Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Grace in Motion

When I graduated from high school, I was given a 40-day devotional by Cory Asbury that is titled Reckless Love. This book was given to me by Shannon Rose, our school library’s paraprofessional, spring musical vocal coach, and a dear friend. As I’ve finally taken the time to dive into this powerful book, I came across a quote that really stood out to me. It made me stop reading to sit and ponder.

“...self-righteousness keeps us blinded to the beauty of grace in motion.”

Self-righteous is defined by Mirriam-Webster as, “having or characterized by a certainty, especially an unfounded one, that one is totally correct or morally superior.” If we become so focused on trying to earn the favor of God and others, we miss the beauty of the big picture. You see, the whole point of grace is that we don’t deserve it. Self-righteous people think that they have to earn everything they get, but this simply isn’t true. Grace comes in many forms, whether we earn it or not.

There’s a parable, or story, about a shepherd and his flock of one hundred sheep. Ninety-nine of those sheep are healthy and safe. However, there was one little sheep that was missing and in danger. The shepherd abandoned the ninety-nine to go and search for the one little sheep. Now you may be wondering, “Why would he leave the ninety-nine who were where they’re supposed to be and don’t need help for the one irresponsible sheep?” 

The little sheep knew he was in danger and he was crying out for the shepherd to rescue him. In all reality, the shepherd probably should’ve ignored the little sheep and focused on the ninety-nine. But the shepherd continued to search for the lost sheep until he was found. Those ninety-nine sheep were like self-righteous people that think they don’t need grace. They think they’re totally correct and perfect in everything that they do, so they miss out on the beauty of an overwhelming grace that leaves no one behind. 

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and ask for grace. Whether that’s an extension on a deadline, a second chance at a relationship, or simply asking for something without earning it, lean into vulnerability. When we finally let our guard down and stop viewing ourselves as righteous and self-sufficient, we see the true beauty of grace in motion. 

Humbled by His grace,

Evan Coblentz

State Treasurer

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Stay Positive, Test Negative

Stay Positive, Test Negative

I would consider myself a big list guy. When I see a list, I'm intrigued to read it knowing that it won't be too much to read. At the same time, I know there's enough to keep me interested for a decent amount of time. So, I decided to make another list. A list of things that I can take away from the year 2020.

  1. Don't Forget Your Mask- I think this is one thing that everyone can relate to. I can't tell you how many times I started to walk into a store, gas station, or restaurant and then had to turn around and go back to my vehicle to get my mask. 

  2. Get Right With Jesus-  The excessive amount of time that we have spent inside is great for self-reflection and deep thinking. I was able to dig into my faith and get more of the Gospel. Although times seemed dark, my faith brought me light.

  3. Cows Are Still Great- 2020 may not have been that great,  but there’s still nothing wrong with some mighty fine bovine.

  4. Cherish Time With Friends And Family-  Nobody realized all the time that we spent with our friends and family could be taken from us overnight. It certainly taught me to cherish those moments.

  5. Don’t Forget Gold Bond- Almost as important as a mask, you can never go wrong with having some spare Gold Bond.

  6. Working Zoom Is Now Easier- Whether it was for class or for meetings, Zoom once seemed impossible, but now has become a common tool for most.

  7. Innovation Is Endless- The challenges brought to us by the past year were insane. This called for people to think outside the box and it was awesome to see. I have come to realize that with this type of thinking a lot of positive ideas, things, and lives are going to come out of this.

  8. 6 Feet Never Seemed So Far- I focus heavily on positivity, but sometimes you have to be real. I never realized that being less than I am tall away from someone could feel so far away until now.

  9. Stay Positive, Test Negative- Obviously 2020 seemed to be filled with more negativity than positivity which can really get to some people. It is important to focus on the positive things the year gave us and everything we have to look forward to.

  10. We Can Only Go Up From Here- By the end of 2021, we will all be reciting lyrics from Drake, “Started From The Bottom, Now We’re Here” because things can only get better from here.

