Charleston & Louisville

Charleston & Louisville

My first job gave me 15 + of the greatest, new best friends I could have ever dreamed of. If you had told me this time last year that I would be taking trips across the nation to visit my co-workers and celebrate their weddings, I would think you are crazy. I mean it’s not THIS normal to be so close with all of your co-workers right?? Dang do I feel lucky.

The past two weeks I had the pleasure of traveling to Charleston, SC and Louisville, KY to spend time celebrating life with the greatest of friends.

Charleston

18446733_10213192887119123_3948714958932021089_nKJ Daley, my sweet ray of sunshine, got married two weeks ago in Charleston. About 12 of us Chi Omega employees came flying in from across the nation to celebrate her. We all stayed in a massive Air B n B and experienced the widest array of Uber driver personalities you could ever think of. We ate yummy Southern cookin and danced the nights away. It was the most perfect vacation I could have asked for.

Nothing is better than celebrating a beautiful marriage alongside your best friends. It is such a joyful occasion and always gives me hope and excitement for what is to (hopefully) come for me and all my other single ladies. KJ is the most faithful friend you could ask for, and it was such a joy to get to support her as she began her life with Austin.

The last day I was in Charleston, my girl Div and I pretty much spent the whole day together just us18527420_10154621126711586_993903960169657461_o two since everyone else had left. We were sitting on the dock by the water and thinking about how much has changed in our lives this year and all the ways we’ve grown. It is tremendous when we really thought about it — how God can change so many things about your life in a matter of 12 months. It is beautiful and awesome and challenging, and I will never go back to playing it “safe” ever again.

 

KJ and Austin, I love you SO much and am overjoyed I got to celebrate you in one of the greatest cities with the greatest friends.

Louisville

Wait…WHY are you going to Louisville again?

For a vacation to see my friends!

Oh….okay.

This was the conversation I shared with nearly everyone who asked me why I was going to Kentucky. People thought I was super weird for taking a trip to Kentucky just to visit my friends that I never get to see. But, to me, it was 100% worth it. When you only get to see your co-workers/best friends twice a year, you prioritize whatever it takes to spend just a little more time with them.

My girl Dani and I visited our friends Jenna, Elaine, and Katie who all hail from the great state of Kentucky. I didn’t know a single thing about Kentucky until this year, and then, all of a sudden I started working with three women from this place! Funny how places and people can just enter your life like that sometimes.

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Never have I seen more horses in my life than I did during my few days in Kentucky. We explored Lexington and Louisville, and even walked across the bridge to Indiana one afternoon. The grass is super green and there are horse barns that look like mansions.

But the best part of this trip was simply the time I got to spend with my friends. Again, when you don’t see your co-workers every day, the time you do get to spend with them is so precious. 18582553_10155346825524836_6363573789704431325_n

I’m so thankful that this job has given me a whole new perspective and appreciation for friendships. This job has provided me with more relationships than I ever thought possible. It has taught me to not take them for granted and to be absolutely present when I am with my people. Time is precious currency, and I am grateful for the friends God has put in my life in the past 12 months that have shown me what a gift time with friends is.

 

When I was in Charleston, I picked up this book called Joy that is filled with impactful quotes. This one really struck me and sums up how I have been striving to view my precious time with my people. Here’s to more minutes and more joy to come!

Resolved, that I will take each precious minute, and relish all the joy within it.

~Kathleen Rice

Texas State & UT

Texas State & UT

This post is about light in the darkness. Yes, it is about my visits to Texas State and the University of Texas, but on those visits I saw light, perseverance, and hope shining through dark spaces like never before.

Texas State

I absolutely loved visiting the women at Texas State. They were all so respectful, engaging, and hard-working. I had great conversations with them discussing new ideas for their chapter and how they can always be improving. We shared stories and experiences and talked about how we can love our members here best.

Then something happened on my second day of my visit…it flooded. Like hard core flooded. Like people were wake boarding in the street flooded. Like we had to rip out the floors of the chapter house flooded.

Now, this flooding could have thrown a huge dip in my visit plans. It could have left the members feeling discouraged and down. But it didn’t. They refused to be discouraged in the midst of hardship and inconvenience! They chose to find joy in a hard situation and adapted to make the meetings work.

