

I will not hit or bump into anyone as I struggle to put it on, and I’ll make my way down the aisle, off the plane, and up the bridge without staggering once. I’ll take the escalator down to the main level of TOL and before I even get off I’ll see my parents waiting for me behind the glass.

Smiling, they wave.


Photograph made available by Nils Nedel via Unsplash

“Meeting My Ancestry” by Courtney Kruger

Meeting My Ancestry
By Courtney Kruger


“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage- to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness. ” ― Alex Haley


On April 16, 1990 I was born in Caaguazú, Paraguay. Three weeks later I was adopted from Asunción, the capital, by my parents and whisked away to Morenci, Michigan where I would live for the next 18 years of my life.

On that year, in 2008, my high school senior year, I found myself alone in my English teacher’s empty classroom reading that quote by Alex Haley. I have no idea why I was in there alone, or why I decided to look through her bookshelf, or why I picked that particular book and flipped to that particular page, but I did. On any other year it might not have stuck with me as much, but this was the year not knowing where I came from had started to bother me.

I think it had been growing ever since the previous year when my mom and I posed for a picture before my junior prom. When we got the pictures back I remember seeing, like really seeing, how different my mom and I looked. I hadn’t ever paid attention to it before. Being adopted was always just a thing I never thought much about, and I still don’t, but at the time it started weighing heavily on my mind. Like Alex Haley says, I felt this yearning and this loneliness in the not knowing and it bothered me.

I wasn’t the only one who started noticing a difference in my appearance during high school. It seemed like more and more people asked me every mixed kid’s favorite question, “What are you?” Personally, I never got offended by this question, because I knew people were just being curious. However, I understand it can wear a person down and why someone might get sick of it. After years of being asked if I’m Mexican, or Hispanic, or Latina, or Japanese, or Hawaiian, or an Eskimo, etc.; I’ve started to see why people get annoyed. It’s frustrating to not know the answer to such a simple question, which then leads into why don’t I know, which then leads into a small discussion about being adopted… It had become slightly annoying and embarrassing.

When a child is of a different race than their adoptive parents that can be called transracial. Specifically for adopted children in this scenario it can mean confusion and a misconnection to their actual race. All my life I’ve felt white. My parents are white, I was raised in a very small white community, and was never really expose to my heritage. When I started noticing differences in myself I no longer felt connected to any group. I was out on my own, unclaimed. Eventually, I gave up on the idea and went on with life. I got over it, because I thought there was no other option.

Fast forward almost ten years to 2017 and DNA kits are becoming a popular new trend. A quick Google search of “DNA kit” will give you three of the top brands: Ancestry, 23andMe, and MyHeritage. Along with a friend, I made the plunge on August 17 and purchased my DNA kit from Ancestry.com for a total of $88.95.

dna kit

For best results in your journey through your results, Ancestry suggests you download their app. This app helps activate your kit, walks you through giving and sending your spit sample, and is how you receive your results, along with an interactive map.

From the very beginning, they warn you it could take up to 6-8 weeks to receive your results, but they update you every step of the way via the app. All those years wondering where I came from, and for some reason, it took me a couple weeks to actually open the kit and give my sample. On August 18 my kit was shipped, I activated it on September 2, and it was received by Ancestry on September 19. My kit began processing on September 25 and on October 5 my results were finally in!

Originally, my friend and I were planning to get together and go over our results, but we couldn’t help ourselves. I looked immediately after I saw the email. Paraguay ended up being nowhere on the map, which was a huge surprise. In general, I’m 54% European, 38% Native American, 6% African, and 2% West Asian. Most recently, my heritage comes from Chile and Ecuador, with half my linage being European, most specifically from the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal, Spain).


What’s funny about this whole experience is I had thought all my life once I knew what I “was” I would feel this sort of complete satisfaction. I know now that isn’t going to be true. Now that I have this huge answer to a long held question I have even more questions. I have these countries I’m now officially apart of, but I still don’t feel connected to. Now will be the journey to finding those answers. But for now I can confidently say where I come from whenever I’m asked, “What are you?” And I really like that.