Working on my next list,

Your Friend,

Loren Matlock

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Intentional this Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Family time, hot cocoa, emotional movies, warm blankets, baked goods, shopping, and the list could go on! I absolutely love the holiday season because of the enjoyment it brings. There is a little over a week left until the day some of us have been counting down to - Christmas Day. How exciting! Whether you're celebrating virtually or in-person with loved ones there’s something we need to keep in mind. 

Year after year I’ve caught myself getting wrapped up in the gift giving and stress of the holiday season. By the time the actual celebration comes along, all the joy is almost gone! On Christmas Day I’m so excited to open presents early, but when it comes to spending time with my family in the afternoon I’m just flat out annoyed. We would travel to my extended family's house and I would spend time on my phone instead of in conversation. If you find yourself spending more time on your phone or stressed out about gift giving I have a challenge. Let’s make an effort to be more intentional and genuine with our actions this holiday season. Be intentional about the conversation you make and be genuine with your family. In the end, it’s not about the presents, but more so about the time spent with loved ones. We don’t know the next time we will get to have a conver
sation with someone, so take this holiday season to be truly engaged in a conversation and intentional with your words. By taking this simple step, your holiday season will be a thousand times better! 

Being intentional this season,

Kylie Schakel

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Julia's Joytastic Guide to Christmas

If you’re anything like me, your Christmas tree was up on November 1st and Christmas carols were sung in October. I LOVE Christmas. There’s just something about the lights, the decorations, and the entire Christmas spirit that never fails to brighten my day. So, as we’re drawing closer to the holiday season, I will be sharing with you: Julia’s Joytastic Guide to Christmas! 

  1. Find a Christmas buddy. Find someone that shares the same passion for Christmas that you do. For me, that would be the one and only Taylor Roy. We Facetime almost daily and discuss Christmas, from movies and songs to where our new decorations should be. Celebrating with a buddy is incredible. 

  2. It’s never too early to start celebrating. Though some of my teammates disagree, I’m here to say that we can and should start celebrating the holidays early, perhaps even in March or April if you’re feeling festive. My tree was up on November 4th but I was ready to celebrate back in October. Don’t feel ashamed to celebrate early, it’s completely acceptable, and I highly encourage it. 

  3. Have a Christmas playlist ready at all times. Sometimes, I’ll be sitting in my bed here with the Christmas tree on and just feel a sudden urge to belt out some Christmas tunes. Be sure that you have All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey and 5 More Days Till Christmas by The Cheetah Girls on there, you’ll thank me later.

  4. There is no such thing as too many decorations. Some of my teammates may beg to differ, but you just simply cannot over-decorate for Christmas. Hang that wreath and put up that sign, it will look absolutely beautiful. 

  5. Christmas movies are the perfect way to end a cold November/December night. Cozy up with a big ole blanket with a nice mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows. I highly recommend Elf (shoutout to Emily Royster), How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Santa Clause series. 

  6. Write a letter to Santa. I’m 19 years old and still every year I sit down with my niece, Hayden, and we write our letters to Santa Claus. You’re never too old for the best Christmas traditions. 

  7. Make holiday desserts. My mom and I have a tradition where we make a list of holiday treats, such as puppy chow, peanut butter and oreo balls, fudge, and chocolate meringue pies. Try some new recipes and have fun with it. 

  8. Find ways to give. One of my favorite parts of this season is finding ways to give back. I always volunteer with The Salvation Army to ring bells at their kettles and work with my community for our Adopt a Family project. Giving can also be those small acts of kindness, like holding the door or leaving notes of encouragement. Try to find different ways to give to others this season and make someone else’s holiday season even better. 

  9. Get an advent calendar. Ever since I was a newborn, my mom has surprised me every December 1st with an advent calendar. It started with just chocolate calendars for 15 years and I suppiled myself with a Friends calendar this year. N
    ow, I wake up every morning and open the day’s slot to find a piece of Friends memorabilia that helps me start my morning on the right foot. 

  10. Surround yourself with your loved ones and have fun with it. The holiday season can be so magical, but we decide how we make the most out of this season. You’re never too old for a picture with Santa or driving through a Christmas lights display. 