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As a Chi Omega family, we walk together through whatever is going on-good or bad, floods or dry seasons. That week I got to walk through a tough situation with these women as we met to discuss how we can make their chapter stronger. Alpha Zeta, I am encouraged by your positive attitudes, love for Chi Omega, and desire to always be growing. Thank you for an incredible week that flooded me with happiness!

University of Texas

So my visit to UT was scheduled for the week of April 17. But, at the beginning of April, I found out there was a trip to Coastal Carolina that I needed to go on that week for marketing. So, I called up the UT president, Meg, and asked if she wouldn’t mind moving my visit to the following week. I felt awful that I had to ask her to move the trip, but man did God know what He was doing.

Because if I had gone on my visit to UT the week of April 17, I would have been there the night we lost a beloved member of our Chi Omega family at the University of Texas, Nancy-Jane David.

And, instead, I was able to go the following week with the sole purpose of comforting and supporting our girls through this terrible tragedy.

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See, sometimes we don’t know the purpose behind our sufferings. We don’t know why tragic things happen in our lives. Then, other times, a glimpse of purpose shines through the darkness and we can comfort others through what we have endured ourselves. Last week, at the University of Texas, I was able to see a bit of that purpose.

A little over a year ago, we lost a remarkable member of my chapter at TCU to cancer. Taylor Helland was the brightest light I’ve ever known. Her faith, positivity, hope, and gratitude was unwavering through all of her trials. Taylor left a mark on my life forever. She inspires me to Choose Joy every day even though she is no longer with me.

And a year later, I am chosen to visit UT where they have just lost a member of their chapter. I am given a space and a group of women I can share my story with. I can walk with them through their grief having been through it myself. Because of my loss last year, I could love these women better through their loss last week. God’s hand is so evident in the timing of all of this, and I’m learning that suffering and loss have different purposes for our lives at different times.

See last year, losing Taylor led me to accept this job as a National Consultant at the thought of being able to share her story with women across the country. And last week, I was able to do just that to comfort and support women going through a loss themselves.

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Let me just say how PROUD and ENCOURAGED I am by these women. Their unconditional love and support of one another during this difficult time is inspiring. They have come together and are walking through this grief as a family. They are providing counseling and support for their members. They are thinking of ways they can carry on NJ’s legacy. They refuse to be without hope. They are vulnerable with one another. They are not pretending to be okay when they’re not. They are an inspiration to me and a deep encouragement that there is hope in the darkness. There is light. NJ was a tremendous light to Iota, and her light is being carried on.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5

Darkness will not have the final say. These women are ALL embodiments of light, love, and hope. They are pushing one another toward it each day, and they push me to believe in it too. And I get to call these outstanding women my sisters. How blessed could I be.

I think the words that another friend from Iota bravely shared through her own blog sums up greatly all I could say:

But in the midst of it all, there is light. It can pierce the all-encompassing darkness and break it of the power it has. This light is unlike any other light. It provides hope for the hopeless and peace for the broken-hearted. What is this marvelous light? It is the hope that comes from the cross, the hope that we have to cling to in the midst of all this grief. It is knowing that we have a Father, who dearly loves all his people so much so that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross in our place.

Brooke Barfield

https://ourfriendnj.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/in-loving-memory-of-sweet-nancy-jane/

Thank you, Iota, for showing me what it looks like to lean into love in the midst of tragedy. Thank you for letting me share a piece of me with you. Thank you for letting me into your hurt and pain. Thank you for reminding me of the unwavering hope I have in Christ in the midst of an ever-changing world. I love each and every one of you and am unspeakably proud of your lights that are shining through the darkness.

Coastal Carolina

Coastal Carolina

Last week, I had the joy of getting to visit Coastal Carolina University where we will be starting our 181st Chi Omega chapter this fall. And y’all, I could NOT be more excited or encouraged by this trip.

The students and staff at Coastal were outstanding. They were all so welcoming and excited for us to be there! They were willing to help with anything we needed, whether that was a lunch recommendation or setting up our table for the day. They came and danced with us as we were marketing and listened and cared about who we are and what we are doing. They cared about our team and wanted to get to know us. And, on our first night there, they surprised us with a sisterhood event for US and our new members!! I was blown away by their care for us already. This community is a special one, I can feel it.

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And, this is all super important to me because I will be moving to Myrtle Beach this August to help start this new chapter at Coastal Carolina University!

That’s right: I’m moving to Myrtle Beach!!!IMG_0120

I still can’t believe I get this incredible opportunity to love and guide and teach over 100 women all about Chi Omega. I cannot wait to be there with this incredible community that is already established and to help Chi Omega integrate into it. I am overjoyed and humbled that I would be given this opportunity. Thank you, Chi Omega, thank you big time, Jesus.

See, you never know what each season will hold. This season God loosened my grip on many parts of my life, leaving me open-handed and willing to say yes to opportunities that came my way. God reshaped my heart to be ready to accept this opportunity. I know I have nothing to fear in this change, for He will be with me each step of the journey. He will equip me to lead these women, and I cannot wait to see the impact Chi Omega can have at Coastal Carolina.

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. ~Hellen Keller

Chants UP to this new adventure ahead of me.

Letting Go

Today, a chapter in my life closed. Today, I accepted the freedom Christ offers me each day by trusting him. Today, on Easter Sunday, I looked to the empty tomb and rejoiced in my risen King who loves me deeper than I will ever understand.

See today, I saw someone for the first time in a while. I saw someone who had broken my heart. Someone whom I loved and cared for deeply. Someone I was worried about.

In my season of broken-heartedness, I knew God was close to me, I mean it even says so in his word:

Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there. ~Psalm 34:17-18

But I couldn’t feel it. I wasn’t “feeling” any better. I was still crying, still longing for love, still demanding an explanation for my pain and loneliness. I felt like I was reaching for God but missing each time. My heart didn’t feel like it was healing but rather that it was opening itself up to more pain. Really, I know now, that my heart was being transformed and changed into a heart that wants more of Jesus and less of this world.

One day, I had a conversation with a friend who asked me if I had given control of him to Jesus. If I trusted Jesus with him. I loved and cared for this person, had made him an idol in my life, and would not let God have control.

Rather than to continue to grasp for control and demand answers from God, I began to pray for him and to pray that God would have him and that I would trust God. Knowing how God was rescuing me, I could trust that he was rescuing him too. But deep down, I don’t think I fully believed that. At least, not until this morning.

You see, sometimes I don’t believe God is listening to me when I pray, or that he even answers some prayers. And then there are times like this morning when you see God answer prayers instantly and it knocks the truth of his faithfulness right back into you.

It’s Easter Sunday. So naturally I was praying that my someone would be at church this morning. Not so I could see or speak to him. But so that I could see him drawing near to God again, that I could see evidence of God’s unending love moving in him. I bowed my head, closed my eyes, prayed for him, and when I looked up, he was in the front row.

So here’s the thing…

God is ALWAYS listening to our prayers, always crafting the perfect response in His perfect timing.

He IS near,

He IS moving,

He CAN be trusted.

Today, this chapter of my life closed. I no longer desired control or answers, but was overwhelmed by peace. My heart has changed, I no longer want the same things I used to. God was saying to me, “Look Mere, I’ve got him, I’ve been listening to you, I’ve been moving, I won’t let him go, but YOU can.”

So I did. And I am. I thought I had closed this chapter a few weeks ago, but until we fully sacrifice something, whether it be a job, relationship, or really anything, can we really move forward?

God wants to free us from ourselves, and there’s nothing like suffering to show us that we need something bigger than our abilities and our strength and our explanations. There’s nothing like suffering to remind us how not in control we actually are, how little power we ultimately have, and how much we ultimately need God.

~Tullian Tchividjian

So here’s a shout out to God for answering my prayer instantly this morning to reassure me that I can give up control. That I can trust him. That I can leave this chapter behind and look to what comes next. He indeed rescued me from my heartbreak, and He will rescue you from yours. He strips us of our idols to lead us back to the throne of grace. He is risen, He is here, and He is worthy of our praise.

