Remembering 2015

2015 has been a very interesting chapter in my book of life. This year, God taught me a lot. I faced success, adversity, moments of strength and defeat. I was exposed to the glory of God by means of new life in the birth of my beautiful “niece” Isamae, and the promise of life after death in the loss of my grandma Bosie. And that was all before April.

Within the months following spring, I entered a very emotionally invested relationship and am proud to say when I became unhappy I did something about it. I lost myself the first half of the year. I lost my ambition. I lost my luster. But there is something about the breath of a new semester that kick-starts a second wind of motivation.

I planned and executed a very successful Homecoming with SIUE Campus Activities Board (CAB) and with the introduction of 55 beautiful, intelligent women coming into Alpha Phi, my determination to lead and thrive came back. I now serve as the Vice President of Campus Affairs for the Epsilon Xi chapter of Alpha Phi, and look forward to preparing to take on more leadership in CAB.

In November, turning 21 was a huge mile-marker and highlighted a big step in my life! I celebrated (and still celebrate) with some of the most meaningful people I could have ever been blessed to encounter. I also got my first college job at a place where my personality thrives and I am so proud to say that within this year I have steadily lost 30 pounds, having every intention to continue disciplining myself in the healthy lifestyle department. But the most important of all lessons learned this year, was that no matter what, forgive. And just because you forgive someone, does not mean you have to love them, it means you have to love yourself.

As I read the past few paragraphs checking for grammatical errors, I can’t help but think of a quote from one of my favorite rappers T.I.(no judgement required, thank you) “God will take you through hell, just to get you to Heaven.” I heard another quote a couple of weeks back and it has stuck with me too, “God does not have a plan B.”

How reassuring it is to be reminded that every valley I walk through helps establish the story and praise I can yell from on top of the mountain. Just this past week He put words on my heart for me to share with my friends who were having a rough day: how on Earth would we enjoy our happy and successful days as much if we didn’t have days of confusion and disappointment? Bad days are intentional, although not fun, but they are there for a reason. Just as bad weeks, months and even semesters are too. I learned to let go of the little things and I am the happiest I have been all year. I have actually become sort of financially responsible and I am making really great strides in that area of adult-ing.

I’m exiting this year as a completely different person than who I entered, in a very good way. I cannot wait to see how God uses me in 2016 and I hope that no matter what I go through I will keep my eyes fixed to the top of the mountain. I’m very grateful for every up and down that I tackled this year and could not have made it without the intangible gift of support from my best friends, family, awesome CAB Adviser and blessing of new friendships.

Cheers to new pages in the book of life.

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Ren Bayles

Okay so a little insight about me– I feel as if whenever I give others praise, it lifts my spirits. I had a rough evening and an awful night of sleep so here we go: time to snap out of it. This one goes out to one of the most, if not the most important women in my life: Momma Bayles.

I woke up kinda bummed until I remembered she is coming to Step Show tomorrow night! She is so wonderful. She was never the athlete in her high school years, but all throughout mine, my sister’s, and my brother’s high school athletic careers, she attended every game and competition, and even if she had no clue about the rules of the game, she always sent us to the floor with two words: be aggressive.

Last fall was the first time that she, my dad and dear Uncle Jim attended our PowderPuff Football Tournament here on campus; and they loved it! They were some of a select few parents who attended and it was so nice to have their support; especially since it was Lyssa’s last year.

This semester, the Greek Community is hosting its annual Ebony and Ivory Step Show; wouldn’t ya know that Mom has made it a priority to make it up here for it, and she’s so excited to be bringing one of her best friends. (so cute) (girls night) (yolo) Ha ha!

I am so excited to see her- even if it is for just a short amount of time- and even if I won’t technically really be seeing her as I perform. Knowing she’s there will be the highlight of the night, I can already tell.

As I sit here typing this, I’m thinking about our routine, and chuckling to myself thinking about some of the looks she is sure to send my way when she watches our dances. She is infamous for a glare that comes through the depths of her Mom being, that transcends over the tops of her thick framed glasses that have slid down her nose, one eye-brow cocked, with the sass of 1,000 Mabel SImmons’. (see photo)  Madea_photo

I am so blessed to have such devoted parents who have put up with so much but never quit. They were given the opportunity to give up and they sought through it. We may not talk every day, and we stress each-other out, but they would go through Hell in high-water to support their babies, and it honestly makes me want to tear up thinking about my mom driving four hours to watch a performance that lasts 14 minutes.

