Everyone has a genre of music they can never go without in their life. Mine might have to be R&B. The fact that some songs hit just right. Usually, they have the right sound or they mean something so deep to you. Either way, its a type of music I love to listen to. I want to be able to share that love with all of you, which is why creating this playlist is hopefully the start of your rhythm and blues obsession.
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When there is nothing constant in me.
We are constantly moving. I don’t know what that looks like for you, but for me it means both physically and mentally. For the past two years, I have often found myself having to pack up boxes and move them into, or out of, places. I would say that somehow this has become, on average, an every six-month project. I have lived in many different places, met many new people, and have fought for what I know is true in different ways at each of them.
I have also constantly changed, myself. God has used the places and the people surrounding me to strip me of my pride, teach me freedom, and present a new understanding of pure joy. Every day, I am challenged to take part in sweet sanctification with gratitude. Some days I fail at surrender. I am messy. I am inconsistent.
I am constantly moving. I am constantly seeking, inconsistent in emotion, weak, and tossed by the winds. I go from place to place, I recognize my changing spirit. I am constantly moving, but in this I rejoice: God is constantly God. He is constantly present. He is consistently good. Oh my, and this life is not about my finite, wandering self. If it is about His glory alone, I am grateful to rejoice in the freedom that is His unwavering spirit.
When I am broken, tossed to and fro, Jesus has the same love for me as He did yesterday and will tomorrow. When I am changing, when my scenery is changing, when I am packing boxes, or when I am chasing after the wind -- God has never quit chasing after my heart. “Our weakness is a vessel for His goodness, and our flaws a canvas for His grace.”
Our changing hearts have been ultimately made new by a constant one. His love follows you consistently. Rejoice! Jesus is better. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Jesus is good yesterday, today, and, undeniably, will be tomorrow.
The story of traveling to a foreign country without your family.
The summer of my junior year I had the opportunity to go to Greece with a group of my classmates. It was a ten day trip through EF Tours taking me around Greece. We visited Athens, Turkey, Santorini, Crete, Mykonos, Rhodes, and Paros. The experiences and memories I made in these ten days was something I will never forget.
While I was in Santorini without cell service, of course, my card was denied. I had souvenirs ready to be bought and I had to pay for my tram ride back down. The worst was realizing I could not buy the souvenirs and I would probably never be back there again. I also had problems paying for everything on the cruise; after multiple calls to my dad it had finally worked out. Thank god he always has his phone on him.
In Turkey, I learned how they make rugs. It is absolutely amazing. There was all kinds of rugs from bathroom rugs to huge area rugs. They were extremely expensive. The coolest thing was when we sat down and a man started throwing rugs around and it would change colors. It was something I could hardly believe. I still don't understand how it happened, but it was crazy.
Each place we went had tons of market shops all over the place. I walked along each store, but tried to keep my distance. I learned if you get to close they will suck you into the store and annoy you until you buy something. It is extremely frustrating for someone who tries to be overly nice.
While walking through the streets, I was extremely aware of how awful some people had it. There were mothers with no money begging on the sidewalks, again looking into their eyes was very sad, so I tried to avoid them. Because of this, I had been warned about pickpocketing many times. I could hardly walk for ten minutes without making sure I had everything.
The most frustrating and exciting part about this trip was seeing all of these amazing buildings, but not having your family to share it with. You can't even text or call them to show them the amazing architecture. I loved having this experience all to myself, but hated it at the same time. I really missed my family, but I started to be with my friends more and more each night.
I went on this trip with tons of people I knew of, but I was not super close with any of them. After multiple hours in airports and on planes I was close with everyone. It was like our own little family. Each night we had dinner together and traveled through the cities together. When we arrived to our cruise ship we had rooms next to each other and spent a lot of time together. We saw amazing places together and had a lot of laughs.
Traveling to Greece was scary and exciting at the same time. If you get a chance to go there, it is a must. The islands are absolutely gorgeous, unlike anything I have ever seen. Over time I learned a lot about my travel pals and had shared so many experiences with them. I would give anything to be back on the plane flying to Greece. I miss having fish bite at my feet at a store, I miss walking along the cruise watching the sunset, I miss seeing all of attractions and learning about the culture, but most of all I miss the time spent with all of my friends.
