It’s that time of the year again. We singles have made it through cuddling season and now into a new year, new us. We have the outlook and perspective that we are going to better ourselves, that we are going to be unstoppable, that no one or nothing is going to step into our lives to mess up this year. That is, until someone or something does. It’s different for everyone, but one thing that may be hitting you like a brick wall right now is your singleness. Matters that don’t help with the constant reminders of your being single is the one holiday that only people in relationships love, Valentine’s Day. The one day where everyone who has a significant other buys chocolate, flowers and diamonds. The one night where it is a national date night for couples. When my ex-boyfriend and I broke up and I spent my first in-my-face-you’re-so-single Valentine’s Day, it was hard. There was nothing my mama nor anyone close to me at that time could say or do to make it better since I had also just recently been through the death of my forever sister. I know I am not the only one who has been there nor am I the last one who will be there. So, today I am going to convince you that Valentine’s Day is not just a mushy holiday for people dating. Through different experiences in my life, I have learned to appreciate Valentine’s Day. This is the one day a year we set aside to tell people they are loved and cared about. You don’t have to be in a relationship to do that. Valentine’s Day is much more than just a boy showing up to your door with chocolate and flowers. It’s about telling your best friend you love her. It’s mailing your mama a homemade card in the mail since you have moved off. It’s Facetiming your siblings to laugh and have your heart restored. It’s ordering Marcos pizza and making a cookie log with your friends. It’s smiling at a stranger who passes you because you never know what they may be going through. It’s choosing not to fit the mold that people before us have set into place about what Valentine’s Day is or isn’t. You are the gatekeeper of your own heart and spirit. My prayer for you is that you be selective in what you allow in and out. It’s a day for love. To love yourself, to love the season God has placed you in—single or dating, to love your family and friends, to love the people who are sometimes hard to love. We don’t have to follow bandwagoners or try to fit social norms. This holiday can be whatever you want it to be. I have chosen to make Valentine’s Day a holiday that reminds me of the greatest of loves that changes everything. The love that pulls me in closer when I do feel lonely. The love that tells me I am wanted by the one and only King. The love that has been so good to me and cares for me endlessly. The love that knows no boundaries or limits. The most reckless and jealous of loves that’s what I want and what I choose. The most overwhelming of loves comes from our God. And whether you’re celebrating the holiday single or with the person I hope is your future husband, God has selected you for this season of life because He knows just what you need and when you need it. Rest and be overjoyed in the fact that He has set a time for everything. You are not celebrating Valentine’s Day alone. You, my dear sisters, are celebrating and have the greatest of loves.
“People view studying abroad in many different ways. I like to look at it as a trip full of tiny details and events that all come together to create one incredible experience,” says Rileigh Eaton, junior, majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Social Work.
Rileigh was given the opportunity of a life time when the Lord specifically worked everything out that enabled her to live in Italy and travel the world for 12 weeks. She had always dreamed of studying abroad, but the actuality of that happening seemed nonexistent. For her, it was more than the experience; it was to expose herself beyond her little Alabama bubble that she has lived in and place herself outside of her comfort zone.
Italy was truly life changing for Rileigh. She not only learned a lot about new cultures but about herself as well. She immediately realized that when leaving your comfort zone the things you think you know about yourself are definitely tested. On her trip she said, “I was tested on things such as worldly knowledge, patience, adaptability, and many more, but it is also where you can improve on the things you find yourself lacking.” She learned that getting lost can sometimes be a good thing. She said, “When navigating foreign streets with no clue where you are and you take a wrong turn, the best memories are created.”
The Lord also moved in her life through her 12-week experience. There was one weekend when she was visiting Barcelona, and her purse was stolen, along with many valuable possessions. Little did she know that is where the Lord would move through her. “He humbled me and hit me hard with the realization that things are temporary. Things can be replaced. Things are fleeting. Things do not define who you are. Life isn’t about things; it is about much more. It’s about people: the people who will walk around the city searching for a police department with you, the people who will cry when they have to leave you behind in a country, and the people who will give up all their resources to make sure you are safe. It’s about being grateful for the things you do have and not what you don’t. The situation was definitely not ideal as I was stranded in Barcelona and running around like a maniac trying to get back to Italy, but through the chaos, God showed up and reminded me of so many things I needed to hear,” says Rileigh.
There are not words or single sentence to sum up her experience. For Rileigh, studying abroad is getting locked in the airport bathroom minutes after arriving in Rome due to the fact that the knobs and locks are completely different in Italy. It is ordering a latte just to receive a glass of steamed milk, no coffee, and a few laughs.
