Your arms spread wide where mine should be, You changed my destiny.

Once upon a time there was a little girl that carried her Bible around everywhere. This little girl with the prettiest curly brown hair that anyone’s ever seen. This little girl invited her friends to Church in the backseat of her parent’s car on the way home from cheer-leading. This little girl showed her parents her Bible when they had an argument and told them the Bible says to love each other. This little girl who went to take a tour of the new Christian school she was going to first grade at and decided she wanted to be a missionary right where she was and spend her life serving You, God.

This little girl who decided in the middle of worship one Sunday morning in the second grade that she wanted to take that walk down the aisle. This little girl felt the Holy Spirit, ran back to her mama, told her she wanted to be baptized, and she knew exactly what that meant. This little girl did not wait for the invitation at the end of the service. This little girl grabbed the children’s director and went straight to the alter to lay her heart down, right then and there. At the beginning of the service. While everybody was still just a singin away.

This little girl who spent summers at Church camp, rededicating her life to You because she wanted more and more of You, God. This little girl grew up and got sassy. This girl used the word whatever so much her mama had her say Philippians 4:8 which says: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. 

This girl kept growing up. This girl twirled a flag while covered in glitter under stadium lights on a football field. This girl participated in state and national competitions. This girl became president of the club that gave her friends and a safe place in high school. This girl got inducted into the National Honor Society. This girl received an award for character and service. This girl graduated high school with honors. This girl went off to college and turned into a woman. This woman signed up for recruitment all on her own. This woman was extended a bid from a sorority that inspired her to impact the world. This woman found out who she was and lived with purpose. This woman met the most amazing, grace filled, forgiving people in that sorority. This woman became president of that sorority. This woman graduated college. This woman took a job in a group home for teenagers for the next two and a half years. This woman thought she would be doing the teaching, (and she was teaching, so so much, they don’t call her Miss Extra for nothing) but this woman was also learning so so much from You, God.

Inside of this woman will always be this girl who makes so many mistakes. This girl ran from You. This girl questioned You. This girl doubted You. This girl was a hot mess. This girl hurt people. This girl lied because of her pride. This girl felt shame and guilt. This girl grieved.

But there was always You. It was always You, guiding her. When this girl ran, instead of giving up, You kept the light on for her. When this girl questioned, instead of getting angry, You answered. When this girl doubted, instead of turning her away, You held open arms. When this girl was a hot mess, instead of getting even, You forgave her. When this girl hurt people, instead of hurting her, You taught her how to make it right. When this girl lied because of her pride, instead of shaming her, You gave her grace and truth. When this girl felt shame and guilt, instead of pushing her, You gave her the space she needed and the most gentle kind of fatherly love she had ever known. When this girl grieved, instead of telling her to get over it, You drew her close. When this girl made unthinkable mistakes, instead of locking her up and throwing away the key, You laid down Your life for her.

This girl and this woman want to spend every waking second getting to know You more, God. She wants to serve You. She wants to love the way You love. She wants to extend grace like You. She wants to point everyone she meets to You. She wants to keep reading those red letters every day. You wrote her the most beautiful story filled with love and joy and peace. You gave her a life better than she could ever dream of. Your pursued her. You cherished her. You made her feel worthy. You loved her. You brought light to her dark places. You showed her how to share that light. You gave her the freedom to choose You.

So, here is my prayer today. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for designing a life I love. Thank you for writing my story better than I ever could. Thank you for knowing what’s best for me. Thank you for teaching me. Thank you grace and forgiveness. Thank you for pursing me and for your gentleness. Thank you for chasing after me. Thank you for laying your life down for me. Thank you for your glory. Thank you for red letters. Thank you for freedom. Thank you for opening and closing the right doors. Thank you for starting and ending chapters right when needed. Thank you for cleaning up my mess. Thank you for Holy Spirit filled moments with you. Thank you for accepting my heart. Thank you for knowing every hair on my head, every mistake, every terrible thought, every smile, every tear, every moment of my life and loving me still. God, I want to spend my life dedicated to you. I want to spend my life in service of you. I want to give you all the glory. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We’ve come a long way from where we began.

When it came time to decide how to decorate my graduation cap, I knew it had to be red, white, and blue. I mean, they didn’t call me America for nothing. I wasn’t voted Most Patriotic for nothing. The name on my intramural jersey wasn’t Mercuh for nothing. There was a purpose for it. Just like the reason I chose the University of South Alabama was more than my love for all things red, white, and blue. I started looking for ideas and found this quote from Captain America 2: Winter Soldier that said: “I’m with you til the end of the line.”

I immediately looked over at my little and realized this was perfect.

How can we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?
Everything I went through you were standing there by my side
And now you gon’ be with me for the last ride

Of course, I am with her until the end of the line. She is literally going to be sitting beside me today at graduation. When I met her, I had no idea how much she would mean to me. I pray she knows the impact she has had on my world.