Your ignorance is not your bliss
Across the country, many people have mixed opinions about the use of nuclear energy. The oppositions have arguments ranging from waste disposal to radiation effects, when most of the claims are fueled by false or inaccurate beliefs. The fact of the matter is, nuclear energy is vital to powering our country. There are certainly some incidents that have happened in the past that have given the nuclear industry a bad name, for instance Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island. The NIRS has an article with their Top 11 Reasons to Oppose Nuclear Power, with six of those reasons containing connections to nuclear waste. Now, while nuclear waste has been a huge topic of discussion since 2011 when the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository site was closed due to the end of Federal funding. Finding a new way to handle the waste has become a prominent discussion within the field, but has also been mentioned to be a political problem as well.
Most who oppose nuclear power believe that wind and solar would be the best replacement. Realistically, this is a bold belief and is financially not very ideal. Energy Reality Project posted an article called “Let’s Run the Numbers,” comparing nuclear energy to wind and solar:
“It would cost over $29 Trillion to generate America’s baseload electric power with a 50 / 50 mix of wind and solar farms, on parcels of land totaling the area of Indiana. Or:
It would cost over $18 Trillion with Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) farms in the southwest deserts, on parcels of land totaling the area of West Virginia. Or:
We could do it for less than $3 Trillion with AP-1000 Light Water Reactors, on parcels totaling a few square miles. Or:
We could do it for $1 Trillion with liquid-fueled Molten Salt Reactors, on the same amount of land, but with no water cooling, no risk of meltdowns, and the ability to use our stockpiles of nuclear “waste” as a secondary fuel.”
Basically, it would cost $29.25 trillion to power the U.S. for 60 years, in about 35,135 sq. miles of 500 wind and 500 solar farms. In comparison, it would cost $2.94 trillion to power the U.S. for 60 years in about 1.95 sq. miles of 50 AP-1000 reactors; alternatively it would only cost $1 trillion to power the country with Molten Salt Reactors.
Ultimately, it is unrealistic to believe that wind and solar could power the country on its own. Yes, it is a reliable form of energy, but the country just does not have the money or space to take that step. Now this is not to say that wind and solar aren’t necessary, because they are. Every energy source is going to have byproducts, but each source is going to have its own quality that makes it imperative to powering the United States.
The positive to nuclear is that is green clean energy that can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, while other forms of energy are intermittent. Denise Ingoe, a woman on the Mid-Atlantic Fleet Assessment Team for Exelon, stated, “You need to have base load (constantly meet demand) electricity to ensure grid stability…You need to have the base load capacity to ensure the grid is stable so there are not brownouts or blackouts. Renewables are also needed and can help meet environmental goals when they are available to supplement base load generation.”
Utilizing the participation of both renewables (wind and solar) and nuclear would be the most effective way to sustain the country on its energy demands. Each day the nuclear field is gaining knowledge, and the United States has one of the strictest, if not the strictest, restrictions and regulations on the nuclear industry. Nuclear energy is vital to the growth and sustaining of the United States.
We're all still living in a Barbie world even if they now have a "curvy" doll.
As a '90s baby who has grown up into a world that feels the need to categorize weight into clean-cut categories, when I saw that Barbie had released a "curvy" Barbie, I was ecstatic. I called my mom to tell her not to yell at me when she saw that some of my allotted food money was going to purchase a Barbie doll... at age 20. But then I began to investigate further and realized these dolls were a little to good to be true. While Barbie is certainly on to something with varying sizes, shapes, hair color, and means of expression for young girls, we are all still living in a Barbie world.
Last time I checked, most girls that have a large thigh gap do not identify as curvy. Or they are very much in shape and work out a lot in order to maintain curves and that gap between the thighs that society is currently obsessed with. Yet on Barbie's homepage, if you navigate yourself to the section labeled "curvy," you find dolls with slightly wider breast, skinny faces with defined cheekbones, a tiny waist, and then the curvy aspect: Beyonce-inspired hips that do not have the thighs to match. It is easy to see what Barbie was attempting, skinny and curvy is in thanks to the big booty obsession that is permeating rap music, red carpet events, and at-home workout routines. It is evident that women like Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, and JLo all have widened the gap in what society considers pretty, yet these people also work extremely hard to maintain these images -- whether through workouts and diet, or in some cases surgery, playing into the idea of "curvy perfection."
