I Believe in Failure, by Rev. Robyn Bles

I believe in failure.  As a self-avowed perfectionist I have come to accept failure as a lifelong companion and teacher.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I hate failure.  Always lurking around the corner, failure was the long time the frenemy who I dreaded showing up to sabotage my big plans.  My first real experiences of failure happened right on TCU’s campus.  Breezing through high school I showed up to my freshman year thinking my usual good attendance and class participation were adequate tools for the academic rigors of college coursework.  While C’s and D’s are not technically failing, I’m sure most TCU students would agree with me that these sorts of grades were not the level of success I was accustomed to.  That first year of academic embarrassment made me check my arrogance at the door and grace the walls of the library, finally developing those much needed study skills.  Thankfully, my friend failure taught me the appreciation of hard work and the value of a truly earned A.  Though I only achieved one A on a paper in the Religion Department’s God in Modern Thought, taught by Dr. Grant, that A is still one of my greatest academic achievements.

Failure was not only my hardcore academic teacher, but also saw me through the heart-bruising affects of dissolving friendships and breakups.  Those four years at TCU were some of the happiest and most difficult years of my life.  Who knew that failing so often and with such humiliating flair would actually be good for you?  I certainly didn’t think that was part of the process, and when it happened I sure wasn’t capable of asking for help – failure wasn’t part of the achievement plan … right?

I can’t say exactly what caused me to change my perspective; perhaps it was finally being too tired of hiding my failures behind a perfectionist shroud, finding a good counselor, or just really beginning to embrace these moments as part of my life.  When I thought my life was all about avoiding failure I couldn’t fully face what was behind those moments; but when I started to accept them I began to see failure everywhere.  Not only in my life, but in everyone’s!  From the very beginning we start out falling down, again, again, and again, until we’re finally capable of taking that first independent step.  It’s through a series of failures that we finally grow, learn, and develop compassion for others and ourselves as we all struggle in the process of becoming.

Though I was fortunate enough to experience my first devastating failure at a point when I had a little maturity and life experience, this past year my daughter experienced failure at a much too young age.  At 3 days old my healthy baby suffered a heart attack and stroke due to a series of failed surgical safety precautions.  Through no fault of her own, failure has dramatically changed the course of her life.  My husband and I are providing all the therapeutic and medical assistance she needs to recover, but as her mother, one of the greatest ways I can help my daughter is to teach her that failure is not the enemy.

Almost every day I still wish this hadn’t happened to her and our family, but I also remind myself that not only do we fail many times in our lives, but the failure of others also affects us.  What is important to remember, however, is that these failures do not define who we are.   The sum of all our failures is not the value of who we are, but rather, how we respond to these failures shapes the people we become.  I still can’t say I like failure, and there are times that I downright hate it.  But I also know that while my daughter has a long road ahead of her, at 8 months old her strength and tenacity have already proven stronger than any failure.  We are years away from knowing the full extent of her recovery and I worry about how her peers will perceive her difference, but the results of this failure remind me many good things are still to come.  The people that surround her and our family have shown me that rather than hiding, sharing our failures allows authentic community and support to come alive.  Her story and courage have quite literally created a global community of prayer, support, and celebration of her many mighty accomplishments.  Her whole life might have changed on that day because of failures, but that does not mean she will fail at living a full and rich life.  We might be connected to one another through our failures, but we’re also interconnected in our shared growth and discovery because of these moments.  I believe the ways we hold one another in these fragile moments makes us better people and a better community.  I hope you’ll fail boldly and compassionately.

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GA TIB BOOK Robyn BlesRev. Robyn Bles was a TCU student from 1999-2003 and no matter where she has lived remains a Horned Frog fan. She currently lives in Des Moines Iowa with her husband Jordan, daughter Milly, and extremely friendly golden retriever Stella.  She gratefully serves with the fabulous people of West Des Moines Christian Church.  Go Frogs!

I Believe in the Power of Words, by Rev. Erin Taylor

I believe in the power of words. Words have an incredible way of linking us to one another – whether we are strangers, old friends, or lost loved ones.