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College of Charleston & USC

College of Charleston & USC

Hello friends! I am writing this blog from my friend’s apartment in Columbia, South Carolina, where I have been spending quite a bit of time recently. The past two weeks I’ve visited the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina for work, but made sure to make some time for my friends who live here too. An unexpected two-day flight delay has kept me here even longer, and I have learned so much, yet again, from this trip.

College of Charleston

I spent last week in Charleston, SC, which easily became one of my new favorite places in the US. Charleston is a historic city where old, colorful homes line the cobblestone streets. Horse-drawn carriages battle cars for the roads and unique restaurants fill the town with their delicious aromas.

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Many students attend the College of Charleston for the city of Charleston, or so my new friends told me. I would’t blame them! It was an incredible city. And along with this great city came a great Chi Omega chapter. These women were from all over the country, mostly the Northeast, looking for a more favorable climate for college. With their variety in background came a variety in personality. One leader was fashionable, bold, and gentle in nature. Another was the savviest Google Doc user I’d ever met with the ability to sing bird calls. Another was an outgoing, bubbly leader who doesn’t shy away from serving others in any way she can. I could go on and on about the beautiful differences in these leaders and how it made them shine. The one word I would use to describe all of the women in this chapter though is PASSIONATE.

These girls have passion and empower one another to use their passions to serve others. It was the most beautiful thing to witness. The president was passionate about helping out another group with a backpack drive, and instead of providing just one or two bags, the girls contributed over 20 bags to help them out. Another group of gals were passionate about sustainability, so they put on a tag sale that raised over $2,000 for Make-A-Wish. I could go on and on about all these women are passionate about, but what stood out to me the most was how they were all doing something to pursue those passions.

I am so thankful that Chi Omega provides an outlet for encouragement. That it is a place where women feel strong and strengthened to pursue their passions. My hope is that each chapter is filled with women who have big dreams and that Chi Omega gives them relationships that push them to make those dreams reality. Zeta Gamma, you left me encouraged to pursue my passions and not be afraid to dream big and unashamedly be myself.

University of South Carolina

My time in Columbia, SC was unlike anything I could have expected. I came down to Columbia before my visit to spend a few days with one of my best friends from TCU, Kat. Kat and I had the best weekend spending time with her amazing roomies, watching the National Championships (Go Cocks), taking long walks, and sharing great life chats. One of my best friends from work, Div, also got to drive up from Statesboro, GA and join us for Saturday’s festivities! I LOVE it when worlds collide, and I was beyond thankful that Div and Kat got to become friends. It was a sunshine-filled, joyous weekend that I am so grateful for.

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My visit to the USC Eta Gamma Chapter though started out stormy. The weather has been crazy and unpredictable this week. I spent two days of my visit essentially in my hotel room due to the strong storms, potential tornados, and flash floods. Having my meetings over phone calls was definitely a little different.

Working with these members, when I got to finally meet with them in-person, was a tremendous pleasure. They were all ready to work hard and be open and honest. I was sent here when I was for a reason, I fully believe that. We had so many great, open-hearted conversations about what’s really going on and how they’re feeling about being leaders in a chapter of nearly 400 women. That’s not easy! It takes much bravery and courage to lead so many people and make decisions that may not go as planned.

I am grateful I was there to comfort and encourage. Sometimes we just need someone to come in and listen to us. And that’s a lot of what I do and see my purpose in this role–just being a good listener and letting our women know they are heard. I am so proud of this team’s perseverance and patience in the midst of a hectic week, and I came away recognizing again the importance of listening well and speaking with integrity and thought.

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He knows what we need

Like I said earlier, this week has looked different for me with the crazy storms hitting the Southeast part of the country. Two of my days were spent in my hotel, resting and working from my room. Yes, this was an inconvenience in some ways, but why would I stop to view it as an inconvenience when I could see it as a gift?

Yesterday, I found out my flight back to Texas was cancelled. After talking to our Chi Omega travel agent, we discovered that the next available flight is Sunday morning, extending my trip to South Carolina by another two days. At first, of course, I was caught off guard and frustrated, but more quickly than ever before though, I found peace. Peace knowing that God is in control and is purposing this delay for a reason. In the same way he gave me the rain this week for more time to rest and work, he is giving me more days in South Carolina for a reason.