It is crying in a lunch spot in Ariccia because she accidentally ordered pasta that she can’t eat because she is gluten intolerant. It is having a sweet, sweet family sitting behind her and her friends at lunch translating to the waiter what happened, paying our bill, and showering them with love. It is 22,000 steps taken a day while touring multiple sites. It is running into the same family who helped them at lunch again in a small town in Castle Gandolfo.
It is eating a bowl of Paella as big as the table entirely in Barcelona. It is dancing around La Sagrada Familia. It is watching in awe a true Spanish Flamenco. It is running in the pouring rain while laughing hysterically to get to dinner on time. It is getting your entire bag stolen at Starbucks. It is saying “my bag is gone” until everyone finally understood. It is laughing in the police station because there is nothing you can do about it. It is crying when two of your friends leave you in the airport in Barcelona because no airline will let you fly. It is the friend who chooses to get stranded with you in Barcelona and helps you figure everything out.
Her advice is, “If you feel called to study abroad, do it! Take a leap of faith and go explore the world. There are so many places to explore, so many people to meet, and so many things to learn,” says Rileigh.
Being a freshman is a rite of passage. It is not by any means an easy transition to come through. The bad thing is that it is irresistible, unless college is not the path you take.
Freshman Josh Maio, who is a pre-business major, has transitioned from his graduating class of 50 to Auburn University exceptionally well. Josh is from small town Skipperville, Alabama, where there is a school that has rebel pride roaming the halls and a single gas station for those kids to get cheese sticks to munch on and gas to fill up their vehicles to ride the roads.
Coming to Auburn was a huge life decision for Josh to make. He almost did not even come to Auburn. Josh received a scholarship from Troy University, but there was something about the Plains that was pulling Josh to come.
“I can’t even make sense of the feeling Auburn gave me, but it is great and I love Auburn,” says Josh, I remember thinking to myself, “I want to be here and make a difference here.” Josh wanted to bring his passion and faith to Auburn University and that he did.
Josh was anxious to move from everything familiar and comfortable to come into this new big world of the uncomfortable and unknown. He was not going to let feelings of fear creep in and take over, though. Josh had decided that he was going to make the most of this season in his life whether it went well or went terrible.
He has been a freshman who would not back down. Most people step into freshman year confused and unsure of who they even are, but for Josh that’s not the case. He came to Auburn solid in who he is and who he wants to be here. Josh doesn’t let people or situations waver his opinions on things. He stands up and firm for what he thinks and believes.
His first week here, he decided that he was going to dive right in and find his people, which he did. Josh attended the ONE College Ministry service on that first Thursday here, where he met three of his best friends and got connected in the church.
“This place has become my home-away-from-home. I would never tell my mama this, but every time I have to go back home I get down in the dumps. I hate leaving my family here that is made up of friends who are irreplaceable,” says Josh.
Fresh meat, Josh, is now involved in two small groups with Church of the Highlands, Emerge Auburn, Church of the Highlands Outreach Team and Infuse Teams. Not only is Josh involved, but he has kept his life balanced, which can feel and be impossible freshmen year. He has been diligent in setting a time for friends, a time for school, a time for quiet time in the morning, a time for working out, and time for all his extracurricular activities.
Josh has been so intentional about working hard to make good grades and connecting with people that everything for him as fallen perfectly into place. He says, “I have worked hard and had to discipline myself, but honestly I owe it all to the big man upstairs. Without Him, I would be nothing.”
Josh’s freshmen year has been one of the best seasons of his life. What he thought would have been a transition that would have and could have been unbearable has been something so great that he will remember forever.
The one thing that Josh says has helped in his Freshman year is, “God and the great community I have surrounded myself with at Highlands. If I could give any advice to freshmen, it would be to get connected with a good group of friends. Mine have done wonders for me so I know yours will do wonders too!”
When Kathleen Ford, sophomore, majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a Child Life Concentration, decided to come to Auburn little did she know the effect she would have on Auburn’s campus by being selected for the position as her sorority’s chaplain.
To go back a little into Kathleen’s story, she was in the seventh grade when her friend invited her to go to a summer camp called Doe River. A small Christian camp in Elizabethton, Tennessee, it runs high adventure and outdoor activities alongside service and discipleship training through offering camp for guest groups during the year and kids during the summer. Young 14-year-old Kathleen fell in love with Doe River.
After that summer, she returned every year throughout her middle school and high school years. Doe River had a huge piece of Kathleen’s heart, and eventually, when she was old enough, she returned as a staff member as a camp counselor for the past two summers. “There is just something so special about Doe River. When I went for the first time, there was a pull on my little 7th grader heart, and the pull has just gotten stronger since then,” says Kathleen.
