I Believe in God’s Time, by Adriana Arbeláez

I believe in God because he held my hand when my father left me alone. I have had a happy and wonderful life, but when my sister and I were children, my family experimented difficult situations, which made us stronger. Our father left my sister and I when we were born, and our mother lived through difficult times because she had work hard to afford all the expenses that my sister and I had.

My sister and I grew up and my mother gave us all that we needed, but one day everything was dark for us: The money that my mother was earning, was not enough for all our expenses, and we lived difficult times. She worked as a language therapist and in my country, Colombia, that job does not pay well, so when my sister and I finished our high school our mother did not have money to pay the tuition. For that reason, we decided to demand our father for abandoned us when we were children. This situation was difficult because our father is a bad person who does not love us. I remember that one day we received a counter demand from him saying that my sister and I just wanted to steal his money, and in front of a lot of people in the court our father said he hates us and that he said to our mother that it would be better if she had aborted us. Our heart was broken but we heartened ourselves to forget that situation.

But when everything was so dark, one cousin invited me to a Christian Church called Rock House, which is near my house in Colombia. I went with my mom and it was amazing because we felt how God touched our heart through the Minister’s words. My mother and I decided to join the church, and one day, during a praying meeting, we started to cry and I heard the voice of God saying to me that every issue would be solved with our father only if I pray for him every day. I believed God’s words, but I thought it was strange because I hated my father and it was difficult to pray for someone who hates you, but I did it and everything related with the demand was solved. It was a miracle. The lawyer called and told us that our father called her because he had paid all the money. My mother and I cried and prayed for a long time. Since that day I am thankful to God for everything he did. I believe that even when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the impeccable love of God is with us, and even when we are trapped in the middle of the storms of this life, we won’t turn back because God is near, he never lets us go.

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a-arbelaez-photoAdriana Arbeláez is studying English in the TCU Intensive English Program.  She is from Bucaramanga, Colombia.  She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and corporate communications from the Universidad Autónoma de Bucaramanga.

I Believe in Store Brand Candy, by Michaela Eichers

I believe in store brand candy. It can be found anywhere, and shared with anyone. It can be the catalyst to a conversation with someone you would have never anticipated.

I remember hearing the crunch of the dry mud crackle underneath my boots as I sauntered through the tall grasses in Botswana. My all khaki ensemble blended in with my surroundings, but disagreed with every fashion instinct I had in my body, as I chewed on the same piece of candy for ten minutes. Our tour guide explained how my family and I would be meeting the indigenous people that called the safari their home; the blood in my veins turned red hot with fear. How would I interact with them? We do not speak the same language and knowing myself I would do something on accident that would offend them.

As soon as we went through the wooden fence, the people stared at us. The elders had seen Caucasian people before, but for most of the children, this was the first time. Filled with trepidation, I approached a young girl and kneeled down so I was eye level with her dark, round eyes. As she stared into my eyes, I could tell she was confused and even a little appalled. She had never seen a seventeen year old white girl with embarrassingly pale skin and blue eyes. I smiled at her and reached into my pocket and pulled out a small piece of cherry flavored candy. I stuck out my hand with my peace offering but her eyes stayed locked on mine. Panicked, I grabbed a second piece, unwrapped the delicate red plastic and ate it. Her eyes widened with excitement. I sat down on the dry dirt and opened my backpack revealing a ziplock bag filled with candy, and before I could catch my breath, ten more children found their way to my lap, wondering when it would be their turn to have a piece.

As the day progressed, the amount of candy I had dwindled. Every piece of candy I passed out was a ticket into the life of someone else. The children would tell me their names, and use hand gestures to try and act out important scenes from their lives. Even the Elders would tap on my shoulder, reach their hands out, and ask for a piece. Laughing to myself, I would agree, and without asking, they would invite me into their homes made of mud and straw and share their wisdom with me. Others would grab my hand and begin to dance, and some would roll what was supposed to be a soccer ball at my feet and start hollering to initiate a game.

I believe in genuine laughter, memories, and unexpected friends. The bitter flavors and unpleasant chewiness were microscopic compared to the laughter of the children, the stories from the Elders, and raw happiness that will never leave my heart.

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Michaela is a student at Texas Christian University

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 Love

Author: Bobbi Clemmer, TCU Student, Fall 2014

I believe in love, a sensation that is embedded in the deepest part of our being. I believe love is a variety of different feelings that motivate us to develop relationships that will essentially make us better people. Love is a feeling that in some cases can be indescribable, yet so easy to engage in when the right people fall into your life. I believe love is the most potent of drugs that drives us to do anything for those who we hold dear to our hearts. Whether it is the tender love between a parent and child, a passionate love between a man and woman, or a comforting love between childhood friends, the feelings are all different, yet the same, in that we would do anything for those we love. Under the influence of this powerful emotion, we may find ourselves acting in ways that are un-explainable.