I am with all my littles because life would be so bleak without them. They have taught me so much and shown me more kindness than I ever thought possible. They’ve shown more strength than I could ever muster up. I pray they know how courageous and generous they are.

I am with my big because she showed me the kind of woman I could become and protected me and gave me the space I needed to become that woman. I pray she knows how truly amazing she is.

I am with my grandlittles because they are literally my hope and future. I pray they shine like the stars they are.

I am with my friends back home. They’ve been there for me for all the glory days of high school. They’ve been there for all my terrible music choices, my tragic wardrobe malfunctions, bad hair decisions, and so much sass and attitude. They’ve also been patiently waiting for my graduation so I can return to them. They’ve stayed by me even when this kid grew up. I pray they know I always brought little pieces of them here with me.

I am with my beautiful friend from Vincent. She is so like me in so many ways but she has her own little fiery personality too. I cannot wait to come home and hang out with her! I pray that she sees how truly fabulous she is and that our friendship only grows.

I am with my family. My Mema, Papa, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins, and Grandpa.  Families are like trees. We spread our branches out everywhere and grow new branches all the time, but we’re all rooted together. I pray we only love each more and I pray they know how thankful I am for them.

I am with my Brother, Sister, Mom and Dad. They’ve supported me every step of the way. They’ve given me a crutch to lean on during times of trouble and given me all that I need to succeed. I pray they know how much I appreciate and love them.

I am with my sorority. That organization became a part of me, a part of the fabric of my being. “Inspire the Woman. Impact the World.” That phrase changed my life when I went through recruitment. Then those women taught me to “Live with Purpose” and I never looked back. They taught me to make each decision with intention. I pray they keep inspiring women and building them up.

I am with my sisters. Who literally had to pick me up off the floor because I couldn’t handle life any more. Who carried me through the worst and the best days of my life. Who taught me to laugh on the worst days and cry on the best days. Who taught me to love more fully and completely than ever before. I pray they never stop sharing the best and the worst parts of themselves, it’s what helps us grow.

I am with my person. There aren’t even enough words in the dictionary to explain all that she has done for me and taught me. I would never have made it to this day without her. I pray she knows no matter what happens, I will always be her person.

I am with Christopher because my sweet friend has changed my life in more ways than I can even understand. He reminded me of how important the rain is and how to pray. I pray he knows I’m carrying him with me today as I walk across that stage.

It’s been a long day without you, my friend

I am with my grandma. The last time I put on a cap and gown, she was there smiling bigger than anyone in that church. I pray she’s smiling the biggest in Heaven today too.

And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again

I am with You, Lord. You created me with a purpose. You created me with a plan. You brought all of these things I pray for into my life. You have made my life so full of light and love and joy. I am in awe of You. I pray that I grow closer to You and worship You more and thank You more.

So, here is the rest of my prayer today. As I say goodbye to the home I created in this place, in this university, and in these people, I pray that I see them all again. I pray they all know how much they mean to me. I pray they know how much I’ve learned from them. I pray they know I’m with them all til the end of the line. I pray that Heaven isn’t so far away today. I pray that the love will never be lost. I pray that I see them again too one day. Thank you for all of this and more. Thank you for college. Thank you for the memories made, for the tears shed, for the laughter, for the things I learned, for sending me here. Thank you for this day. Thank you for these people. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

It’s funny how a touch of grace gives you healing.

Life is just plain real sometimes. Like real hard. Some days are just rough. It might start small and just pile up or it might be as big as one of those great losses that change everything. I’ve learned how important it is to come straight to You when things get shaky. No matter how small or how big the problem is, You can handle it. I am not meant to handle this alone. I am not built to handle this alone. And the greatest part is, I don’t have to. My entire world might collapse underneath me, but You’ll be standing there on solid ground holding Your hand out for me. When President Moulton died, I heard a lot of kind words. None touched me more than when his wife, Geri, spoke about President Moulton’s last words. She told us about how when he was trying to get up he said: “I can do it if you hug me.” She told us how we should apply those very words to our daily lives and how much better off we would be if we did.

Today, I know a few too many people who could use a hug, myself included.

“I’m doing fine enough to know that every one is a little broken. I’m doing fine enough to learn that hearts are best when they’re wide open. I still got fear inside of me. I’m not ok, but I’m gonna be alright.”

Lysa Terkeurst said: “We must exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world.” So, today I’m going to whisper. Today, I’m whispering my prayers. Today, I’m putting my heart on the line and leaving my heart wide open. Today, I’m whispering that I need a hug and so do those around me.

So, that is my prayer today. I pray for the ones that need you. I pray that we exchange whispers with you today. I pray that we seek you. I pray that we lean on you. I pray that we spend time with you today. I pray that we set aside extra time to worship you today. I pray that while we are broken, we remember that you are the only one that can make us whole. I pray we remember that you are the only one that can give us comfort and grace and healing. I pray that we keep opening our hearts to you and those around us. I pray that we push through our fear. I pray that we are surrounded by love. I pray that we know we aren’t alone in this or anything else. I pray that we know that you are with us. I pray that we know that you are bigger than all of this. I pray that we know you have a plan and while we don’t understand it sometimes, I pray that we have faith in your plan. I pray that our faith in you only grows deeper, the more it’s tested. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

All my soul needs is all Your love to cover me.

A couple of weeks ago, someone told me they thought I was timid and scared. If she only knew that I have spent every second of the last twenty-three years trying to overcome those very words. If she only knew how far deep those words cut. If she only knew what those words mean to me. How much those words try to break me, to suffocate me.

I am a lot of things, timid and scared is not anywhere the list of my abilities. I am not weak. Those words do not define me. I am a leader and I do not take that word lightly either. In college, I gave Alpha Gamma Delta my entire heart. I took any office I could and worked as hard as I could to make a difference. I was no longer a leader because I wanted to be or I had something to prove. I was a leader because those women deserved one, because they had given me so much and all I wanted was to show them how much it meant to me. I was apart of something bigger than myself. It was no longer about me, it was about the entire chapter. I did everything I could to support them and give them what they needed to succeed. I tried to constantly train someone to replace each office I took and even ones I didn’t. It wasn’t because I thought my absence would be felt. It was so they could have my shared knowledge and experience so, they could take the office even further. It was so they could grow and do more than I ever could. I saw that chapter grow and thrive and now as an alum, I get to watch it grow even more. I mean, we had literally over 50 new members on bid day. When I got that phone call, I literally cried I was so happy for them.

I was looking for one of my old documents for a sister and I stumbled upon my senior letter to the chapter instead. Rereading my words, I felt like a completely different person. I think after I went alum, I lost a little bit of my strength, my confidence got a little shaky. Rereading my words today was a beautiful reminder of all that I have accomplished in the last twenty-three years. It reminded me of all I learned and experienced and how far I’ve grown. I was thinking back to everything I’ve done and of course I made mistakes along the way, but I wouldn’t change a thing because even those mistakes led to something or taught me something I desperately needed. Looking back, every single thing happened for a reason and I like who I am because of it. I think rereading it gave me back my strength. It was exactly what I needed today.

So, here is my advice to those beautiful new members:

Go Jags!

G: go to everything and take a sister with you. Get involved. Make connections. Go to class. Learn as much as you can. Go to the library and study. Go to campus events, sporting events. Go to the rec center. Play intramurals.

O: organization. If you want to do all the fun stuff, you’re going to need to learn a little time management. Get a planner. Splurge for the Lilly (it’s worth it). Make a budget. College will end and bills will come, so use this time as learning experience and go ahead and prepare yourself for the future.

J: journey. You’re going to tested in ways you never thought possible. There are going to be bumps along the way. Learn the difference between speed bumps and road blocks and just complete mountains. Understand it’s a process. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Be patient. This is the starting point, the jumping off location for the rest of your life. You have new freedom, use it to learn and make a difference.

A: accept differences. If I learned nothing else, it’s that people handle things differently. People learn and speak and communicate differently. If you learn the reason why someone acted that way, it makes it a whole lot easier to see their side. Everyone has a different story to tell. Be compassionate and understanding. Be warm, open, and kind. Be careful with jealousy too because the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.

G: grace. Learn it. Share it. Accept it. Be thankful for it. You are going to make mistakes, that part is certain. You are also going to get hurt by other people. You can’t control them or what they do. You can however, control your reaction. How you react to things can define who you are.

S: spirit. Paint your face. Cheer. Get excited. You’ve only got four years in college (for maybe a little more, if you’re like me). Make it count. Take pictures and cherish all the memories.

I had a wonderful four-years in Alpha Gamma Delta. I have accomplished a lot. I’ve won awards. I made memories and friendships that I cherish. I learned more than I ever thought possible. I’ve got a resume so long, I need legal size paper. One thing is for sure, I am nothing without You, Lord.

So, here is my prayer today. Lord, I need you. I am nothing without you. I am nothing without your love. I am nothing without your all-consuming fire. Lord, wrap your arms around me. Surround me in your presence. Thank you for all you have given me. Thank you for the my years in Alpha Gam. Thank you for my journey at USA. Thank you for putting those women in my life. Thank you for teaching me and guiding me. Thank you for the experiences and the lessons. Thank you for teaching me forgiveness and grace and love and respect and humility and courage and strength. I pray for those new members. I pray that they grow and learn. I pray they support each other and give as much as they can to each other. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.