A Tiger Did The Gator Chomp! 4 Powerful Lessons From My Florida Graduation

You ever hear the saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans?”

One of my road assignments as chief sports writer for LSU’s Daily Reveille newspaper was the LSU-Florida game in 2010 – my first trip to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

I’ll never forget it. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow had been drafted by Denver the previous year. That night’s game was still a thriller to cover. The visiting Tigers won, 33-29, on a touchdown pass from Jarrett Lee to Terrence Toliver with six seconds left. I did my duties as a reporter, thinking for sure that was the professional path I’d take.

I did for a while.

Family Photo

But … fast forward 12 years to April 28-29, 2022. I was back in Gainesville again – this time with my parents and husband, attending Florida’s graduation in a master’s hood!

Master of Arts in Mass Communications. Concentration: Public Relations.

Lo and behold, Tim Tebow was commencement weekend speaker. A lot had changed for both of us.

Tebow’s NFL career is over, like my career in sports journalism. Tebow is now a New York Times best-selling author, speaker and expert on living a life of true significance.

Tebow gave a powerful message as I embark on a new chapter in Baton Rouge. I kid you not, my eyes filled with tears as I thought about living a mission-driven life in a new city.

Yes, I went back for my master’s in public relations to expand my knowledge on creating integrated communications campaigns, and I’ve achieved that. But what’s become even more abundantly clear in the past 20 months is how much I want to dig in, build relationships and serve God & others in my next job … and in my daily life.

With that, here are four lessons from from my nearly two years as a Florida Gator.


Family Photo

1. OWN YOUR VALUES

We live in a world where we’re constantly tempted to compare ourselves to other people. In my opinion, social media only adds fuel to that fire.

Look what they have that I don’t! She’s got a better job than me! Why can’t I have the money or house or clothes or kids that this person has?!

Cue the vicious cycle of impostor syndrome.

My devotional journal helps bring me back to center. Today’s reflection was on Romans 12. We read in verses 4-5, Just as each of us has various parts in one body, and the parts do not all have the same function: in the same way, all of us, though there are so many of us, make up one body in Christ, and as different parts we are all joined to one another.”

What is the message here? We shouldn’t try to be something we aren’t. God created each of us uniquely, and He’s given us permission to own our values.

Each one of us, from you and me to Tim Tebow, has a story – I’m a woman from Louisiana who’s married and has epilepsy. I dream of raising a faith-filled family and using my master’s in communication to serve a Catholic school or nonprofit organization. Most of all, I just want to get up every day & help others.

Remember, God won’t bless a pretend-version of ourselves. Write down your values if you need to. I did!

2. MEET NEW PEOPLE

Photo by Robert Smith (left)

One of my favorite parts of graduate school was my classes that met live online.

Connecting with students and professors enhanced the learning experience much more than just listening to recorded lectures. The education I gained at Florida was tremendous; I’m only emphasizing how much I enjoyed the classes that included additional live meetings.

For me, those were two electives: Branding Using Social & Mobile Media and Seminar in Mass Communication Teaching, taught by Brianne Fleming and Cheryl Oberlin, respectively.

I also talked regularly with students and my professor in Capstone in Public Relations. So close to the finish line, we were determined to dot every i and cross every t in our final projects! My Capstone professor, Rick Holberg, was an incredible resource and reference in the field.

You can see a group of us was even able to connect at graduation and celebrate our achievement!

We should always be looking to expand our networks, meet new people and share ideas.

Volunteer. Don’t be afraid to get in the room you want to be in. Thankfully, the world is opening up again post-COVID-19 isolation. I can’t wait to find my community in Baton Rouge.

While it’s important to be confident in your own core values (see #1), it’s also important to have conversations with others and consider differing perspectives. We never know what doors certain relationships (like graduate school alumni, for example) might open in the future.

3. PERSEVERE

These next two go hand in hand. We all face some downright terrible events in our lives – death, natural disasters, tough days at work, struggling to find work, whatever the case may be.