On January 25th, 2015, I lost my baby cousin, Philip, in a motorcycle accident while stationed as a Marine at Camp LeJeune. Losing someone I was so close to and who was so young broke my heart in ways I didn’t know were possible. Though Philip was 4 years younger than me, my cousin was one of my closest friends and always made his best effort to help me using his carefree wisdom. Shortly after losing him, I had his favorite saying tattooed on my right foot.

I cannot count the number of times a day that I look down at my foot and see, in his handwriting, “Never give up.”

When I see his words, I first think, “Man! I’m glad I always helped him with his spelling homework!” but shortly after, I think of him saying those three simple words and readily bestowing his carefree wisdom upon me.

When I see his words, I am reminded to always strive to do better, to always seek hope when I feel defeated, and to push through whatever obstacles and challenges I may encounter.

Words have an incredible way of linking us to one another. Words allow us to capture those irreplaceable moments, to keep our memories alive, and remind us to never, ever give up.

I believe in the beautiful power of words.

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GA TIB BOOK Erin TaylorRev. Penelope Erin Taylor is from Lake Charles, LA and is a recent graduate of Brite Divinity School & TCU’s dual M. Div/MSW program. She is a proud Peace Intern alum, is freshly ordained through the Great River Region, and currently serves as the youth minister at FCC Gainesville, TX. In her spare time, she enjoys devoting a ridiculous amount of time to her cocker spaniel, Barney, and drinking a LOT of Diet Coke.

I Believe in the Power of Connectedness, by Dr. Nadia Lahutsky

Because life is hard, I believe in the power of connectedness.  Not connection—suggesting a link between two items or things.  Connectedness, rather, implies multiple connections.  Think of many hubs each with many spokes, each spoke reaching out and making a link to one or more other hubs.

Life is hard.  Don’t let media images of the carefree college student life fool you.  Students today face enormous stresses.  Parents who demand perfection, faculty who seem to increase their work load each day, personal relationships that take more than they return.  And this doesn’t begin to include worry over their own personal stake in the mounting student debt load!

Life is hard.  Take the case of a former student of mine, a young man I’ll call Kyle.  In less than four weeks he went through a lifetime of grief.  He watched his friend and roommate attempt to take his own life; he went back to his hometown for the funeral of a close high school friend; he returned only to endure the death of another friend, this one from campus.  After the first two events, he was in my office to explain his absence from class.  I could offer him a tissue, some schedule relief on an upcoming assignment, and a sympathetic ear.  After he returned to class, I watched as his personal appearance slumped downward and his steps got more plodding.  Two weeks earlier, I would have been more hesitant on this next point than I was, but the time seemed ripe.  I then offered him my prayers and those of others.  I told him that, in fact, I had asked my congregation’s prayers for “my student who is having a hard time.”  This self-described (almost an) atheist nearly swooned in gratitude.  “Thank you.  I need them.”

Life is hard.  I was grateful in this situation for the people at the TCU Counseling Center, capable of doing so much more professionally for Kyle than I could, as well as other staff on campus, many of whom could both be another set of ears and help him maneuver through the bureaucracy in order to get the proper help.

The hubs and spokes are already all around us.  I believe that’s the kind of world God created for us.  Sometimes we’ll be the ones supported in the strong joint created by a spoke and a hub; other times we’ll join with additional hubs and spokes to become the support.

Life is hard.  Don’t let others do it alone.

Life is hard.  Don’t try to do it alone.

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GA TIB BOOK Nadia LahutskyNadia Lahutsky has taught for 34 years in the TCU Religion Department, where she is currently Chair.  A graduate of Hiram College and Vanderbilt University, she is an historian of Christianity, with a special interest in modern Roman Catholicism.  She has been married for nearly 40 years to Edward McMahon, New Testament scholar, and is the proud mother of Jean McMahon, a doctoral student in social psychology.

I Believe in the Power of Gray Skull, by Sharon Fronk

My name is Sharon Fronk, I am a recent graduate from TCU. I received my degree in Biology with a minor in anthropology. I am from Southern California, where I am now living again and I currently have no job. It’s difficult to be positive and outgoing when all those around you seem to have their life together and you don’t. We’ve all been there: a feeling of loss of control or questioning what will come next. It’s easy to get sucked into a pit of despair. Luckily, there are super heroes.