Earlier this week, I listened to my sermon from church I missed being out of town. It was about suffering and faith and it prepared me for this current trial:

Suffering is a gift. Your tears are a gift to you. That season of loneliness is a gift to you from God. ~Jim Essian

Six months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to so quickly believe that God was good when things went wrong. I would be frustrated and mad and upset about these inconveniences. I fully believe that because of the ways I have suffered this year, specifically the seasons of loneliness I have found myself in, God has drawn me closer to Him than ever before and I more quickly believe that He is good and He is in control. I can see the seasons of hardship as gifts. I can view my changes of plans with excitement, knowing that God has it happening with purpose. He has me where I am, when I am with reason, and I am so grateful for what my time in South Carolina has taught me.

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Words

Words are a gift. The ability to write them, say them, read them. Recently, I have been greatly impacted for good by the words in my life. Whether that is a word of encouragement from a friend, a catchy song, or the words of Scripture-words are shaping who I am becoming.

And I believe we all are shaped by the words in our lives more than we realize. The words I choose to listen to or not listen to, to read or not to read, to surround myself with or not, those all impact how I think and how I speak.

Say only what helps, each word a gift. ~Ephesians 4:29

Each word is a gift. A precious gift that we can either give or receive. What if we really took time to recognize our words as gifts? As an opportunity to give something beautiful to another person?

When I actively listen to words being spoken to me, and do not anticipate what I am going to say before I fully listen, I find that they take deeper root in my heart. The words from another hit my ears and travel down to my heart, giving me space to process them. Then with careful thought, I want to take time to develop a response that uplifts, encourages, and reassures them.

Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. ~Colossians 4:6

Every word spoken is an opportunity to make an impact. Our words have much more power than we realize.

The words that shape my thoughts also have significant impact on how I vieImage-1-1w myself and the world around me. When I choose to be self-critical and over think every decision I make, I feel awful about myself and do not think others should think much of me. But, when I choose to fill my mind with God’s promises and replace that negative self-talk with truth, my confidence shines because I know where my true value lies. Over and over again I find myself repeating God loves me very much and has placed His hand on me for something special, and I believe that truth reigns true for each and every one of us.

 

Reminding myself of the other gifts in my life through words also helps me remember God’s promises and provision for my life. Whether it is a list of gifts or filling days in my planner with how I saw God move, I need constant reminders through words of God’s goodness. My feelings are so fleeting – one moment, I could feel like God is present and working, and the next, I may not. I need words of truth and evidence of how God shows me His love during my days.

Another way words have impacted me recently is through song. Beautiful, honest lyrics fill my mind and shape my thoughts into prayers. The tune and rhythm of song gets lyrics stuck in my head so easily, and when those lyrics are life-giving, encouraging words of truth, my head and heart are filled with goodness. Musicians have a gift of crafting words to songs that give us joy. Fill your head with lyrics of life.

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My words in how I speak to The Lord too are such a gift. The fact that I have a good Father who wants to listen to me and answer my prayers is such a gift. That He would listen to the words I have to say. I want to take more advantage of such a blessing. He cares about every word that leaves my mouth.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ~John 1:1

Finally, the Word is a gift. We have a source where we are able to read God’s words and see evidence of His power over generations and generations. We have words that will ground us in the truth about our lives. These words are our source of life. What a gift! What a gift that we have the ability to read words of comfort, love, and hope that will never change.

Thanksgiving is our dialect. ~Ephesians 5:4

In all of this, my prayer is that Thanksgiving becomes my dialect. I want words of praise and gift-giving and God’s provision to shape how I speak. I want Him to be glorified in my words. I want my words to positively impact others. I want to be more mindful of how I speak. My hope is that we all take a moment to think about how the words we choose affect our thoughts, our work, our perspective, and our relationships. Words are precious, and the ones we choose to listen to, read, and speak shape our thoughts and actions and impact.

Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.

~Proverbs 18:20-21

 

 

OU & Oklahoma State

OU & Oklahoma State

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of returning to two of my chapters I visited in the Fall: Oklahoma State and the University of Oklahoma. What a gift it was getting to visit these gals again that I already got to know in the fall. It felt like coming home all over again.