I identify with this movement and certainly like the fact that this new beauty standard deviates slightly from the idea that women need to be super skinny with big breasts in order to be considered pretty (the kind of pretty Barbie has defined for decades). Yet Barbie's attempt at this plays into "curvy perfection."
This is certainly a step in the right direction. The doll does not promote obesity or the original Barbie image that has been proven time and time again as completely unrealistic. Yet the way Barbie chooses to portray curviness can cause an impact as well. Curvy Barbie seems to come with appropriate plus-sized clothes, dresses, florals, and cinched waistbands to draw the eye to the skinniest part of the body -- implying, as society tends to do, that women with curves have special attire they need to wear to look as skinny as possible.
Barbie is taking a step in the right direction, helping young girls identify with dolls that may look more like them. Yet it is important to realize that Barbies are still made to portray a sense of societal perfection -- regardless of the sizes, shapes, heights, or hair colors that they may be including.
No cloud can hide your light.
Most people who know me learned pretty early on that I LOVE to talk. However, one thing that a lot of people don't know is that I struggled with a speech impairment growing up. If you've ever heard a kindergartener talk, it is clear that they haven't learned how to say everything correctly yet. Most kids' speech improves as they get older, but for some, like me, talking the right way was really hard. I didn't even realize it until I began speech therapy in elementary school, but I couldn't even say words like "dog" or "cat" correctly. I also talked really fast, so that certainly didn't help anything. I never expected, though, that I would need speech therapy.
I was in speech therapy until the ninth grade when the speech therapist at our high school told me that I no longer need it. That was an incredibly happy day for me as I had worked for years to improve my speech. Even though my struggle didn't necessarily end there, I think it is important for me to use my past experiences to help other people, so I want to explain what having a speech impairment taught me about life.
- Our weaknesses can actually make us better, because they teach us how to overcome challenges. I would consider myself to be a pretty determined person. However, my biggest obstacle growing up was my speech and I wanted to give up so bad as the years went on. Had I given up, I would've failed myself, and I wouldn't have been able to see how determination pays off. Now, when I am stressed, I can think about how hard I worked to get where I am and it makes me want to do better.
- People's words hurt. I remember being teased for the way that I talked and I didn't know if people were doing it out of meanness or just because. However, it hurt me because it was something that I worked hard to improve but still struggled with. Outer wounds may heal, but it's our inner scars that stay with us for a lifetime.
- The important thing in life is how we care for those scars. Do we mope about how people treated us or do we use it to improve our own character? Until Jesus comes back, there will be evil in this world and we can't control what others say. We can encourage others to be nice, however, by our own words and actions. I remember one instance at my former job in which a customer couldn’t understand me so they decided to talk to me as if I was a child. I was very upset, but I didn’t react. Holding one’s tongue requires a lot of self-control and it shows more about our character than reacting does, At the end of the day, we are the better person for this.
- Our weaknesses don’t diminish who we are as individuals. We're still as beautiful, as handsome, as smart, as talented, as funny, and as emotional as the next person. I've always been that straight-A student who was super ambitious and had her dreams pointed to the stars, but I felt like because I couldn't talk right, I wasn't as good as everyone else. This just goes to show how we can be our own worst enemy. When we let fear and hurt run our lives, it just brings us down and we start to torture ourselves. Our self-image becomes broken and our self-confidence decreases.
- Having a speech impairment has taught me that our differences make the world a much more beautiful place. Because we are all different, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses which make us unique, and all that’s left to do is learn how we can use those things to help others. When we realize that, it really affects the way that we love on others.
I used to be ashamed of the way that I talked. Now, I thank God for the experience. It has taught me so much more about life than I ever thought possible, and it has made me a better person. Don't let the struggles you face define who you are... Let them change who you are for the better.
Be a ray of sunlight for the world. Even on cloudy days, your light can still shine through.
1. Brittany Morgan,National Writer's Society
2. Radhi,SUNY Stony Brook
3. Kristen Haddox, Penn State University
4. Jennifer Kustanovich, SUNY Stony Brook
5. Clare Regelbrugge, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign