Five Things That Happen When You Stop Working at Camp

campy camp.jpg

by Emily Frazell, class of 2017

I have been going to Camp Allen in Navasota, TX, since I was going into 4th grade, both as a camper and as a staff member - for those of you keeping track, that’s twelve summers... AKA a long dang time. The only things I’ve done longer than being a camp kid is being alive and being a student. However, this past summer I reluctantly pried myself away from that and had an internship in Austin, and found out what happens when you stop working at camp...

1. You miss your friends.

It’s really hard to go from living with 25+ of your closest friends for 3 months to working 8-5 in an office.

2. You can feel pretty left out.

This is pretty closely tied to number one, but when your friends keep posting fun pics from the summer it feels like a constant reminder that you aren’t there. You wonder if you would be having more fun if you were there with them.

Side note: don’t forget that one big problem with the internet is that people put their favorite pieces of themselves out there – Facebook posts don’t remind you how hard camp can be, just the fun happy things.

3. You GROW.

BUT! There is so much good to come from stepping away from camp too!

For me, camp was definitely in my comfort zone, and once I went elsewhere, I found out some cool things about myself. When you take a step out of what's familiar and who's familiar, you get to be more of your own person, or find out who that is! This summer was so cool for me because I realized that Emily is much more than just a camp kid. Once I had the guts to step away from camp, I was able to find a possible career path that I think could be empowering and uplifting for me. If I had stayed at camp again this summer I would never have found a passion for helping people through non-profit development.

Growth takes place when you push yourself out of your comfort zone. 

4. You realize the strength of your friendships.

Although I missed my camp friends dearly this summer, I also found that those relationships aren’t held together by the physical space that is camp. The relationships that are built at camp have Christ, and fun, and love as their foundation and those are three things that move with the people and aren’t just tied to the blob, or cabins, or lake.

5. You are forced to find God in new faces and places.

In a similar way that I realized that friendships aren’t tied just to camp, I realized that God isn’t just tied to camp. This summer was hard for me to get super connected spiritually when I’m so used to finding that at camp.  At camp, I saw God in the joy of the camper each days, in the bible studies we did each day and in the beautiful landscape. I was forced to look for God in the new people I was meeting every day at my internship and to hear his voice in their words of encouragement, which was an exciting challenge. This summer I saw God mostly in the faces of my coworkers and in the selfless ways they worked to serve the University.  I think it helped give me the confidence that similarly, when I graduate and leave this place—The ESC—I will be able to find these things as well even in new environments.

TL/DR: Camp is one of my favorite places in the world, but having the courage to leave for a bit can be really empowering and fruitful.


The Stigma of Vulnerability and Why it Can be a Beautiful Thing

By Kayla Blanchard

If you have ever seen Lizzie McGuire, you know the animated version of Lizzie who performs Lizzie’s inner dialogue. The animated version of Lizzie is how the real life Lizzie wants to react to what is happening in real time. She’s the one who screams and runs across the screen when something bad happens. I think we all have our own Lizzies, and like many Lizzies, mine tends to run when I am faced with vulnerability.  

So here’s my story of how I stopped running from vulnerability and finally embraced the practice of being seen. 

On the first day of my junior year of college, I wrote in my journal, “I want to take what I have learned over the years and apply it to my life. I want to feel worthy again.” I was overcome by shame, anxiety, and fear. The past few years had been rocky and I was desperate for a change. 

So I did what I did best. I pulled up a TED Talk and tried to find a little inspiration for the new semester.  

With little belief that I would find anything life changing, I came across Brené Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” TED Talk. I can honestly say Brené Brown’s work changed my outlook on living wholly.

After watching the TED Talk, I immediately Googled “Vulnerability” and found this: “Vulnerability is the state of being open to injury, or appearing as if you are. It might be emotional, like admitting that you're in love with someone who might only like you as a friend, or it can be literal, like the vulnerability of a soccer goal that's unprotected by any defensive players.”

For the next few months I was fixated with  Brown’s work. I found that my take on vulnerability is when you are seen completely and fully for who you are. Vulnerability is when all your hidden struggles are out in the open for someone else to see and critique. It’s heavy, hot, uncomfortable and, scariest of all, unavoidable. 

The stigma with vulnerability is that it is portrayed as a weakness. Most people believe that being vulnerable is a call for help when one can no longer take care of oneself. Serious conditions include the belief that vulnerability is unacceptable or a form of egotism. We want to protect others and ourselves by keeping our struggles secret.

Being overly discreet is an acceptable but muted role that has formed in our society. In this century we are increasingly dependent and self–aware. As Brown states in her book, Daring Greatly, “we connect judgment with receiving help.” The idea of walking alone with our vulnerabilities is a heck of a lot more comfortable than sharing our struggles and being perceived as weak. There is a chance of withdrawal, judgment and loss of trust when sharing your story but the act of being discreet is the birthplace for disconnection. For many of us, disconnection is a form of protection. 

The problem with disconnection is that it leads us astray from our relationships. Brown believes that the opposite of disconnection, connection, is the link to all relationships and a wholehearted human experience. Connection is scary. It requires us to be fully seen and share the raw and ugly truth with someone else. But when it comes down to it, the first things you look for in someone else are their vulnerabilities. 

Although you are uncomfortable being vulnerable, you want to experience someone else’s vulnerabilities in order to feel less alone.

Oftentimes we hide our story with perfectionism, which is the most dangerous of all. We hide by having a perky personality, the hottest clothes, the best grades and tons of extra curricular activities. The practice of perfectionism leaves others on the outside wondering what it is like to be you. Being perfect does not make you beautiful or inviting, vulnerability does. Exposing your struggle to a friend is the core to connection and respect. Your story makes you human; your story makes you relatable. 

Being vulnerable is courageous. It’s scary and it’s a dive you don’t need to make every day. But when that person comes along that you want to connect with on a deep level, vulnerability is necessary. In Daring Greatly, Brown quotes author Margery Williams: “ Once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” This quote is the essence of true friendship. Choose to be vulnerable with those that matter, those that will be with you in the midst of your story and not try to fix you but simply sit there with you and say “this sucks but you’re okay.”

There is nothing more exhausting than walking around in fear, anxiety and pain. When something wrong happens to you, which something will, you will feel lonely and scared. Don’t allow yourself to sit alone when you need a hand. It will take some phenomenal courage to ask for help but it will be all the more worth it.

Not too long ago I experienced a heavy amount of vulnerability when I shared a secret with a close friend. In the moment, I was immersed in panic and fear. I had never been so uncomfortable and helpless in the face of someone I admired. But I knew I had to let myself be seen in order to rid the anxiety and get on with my day, heck, get on with my life.  

So what happened? My friend was there for me. She didn’t try to fix me or make me feel better. She was just there and listened. Not only is our friendship a lot stronger, but it’s also  a lot more real. My action encouraged her to be courageous, too. Another quote from Brown that I love is, “Vulnerability begets vulnerability.”

So what is vulnerability? It’s the feeling of your guts spilling out of your stomach. It’s when your own animated Lizzie starts running away. But it’s also the key to compassion, connection and worthiness. 

I will leave you with this: you have your own story and you get to decide what happens in the end.

Reflection from a Senior

Last week we heard about the impact of the Student Center on a freshman and today we hear about the impact of the Student Center on a recent graduate!