“Rereading Childhood Books as an Adult” by Courtney Kruger

Rereading Childhood Books as an Adult
By Courtney Kruger


Sometime this past winter I discovered Bookaholic, a used bookstore, for the first time. It was not until the summer I realized I could rediscover favorite books from my middle and high school years. Growing up, I had never really been to used bookstores. My mother was an English teacher and was always trying to find new and exciting books at Barnes and Noble or Borders for her students. Looking back, I realize how privileged we were to be doing that. As a now broke college student, I started frequently visiting Bookaholic. Whichever books I had not set out to look for, through the help of Goodreads.com, I rediscovered by just browsing the Young Adult shelves. So began a thrilling and nostalgic journey of disrespecting my bank account.

One of the differences I’ve noticed in reading these books as an adult now, compared to as a teenager, is my complete change in genre interests and threshold for tropes. As a teenager, I was super into modern fantasy and historical fiction, with some romantic twist, for the most part. Books like the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, The Keisha’ra series by Amelia Awater-Rhodes, the Modern Faerie Tales series by Holly Black, and The Host by Stephenie Meyer were some of my favorite modern fantasy/sci-fi books from back in the day. At this point, I have come to realize I no longer connect with Young Adult books like I used to, which probably makes sense. I find them to be a bit corny and predictable, for the most part. Back when Twilight by Stephenie Meyer was all the rage. I loved that her books were these huge 500 paged adventures, but after rereading The Host, for example, I was overwhelmed with the repetition and thought it could have been shortened by at least 100 pages, or split into a duology.

As far as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series is concerned, I have no desire to reread them. They were probably my favorite books as a teenager, up until that point. Groups of my friends all drove to the midnight releases… It was everything. I had probably read each of them at least three times, maybe four, and looking back I definitely notice some problematic themes or moments that haven’t aged well.

A few years ago, on a whim, I bought a hardcover trunk boxset of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I had only read the books once, as they were released, as a kid, and never actually finished the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I wasn’t ever a fanatic of Harry Potter, but I always went to the midnight releases as a kid, and then teenager. I loved the excitement, waiting in line, and then finally being handed this beautiful book as a copy of my own by the end of the night. I have noticed the warm feelings of nostalgia sort of waned when I started the fourth book, Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire. It’s almost like the first two or three are so ingrained in our culture as modern classics or fairytales that it was easy for me to be swept up in the story and nostalgia, but after the fourth book everything starts to get pretty deep and heavy. It’s not the same happy feeling anymore that the first three evoke.

In middle school, I came across R.L. Stine’s Young Adult series collections. I had watched Goosebumps, the TV show, from time to time as kid, but the books did not interest me. However, his Young Adult books were short and sweet with high school romance and always had suspense and twists with a great big reveal at the end. Every book was made with the same formula, but I love them and devoured as many as I could find. My favorite of his collections were The Baby-Sitter series. At Bookaholic you can buy one of his books for $1-3 so I’ve bought way more than I’ve actually read at this point, but I don’t care! I’ll keep buying them. Their covers are designed from the 80’s, early 90’s; bright and flashy borders and/or typography with drawn scenes, typically of girls looking panicked in some precarious situation. They’re perfect for quick reads between other books when I need a break. They’re corny, horribly predictable, even a bit problematic and eye roll inducing, but I know what I’m getting going into it and they’re over so quickly I don’t mind.

These days my favorite books include modern classics like Tuesdays with Morrey by Mitch Albom, Night by Elie Wiesel, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which I never would have touched as a teenager because they all seemed “too sad.” I’ve tried popular new adult fiction like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Still Alice by Lisa Genova, Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, The Dinner by Herman Koch and Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which I never would have been interested in because there wasn’t a female protagonist and/or romance and fantasy. I’m even reading a bit of poetry in milk & honey by Rupi Kaur and Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire.

