Thoughts on Faith

>> Sunday, January 25, 2009

This weekend... has been incredible. I have no idea what has made it all that different... but in it's own way it's been special. Maybe it's hormones, maybe it's this transitional period in my life.. but I think I 'feel' more now than I have in a really long time. Mostly I've been wrestling with my faith and wondering what my purpose in this life is. I used to have all the answers.. everything planned out to the point of ridiculousness. Now here I am at 25 years old, about to graduate with my masters, and wondering "what in the world am I doing here?".

Today, I embrace the new direction I am going in. For a long time I've enjoyed change.. enjoyed knowing that I was a wee bit different from the rest of my family and friends at home.. but still hoping to come back around to that lifestyle eventually. I wonder if it's because I want so badly to please the people who love me the most. I've realized that even my parents are supportive of the random person I am, so really it's only my own neurotic thinking that believes there is something wrong with me for being different.

Basically it's come down to this. Spirituality is extremely complicated.. and one clear cut path is obviously not going to work for all of humanity. Even in the Christian faith that has a pretty set standard of what it means to be a Christian and what that path should look like, there are incredible differences in how that is to be lived out and what worship should look like. My problem is that I have wrestled my entire life with a certain Christian dogma that doesn't fit well into my personality. Many times I felt like I even had to choose between my personality and my faith. In particular, I don't understand the guilt-driven tactics in Southern Baptist churches. As an extremely sensitive, analytical person... this method has NEVER worked for me. I spent about 20 years of my life (I figured there has to be 5 in there that are gimmes) trying to convince myself that I am in fact NOT a bad person.

It dawned on me today while sitting in a Presbyterian USA service, that there are reasons certain people feel drawn to certain services. Once I realized that a lot of people aren't like me.. don't over analyze and don't hold on to their guilt.. it occurred to me that some people may actually find a Baptist type service encouraging (not trying to completely generalize Baptists as all guilt-focused.. just my unique experience). For me, I just want to know that God is real.. and that He embraces the diversity that is in this world and is patient with our petty effort to somehow harmonize with each other and try to get it right.

I loved the pastor's sermon today. I loved that he could recognize that many people that sit on church pews everyday are a true representation of the world. The church isn't the place with all of the answers.. it's only a place where people can go to ask. I never felt comfortable asking questions in my church growing up.. but now I feel comfortable in knowing that I can choose my faith and choose my churches based on where I feel comfortable. I don't think I want to go as far as calling myself a universalist, but I don't think the Presbyterian USA church is as "heathen" and off base as a lot of more conservative Christians believe. It's not necessarily the best denomination.. but the message today was probably the best fit for me in what I've experienced so far in Blacksburg.

I had a great talk with a friend after church today.. and it made me realize that even though I've wrestled with my faith most of my life and have even been mad at God for a significant portion of it.. I do in fact have very strong faith. I wouldn't care enough to wrestle with all of this if I didn't in fact believe that God was real. I think what I've really been wrestling with is WHO God is and whether or not I should believe religious authorities about God's ultimate plan for humanity (which ironically often times aligns with certain political motives). I think I'm going to try to focus this year on the basics.. on the aspects of faith that are least controversial for me. Love. Compassion. Grace. Peace. Redemption. Humility.

I'm kind of done worrying about what other Christians think and how hypocritical they are. It's not really going to change anything to prove them wrong. I can only enjoy MY faith more by focusing on what works best for me in my relationship with God. I earnestly want truth.. and I hate feeling misled. But I am ok with knowing I am bound to be wrong at times.. and I am also bound to be right.

A little bit of struggling is probably healthy. I'm working on finding a happy medium. Regardless, I've found that God continues to meet me in odd places... and this time for me.. it was in church.

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Life was great in 2008!

>> Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Looking back, I had a really great year last year. Not to say it was always easy or fun, but I had some major life changes/experiences that I'm going to probably remember forever. Here are just some random memories from the year.