By Parkes Ousley    
    Throughout my pre-college years, my spirituality was my defining characteristic. When I was at school with friends, I was the religious kid, the one who cared. I was the one who went to church every week, twice a week, and the one who participated. I was one of the only Episcopalians.
    At home, I was just part of the machine, one of the cogs in its place, functioning like the rest. My dad was a priest, my mom a cradle Episcopalian, and my sister an avid Episcopalian as well. Our spirituality wasn’t just our own, but it was our families. It was shared between us, and united us. And as great as that sounds, and it was great, it left out one important piece of spirituality; the true feeling of ownership and personality.
    Before college, whether I was at school or with family, there seemed to be some slight disconnection, some unidentified pressure that inhibited my spiritual growth. At school, I held it back myself, sometimes knowingly and sometimes out of habit and subconscious fear of sharing my true feelings. My friends already showed inhibition around me enough as it was. They were scared of me and my ability to shame them. If only they knew I sought connection, not judgement, when I asked them about spirituality, lives at home, and their weekend activities.
    At home, of course, I was free to share faith, but my family’s close connection didn’t provide the struggle and conflict which is so good at stretching and growing people. I was met with challenging questions, but I was in such a safe and familiar space, with people that had always had all the answers, that I never wrestled as much as one needs to to take full ownership of their faith.
    Then came my move to Austin and my transition into the Episcopal Student Center. I was asked to be on the music team before I ever set foot in the building, and at first I decided not to, because I wanted to take a break from Church to try and give myself a way to struggle. I was searching for tension, and figured not having a church home may do that. Alas, I accepted the offer and jumped headfirst into the community. Man what a great, and lucky, opportunity.
    I found out very quickly that the ESC was the exact wrestling mat I’d been searching for for the past few years. I’d always been a (more or less) high church Episcopalian, and the first change was leading music with a guitar and piano, rather than following an organ and wondrous chorus. I quickly fell in love with the different style of service and began to more greatly appreciate the different parts of our service. The different way of worshipping showed me there is a lot more that makes our Church and service beautiful than just choirs and old language.
    I also quickly realized that I was surrounded by a ton of people my age. I’d always longed to be in a youth group, and finally in college, I found a community that consisted of people all right around my age. Not only did they have language and lifestyles that I could relate to, they also understood me at a higher level than the average aged Episcopalian could. I felt a little more connected. Not only that, but they were, and are, all great people with so much to love and share. Not only did I make great friends, I found great mentors. I know I learned a TON in college, but if you ask where I learned the most, I couldn’t tell you for sure if it was in the walls of my various classrooms on campus or in the walls of the church. I felt like every time I walked in on Sunday and Wednesday nights, and every random snack grab or study session in between, I became a dumpster of knowledge and information, where people would just unload a lifetime of thoughts, ideas, feelings, and their current test material. People studied by telling me what they learned. People asked me questions about class that I couldn’t answer, reminding me I needed to spend more time studying.
    Even greater than that knowledge though was the wealth of life I received. People taught me things that I can’t learn in class. They taught me to have fun. They taught me to lighten up. They taught me how to love, both others and myself. They taught me how to mess up and not take myself so seriously. They taught me more how women work, like so much more… They taught me that I can learn from anyone or anything. They taught me that I’m not at all perfect, not even close, but that it’s okay. They taught me that being smart isn’t just about getting A’s in classes and success isn’t defined by my parents, or society, or anyone else but me and what I desired. They taught me to take control of my path and set my sights on what I desired and put the pedal to the medal until I get there or realize I’m chasing the wrong thing. They taught me that depression is real and okay. And they taught me that it’s possible to recover, even when fighting an uphill battle. They taught me being Episcopalian is not something to hold back, not something to hide from friends or strangers for fear of being judged or avoided. They taught me that what really matters is how I love, and if I love deeply, nothing else really matters.
    The ESC provided in so many ways. They reinforced and challenged my faith. They asked tough, tough questions, some of which I still haven’t been able to answer. There were meaningful mission trips. There were pilgrimages. There was thoughtful discussion everywhere. They had food; snacks and meals and food for thought. There was coffee, and more coffee, and tea, and more coffee still. And just when we thought we had finally had all the coffee and snacks, more came. Endless caffeine and calories to keep us going through the long days and nights and hell weeks. There were homecooked meals provided twice a week, and leftovers for the following days. There was a computer room, a TV room, big couches for napping, bowl chairs for reckless napping, a “Fishbowl” for quiet discussion, a cry room, a closet for my instruments, and the most beautiful chapel for prayer, contemplation, singing loudly, and all our weekly spiritual practices.
    My faith is extremely stronger now than before I dove into this community. It’s much stronger than it would’ve been had I not decided to accept God’s call into this place. I have uncovered so much more than I thought I could in these past four years that flashed by my eyes. I have answered many questions, fought with demons I needed to fight, and begun to wrestle with those that I didn’t even know existed. I have learned about myself, about my faith, and about the great community around me. And while none of it is perfect, I wouldn’t want it to be. I have a newfound respect and value of the struggle, of the journey.
    Out of all the growth I experienced, I think the single greatest thing I got from the Student Center, the thing I’m most thankful for, is a true sense of self. I’m no longer a cog in a machine or an other. Whether I’m in a community that looks and sounds like me or in a place that doesn’t share my thoughts and beliefs, I feel unique. I feel special and worth something. I feel like I have something to offer. I feel whole.