When I think back to my first day of graduate school August 31, 2020, I had to summon perseverance. Hurricane Laura had just wrecked Lake Charles, where we lived at the time, and knocked out power and water. I felt blessed when I saw our house suffered only minor damage compared to others.

Thank God for generators.

Schoolwork was a welcome distraction amid the destruction around us. Did I mention I took three classes my first semester? I had way too much to dive into!

Navigating Hurricane Laura in my first semester set the tone for the perseverance we’d need in the coming months. Lake Charles was about to face a multitude of weather events – Hurricane Delta, a February ice storm, the May 2021 flood, and even an EF-3 tornado about a mile from our house in October.

We tried to pull some good from these tragedies. My husband fixed fences in our neighborhood, and I found inspiration for my graduate school portfolio from Louisiana Catholic schools coming together in the hurricane aftermath.

As we read in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.”

That brings me to #4.

4. HAVE FAITH

Family Photo

Tim Tebow was a big reason why I couldn’t wait to attend graduation weekend in Gainesville.

Yes, the pomp & circumstance of wearing my master’s regalia, crossing the stage, and walking onto Ben Hill Griffin Stadium field Friday night was awesome, but Tebow’s message to us – the graduates – about having the courage to live for significance, not personal success, was exactly what I needed to hear.

I mean, exactly.

I felt tears well up in my eyes as he spoke about how each of us was created in the image of God for a purpose! Tebow had such courage and fearlessness. Nothing held him back.

I pride myself on having a strong faith, but I know it can always be stronger.

Tebow writes in his newest book, Mission Possible, “You may not win a popularity contest by being mission driven, but you’ll certainly gain the favor of your Father in heaven. And isn’t that what counts?”

I’ll be first in line to raise my hand yes.


YOUR TURN

Let me know in the comments below:

  • Which of the four lessons hit home for you?
  • Did you watch Tebow’s speech? Bill Heavener introduces him as “a fighter for those who can’t fight for themselves.” Inspiration at the highest level!

Time to Try a New Ministry? God is Calling, You Just Have to Listen

When was the last time you wanted to try something new?

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Maybe it was a new food or drink? Or you were planning a trip to a new destination? What about a new job?

But how often do we raise our hands and get out of our comfort zones to try a new ministry in the Catholic Church?

God calls us in ways we don’t expect.

Mary is a wonderful example. When she was about 14, God chose her to be the mother of His son, Jesus Christ.

Talk about a shock. Imagine how Mary must have felt receiving that news.

But Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation? “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). Then she embarked on her journey to visit Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist, and she stayed there about three months.

In January I wrote about surrendering to God’s plan for our lives and how everything that happens is part of our journey. God doesn’t make mistakes. He knows your gifts, and it’s our purpose to use those gifts for His glory.

HEARING GOD’S CALL

I’m very open on my blog about how I was laid off from what I thought was my dream job as a sports journalist almost seven years ago. Clearly that did not align with God’s purpose for my life. If I would’ve still been a full-time journalist, there’s no way I would’ve heard God’s call to try a new ministry this year.

Here’s the story.

I’ve been a lector at Mass for nearly 20 years, but in August I decided to add something new. After our parish priest repeatedly asked for volunteers for Our Lady of Good Counsel’s religious education program, I took the hint and dove in.

The first step: Take the hint.

The more you feel ” a gentle tug” inside you, don’t ignore it. Consider it God’s call.

Looking back at summer 2021, I would’ve kicked myself if I would’ve passed up the opportunity to be a religious education teacher this year.

Wednesday afternoons from 4:30-5:45 (and the ample prep time) are some of the highlights of my week. It’s given me a chance to not only deepen my knowledge of the Catholic faith I’ve held since childhood, but also hold confident discussions with the Confirmation candidates I teach.