* Learning to play tennis (a truly impossible feat at the time)
* Babysitting Brooke, Jane and Georgia. Watching Georgia take her first step.
* Meeting Apple.. watching Vincent take his first step.
* Rediscovering Nashville with Will.
* Realizing Pigeon Forge is an example of the reason America needs planners.
* Learning to swim correctly.
* Thanksgiving through the end of the semester (hell on earth)
* Learning more than I ever wanted to know about Nicaragua and BMW/Greenville
* Being at home over spring break while my Nanny passed away.
* Losing Gabby.
* Falling back in love with the mountains.
* Seeing a momma and baby black bear in the wild.
* Discovering bluegrass and folk music.
* Skiing in Vail.
* Transferring.
* Having one of the greatest summers of my life in Cville... Realizing I will make a great stay at home mom one day :)
* First night out with friends in Bburg.
* Bluegrass at the cellar.
* 3 AM cheese and cracker nights at Meghans.
* March Madness.
* Awfuls.
* Clemson/VT and Boston games... that was 2007 but oh well
* GT weekend with all of my college favorites.
* Apple/Peach picking.
* Learning to like fish (sort of).
* Fun times in DC.
* Wrecking my car twice/ cracking my windshield.
* Biking everywhere... having a drunk UVa kid tell me my butt was blinking.
* Eating way too many turkey sandwiches.
* Realizing my college roommies still and always will be my very best friends.
* Mary Jane and Andrew's wedding.
* NYC with Katy.
* Significantly decreasing my consumption of lattes.
* Fridays after Five/ Gelato/ Cville Market/ Shenandoah Joe's/ Thai 99/ Christian's Pizza/ Harris Teeter (can you believe it?)
* Sun dresses.
* Becoming a first class procrastinator.
* Swing dancing.
* Polo!
* Hiking around Bburg.
* Fall in Bburg.
* Running around horse pastures.
* Officially switching from Orange to Purple (no more orange!)
* Turning 25... scary.
* The phone call from my mom saying she found my violin (it was a big deal)
* Not spending enough time with my brother.. new goal for this year
* Halloween.
* Realizing I actually like planning (at least economic development).
* New years eve.
* 80s night.
* Punch Brother concert(s)
* Sarah visit.
* Thursday night craziness... losing my phone.
* Always wanting to dance..complaining there was nowhere to dance... dancing anyway.
* Realizing I have a good group in Blacksburg~ being glad I moved

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I Heart Basketball Season!

>> Monday, January 12, 2009

You know you're a Clemson fan when you are annoyed to see your team jump significantly in the ratings.. you understand there's a breaking point when the team peaks (usually in the top 10) and then plummets out of the top 25 all together with several embarrassing losses. Two years ago Clemson was the only undefeated Div. 1 team with 17 wins. Directly after that, the tigers lost almost all of their ACC match ups and failed to even win a bid into the tourney (I think that was some kind of college bb record). Last year we made it into the tourney, just to drop out of the first round by blowing a huge lead in the 2nd half against Villanova. I received several annoyed texts/voice mails from out of state friends saying that Clemson ruined their bracket.. hah. They just don't know Clemson as well as we do.

Today, Clemson climbed to #9. Personally, I think this was a conspiracy and a joke from ESPN officials. They realize how bitter the memory was of our pre-season football ranking at #9. They want to see Wake Forest sweep the floor with this overly confident team.. who can't handle the pressure of being in the top 10 ranking of any sport. What a great headline that would make! A Clemson curse exists.. where a bunch of loyal fans and players see themselves in the national spotlight just to wake up realizing they are in the middle of nowhere in Clemson, SC.. in which most people have no idea what state the school belongs to.

One difference exists for basketball: Oliver Purnell. As far as I'm concerned.. the man is a god. He turned an ACC joke of a team into serious competition for UNC and Duke. We have consistently gotten better (despite the end of season spin-offs). Purnell realizes that Clemson has a ranking curse.. he addresses it all the time. He's trying to remind the guys daily that they haven't proven anything yet. This next section of our season is going to be brutal. We have a couple on/off players (Oglesby) that are going to have to figure out really quickly how to be consistent. But...I feel better about this team than I have any of the others. These guys play better together than they have in the past. We have some young guys that are really stepping up and holding their weight. We have strong leaders like Booker that aren't going to let any team intimidate them.

I'm very excited for the rest of the season (with reasonable caution). Basketball is fun to watch and a great distraction from school. I'm looking forward to watching the WF game with some Clemson friends that I haven't seen in a while.

So... here's hoping! Good luck, Tigers! Break the curse!

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Happy Birthday, Daddy!

>> Monday, January 5, 2009



I think after all of these years I still look at him like that sometimes. My dad is an amazing person. Besides the fact that he is hard working, smart, funny (he wore a cowboy hat during all of Thanksgiving).. he's a great father and husband. He took me to get certified to scuba dive when I was 15 years old so that we would have an excuse to spend a little extra time together (since the days of throwing the ball in the backyard had long passed). Lately I can tell he's been trying to show me how he cares in his own little ways. My mom makes it very clear that she misses me all the time, but my dad lets me know in more subtle ways. The Christmas card he gave me this year made me cry.. and made me realize that he really does support me in everything I do. It's nice when the person you've looked up to all of your life seems to think really highly of your career and ambitions.

He's offered to fly me home as much as I want if I find a job in Nashville this summer.. that may be an offer too good to pass up :)

My family is great. I am blessed.

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Tia Nicole Photography has launched this summer after many practice photo sessions and the encouragement of some dear friends and family ("Life Through Tia's Lens" was a recommendation of my good friend, Kristin, who has been an avid supporter the whole way through!). This blog has documented the process from the beginning and also dates back to some older rantings during grad school and football seasons. Feel free to get to know me and my work. I like to focus primarily on natural shots, true emotions and beautiful landscapes. I also absolutely adore kids and pets so you will find a good bit of my work in these areas. Feel free to contact me anytime! I love blog comments!

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