I feel loved.

Reflections from a Freshman

By Maddie Baughman

    Growing up I was taught that God is present not only in chapels and holy sites, but everywhere in our daily lives and work.  These teachings never really sank in for me because outside of Sunday morning services, expression of spirituality was not something I frequently witnessed or participated in.  My church attendance in high school was minimal, and I was rarely surrounded by people who consistently celebrated their faith, with the exception of my mom.  Beginning my Freshman year of college, I did not expect spirituality to be a conscious part of my everyday experience.
    When I began my time at UT, similar to many Freshman, I was overwhelmed and very lonely.  School had never been this rigorous for me. I was 1,968 miles away from home, and sleeping in a room that felt like it belonged to a stranger.  I was having a hard time connecting with people in my classes and hall, and longed for familiar faces and conversations that weren’t about my major or what I was going to do with it.  
    I had several distant connections to the Episcopal Student Center and reluctantly decided to begin going to services and programming.  It took time but I eventually began finding friends within the community and developing a sense of home that had been lacking.  Coffee dates, jokes, and going to last minute volleyball games may not have seemed extraordinary, but it meant the world to me.  I became close with people I would have never expected, some of whom I had strangely met years ago.  The loneliest months of my life slowly became some of the best, as I learned who I liked to surround myself with and who I was as an independent person.
    With this awareness of self, I learned that I valued being around a spiritually conscious group of people with various beliefs, questions, and a willingness to discuss.  I gained an appreciation for those who shared a desire to pray and eat together. Eating in dining halls was my least favorite part of Freshman year, not because of the food, but the isolation of not eating with my family. There are many connections between spirituality and the sharing of a meal.  Breaking bread, blessing food, appreciating where it came from and who created it; these are steps that make me think about what I have and who I share it with. I realized that when eating with the ESC community I not only enjoyed the company of people, but I also appreciated the food that we shared together.  Incorporating food and faith encouraged me to think about what small aspects of everyday life, such as eating, mean to me.
    This past year has opened my eyes to how faith is not something that is reserved for Sunday mornings. Spirituality is not black and white, and can be embraced in countless different ways everyday.  I am still exploring what I believe and how I wish to express my beliefs, but having a stronger consciousness of faith this year has led me to understand what is important to me in my daily life. 