Thinking about all these books and differences in preference, I think there is a time and place sometimes for genres in a person’s life. The Young Adult genre gave birth to my love of reading and desire to consume as many books as I possibly could as a kid. Finally, my love of reading has been revived after years and I can learn to appreciate whole new genres of books that I never would have even thought twice about before. Just because you’ve moved on from, or outgrown, a certain type of book doesn’t mean you can’t go back from time to time and revisit old stories, characters, or genres. I love the ability to go back and forth between new books and old favorites whenever I desire.



Current Status through My Favorite Childhood Books

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling


Hawksong (The Kiesha’ra)




Wyvernhail by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes


Wicked Lovely

Ink Exchange

Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr


The Host by Stephenie Meyer


The Baby-Sitter

The Baby-Sitter II

The Baby-Sitter III

The Baby-Sitter IV

Hit and Run by R.L. Stine





Ironside by Holly Black


The Face on the Milk Carton (Janie Johnson #1)

Whatever Happened to Janie? (Janie Johnson #2)

The Voice on the Radio (Janie Johnson #3)

What Janie Found (Janie Johnson #4)

Fog (Losing Christina #1)

Snow (Losing Christina #2)

The Fire (Losing Christina #3)

Goddess of Yesterday by Caroline B. Cooney


My Louisiana Sky

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt


The Ocean Within

Tides by V.M. Caldwell


Photograph made available by Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash

“The Endless Cycle of Tracing Origins” by Chelsea DeClue

While most people can say, “Oh, I’m Hispanic,” or “I’m from Europe,” many Americans hit a point in their life where they ask themselves, “Where am I really from?” We look for something that is more precise than the possibilities that we’re given by our parents or grandparents. As Americans, unless you’re a very recent immigrant, we recognize that there’s a strong possibility that we don’t know the full story.

Up until a few weeks ago, if someone had asked me my ancestry, I would have told them “I’m Irish and German, but we also think that maybe there’s a little bit of Middle Eastern in there.” See, my mother’s side of the family has always been interested in tracing where we came from, and I had very little clue as to my biological father’s side of the family beyond my birth name, thanks to adoption. But when we have to say, “I think,” it leaves a lot of room for questions and wondering what the real story is.

So earlier this year when I was gifted a discount code by my friend Courtney to the Ancestry DNA Project, I jumped on the opportunity to learn more about myself and my family. Thankfully, the process was simple. Ancestry DNA sends you a little vial, you spit in it, and you mail it back, and then wait.

My first email from them arrived about a week after I mailed the vial back, letting me know that it had arrived and they had begun processing. It would take six to eight weeks to get my results. The next week, I had another email: my results were almost finished and I would have them in two to four weeks. A week later, I had an email sitting in my inbox. I suppose I must have hit their processing center at a time period when they weren’t that busy, because six weeks had turned to three. My results were ready to view.

In the time it took to hit a link, I went from “I’m Irish and German” to a much wider ancestry than I had even thought possible, and the more I dug into my results and DNA Matches, the more interesting the story became.

Just as I had known, there were indeed Irish and German roots in my family. However, it was the ratio of these that came as a shock. Both my mother and I had lived thinking that the two ancestral groups were fairly equal. The reality was quite different. Instead of near 50-50 split like we had expected, 80% of my ancestry is actually from the British Isles.

The remaining 20% included Western Europe, ie Germany, at a grand total of 5%, but it also included a number of other, far more interesting, results. I didn’t expect to see Scandinavia at 8% and Eastern European at 5%, or the Iberian Peninsula. I definitely wasn’t expecting Native American or Polynesia and the South Eastern Pacific, and while we had family rumor of Middle Eastern, now I finally had the proof.

Now, one thing that Ancestry DNA does is match you up with relatives, and because of this I was able to learn even more clearly where my ancestry comes from. Through this process, I was able to view the ancestry of one of my mom’s uncles, which explained her paternal history, and I was able to look at the results for one of my uncles, which explained my paternal history. I discovered that the majority of those ancestries came not from one side of the family, but from both sides.