Though I have not encountered He Man and his the power of Gray Skull, I have experienced super heroes. To quote the Disney Pixar movie The Incredibles “everyone can be super”. Qualities admired in super heroes such as kindness, generosity, patience, loyalty, etcetera, can be found in the strangest of places. A stranger at a restaurant mails you your drivers’ license when they discover it on the floor long after you’ve left. Some guy in a youtube video who stops kids bullying their peers at  school can restore our faith in humanity just as Batman defeating the Penguin gives hope to the people of Gotham.

Most of the super heroes we know and love are friends or relatives. They are always there to save us in our time of need, doing something miraculous to lift us up. Our super heroes may not be able to shoot lasers from their eyes or have gone through a metamorphic transformation due to cosmic radiation. Nevertheless they have the ability to travel half way around the world for us.

The world is full of depressing thoughts, actions, and villains. Who will we turn to? I do believe there are super heroes constantly acting in people’s day to day lives. We too can be super, if we so chose. With great power comes great responsibility though, which I think is what stops most people from being super. I will not deny that responsibility is a heavy cross to bear. I will also not sit here and say let someone else take on the responsibility and have him or her be super while you sit and watch. We all have the power of Gray Skull inside of us that we can tap into to make a difference in someone’s life. I believe we can all be the super heroes people need.

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GA TIB Book Sharon FronkMy name is Sharon Fronk, I am  a 21 year old currently living in Huntington Beach California with my loving and atheist boyfriend. I graduated from TCU this past May and will apply for a PhD program this fall in Biology. Both of my parents are pastors and serve at FCC Pomona CA. They have supported me through thick and thin. My parents have helped me create my own faith, allowing me to think and act for myself. They taught me how to be the best person and best follower of The Way that I can be.

I Believe in Accepting Our Fears and Challenging Them

Author: Hannah Canterbury, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I have many fears; some are “trivial”, like the fear of butterflies, that was instilled in me in kindergarten. There are many fears though, that exist in me every day, that guide my day to day decisions and impact the thoughts and stresses that I deal with. Not that the fear of butterflies hasn’t had me stressed in my situations. There have been bigger fears in my life. The fear of not getting into college, failing out of college, failing my parents, failing as a friend, failing at my future profession, failing to be a “good” Christian, becoming what others predicted for me. These are the fears that have changed my life and gave guided me in choosing my goals and aspirations.

I believe in accepting and facing these fears because personally they have been rooted in expectations others have had of me. For example, growing up in a home with two parents dealing with addictions I was constantly fed with the statement that “I too will deal with this disease”, or “I have to be extremely careful because I will probably end up the same”. These statements haunted me and instilled fear in me, but also gave me something to strive for. To overcome the expectations and live a life better than anyone could have ever predicted.

The google definition of fear is this:

  1. an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat:

People’s limiting expectations of me, cause pain and are a threat to my ability to create my own future that isn’t predetermined, this is exactly fear; But it has been such a fruitful fear. Fear has ignited a drive, and passion to overcome some of my greatest obstacles. Choosing to the fight rather than flight, which is so often a difficult choice when faced with the possibility of failure, danger and pain, has allowed me to fulfill my own life path and challenge the ones that people have set before me. I accept every day that I have fears to face and when I challenge them and overcome them I am empowered continue in making my own life path.

I Believe in Never Accepting Defeat

Author:  Jarrod McClendon, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I remember feeling like a complete failure. Not only had I lost my job, and my apartment, and my car, but I had lost my will to win. I lost the ability to keep fighting. At the age of 23, sleeping on my mother’s couch and doing side jobs for food money wasn’t the greatest expression of my new found adulthood. Those around me that actually knew that I was better and expected it. I had become so enveloped in my own desperation that I sank into a deep depression. All the while, I had a guardian angel pushing me forward. I’ve always felt that losing my grandmother, JoAnne, at such a young age, though devastating, was just Gods way of placing a protective hand directly over me. She was my protector. At an instance I knew that I needed a fresh perspective, a new start. I contacted an Army recruiter that was closely connected with my family and within the first few moments of our conversation I knew this was for me. The Army embraces lost boys like myself, and seeing that I didn’t have anything else to call my own, I embraced the Army in return.

