Sorry this has taken so very, very long, folks...I know, I say that before just about all of my posts =)
I thought about giving you guys a play by play of my entire trip, but, to be honest, that would be quite boring, ridiculously long and I wouldn't be able to remember half of what happened...So, there goes the play by play idea =) So, I'll try to give you a short little post (that idea, though, is almost laughable) with just some of my favorite events (which means this could be quite long...lol).
I also thought about writing something about the flights, because all but one of them were wonderful and it was my first time flying, but most of you have flown many times, so I won't bore you with how amazing I thought it was.
So, now that I've told you everything that I won't be writing about, let's get to what I will be.
Traveling with Sarah Anne was incredible. She is the most encouraging person I know and is FAR more patient than I am. She really does put me to shame.
We spent two awesome days in the Chicago suburbs with Sarah's family and had a fantastic time with them.
We then flew to Boston (!) and were met by the (:::drum roll, please:::) ultra-amazing Thompson family! (:::And the crown goes wild!:::). They truly were a joy to tour with.
We toured Harvard square the first night and loved it. The next day we saw just about everything that there is to see in Boston. My favorite things, believe it or not, were the cemeteries, they were so incredibly beautiful and peaceful.
The next day we toured more and ended up having the grand opportunity of visiting the JFK Presidential Library, which was phenomenal.
Gordon College (the location of the tournament) was...well, beautiful. I loved that it was like a little NCFCA village. We stayed on site in one of the dorms, which should have helped us to get more sleep, but instead we stayed up later and got up earlier...Oh yes, we are wise.
The tournament itself was incredibly strange. There were numerous things that I very much disliked, dozens of awkward situations that I wish had been avoided and the most horrible alumni presentation ever, and yet the tournament was still my favorite tournament in my three years in the NCFCA.
I got closer to the people in Region II in five days than I had in all three previous years, I loved staying on site, I saw some spectacular speeches and watched some awesome debates (TP debate with quotes from Star Wars, I mean, enough said, right?), but I think the thing that made it so incredible was how much closer I got to the Lord in those 5 short days. I don't know what it was that caused that growth, but I really feel like a different person now than before Nationals.
One particular incident that very possibly lent itself to this growth was my first round. I don't know if I wasn't focused enough, hadn't practiced my speech enough or if I was just plain nervous, but I failed that round. I stumbled over numerous things that I had never had trouble with before, mixed up a Bible reference with a verse (and corrected myself) and said "excuse me," probably close to seven times. This was the first time I had ever actually not wanted to finish my speech. I truly, honestly wanted to leave the room. I wanted to give up. Needless to say, I was quite discouraged after that round. I felt like I had blown every chance at breaking to out rounds, and even though that doesn't matter in the long run it's a very disappointing feeling. I felt like I had let down all of the people who had supported me in going to Nationals.
I don't know exactly when it happened, but God spoke to me later that day and helped me to realize that I had been getting cocky and confident in myself. I had been told over and over how great my speech was and what a gifted speaker I am (which, honestly, is somewhat comical) and I think it had started going to my head. I believe that that horrid round was God reminding me that my speaking skills are non-existent and that I wouldn't have had a great speech were it not for Him. In that one round I spoke with all of my strength and failed miserably. For the rest of the tournament God showed me His unfathomable strength which is the strength and power that caused me to break to Quarter Finals.
They announced my name with the Persuasive Quarter breaks and I literally started sobbing hysterically...I probably looked pretty interesting. That same awesome strength, the strength and power of God, is the same strength that broke me past Quarters to Semis and then to Finals and, in the end, placing 5th in the nation in Persuasive speaking.
None of this was me. We saw my strength in that first round and it was pitiful. God's strength carried me through each round, His words came out in my speech and He touched the judge's hearts.
I don't feel like I earned my medal at all, I didn't even earn my way to Nationals (read about that here), but I have learned throughout this speech season, and at Nationals in particular, that God can, and does, show His great strength through our weaknesses.
"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
~2 Corinthians 12:9
"Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!"