Reflection on South Africa

By Sarah Burde

               I recently took a twenty-one hour flight to Cape Town, South Africa for a social justice trip with St. Edward’s University. Being in Cape Town was extremely eye opening. Going there I expected to see some major changes during this post-Apartheid period that we are living in. Although Apartheid is no longer in place, poverty is still very prevalent. The unemployment rate is at 25% and there is still extreme separation between social classes and races. During Apartheid the government moved blacks and coloreds into Townships or Shanty Towns, where homes are created from plastic, wood, or old shipping containers, there is usually no running water or electricity within these homes. However, despite the government currently trying to create better homes, families still choose to live in the townships because that is what they are familiar with and it is very community oriented.
             The trip revolved around the values of social justice emphasized my freshmen year at St. Edward’s University. During the trip we had the opportunity to work with the Amy Biehl Foundation. The foundation was founded by the Biehl family after their daughter was murdered during her Fulbright trip to Cape Town in the midst of Apartheid related protests. The non-profit’s mission is focused around creating after school programs for children in the townships, so that they have opportunity to be in a safe environment, that allows them to express themselves and learn new skills. Amy Biehl’s after school programs consist of dance, drama, art, literacy, and sports classes that each child who attends can choose from. Amy Biehl has also created gardens at each of the schools they are working at to help provide healthy food options for the students’ lunches. The South African Government does not provide the food for the schools and the stipend provided limits the types of foods the children receive. Amy Biehl’s creation of the gardens teaches the children about the importance of eating well and how gardening their own food is beneficial. Our time with the foundation was spent gardening and spending time with the children while they participated in their activities for the three days we were volunteering. The kids were very loving and welcoming to us and I felt so blessed to have had the opportunity over those three days to build bonds with different kids, despite the language barrier. Working in the townships and visiting areas around Cape Town changed my perspective, forcing me to be aware of how privileged we as Americans are.
             The experience I had was very spiritual because it made me raise more questions about God’s role in social justice around the world. Such as ‘Why does God put different families and cultures in the living situations that they are in?,’ as well as ‘what is God trying to teach us from this very evident divide in race and class?.’  As I was sitting down thinking about this post I remembered Matthew 19:16-30. A man approaches Jesus asking what he can do to have eternal life, Jesus tells him to follow the ten commandments and to sell his possessions and then serve the poor and follow Jesus. Then after the man walks away Jesus tells his disciples that it is much harder for the wealthy to enter into eternal life than it is the poor. Matthew 16 made me see how we tend to judge poor and make generalizations that they aren’t trying to better themselves in society. When in reality they are the first ones to help a neighbor and give up a possession for another person. It also made me think about the American mentality, that we as Americans are known for looking at success based on money and how much we have, instead of how we live our lives as individuals and children of God.  The post-Apartheid separation and amount of poverty I saw made me reevaluate how we fully live grace filled lives as children of God. Cape Town helped me see how we are all guilty of dehumanizing homelessness and poverty to stop ourselves from feeling the vulnerability it causes. My trip changed how I think about poverty and showed me how the government is handling the poverty in an array of countries. Like Jesus said in Matthew 19, we can do everything right, but until we actually acknowledge and become in tune with the needs of the poor we are just going through the motions of trying to bring social justice through combating poverty.
             Another side of the trip that allowed me to feel the presence of God was the natural beauty of Cape Town. On this past college retreat, Priest Ben Nelson discussed finding God’s presence in the beauty of nature. This form of prayer and way of connecting to God was extremely evident throughout my time in Cape Town. No matter your location you can see Table Mountain and the picturesque view that it is, surrounding the city. There is vivid beauty throughout South Africa and being mindful to God’s presence in this nature was very comforting. The two week trip was filled with many tests, the biggest being triggers for my anxiety, but also other events like getting my credit card stolen, seeing the townships for the first time, or experiencing homeless men and women being very persistent in how they ask for money. As someone who has not left the country since I was six, it was quite a culture shock to experience these different scenarios. However, being able to see the beauty from any location was a way to calm my soul and be mindful that God is with me and all the tests are apart of a larger plan to teach me a greater lesson.
             In a recent Gathering video with HGTV star Joanna Gaines, says “ focusing on letting His father heart shine through us, fixing our eyes on Jesus and walking in that truth.” This quote became a constant reminder for me after my time working with the Amy Biehl Foundation, it helped me to be open about Jesus showing me my passions and helping me walk in the truth of who God has planned for me to be. Before this experience I knew that non-profit’s who focused their mission around children in the community and education were very important to me. Since working with the kids in the different schools and feeling God’s love shine through them, it allowed me to be consciously present with the interactions I was having with them and really listening and being mindful to the different lessons I was gaining from this experience. My time with the foundation guided me in Jesus’ truth and for me it had allowed me to find other organizations with similar goals to Amy Biehl’s, as well as think of possible ways to raise funds to purchase school supplies that Amy Biehl is in short supply of. Letting His father heart shine through to allow us to listen and see the truth He is trying to show us is very important, and I truly believe that because of this small quote I heard months ago I was able to be more truthful with myself and with God, but also it allowed me to open up to what the truth was behind what I was seeing. 
             Traveling to South Africa helped me to change my perspective on social justice and showed me how it is carried out in other parts of the world.  Traveling has also brought me closer to God in that it connected me to my brothers and sisters living halfway across the world. Meeting new people and adapting to their way of life has helped me appreciate the gifts and blessings God has bestowed upon this Earth and myself. That beauty of the nature that surrounded me as well as the kindness of all those I interacted with me, helped me to see God in so many different ways. This trip has enlightened me to stay strong in my faith, and has strengthened my passion for helping others and embracing other cultures. I am grateful for the experience that St. Edward’s University made possible for me. I can now move forward as a woman for others, instilling positive changes in the lives of those I meet in my daily life.