To be honest though, this last trip started rough for me. Coming off Louisiana I was sick the week I was home between my two adventures, so it was not very restful. I was so worried that I wasn’t going to be able to give my girls my 100% on my trips because I wasn’t feeling well. But here’s the thing, if there’s one thing I’ve learned thus far in 2017 it is to admit when I am not 100%–physically, emotionally, or spiritually. And that’s just a part of being a human. So I told my girls straight up-hey, I’m sick right now, so if I’m snotting all over the place and acting a little different, just forgive me. And they did, and they were so great, and so understanding. I am grateful for friends who will share the realities of imperfection with each other. We will not be 100% all the time, and I want to be known for being able to own that rather than deny and pretend to be perfect when I’m not.

Be grateful for all you are and all that you’re becoming. 

Oklahoma State

Arriving back at OSU was the best feeling. In August, I lived in the Chi O house with our girls for two weeks during recruitment, so I got to know nearly every girl in the chapter. So, when I arrived last week, I walked into the dining hall, started eating lunch, and picked right back up where I had left off. It did not feel like eight months had passed since I’d last been there. I loved being greeted with, “Tranky Trank is back!!” and other happy feels of being back in a place so familiar to me.

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These OSU gals are some of the most dedicated, caring, hard-working women I’ve ever met. They strive to be the best in each aspect of their lives: family, school, clubs, leadership, all of it. We had some awesome conversations about how being so high-achieving is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they are accomplishing amazing things, but when they are stretched so thin, it is hard to prioritize taking care of themselves. We talked about debunking the myth that we have to be perfect all the time in all we do, and we discussed how to inspire the rest of the members to believe the same. We want to cultivate a culture of comfort so that we can be our best, real selves in all we do. I am so stinking proud of these girls. They are world-changers.

IMG_4578Another moment that was precious to me was time spent with my girl Dana. Dana and I connected right off the bat when I came to OSU in August, and we have stayed close ever since. We got to share ice cream one night and just real talk about what has been going on in our lives. Neither one of us have had the easiest years thus far, so it was such a gift to connect with her and pour into each other. It was a moment where I was able to see the suffering and trials in my life for good–to see how God was preparing me and teaching me so I could then teach Dana. It was a time of encouragement and reassurance, and it was beautiful. My entire time at OSU left me feeling encouraged and reassured as to why I do what I do–these relationships are so precious to me and I won’t be surprised if I am at OSU again just to love on my humans there. Thank y’all for always loving me so well.

OU

My week at OU was such a special one, because I got to share it with my best friend/role model/mentor/director Lacey. We rarely get to travel with co-workers with my job, so this was a real treat that we were getting to do this visit together. I am just so blessed that my job gives me these remarkable women to do life and work with.

These leaders at OU care deeply about their women and the betterment of Chi Omega. I was so encouraged by their genuine desire to see their gals reach their fullest potential and how they wanted to do whatever they could in order to help Chi Omega be this source of growth and inspiration for their members. Lacey, the leaders, and I worked hard this week to uncover how we could make this experience in Chi Omega the best for their members. I am so proud of them for wanting the very best and for being willing to work hard to reach that best.

This visit had moments for me when I was not feeling the most confident in myself for a few reasons. Again, this idea of not being 100% was permeating my visit. And it was okay to admit that. Lacey is such a great friend and reminded me that sometimes we have off days and we have all felt this way before in one way or another. God kept reminding me to lean on Him in each moment, every day, because ultimately, He is the provider of my strength and confidence and ability to do my job well.

I shared some incredible conversations over meals at OU, talking about how we all want to keep growing. I deliriously laughed with my girl Lacey over and over again. I felt so loved and cared for by Mom Martha and the advisors. I got to see an old friend from TCU and her precious poodle. I was able to share breakfast with my little’s boyfriend who embodies for me what loving and pursuing a woman in a godly manner looks like. As always, my relationships are what give me life, and I’m so grateful I was able to cultivate my precious relationships at OU this week.

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Boomer Sooner, Go Pokes, but, most importantly, Go Frogs.

Thanks, Oklahoma, for the best of times and the best of friends.