I express to the students why it’s critical to have a relationship with God because He will never abandon you. I quickly discovered most of the kids aren’t exposed to regular prayer at home. They don’t know the basics like mysteries of the Rosary or Order of the Mass. Therefore, my co-teacher and I mix in our own personal stories and group discussions along with required lessons to bring them closer to the Catholic faith we hold dear.

Last week before Ash Wednesday, a vibrant college student from Cowboy Catholics spoke to our class. It had been a goal of mine to get a guest speaker closer to the students’ age to address their struggles and talk to them directly.

I sat there, in awe, listening to this student talk about how he was growing a Bible study at his fraternity … praying that these Confirmation candidates would be as grateful as I was to hear his wisdom. It wouldn’t have happened if I wouldn’t have heard – and listened – to God’s call.


OUR TURN

Lent is a perfect time to reflect on how we can try a new ministry.

As we begin this season of renewal and repentance, let’s think about ways to invite God into our lives more fully.

Here are what I liked to call the big 3:

  1. Prayer
  2. Fasting
  3. Almsgiving

Think about almsgiving. Pray about how we can serve others and try a new ministry this Lent.

The key here comes from Matthew 6:2-4: “When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the street to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

Now might be the time when God is calling. Will we take the hint?

So You Didn’t Get The Job. Take a Deep Breath and Let These Bible Verses Be Your Guide

I’ve got the anticipation of Christmas morning as a child.

Photo by Davis Sanchez from Pexels

My graduation from Florida is less than three months away.

Almost every day for the past 18 months I’ve treated this master’s program as a full-time job, working to finish it in five semesters. Now I’m applying for new careers in the marketing & communications field.

I’ve also volunteered this year in religious education and Christian formation. (More on that in an upcoming blog post).

If you’re graduating soon, I’m sure you can relate. You’ve got feelings of excitement, overwhelm, maybe a little of both. We’ll miss some parts of school, but mostly we can’t wait to show the world and the workforce the skills we’ve been training for.

Recently I interviewed for a job at a school, and they chose someone “with a lot more years of experience.” I was sad – (who wouldn’t be?) – because I’m more ready than I’ve ever been to make an impact and serve my community. But the thing is, even when we think we have the timing figured out, only God knows.

I came back to Earth a little bit, reset, and made a commitment that I encourage you to make if you’re in any kind of transition — maybe your own job search or a move to a new city (if it’s the South, we welcome you to be fans of the New Orleans Saints!)

Surrender to God’s plan.

Yes, I wanted that job. But something even better for me and God’s design for my life will be revealed in the right time.

SAVE THESE VERSES

1. “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you … plans for welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 Verses 12-13 are equally as hopeful, as the Lord writes to His people who were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: “When you call me, come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me.”

How inspiring to reflect on God as a loving, merciful father who will always be here when we ask. In prayer, at Mass, in the sacraments. No matter what, no matter when. In good times, in bad times.

2. “I pray that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones.” Ephesians 1:18 In my devotional journal called 100 Days of Believing Bigger by Marshawn Evans Daniels, she wrote something powerful on the entry I read today: “God neither consults your past nor your resume when He maps out your future. And he isn’t confined to your passions either.”

Wow. This perfectly fits the feedback I received when I asked the director what I could do differently for future job openings I apply to. She said volunteering – service – is a great way to grow, and that excited me.

Ironically, a guest speaker in my seminar class a few days later said the same thing – volunteering – when I asked for advice on breaking through when I might lack experience. I think that’s a sign. Most importantly, don’t give up. God will open the right door.


If you’ve followed me on social media in the past, you may be wondering what inspired this faith-based blog post – especially the day after the Super Bowl?! (Like the rest of Louisiana, I was rooting for the Bengals, but Aaron Donald & Co. were just too fierce).

Well, more on that to come … a lot more!

I’ll sprinkle in the occasional sports musing, but this blog will focus much more on faith posts as I start my next chapter … how we can see God in our lives and serve Him more than just at Sunday Mass.

Any specific areas you’d like to see covered, feel free to drop me an email or a DM!