If you follow these 10 steps, you are sure to have a joytastic Christmas holiday. Make like Buddy the Elf and spread Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear and don’t try to hug a racoon. Think like the Grinch and understand that Christmas, perhaps, doesn’t come from a store. That Christmas means a little bit more. As Charlie Calvin said, seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing. The Polar Express Conductor stressed to just believe. Believe in the magic of Christmas and all that the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart. Kevin McCallister hopes you have a Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal and a happy new year. I hope that you have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas, as Clark Griswold once exclaimed. Thank you for reading over Julia’s Joytastic Guide to Christmas. 

Have a happy Holidays! 

Julia Hamblen

State President

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

2 Corinthians 5:17

So, I did something a little different for this blog post - I grabbed my bible and let my teammates pick any random verse they wanted. The rule was whatever verse they picked, I would write my blog about. So here we go… 

My fellow teammates and I have been in office for nearly six months now. That blows my mind to think about. I guess it's true that time flies when you’re having fun! As I was writing this I thought back to the beginning of the year when Kylie and I went on a little hike around the Leadership Center. Normally I wouldn't question going on a hike with Kylie, but there was a small problem: it was pouring rain, the only shoes I had were Crocs, she only had her Chacos, and all the trails were a complete mud pit. Did any of that stop us? Of course not! 

Off we go, hiking the trails of the Leadership Center. Was it muddy? Very. Did we slip and fall? Several times. Did I end up soaked after I fell in the creek? Yes, very much so. After we got tired of walking on the same trail, we “Forged our own path.” See what I did there? Long story short, we went so far off the trail that we got lost. By the time we realized that we were lost, we were stuck in this cycle of going forward and not turning back. This definitely was not a good idea. It took another 20 minutes of walking with no destination for us to decide we needed to turn back around. 

Have you ever been in a cycle like this or been stuck in your ways and not realized it? I have. In life it can be super easy to fall into these cycles. By the time we realize that we’ve gone too far off the trail we may think that we’re unable to turn around. Want to know my opinion? That is completely wrong. 

Alan Watts once said, “You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were 5 minutes ago.” If we apply that to Kylie and I going off the beaten path, we get something pretty similar. Watts probably would have seen me and Kylie, soaking wet, covered in mud, and laughing hysterically, and said something along the lines of “You are under no obligation to go the same direction you were 5 minutes ago.” Simply put, you don't have to stay in a cycle. In me and Kylie's case, we didn't have to continue to walk off the beaten path. We didn't have to stay in the rut we created ourselves that said “keep going forward.”

Most likely, you are not reading this during a hike and you are likely not walking off the beaten path. It is entirely possible, however, that you are stuck in a rut. You may think that you are stuck on this path and that you can't turn around. Let me tell you you can. 

You are never too far gone. Forge a new path. Embrace new opportunities.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! 

2 Corinthians 5:17

Never too far gone, 

Luc Sproles

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Derick’s Tips and Tricks for the Best Possible Thanksgiving

As I’m sure everyone is aware, tomorrow is one of the most popular holidays in the United States. A day that we have all been looking forward to for a while.

National Cake Day.

If you can believe it, National Cake Day is actually a thing. On the serious side, tomorrow is Thanksgiving! A time for us to show thanks for what we have and to gather in good company to appreciate those who mean the most to us. Whether you are gathering for Thanksgiving with close family or sharing the festivities over Zoom, here are some universal tips and tricks guaranteed to improve your Holiday Season. 

The Recipes - What’s Thanksgiving without the good food? Try out some recipes that have been passed down by your parents or grandparents. If they didn’t taste good, they would have never lasted this long anyway. That thirty year old recipe for deviled eggs might just be the key to your Thanksgiving meal.

The Company - Even with the good food, you need someone to share it with! Getting the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins involved means more people to hear those funny stories you’ve been waiting to tell. If relatives can’t come in person, Zoom them in virtually for even more laughs when technology acts up.

The Decorations - Simple decorations go a long way. My family would always bring out the fake pumpkins and plastic leaves to give that homely feel to the place. If you are feeling crafty, hand-traced turkeys are always cute on the refrigerator. 

The Conversation - AVOID politics!! No one wants to get into a heated argument the one time you bring the family together. Let your grandparents tell the “hilarious” jokes they’ve been wanting to share all year. Tell a few stories of all the Zoom Fails you’ve seen this past year. Who knows? You might actually have a really nice conversation with someone.

The Entertainment - Thanksgiving is football time in the Williams house. When you finally get tired of staring at the tv screen, take the best plays and act them out with your family. If physical activities aren’t your style, cards or board games are always a safe option. Seeing someone angrily throw their cards in defeat can be pretty entertaining.

The Dessert - We couldn’t possibly forget about dessert! If I could skip the ham and mashed potatoes for pumpkin pie, I would in a heartbeat. Make sure to put out plenty of additional options like cake, muffins, and candy. The more sweets you have, the happier your household is going to be. Trust me.

The Food Nap - The best way to end your Thanksgiving is a well-deserved nap. We all need a little bit of time for the food to settle after stuffing ourselves. Need a sure fire way to fall asleep? Put on the golf channel. It’s worked for my family for years.

      I hope these tips and tricks give you some ideas for your Thanksgiving celebration! Trying something new and creative can really make this a successful holiday season. Good company and good food is what we all need right now, so enjoy the time you have with family and friends. Let them know just how thankful you are to have them in your life. From my family to yours, have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow. And oh… make sure you share those last pieces of pumpkin pie.

Happy Holidays! 

Derick Williams

State Reporter

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

We're All in This Together

My sophomore year of high school was a pretty fun year. I had a bunch of science classes, which I loved, and we put on really fun theater productions that year. We started off with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for our Fall play. My mom got to be the assistant director for that show and it was really enjoyable to work with her. Just when I thought the year couldn't get any better, they announced what our Spring musical would be. It was High School Musical

It was every theater kids’ dream! Apparently, it was every high school kids’ dream! We had students flock from all different categories in our school. We had theater kids, jocks who had never been in a show before, kids who never did any other extracurricular activity, and kids in between that auditioned. It was basically High School Musical happening right before our eyes. The cast list was posted and not a single person got cut from the show. It was about to be the coolest show Wawasee High School had ever put on stage. And me? I got to be Ryan Evans.

Rehearsals commenced and the show was well underway. We were on track to have our first performance in March and we were all pretty sure we would have an incredible turnout. Two days before opening night, I got very sick. I missed school, rehearsal, and even parent night! Someone had to fill in for me and I was resting up, hoping that I would be fine by opening night. As if things couldn’t get worse, my mom then told me that our head director, Mrs. Thornburg, was in the hospital the day before opening night. I recovered and made it to the opening performance, still not feeling great. Unfortunately, Mrs. Thornburg didn’t make it to our opening night. She never made it to any of the performances, because she passed away the morning after our opening night.

We were all devastated. Our director wouldn’t even get to see the final product of our months of hard work. We had to continue on and do the final two shows, knowing that she would never be in the audience to see them. The community knew what was going on, so they all rallied behind us and our audience was huge. We did a beautiful tribute to her, singing a cut of her favorite song from the show at the end of the performances. There ended up being so much beauty in the midst of tremendous pain. Our production of High School Musical was more than just a simple musical. The key message in High School Musical is that every single person matters and that “we’re all in this together.” It shows that you need to look past yourself and reach out to others. It means reaching out to the quiet kid sitting by themself at lunch. Invite them over, be a friend. I think this is what Mrs. Thornburg would have wanted people to take away from that show. You have a purpose in life, and you are so loved. You are created in the image of God and He loves you more than anyone ever can. And Mrs. Thornburg lived out that love in her life.

Here’s a quote I want to leave you with:

“With one invitation, we can take someone

From outsider to insider

From outcast to beloved member

From unknown neighbor to coffee companion

From wallflower to life-of-the-party

From shortened life expectancy to 80 years of joy.”

Loving BIG,

Evan Coblentz

State Treasurer