Fast forward to 20-year-old Kathleen who is the Chaplin of her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. She has held this position for the past year and has gotten to use the skills and gifts God has taught and given her. Kathleen says, “Doe River has taught me so much, and I have grown so much through being there. The really cool thing is that now I get to use everything God taught me at Doe River and use that at Auburn in my sorority.”
Kathleen has learned a lot and changed for the better through being chaplain. The position has challenged her faith by pushing her to be the best she can be in her walk with the Lord so that she can build the Kappa girls up in their faith to the best of her abilities. It has challenged her in the best ways, to make herself better, so that she holds herself to a higher standard so that other girls see a good example of Christ.
Her greatest reward of being chaplain has been the one-on-one conversations. There were so many times where girls wanted to meet one-on-one or just one girl showed up for Bible study, and those turned in to the most intentional, fruitful, and encouraging conversations. She says, “That meant more to me than having a ton of girls show up for Bible study.”
Kathleen has gotten to have a positive effect on the girls in Kappa. She has enjoyed being able to help individual girls grow because then they can go and have impacts on their friend groups and be motivated more in their own walks with the Lord. “I loved getting to pour into the chapter as a whole through weekly devotions, and I especially loved just being someone the girls could come to any time they needed someone and just being someone who stood for Christ,” says Kathleen.
“Everything that happens in life—a trial, an achievement, or a lesson–sets us up for future things in life,” says Kathleen. Little did she know back in the 7th grade the purpose God had for her through Doe River. She didn’t know what all He was sowing and continues to sow for His kingdom.
College is a time of personal discovery. This is one such story of discovery for a group four Auburn students. They called their adventure “The Life Unmeasured.”
“We were camping in Maroon Bells, Colorado. As it got dark, the stars came out, creating the only light because there were no lights for miles. I have never been more in awe of how many stars there are. In that moment, I felt so small, but then realized that God put those stars here for His glory and my standing there in awe of the creation He made was exactly why He had made them. He didn’t need us to worship Him because he has all of creation to do that, but in his unimaginable grace, he wanted us in our own feeble efforts to praise him and give him glory for who he is,” said Stephen Ray.This photo was taken by Stephen Ray at Maroon Bella Colorado
Two years ago, Jeremy Oyler, Auburn University senior in Mechanical Engineering, and Justin Oyler, twin of Jeremy and Auburn University senior in Electrical Engineering, had it laid on their heart to do something much bigger than the both of them. The twins both love adventure and wanted to travel to meet new people to leave a positive impact on the world.
“The passion behind this stems from our faith and love in Jesus. This moment really came at a time where we began to realize just how precious life really is because our younger brother’s life was taken prematurely around the same time,” says Jeremy Oyler.
A year later the twins’ dreams started becoming a reality. They instantly began looking into buying a bus on Craigslist, but more questions loomed. How would these 21-year-old guys going to do this? Did they want to buy a new bus or a “fixer upper”? Fixer upper, it was!
Over the process, the twins met Stephen Ray, Auburn University senior in Finance and Daniel Lawson, Auburn University freshman in Journalism, and the crew grew. The trip finally got into motion as the boys spent countless hours fundraising. Long nights were spent renovating the bus, which added up to literal blood, sweat, and tears. They renovated the bus all the while keeping up with school, work, and family obligations.
The boys named this adventure “The Life Unmeasured,” which embodied a deeper meaning to them: “Leadership, adventure, getting out of your comfort zone, and growing as a person physically, spiritually, and mentally into somebody who will make a difference in this generation and future generations. Our lives aren’t measured by the standards of society. It’s about knowing that whatever life throws at you, you WILL overcome it. You can laugh in the face of adversity because you know that the war has already been won through our savior, Jesus Christ. So, don’t hold back! Live a Life Unmeasured!” said the boys.
They decided to take their trip out West to places like Colorado, California, Canada, and everywhere in between for six weeks that started on June 11, 2017, and ended on July 22, 2017. They traveled to 19 different states, experiencing and seeing amazing things. The boys went on an adventure, and what they thought was a big deal got bigger. Their perspectives altered and lives changed.
“This trip gave us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in new cultures and amazing places we have never been to before, ultimately giving us a more diverse outlook on life. We also felt called to carry out an outreach mission during the trip to spread the word of Jesus and to just be a light to people in need,” says Justin.
“If you have the heart to do something, nothing is impossible for you! Chasing your dreams will really go a long way in developing you into a difference maker,” says Jeremey.
We have all been there. We have lived that season of life when the pressure starts to build. It’s kind of like when the ocean’s currents push hard in and pull even harder out. You are tossed around and messed with.