For example, when someone we love is in pain or going through a rough time in their life such as a mother worrying about her troubled son, we seemed to be consumed by that feeling of worry in the pit of our stomach. This is because we want the absolute best for our loved ones because when they are happy, we are happy. I believe relationships are the most important aspect of life. Spiritual and interpersonal relationships have definitely played an enormous part in my own life. Knowing that God is always with me and that my parents are just a phone call away has always been such a comfort even on my lowest days.

I believe love knows no bounds, as cliché as that may sound. Love has the power to overcome grief from the passing of a loved one, depression from past regrets, and even has the power to strike new beginnings though it may seem impossible at times. Love is what binds us together when disaster strikes and is what lifts us up to levels that are otherwise unreachable. I believe love is the dynamic motivation behind every worthy purpose and that in the end, after we have successfully loved here on earth, that God will continue to love us eternally. This I believe.

I Believe in Building Relationships Through Shared Experience (also…netflix)

Author: Abby Smartt, TCU Student, Published Fall 2014

One Tree Hill. New Girl. Friday Night Lights. Orange is the New Black. How I Met Your Mother.

What do these random shows all have in common you might ask. They are on Netflix. My semi-addiction became real when One Tree Hill was added to the website. I was so excited that I decided to watch the whole series all over again. Some might have marked that a waste of my time. Seeing that there are 187 episodes that are 43 minutes each totaling to 8,041 minutes or 134 hours or 5 and half days, I could probably agree that this period of my life was not my most productive. Watching the series sparked a love in me and it continued when I came to college.

During my first semester, my roommate decided she wanted to watch One Tree Hill and I agreed to watch with her, again. After that series, I started watching New Girl with my new boyfriend. Then I moved to Friday Night Lights with my sister. How I Met Your Mother was next with my friend Jackie. Orange is the New Black was last with my mom.

That is a lot of time spent in front of the television. And I do not care how bad people say that is for you because I believe the relationships were built or strengthened because of it.  It doesn’t matter how much we were drooling over Tim Riggins is or why we were laughing at Barney, it doesn’t matter as much about the show as it does the people that it brings into your life.  Netflix brought people in my life and gave us an hour to sit down, take a break, and enjoy each other’s company through something we both enjoyed.

One Tree Hill brought two awkward freshman roommates together. New Girl made a long distance relationship have something to look forward to together every week. Friday Night Lights showed me that my sister spent so many weekends on the couch with me because she felt we had drifted a part. Orange is the New Black made my mom and I a lot more comfortable with each other. And How I Met Your Mother brought two unlikely friends to be roommates.

Relationships, whether personal or professional, help guide our lives. We are made as relational beings. All humans have a desire to connect and be a part of someone else’s life.  People are meant to be with other people. Having that common ground, or shared experience can give family, friends, or strangers an experience they will always share. I believe that some of the best relationships are built in a shared mutual experience. Colleagues connect over the love of their profession, teammates bond over the pride of their team, some bond over food, and I build some of my relationships through Netflix. I believe in the power of building relationships through shared experiences.

I believe in the value of human life

Author: LaTonya Whitley, TCU Student, Criminal Justice Major, Published Fall 2012

I believe in the value of human life because I am a survivor. I have survived many things, but the one story that I hold near and dear to my heart is being a survivor of rape. My mom would allow numerous men to sleep in the bed with us at an early age; I believe I was around five or six when I first discovered “being touched”. I remember waking up to one of these men, a family friend, touching me. He had removed my panties and performed a sexual act on me. Confused I immediately got out of bed with my panties in my hand searching for my mother. My mother happened to be in the next room on the couch with a man, who was not my father. I stood at my bedroom door with my panties in my hand and when she saw me, naked with just a t-shirt on, she yelled at me to return to my room. I obeyed, went back in my room and slept next to the family friend who just molested me. From the age of five-six to age sixteen, I spent my life being a victim of molestation, numerous attempted rapes and one rape. The predators were family friends, adult cousins; ironically none of the perpetrators were strangers. I tried telling my mom on numerous occasions, but my pleas for help, fell on deaf ears. I remember trying to get help from my father but he just made excuses why he did not rescue me. About three years ago, I discovered why. He has been accused of molesting my cousin and having sexual relations with his biological daughter, my sister. I grew up angry, I was angry with my mother, my father and God. The sexual abuse I experienced, encouraged my promiscuous life style and it prevented me from having the knowledge to choose a decent man.

I spent the great part of my life in relationships that were toxic. I would go from one bad relationship to the next; always looking for one person to love me, and I thought I could find it by having sex. I would work, go to school, party, travel; I would do anything not to face reality. I was oblivious to the outside world, and the outside world was oblivious to me. Then one day, through no fault of mine, I lost my job and my world came crashing down. After I lost my job, I became extremely angry, I did not want to be around anyone; not even my children whom I love so much.

One day I read a book, called, Initiation by Elizabeth Haich and it changed my life. I began to work on me and what I needed to improve my life. Obtaining a job was a factor, but rebuilding a new me was more important. I realized that God has been with me all my life, even through the suffering I experienced. He only let me suffer long enough to teach me the value of human life, specially my life.
Though I experienced a lot of hardship throughout my lifetime, I have many things to be grateful about. First, I allowed God in my heart, mind, body and soul. I have four children and none of them suffered the way I suffered; as a matter of fact three are in college and one currently attends high school.

Someone once told me that bad things happen to good people, those people who have been hurt by life. I have learned that external forces do not have to devalue a human life; rather it can be used as a positive reinforcement to inspire change. This is why I believe!

I believe in the good in goodbye

Author: Russel Hodges, TCU Student, Journalism Major, Published Fall 2012

I view saying goodbye the same way I view doing chores. Nothing but bitterness arises when my parents tell me to take out the trash, water the garden, or even mow the lawn. However, regardless of how long I procrastinate, or how much I may dread the obligation, I always end up pulling through. Those same distasteful thoughts and feelings reappear every time I have to bid farewell to somebody. It’s strange though. Whenever I complete a task around the house, I always wind up with a weird sense of satisfaction. Interestingly enough, I experience that same satisfaction after I say goodbye to someone. But it just doesn’t add up! Aren’t farewells supposed to be sad? I used to believe so, until one night with my best friend proved to me that goodbyes are just temporary and they will never leave permanent scars.

I had known Bailey for three years, but we never really became close friends until this past summer. As my feelings for her began to grow, it became much harder for me to even contemplate saying goodbye. Nevertheless, I continued to spend as much time with her as possible until my doomsday finally arrived. Little did I know that day would become a memory that will forever be ingrained into the inner walls of my subconscious. I can still remember her lowering her head into my chest as she wrapped her arms tightly around my waist. I could also hear the sound of her sniffling over the passing cars that raced back and forth along the road behind us. Feelings of anger, sadness and frustration began to rush through my veins as I fought every urge in my mind and body to let go. As much as it killed me on the inside, I knew that in order to move along the path of my life and pursue my dreams, I simply had no choice.

Saying goodbye has never been easy for me, and like a chore I had waited until the last possible moment to gather the strength necessary to face my fear. Something wasn’t right though. Throughout my life, I had always succumbed to sadness whenever I needed to bid farewell to somebody. But this farewell was different. The bitter feelings I had been so accustomed to were nowhere to be found. I was happy! Was I losing my mind? How could I feel this contempt about leaving somebody I had shared so many memories with? Suddenly, it hit me like a freight train. With each task completed comes a new task left unattended, just like each farewell brings with it more to come in the future. I knew I would see her again, and although I’m still not sure when that time will come, I learned that there is always good to find in a goodbye.

I believe in dive restaurants

Author: Charlotte Hogg, PHD, Professor, TCU English Department, Published Fall 2012

In a culture where being a food lover means being able to separate the quinoa from the spelt, I find myself gravitating to places tucked away or popular with the locals but eschewed by foodies. This might be because I’m an academic where potlucks don’t mean casseroles but endive or soft cheeses I can’t name. But when I got my first job as an assistant professor, I was thrilled when two of the snobbiest in my department invited me to dinner, then took me not to a ritzy place but a cheap pizza buffet–that served tater tots as a side!–on the west edge of town. “We come here when we want to gossip and want to make sure we won’t see anyone we know,” they confided before biting into their greasy pizza slices. I liked them right away.

I once took my now-husband to that same pizza buffet, a small space brimming with decorations for an upcoming holiday, and he loved it. As he went to order his specialty toppings and load his cheap, metal plate with more tots and ketchup, I thought: he’s a keeper. The pizza buffet is filled with regulars and waiters who are quick on the draw with refills and smiles. Some of our best conversations have happened there after a long work day as we hunker over our thin crusts and settle in, TVs, chatter, and dingy holiday décor as the backdrop. Other patrons say hello as we graciously step aside to share the pizza line for plate number two.

A year or so ago, we befriended a new couple, and I realized that I had made a litmus test of our compatibility by where we decided to eat dinner. Rather than suggesting restaurants in the burgeoning hip part of town, I sheepishly suggested we head to the Mexican restaurant in the suburb not far in miles but far in lifestyle from the private university where I work. They instantly agreed, and it became a regular place for us to talk about our toddlers’ milestones as we shared chips and salsa and our boys smashed and chewed their cheese quesadillas.

Dive restaurants are almost always local and almost always familiar, where one can feel like they are Norm on the sitcom Cheers when walking through the door. When I first moved to Fort Worth, feeling unmoored by its huge population and ropes of interstates, these restaurants warmly took in a stranger and a new friend, inviting us to get past the small talk and get to the nitty gritty. While sitting at a wobbly table, shaking malt vinegar on fish and chips as a chatty waitress refilled our drinks, creating companionship suddenly seemed not only possible but easy, and this is why I believe in dive restaurants.