I feel the need to summarize and reflect on my semester that ended about 11 days ago. Academically and life-wise (I could say socially, but it's more like, social-spiritual-emotional-physical), this has been my best semester so far at A&M. It's had its challenges, but overall, I've felt very content and satisfied and feel really blessed. It's also been comparatively stress-free. I feel like I've gotten a lot of great variety of counseling and assessment experience this semester through my program - counseling and assessing older adults at the nursing home in St. Joseph's, couples counseling at our clinic, learning how to administer and interpret intelligence and achievement assessments and write integrated assessment reports. I really feel like I'm growing and improving my skills as a practitioner, and this is the most important thing for me to learn from this program.
Unfortunately, I still feel like I'm floundering in the research area of our program. There have been a couple of research projects that were supposed to start or we did start, but completely fell through. I'm working on a manuscript to submit for publication with one of my professor's, but she's been too busy with other projects to meet with me about it lately, but we plan to pick that up in the spring. Part of me feels like I just need to suck it up and join someone else's research team and do something that I'm not as interested in, but part of me believes that I can find something to study that I'm truly passionate about. I have a couple of ideas of research projects that I might want to start in the spring, and a research grant that I'd like to apply for, and I'm sure now would be a good time to get started on some lit reviews and writing out preliminary ideas to present to my professors, but it's been more appealing to catch up with friends, bake Christmas goodies with my mom, plan my europe trip, and basically piddle around lazily and sleep a lot more than I'm used to doing.
But even if I'm kinda falling behind research-wise, in other academic areas, I'm doing quite well. As I've already mentioned, I feel like I'm really growing as a practitioner, and I've gained quite a lot of direct client hours this past year, that will be valuable when applying for internship in about two years. I have a great assistantship with a supportive boss, who's moving me into a better position starting in the summer, as a service coordinator for our clinic. There's a lot involved in this position and will definitely be more demanding than my current position, but the experience will be better, as I'll be doing things like phone intakes with potential clients to determine their therapy and assessment needs. Also, I have a good practicum lined up for the spring and another one potentially for the summer. Unfortunately, many members of my cohort have struggled to find practicum sites for the spring and a few of them left this semester still not sure where they would go, so I feel very blessed to have found a spot so relatively easily. It's not perfect, I'm not doing my best in every area, and there are certainly things that I'd like to change about this program, but overall, I'm very happy with where I'm at and thankful for the opportunities that I've had this past semester.
Life-wise, this has also been my best season living in BCS. I changed small groups within my church, and at first, I was against this, and even when I accepted the decision to move into another group, I mourned the loss of my previous group and was reluctant to hope that this new small group could be just as fulfilling. Thankfully, I was wrong. Within a month, this new group has blossomed completely, we share so openly with one another, we love to spend time with each other, and it's a group filled with love, concern, honesty, openness, hope, wisdom, and guidance. I've written about them before, but I'm been so blessed by my friendship with the leaders of this group, and I'm finding myself connecting more and more with the other group members. These are all wonderful people following Christ their Savior, people who are so full of life, so joyful and loving, but also so open with their brokenness and weakness and failures. These are exactly the sort of people that I want to surround myself with, and I look forward to being back with them, to receive their hugs and smiles and laughter and tears and prayers. I pray that our friendships will deepen and that I can become closer to them in the coming months.
Socially, I've made more friends this semester, but have also seen some friendships in BCS become a little stagnant. I live in a house full of girls who love to bake and watch Grey's Anatomy and play games and talk about their boyfriends and now fiance. These girls are delightful, but sometimes I feel a bit like an outsider, the girl who lives in the garage apartment on the other side of the house, the girl who's in graduate school, the girl who's 23 instead of 20, the girl who didn't work at Sky Ranch this past summer, the girl who is single and who isn't planning her wedding right now. But I know that below the surface, we have more in common than not, and I do desire to be closer to these women. In fact, I'm emailing them right now. Every little step counts, right? In addition to these roommates and new friends through my small group, I've gotten to know two first years in our program who are really wonderful young women and I connect so easily with. I'm excited about continuing this program with them, and getting to know them better in the years to come.
Emotionally, as I've said, I've been less stressed, and less distressed. Most of the time I'm pretty happy or at least content, and often really joyful and excited, though still sometimes frustrated, sad, angry, or jealous. This seems to be pretty typical, and much better considering how a few months ago I described for someone that I have having more lows than highs. I do still have lows, but they're not as frequent, and not as extreme. Whenever I do have some horrible emotional crisis, it doesn't last that long, and I feel more in control of my emotions.
Physically, I've been sleeping 7-8 hours a night, eating well, and riding my bike quite frequently. I have not gotten sick at all this past semester (knock on wood), which is a great improvement, as I got sick at least 5 times my first year at A&M, and I usually only get sick once a year. I attribute this to adjusting to the new climate finally and being less stressed. I'm convinced that emotional and physical health are quite intertwined.
Spiritually, well, I don't quite know the best way to measure spiritual well-being. I feel more free than I have been, and I know that fear and worry does not control me as much as it did. I think that I'm learning to trust God more, and to trust that His will truly is best, and that I want to follow that will, and that He is leading and guiding and providing for me and I have less fear knowing that He has conquered death and will not lead me to anything that He won't give me the strength to endure. I really have seen Christ work a great victory over many of my fears this past year, and I rejoice in that, and know that there are more fears and sins to be conquered. I have experienced the love of the church in many tangible ways, and I give and experience God's love when I participate in the loving community of my church. I feel free and renewed and I feel that my commitment to Christ is firm and secure, and I've been forgiving more and showing more grace to others, in ways that I see the Spirit working through me.
The other day, while with a dear friend here in DFW, I became very sad as I told her that "things just aren't the way that I'd like them to be." She started tearing up, sad that this was so for me, which made me tear up also. It's true, there are lots of things that I would like to change about my life in BCS, and my life here in DFW, but as I look back on this past semester, I see the good far outweighs the bad. I feel gratitude for God's faithfulness and all that he has given to me and even the things that he has withheld from me. I see that I'm being blessed and provided for, and I see that I'm growing and changing and becoming more the person that I'm meant to be.