Decisions—it’s a mind game. It’s people throwing their opinions in the mix, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
“It can be just simply blocking out yourself from your own head, blocking out other people’s opinions, and stripping all of those things away to step in faith. To follow your heart and trust the process,” says Sam Ahl.
Sam, a junior at Auburn University majoring in Marketing, chose to step out of her comfort zone and moved 949 miles away from home, which is Minneapolis, Minnesota. She left everything she once knew. She traded in normal and comfortable for the not-so-normal and uncomfortable.
A decision that was not easy for her to make has turned into one of the best choices of her life.
“It is crazy to think about what all I have gained from one small, but huge decision I made to come to Auburn, Alabama. I never would have met my best friends. I never would have a built a stronger relationship with my family. Nor would I have found my niche and purpose. And those are just some things. I could go on with more!”
Since moving to Auburn, Sam has gotten to experience so much, like warm winters and southern food. “In Minnesota, we don’t eat anything fried, but in Alabama, people find a way to fry everything,” says Sam. She has gotten to broaden her horizons with sweet tea, boiled peanuts, all the yes ma’ams and no sirs to everyone, and of course, SEC football.
At Auburn, she has found her home-away-from-home. She has fallen in love with The Plains, where she gets to be a part of the Auburn family and traditions. Rolling Toomers and using “War Eagle” as a way to say hey to people she passes on the concourse is a way of life. She has learned that Aubie is the best mascot in the United States, and she and her friends scream “bodda getta” to the top of their lungs.
Sam says, “Auburn has been way more than just a university that is setting me up for my future career. It has been the place to mold me and has given me so much. It’s the place where I have met my best friends. It’s the place where me and Connor Casey are inseparable and laugh at everything. It’s the place where I finally decided what career path was for me. It’s the place where I found my relationship with Jesus.”
Her family back in Minnesota has benefitted greatly from her coming to Auburn as well. They have gotten to come experience the southern culture and Auburn traditions. “One decision I made my senior year in high school has changed the whole culture and tone of my family,” says Sam. Her decision to move and decisions she has been making since she has been here have been affecting her family. Not only has she grown closer to God, but her family has also.
“Life is full of decisions and making choices, but coming to Auburn has taught me not to be fearful of the unknown. Instead, I place everything I am and now know into a place where God has gone before and behind me. I now trust the process, and trust me, this ride has been more than I could have ever fathomed,” says Sam.
For Amanda Loyal, a senior majoring in integrative biology, football has always been a passion for her. It all started with her dad being a high school football coach. When she was younger, she was the water girl for her dad’s football team, and she has always just loved the sport. She has been an Auburn football fan since she can remember.
Amanda’s love for Auburn sprouted because of her aunt, who was the biggest Auburn fan in her family. “One of my biggest dreams in life was to come to Auburn. I never even considered other schools because I was so set on Auburn. Honestly, I think it’s the most beautiful and amazing place. I couldn’t imagine anything more from my time in college. Auburn has truly given me the best of the best in all aspects of college life,” says Amanda.
She is involved in her sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma, she is a 252 intern at Church of the Highlands, and she has a on-campus job. Since coming to Auburn, she has gotten many amazing opportunities, but her most proud is being an Auburn Athletic Recruiter, which has made her able to carry on her passion for the sport. “Getting to be behind the scenes of the athletic recruitment process and playing a small but impactful part seemed like the coolest thing to me, and it is,” says Amanda.
Being an athletic recruiter has taught her much more than she could have ever imagined. She has bettered herself in the area that she can now better connect with people and do it comfortably. Amanda has to talk and connect with recruits and their families, which she has never met before and has to do this for hours. On top of gaining people skills, her love for Auburn has grown more despite her not thinking that was possible.
“I have gotten to see a side of Auburn football that most people don’t get to see. I get to interact with the coaches and staff in a way I would have never been able to if I hadn’t tried out for athletic recruiter—everyone is so genuine and nice and I just love it,” says Amanda. It has also taught her all of the rules and regulations that comes with recruiting.
She has many favorite memories of being a recruiter for the past two football seasons, but some of her favorites are getting to go on the field during half time of one of the games of the last season, winning against LSU last season and rushing the field, getting pictures with Aubie on the sidelines, meeting the sweetest of families and getting to share her love of Auburn with them.
Amanda has been touched by Auburn and her experience as an Athletic Recruiter. She wants to continue to grow and embody everything Auburn is and has taught her. “Because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it!” Amanda says, “This last line is a culmination of all the things above mentioned in the creed and all things that make Auburn so amazing to me. These are the reasons why I genuinely believe in auburn and love it so much.”