Weekly Prayers, Spring 2016

Each week our ESC News email starts with a prayer written or chosen by students. Below are the prayers from this semester.

Risen Christ, for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred: open the doors of our hearts,that we may seek the good of others and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace to the praise of God the Father.
~Adapted from a Church of England Collect by Kathryn Drake, junior

Dear Lord, we ask that You help us to accept ourselves just the way we are, without judgment. Help us to accept our mind the way it is, with all our emotions, our hopes and dreams, our personality, our unique way of being. Help us to accept our body just the way it is, with all its beauty and perfection. Let the love we have for ourselves be so strong that we never again reject ourselves or sabotage our happiness, freedom, and love. In Christ's name, Amen.
~Griffin Kissling, senior

Lord, keep us aware of your presence as we move through this week and help us to see Your face in the face of those around us. Give us joy and keep us focused on Your grace and glory. Amen.  
~Emily Frazell, junior

Dear Heavenly Father, as the semester reaches it's end I ask that You be near us in the midst of change and transformation. Remind us that we are never lost or alone with You. When we look into the future and feel uncertain of the direction to go, I ask that You steer us in the direction of Your great plan.
~Kayla Blanchard, junior

Hi God, thanks for looking out for us, for wrapping us in your presence even when we aren't aware. Guide our hearts to live more like you, and to be kindness and see kindness within each other and everyone we meet. Thank you for your limitless grace and undying love, sheltering us from all the storms around us. Help us to look more like love in all that we do. AMEN
~Emma Kypuros, freshman

Lord, Thank you for all that you have done for us - for loving us, protecting us, and guiding us. Through you, Lord, anything is possible. As we approach the end of the semester with final essays, exams and presentations, I humbly ask Lord that you continue to watch over us in the times of struggle and stress and in times of happiness and success. Lord, grant us peace of mind and heart, strengthen us with your spirit, and empower us to become a sanctuary for those in need. In Your Name, I pray. Amen.  
~Christienne Te, freshman

God of Wisdom, I thank you for the knowledge gained and the learning experiences of the semester. I come to you and ask you to illuminate my mind and heart. Let your Holy Spirit be with me as I prepare for exams, guiding my studies and giving me insight so that I can perform to the best of my ability.  Grant me the strength to handle the pressure of these days,the confidence to feel secure in my knowledge, and the ability to keep a proper perspective through it all.Help me to keep in mind what is truly important,even as I focus my time and energy on these exams. Finally, may I sense your peace in knowing that I applied myself to the challenges of this day. I ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.                  
~From Marquette University, chosen by Sarah Bishop, sophomore