Going through the training brought about its own challenges but nothing that I couldn’t take head on. There was a new found confidence that I was issued and for once in my life I felt like I was becoming the man I was supposed to be. No excuses, no material possessions to define me. Out of everything I had done the one thing that mattered the most to me was the lasting friendships that were created. I met and became friends with people that would forever shape my future and I don’t think I realized that until after we went our separate way. The day would eventually come when I had a choice. I could reenlist and continue to grow in the Army, or I could finish out my contract and exit to complete my degree. This was by far the hardest decision of my life.   But again, that guardian angel was there with that push. This time I don’t think she was alone. I had a couple of those good friends that I met in my five years pass away. These names were synonymous with dedication, courage, and strength. These were people I told my story to, people who knew my dream of graduating from TCU and becoming an officer. It is because of the spirit of these individuals that I am here doing what I am today. To come from my mom’s couch, to attending one of the best private schools our nation has to provide is truly a testament to what we can accomplish. No matter how devastated our lives may seem, never quit, never accept defeat. You never know who’s watching out for you.

I Believe in More

Author: Courtney Heier, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I believe in MORE.

I believe in doing more, in giving more, in being more. I was raised in an area where everybody did the same thing—everybody went to college, got a degree, got a job, got married, raised a family, and lived a life “happily ever after.” But I’ve been stuck. What if I can do more? What if that doesn’t seem like my “happily ever after” life? I want to be more. Maybe I’m involved in something every night of the week. Maybe I don’t sit down until 10PM some nights. In all reality, though, I can’t function otherwise. But now, I’m surrounded by people who live up to this dream of “doing more.” And that’s exactly where the distinguishing factor is—that dream. That dream isn’t so much a dream anymore. It’s reality. I have this dream of traveling to a developing country to volunteer in a clinic for children with developmental disabilities. I have this dream of opening my own occupational therapy clinic and operating it for a few years, ultimately working towards a goal of a bakery in the entrance, staffed by the kids who have grown up in the program. Some people will say I’m crazy, they’ll say that it’s just a dream. I won’t accept that. I live a life dedicated to fulfilling one single word’s expectations: agape. Agape: an unchanging love, a love that expects no re-payment, a love so generous that it can be given to the unlovable, a love that gives everything it has to give. So why let dreams be just that—dreams? Why settle with the ordinary? Maybe dreams are trajectories; maybe they’re plans for the future. Who says dreams have to stay in that realm of imaginations and impossibility? If you want to do more, do more. If you want to give more, give more. If you want to be more, be more. The only limitations for your dream are the ones set in your own mind. You’re worth more than being ordinary. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”—Romans 12:2.

I Believe in Not Being a Statistic

Author: Ashley Aguilar, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I believe in not being a statistic, and overcoming those stereotypes that are placed upon oneself because of those statistics.

The statistic I face is the one that says “fewer than 2 percent of young mothers will finish college by age 30.” Or, the one that says “young women who give birth while attending a community college are 65 percent less likely to complete their degree than women who do not have children during that time.”

I am a young mother. I have a son named Nolan who is absolutely everything in my life. He was unplanned, unexpected, and unwelcomed by many people in my family. I was constantly being told how difficult it would be to finish school with a baby, and how I would never be able to achieve my dreams. At that time, I was enrolled in a local community college, unsure of what my next move would be. I tried to put on a brave face and say that I had a plan. However, the truth was that I did not know what I wanted to be, where I wanted to go, and how I was going to achieve my goals while also being a mother. Its like once you become a mother, you are only allowed to be a mother. You cannot have goals and dreams, and if you do they will be placed on the backburner. However, I refused to believe that. I wanted to be a mother, and a student. I still had dreams, and goals, and a future in my mind that I knew I still wanted to live. The only difference was that my future was no longer solely my own, but also my son’s. What really pushed and motivated me though, was the idea that my decisions no longer affected only me but also affected my son, because now not only am I a statistic but he is too. His statistics state that “only about two-thirds of children born to young mothers earn a high school diploma, compared to 81 percent of their peers with older parents,” or “children of young mothers perform worse on many measures of school readiness, and are 50 percent more likely to repeat a grade.” I refuse to allow society to pre-determine my son’s and my future. However, the only way I can overcome those statistics is by working hard, completing my degree, and creating a life for us that has, up until I had come to TCU, seemed unimaginable.

I want my son to see that our future’s may be pre-determined by society and the data they have collected, but that does not mean that we have to coincide to those numbers. I want him to see that success is achieved through hard work, and perseverance, and that he too can overcome any difficulties.

I Believe in Encouragment

Author: Ashley Tilley, TCU Student, Fall 2014

Isaac Newton once said “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This quote reminds me that, encouragement I have received from countless others has given me the ability to see much further than I would have ever thought possible. I truly believe that no one who is successful got to where they are now alone. It was through the encouragement of someone else that they were able to realize their potential.

I believe in encouraging those in need of reaching their true potential. Without the encouragement of my sister, teachers, and mentors I probably would not have as many accomplishments as I do today. I believe words of encouragement carry power because they cause the person on the receiving end to realize what they are truly capable of.

I would not be at TCU today if I had not received the encouragement to apply from my mentor in high school. My senior year was very stressful. I had no clue what school I wanted to go to but I knew it would not be TCU. I went to Poly which is about fifteen minutes from TCU and every year we took trips to visit. The trips made me feel happy and welcome and I really enjoyed them. However when I reflected over all of the visits to the school I did not like the feeling I got. I started to feel insecure, and I questioned my decision to apply. I thought I would never get in because I was not smart enough. I thought that even if I did get accepted I surely would not get a scholarship. Obviously I was wrong, and my mentor helped me to realize this. When I told her the reasons for me not wanting to even try she said “You might as well try the worst thing that could happen is you don’t try and then you will never know whether it was possible.” She really helped me to realize that the way I was thinking was just an excuse not to try. I am very grateful to have had her to encourage me to apply.

I know how powerful encouragement can be. One day I hope I am able to encourage others to do things they never thought were possible. Also I will make sure to encourage those around me to go for the things they believe in because doubt should never be a factor in any person’s decisions.

I Believe in Living Moment to Moment

Author: Danielle Howard, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I did not have a typical High School experience. After dropping out of school and returning a year later, my only goal was to graduate as fast as possible. Senior year, I spent all of my time going to school and work, and going home to study. I wasn’t concerned with building relationships or having the social life that most teenagers have, and I didn’t realize that I was missing out on so many memories. Many people have stories of near death experiences and life-changing moments that led to clarification and inspiration, but my experience was much more than that. One single moment caused me to completely change the way I live.

Early one December morning during my Senior year, I woke up in excruciating pain. I could hear the steady beep of a heart monitor, and the muffled whispers of people nearby. When I opened my eyes, the fluorescent hospital lights made my headache spike to an unbearable level of pain. My mind was racing as I tried to summon up any memory from the previous night, but I came up blank. When I tried to turn my head, I realized that I had a neck brace on, and I was strapped to the bed, restricting my movement. This was the scariest moment of my life. My body was numb, and I was terrified and alone. I could hear the beep of the heart monitor picking up speed with my panic. When I opened my mouth I couldn’t form words, I could only cry.

Late the night before, I was in an accident that resulted in a Grade 3 Concussion. The impact paralyzed my diaphragm, leaving me unable to breathe. When I ran out of oxygen, my heart stopped. I didn’t regain a heartbeat for the eight minutes that it took the paramedics to arrive and begin defibrillation. When they shocked me for the fourth time, my heart miraculously restarted.

I don’t remember most of that night or the following weeks of recovery, but I do vividly remember the overwhelming regret that filled me when I realized that had the paramedics arrived just a few minutes later, that would have been the end of my life and up to that point, I hadn’t accomplished anything significant. I was stuck dwelling on the past and worrying about the future, and I was so busy trying to grow up that I forgot to live.

Because of that moment of impact, I am a living, breathing cliché. I believe in putting my all into everything I do, and never turning down an opportunity to make memories. I believe in living moment to moment and making peace with the past. I believe in acting now and thinking later, but never looking back with regret. I believe that sorrow is just as significant as joy because every experience we have shapes who we are. I believe in taking advantage of every moment we are blessed with, because one instant of impact can end everything.