Sigh. Deep breath, and silent prayer of thanks to God for my mother and my new found pleasant attitude. I love that He not only has given me gifts, but that He has identified to me what they are, and that in using them I end up feeling so much better about myself. Giving Him all the praise this morning and thankful for His persistence and unfailing power to always give peace to my heart, even if I am stagnant. Apathy is not the answer!

“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11 

Make a Happy and Healthy New Year

As a seasoned year ends and a new one comes fresh, we hear the ever graceful, “Merry Christmas, have a happy and healthy new year!” in all different forms. We also hear and read all kinds of “resolutions,” of which I think social media has dubbed, “new year, new me” unacceptable, outdated, and overused.

Well I was thinking about what I wanted to see different for the coming year, as I always try to set new goals, and couldn’t think of anything specific. See, the latter of 2014 I spent planning, detailing, and over-thinking, so I thought I would keep it short and simple: I am going to have a happy and healthy 2015.

Here’s where you think, “SK, your idea is overused and clearly lacks authenticity,” and we all collectively eye roll, but let me go a little further.

Before saying “yes” or “no” to any question or favor, before speaking out, and before making any big decisions, I’m going to ask myself if doing so will make me either genuinely happy, or healthy in some context or another. I feel that in doing so I will be giving myself an opportunity to reflect on and think about the small actions and choices that I perform everyday that either benefit me or stress me out that add up at the end of the day.

Denis Waitley once stated, “there are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” I will take responsibility for my happiness and health and I will slowly walk away from the person I was, and closer to the person that God is calling me to be. I won’t set irrational or unattainable goals, but I will pace myself to a lifestyle that illuminates the light of faith and peace of mind. New year, not so new me.

My goal for December 2015 is to be happy because I’m healthy, and to be healthy because I’m happy. Have a great year, everybody.

Injustice

I don’t care what color you are, if you hold an American flag upside down and are within arm’s reach of me, I’m doing everything in my power to kick your ass.

*Disclaimer* This post does not reflect the decision made by the Grand Jury, it is in response to the actions taken by the “community.” However, let it be known that if I am ever in a situation where there is a 6’5″/250+pound/pink, purple or polka-dot man running at me who appears to want to attack me, I hope to God I have a gun on me to exercise self defense.

Now that we have that out of the way, here are my questions:

1) We’re all aware that Michael Brown chose to rob a store…right?

2) We’re all aware that there was an individual there with him who abided by the police officer’s commands, and was not shot down…right?

3) We’re all aware that at several points throughout history, white men worked with African American men… right?

To the people who are peacefully protesting- thank you. Although we may have different views, your exercise in how you voice your opinion is respected, and you have every right to do so. But to the people who are just flat out rioting in the streets- do you even know the name of the prosecutor? Why in Heaven’s name are you doing this? If this is an outcry for attention, congratulations, you’ve got it.

I bet MLK is rolling in his grave right about now, and Lincoln…and Mandela…and Wilkins. Have you all forgotten how far we’ve come as a nation to support equality? What part of burning down buildings, looting, and vandalizing are actions that you feel need to be taken to help our country progress?

It’s not going to bring Brown back, and it sure as heck is not going to change the decision made by the jury. I understand people who wanted Wilson to be indicted feel angry and cheated, you’ve made that very clear. Think about your life in 20 years. How proud will you be to tell your kids, “Mommy and Daddy helped flip over a police car when we disagreed with the government.” And when they continue to ask you, “what happened next,” what will you say? Do you genuinely believe that the things you’re doing are going to have any kind of positive impact on American history…?

Brown dug his grave and now he is laying in it, literally. If everyone would just be accountable for the things you actually have control over, the world would be such a different place. If he wouldn’t have robbed a store, even if they were just cigars, the police wouldn’t have been called in the first place. How about that. Have you thought about what you’re going to do now that you’ve burnt down the places you were once employed at? What, are you going to suck up to the government and ask for their aid? But that’s a whole ‘nother rant.

My sister works at a hospital that is 5 minutes from Ferguson, and is scheduled for an 8-hour shift tomorrow beginning at 7 a.m. I cannot express the genuine concern I have for her safety. I assure you, the things you’re seeing on TV aren’t a fraction of what will be done when innocent people suffer from the hands of those who are uneducated and are out for vengeance. I’m so shaken right now. Our country is in a lot of trouble.

I’m going to end rant by sharing my hope that any and every African American leader steps up and explains that this kind of behavior is not the answer and will only hinder our country’s growth and progress in search for a racial equilibrium. Mr. President, here’s your shot.

50 Things I Want For My Little Sister

Love these words! Makes me want to write a similar list for my elder sister.

SERENDIPITY AND CREATIVITY

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1. The ability to first fall in love with herself, and with the true beauty that lies within her heart.

2. Many nights spent laughing so hard that she can barely catch her breath.

3. A few true friends that will never abandon her, or try to change her.

4. Mentors to learn from, and provide a remarkable amount of inspiration for her.

5. Patience to undergo life’s setbacks.

6. Determination to turn those setbacks into further motivation to follow her dreams.

7. Long car-rides and plane trips to wondrous places that will open her eyes to the fascinating and incredible world we live in.

8. People to hold her when I am not there.

9. Late nights.

10. Big dreams.

11. Emotionally riveting experiences.

12. Opportunities to step outside of her comfort zone.

13. The strength to stand by her convictions.

14. The bravery to overcome all of the…

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Always Amazed, Never Surprised.

It seems like this year I have gone from one responsibility to another. From moving in, to recruitment, to Homecoming, Powderpuff, and Step Team, I have been more involved than I could have ever fathomed.

But those are things I’ve all done out of choice. I choose to be involved because I trust my execution. I choose to be involved because, “idle hands are the devils playground,” and staying busy keeps me on my toes. I have found that I actually execute my work better when I’m under pressure and/or given a short time to do so. I feel that I’m actually more focused and efficient.

That being said, I’ve considered taking a few steps back from responsibility, and the projected expectations that come along with it. Though a foreign thought, I have welcomed the idea of taking on less. I bring the stress upon myself, and I think I’m beginning to figure out why: I think I have the ability to see things from somewhat of an aerial view. Meaning I see the starting point, I see the finish line, and in my head I see the track that needs to be ran to be able to victoriously wave that checkered flag at the end. The biggest flaw I recognize within myself is delegating power to others and trusting that I’m not the only person who knows how to perform certain tasks accurately.

I’ve always had an issue with investing. I can’t do something and not give 110%. That applies to the social aspect of my responsibilities as well as group projects in school: I always assume all the responsibility I can. I strongly identify myself as a leader. Further, I identify myself as a strong leader. I always aim to go above and beyond what is expected of me, and any time people say they need me for something, I invariably try to far surpass what was originally asked of me.

I was recently in a situation where the more active members of the sorority began preparing for the election for the 2014 Executive Board in Alpha Phi. Although yes, I identify myself as an active member, remember that I have been thinking about withdrawing from my self-prescribed obligations.

I was in a situation where I had people approaching me and demanding my verification that I would be running for certain positions. I said yes to most, but this was a battle for me. I wanted to step up and be that leader they trusted me to be, but honestly, my heart wasn’t in it. For the first time I was not 110% up for the challenge.

Through much debate, I ended up running for two of the 12 positions on the Alpha Phi Executive Board, and I lost, two of the two races. So to paint you a clear picture- I will be entering the Spring 2015 Semester with no leadership role in Alpha Phi. Step team will be over on the 22nd of January and there will be no further outstanding need for my stresses and energy within the sorority.

I battle with this because part of me wishes I would have got at least one of the positions, part of me says, “SK, this is your chance to broaden your horizons, expand your network, and do more things in life,” and the other part says, “SK, why do you want to take on more things in life, if the whole objective of debating between nose-diving into more responsibilities or withdrawing in the first place, was to actually withdrawal and create time for yourself?”

Basically, I’m at a big fork in the road. In my case, this metaphorical fork is more like a garden rake. I genuinely do not know what I’m going to do next, or how to feel about this situation. These series of events has brought me closer and closer to my devotional Bible.

Within this meditating book, there are passages of scripture for every single day of the year, along with a short motivating few paragraphs that remind me of how God is constantly working, even when , no, especially when I lose focus. Today’s reading says this, “Leave outcomes up to Me. Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out. Think of your life as an adventure, with Me as your Guide and Companion. Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me. When our path leads to a cliff, be willing to climb it with My help. When we come to a resting place, take time to be refreshed in My Presence. Enjoy the rhythm of life lived close to Me. You already know the ultimate destination of your journey; your entrance into heaven. So keep your focus on the path just before you, leaving outcomes up to Me.”

*Drops the mic.* Utterly speechless. God will never quit orchestrating my life. He will never stop working. He will never take a break, nor will He ever freak out about all of the responsibilities expected of Him. I am always amazed, but never surprised, about the things He puts in front of me to really awaken me and remind me to trust in Him.

One of my closest friends shared with me last night, “You didn’t need the position, you needed the confirmation that you deserved the position. Which you did, and it worked out for the best.” This was so spot on.

With this, I know I’m going to be just fine. As a matter of fact, I know I’m going to be 110% fine. It’s time that I stop saying, “trust God,” and legitimately act that out every single day that He gives me. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know what I’m going to do next. All I do know is that I’m in good hands, and that everything that I’m supposed to accomplish in this life will get accomplished, and the Good Lord is willing and able to do things much more miraculous than I could ever attempt.

As I depart for the end of the semester, I cling to a Bible verse that got me through my hardest of days: Exodus 14:14 “The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” He will always fight for me, and for you, and for everyone else. We just have to let Him.

I have my aunt to thank for helping shape my path to Christ. She constantly serves as the hands and feet of Jesus in my life and I believe it is so important to have a support system like this in life.
I have my aunt to thank for helping shape my path to Christ. She constantly serves as the hands and feet of Jesus in my life and I believe it is so important to have a support system like this in life.

The Big 2-0!

Well today’s the day! The day after I officially rid myself of teenage years! As promised, I am here to discuss whether or not I feel any different.

The answer is yes.

I’m not sure what it is or if I’m still just really wrapped up in the moment, but I can honestly say that I do feel different! Maybe not “older” per say, but definitely different. I feel like I need to clean my room, go grocery shopping, figure out my resume, get a steady job, and a boyfriend would be nice too while I’m at it?! Ha ha, yeah right. As last week I recapped on the milestones each of my teenage years brought, I have some goals to accomplish short term and long term.

By next year, age 21 I hope to have lost 20 pounds, ran a marathon, got an internship, and have somebody tell me that I’m a blessing in their life.

By 10 years from now, age 30, I hope to have a ring on my finger, a roof over my head, a rocking chair on the porch, and a bun in the oven…or two. Twins would be nice! Scary, but my “picture perfect” family would be two healthy twin boys and a little girl a few years after. Sigh… back to reality. I’ve got two tests tomorrow morning, a group paper to complete (that we have hardly began) (that may or may not be due Tuesday) and two speeches to write for elections for Alpha Phi Executive Board on Sunday!! Who wouldn’t want to be me?

Recap On Teenage Years

Tuesday, November 11th marks 20 years on this earth for yours truly. As my days as a teenager come to a conclusion, I’d like to recap on the last 7 years.

13 was a milestone! The previous 12 years of my life had been pretty successful. The times of crooked glasses were still present but everything else seemed to be turning out well. However, as an 8th grader, I lost my last tooth. Every other baby tooth had fallen out and the adult teeth had grown in. My older sister and her friends referred to me as “hick tooth” because the adult tooth that replaced it grew in above the rest. That was hell.

As a 14 year old, I entered high school. I watched my family struggle as my dad got laid off from his job, and turn to alcohol. He turned into the man I never thought I’d meet, but secretly knew was there, somewhere, hidden. After freshmen year I decided to try-out for the varsity dance team–I made it! I also got braces this year, to fix the hick tooth: also was hell.

As a 15 year old, I fell in love with a boy. He was everything any girl could ever ask for: athletic, well-mannered, went to church, loved his family…was really going places. I spent all my time and money on him, and it got me nowhere. I lost relationships with friends and bonds between my mom and sister took a hinderance.

16: “Driver’s License, here I come!” Got my first car and didn’t have to pay for it, thanks to Grandpa Dicky. My braces came off and I started to look like an actual girl. I ended things with the boy. I tried to rebuild friendships but it didn’t exactly work. I had friends, but not anyone who I could identify as my “best friend” or “circle.” I got my first job at a bridal and prom boutique and began establishing my independence.

17 was by far the most sporadic year. My sister had went away to college and I felt alone. No boyfriend, no friends, and sis was gone. I faced a handful of emotional hardships and it really tested me as a person. Even though I had went to Catholic church all my life, it wasn’t until I was 17 that I came to Jesus and built a strong relationship with Him. I entered Senior year and began applying to colleges! I remember blowing out my birthday candles on 11/11/11 at 11:11am and thought it was the neatest thing in the world. I experienced my first college volleyball game as my gift, and it was the most perfect ending. When the summer came, I couldn’t wait to blare Tim McGraw, “It was Labor Day weekend, I was 17…I bought a coke and some gasoline!” Although there were many awesome things that came with this year, I felt alone more frequently than not.

18: FREEDOM! But not just yet. This was the age that my family suffered our first loss: my Paw-Paw. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years prior, and passed away 3 days after my birthday. I was sad he left us, but so comforted knowing that he was in Heaven at peace! I got accepted to the college I wanted, and was OUT OF HERE! New start! New me! New school! I remember moving into SIUe, out of my house, and ready for the first steps as an “adult.” I visited family in Memphis, TN over Christmas break by myself and that was a huge step for me. I joined Alpha Phi and finally gained the “friend circle” I lacked in high school. This was my new home. Things were finally falling into place.

19: I was really going places. I made all kinds of friends, opinions, and grades. (Yes, some worse than others.) I applied for and was selected to represent our Alpha Phi chapter here on campus at an international leadership conference for freshmen and sophomores. I attended Spring Break at Panama City Beach! Had my heart broken by a guy who did exactly what I told myself he wouldn’t. Although I came to Christ as a 17 year old, I can honestly say I surrendered and was saved by His grace on December 23rd, 2013 as a 19 year old. I went on a blind date and made my first set of business cards! I applied for a position on campus that would put me in charge of Homecoming for the entire university the following year, and am currently working on a position for the executive board in Alpha Phi.

Yours truly on her 19th birthday!
Yours truly on her 19th birthday!

I’m expecting the next 10 years to be the best time of my life. I’m setting the bar extremely high in terms of success and self satisfaction. Many lessons were learned. I will go about the next 10 years wide eye’d and bushy tailed: determined and motivated to establish myself and begin my new chapter. But will I feel a whole year older? Stay tuned for Wednesday’s feelings from Shauna Bayles, the 20 year old.

Change Is An… Okay Thing

I find myself being tugged two different ways when forming a standpoint on, “this is how it’s always been and always will be” idea. I feel that in some circumstances it is important to keep things the same, but other issues are meant to evolve. Just because a certain technique or way of thinking has worked in the past does not necessarily mean it will be as effective forever. However, although things can and should evolve, we shouldn’t forget why they were originally done in the beginning.

Gay rights, for example, is a topic that does not seem to be going anywhere. Conservatives who are strong in their faith believe that marriage is meant for one man and one woman. Clearly, progression of gay rights has been met with very strong resistance. It’s always been easy to shut down the idea of homosexuals, lesbians, etc. because they have always been outnumbered in our culture; that isn’t necessarily the case anymore. Past generations were around when governmental officails based most of their decisions on the foundation of the Bible. Also not the case anymore. As new generations evolve, so do their beliefs.

One idea that has always been constant in the Bible is to love. The human race will strive to love, and that’s something we should always do. Whether or not conservatives agree with the revolution, does not mean they can or should stop it from happening, or stop loving our children and relatives because of their choices. There will always be ideas put forth that people don’t agree with and shut down, and they have a right to do so if they think “the way they have always believed” is the right way.

Loving eachother has always worked. Supporting eachother has always been effective. Regardless of change, we should always love and support, and let change come as it pleases.

When Actions and Opinions Don’t Match Up

I have a confession. I did something extremely out of character this week. Yes, this is dramatic, and yes it’s obnoxious but I can’t hold it in any longer. I must exploit my guilty conscience.

Let me give you a little background first.

I am very, very grateful for everything in my life, good and bad. It has made me the person I am. That all being said, my favorite holiday of all time is Thanksgiving! I love the atmosphere, the vibes that come from my family, and most important, the food! Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but I get so sick when Thanksgiving gets thrown in the shadow of the glory of Christmas. I cannot stand when Halloween decorations come off the shelves, and the FIRST thing they are replaced with are Christmas trees and stockings. I’ve gone so far as yelling at my friends for playing Christmas music in October and November! It’s a huge deal for me. I would almost even say disrespectful to commit such a heinous act!

Now don’t get me wrong, come November 29th when I go black Friday shopping, I will absolutely have my Christmas radio Pandora station on at all times of the day! But not a second sooner.

My main man! Courtesy of Google.
My main man! Courtesy of Google.

Well, on October 14th, 2014 something mind boggling happened. I’m not sure what kind of chemical imbalance took place in my brain but something outlandish happened: I watched the Grinch TWICE and played Christmas Radio Pandora. Willingly.

I couldn’t resist! It was such a cold, gray, gloomy day, and I was in the lowest of spirits. All I wanted to do was lay on the couch, light some apple cider candles, and watch my favorite Christmas movie.

I guess it just goes to show that even those of us who voice our opinions loudly still have moments of weakness.