They also give you a basic historical overview of some of the more predominant ancestries, or migrant groups they’ve been able to trace you to. For example, we had always thought that my biological father’s family had met up with my mother’s family after immigrating to America directly from Germany. Instead, Ancestry DNA traced that part of my family back to an immigrant population that first left the Rhineland and immigrated to England and lived there a significant period of time before later immigrating to America.

Of course, this whole process also opened up more questions, even as it answered others. Without further matches, we have a lot of history missing. Where and how do Scandinavia, Polynesia, and the Iberian Peninsula enter into the mix? Who was that random Native American that joined the family? Which tribe were they from? Is that Middle Eastern hit really from who we think it’s from, and was he really an immigrant from Jordan in the late 1800s? If there’s one thing this experience has taught me, it’s that we never really know what we think we know, and because of that, tracing our origins really is an endless cycle.


Photo made available by Gemma Evans via Unsplash

“Advice From A Senior” by Chelsea DeClue

Dear 18-Year-Old,

We spend much of our high school careers being told we have to plan for the future. You get it from the actions of the adults around you, in the questions that they ask you. What do you want to go to school for? Where are you going to school? What scholarships are you getting? Everything that happens in that four year period is to make you think about what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.

When I started high school, every question presented my way was to make me think about the future, and my high school career was geared towards a single goal. You see, as a young teenager, I had decided I was going to be an officer in the Navy, so my parents did everything they could to make sure I got there. By the time I was a junior, I was already applying for the Navy ROTC scholarship, and by the time spring my senior year hit, I was guaranteed admittance to the University of Oklahoma as an International and Area Studies student. The plan was to become a liaison officer after I graduated, a plan born out of the events of 9/11 and my understanding of how they could have been prevented with the right foreign relations, but that plan quickly fell apart.

After I learned that I wouldn’t be able to go into the career field I wanted as a Naval officer, I opted instead to enlist, still moving forward on the path to the career I picked. I spent the next six years working as a linguist. I figured I could establish myself in the enlisted ranks and work my way back up to my original goal, having gain experience relevant to the foreign relations world.

Instead, I ended up leaving the Navy, moved back to Kansas, and started going to school for a completely unrelated career field. Still, those six years taught me that I was not suited for the military life. For one, my personality was simply ill-matched, but there was also the fact that the military I had grown up with as a dependent was vastly different from the military I was working in. Attitudes had changed and bureaucracy was more rampant than I could have possibly expected, and I found myself being asked more and more to take actions I couldn’t morally agree with.

Now, I don’t regret the six years I spent in the military. Honestly, I almost stayed in for another six years, despite having learned that I didn’t really enjoy what I had picked for myself at 18 years old. I had a lot of push back from my family and a lot of doubt about where I was going to go once I got out of the military. It was nerve-wracking to leave something so stable for something so unsure.

I left the military anyway, because there was one thing I learned: whatever you do in life, you have to love doing it. Otherwise, you’re just going to go through life earning a living, to go back doing that thing you don’t like, to keep living, to keep going back to that thing.

So I’m about to say something that might make your parents cringe:

It’s ok to change your mind about where you’re going, and it’s ok to be indecisive. Stop focusing so much on your future and focus on your now. Now, not later, is the time to take the risks associated with spreading your wings and exploring the world.

Don’t worry if you get through your first semester and decide you want nothing to do with zoo science, psychology, marketing or whatever major it is you picked. Take those electives and expand beyond what you thought you’d like. You won’t know what you’ll become passionate about until you try learning new things. If you find something that you like more than what you originally picked, take the leap and go after that thing. Take the opportunity you’re being given now to learn what you love, to figure out what it is you want to do.

That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be thinking about where you’re going to go. Whatever leaps of faith you take today, do so responsibly, but you won’t know what you will find until you try it out. At 18 years old, you’ve still got many years ahead of you, and there will be a day when it’s time to settle down. Today is not that day.


Photo made available by Evelyn Mostrom via Unsplash

“The Greatest Gift” by Kerrick van Asselt

I want you to take a moment and imagine a child waking up on Christmas morning. Watch this child open up a particularly large present, and inside is the bike they’ve always wanted. Can you feel their energy and excitement? Their overwhelming joy? That immediate longing to take the bike outside for a ride?

Isn’t this exactly how we as Christians should feel every morning? Every single day we wake up to find that we have received the greatest gift of all—the grace of God and the knowledge that our sins are forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus. Shouldn’t this fill us with complete joy? Shouldn’t we have a desire to go out and live fully in that grace? Each morning we have an amazing opportunity to go out and live beautiful and meaningful lives in Christ, so shouldn’t we want to fully embrace that newness of life?

But what is this grace? Grace isn’t a “get out of jail free” card that allows us to do whatever we want. Today’s passage from Romans tells us that as followers of Jesus, we can no longer live in sin. Instead, we are called to live in Christ and do our best to live like Christ. And grace is what is there to pick us up when our best isn’t enough. We all make mistakes, but God’s grace forgives them all. And that is what makes this gift that we have received even more amazing than anything we could ever earn.


Photo made available by freestocks.org via Unsplash

“Surviving Friends University: Community is the Key” by Kerrick van Asselt

C- Care. Care for everyone around you. Care for yourself. Care for the Earth. Care for the things you do. Care about your schoolwork. Care about going to class, and doing well in class. Care about your classmates and professors. Care about how you are doing, and know when you need to recharge. Care about who you are and what you bring into the world. Just care.


O- Open up. Find the people you can trust, and be willing to be vulnerable with them. Love and trust them, and let them do the same for you. Life is going to be incredibly lonely if you stick to yourself. College is the perfect time to reach out to those around you. I guarantee you’ll find someone that you relate to is some way or another. Get to know people, find people and learn their stories, and tell them yours. Open your eyes to the beauty of the people around you.


M- Meet people. Learn how to initiate conversation and introduce yourself. Join clubs and go to events. Say hello to people, and be willing to get to know them, you never know who might become your best friend. Be willing to offer a smile to a stranger. Say hello to people when you pass in the hall, instead of just texting. Go get coffee with people. Go as to sit down at the dinner table with a random person in Casado. Get out there and find the light in the people around you.


M- Mean it. Be honest. Learn to listen. Be present. Don’t be afraid to put down your phone, turn off the video games and go live in the world every now and then, you’ll be amazed at what you find. Live fully, don’t be apathetic, dive in and embrace everything you do, from your schoolwork to your hobbies.


U- Understand. Know that everyone is different: we all have our own stories. Be willing to listen and hear other people’s and realize that it’s not just okay to be different: it’s amazing. Everyone is their own person with their own thoughts and beliefs and backgrounds. You are your own person, so let others be their own person, and learn to love them through that.


N- Nice. Be nice. Just be kind to everyone you meet. Everyone has crap they’re going through, don’t make it worse. Learn to love the people around you. Pick up trash and be nice to the Earth. Give people a smile. Hug your family. High five your friends, or random strangers. Do your part in bringing light to this world.


I- Invest. Find close friends, and invest in them. Find the groups, teams, and jobs on campus that you love, and invest in them. Be willing to give your time and effort. It’s worth it. You only get out what you put in. YOGOWYPI. Super cliche, but even more true. You’re only here once, might as well take advantage of it.


T- Trust God. God is amazing. It’s completely incomprehensible. God is huge. God is everything. Trust that God knows what’s going on in your life and that there are things happening that are beyond your control or comprehension. And that it is good.


Y- Yes. Say yes. But in moderation. Take advantage of some of the amazing opportunities life offers. Face your fears. Take risks. It’s never too late to start living. Some of the best memories of your time in college are going to be the times you said yes to a random adventure with your friends, or when you decided to join that club that interested you. Join choir or band or theater, you never know who you might end up meeting that could become your best friend for life. Join the sports teams, be a part of the brother and sisterhoods here on campus.


And as a bonus tip: Don’t forget to Love. Love is the key to all of this. Love of self, neighbor, the world, God, school, work, etc. Love is the answer. Love is the key. Love is. Love.


Photo made available by Baim Hanif via Unsplash

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