choosing happy

Today my passion is happiness. My passion changes on a daily basis, based on whatever I’m dealing with that day. I’ve expressed before that my passion is people, some days it’s yoga, some days biking, frequently it’s the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. But today, happiness. For those of you keeping up with me, I am not going back to Auburn in the fall. The plan was to take a semester off and then apply to transfer to Wilmington in the spring. But the saying is all too true “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” because I talked with a transfer admissions advisor and she said it’s near impossible to be accepted for the highly competitive spring semester without 50+ hours and a 3.0 GPA; two things I do not have. So then what’s next? I honestly don’t know, but I know what’s now..happy. I’ve watched a documentary called Happy. Happiness is purely and simply what you make of it. You make a choice, consciously or not, when something happens to you. Reacting to adversity is natural, but the rate at which you bounce back from the adversity is key. There may be a million reasons to make you unhappy, but if you make the choice of happiness, it overpowers the million. I’ve decided to stop relying on extrinsic qualities to make me happy. I don’t care where I go to college, I am just exceptionally lucky to have the opportunity to go to school at all. I don’t care how much money I make at work tomorrow, as long as I can pay my rent, I have enough. Scientifically, 50% of your happiness is genetic, 10% is your circumstances and 40% is you. Today I’m taking that 40% and choosing happy. I’m choosing a long bike ride around a beautiful city. I’m choosing a good book. I’m choosing a little Rolling Stones pandora. I’m choosing a phone call with a loved one. I’m choosing wholeheartedly to be happy.


elizabeth orantes; The Power Of One

This next post is incredible not only because it has a special message, but because the person writing it truly embodies everything she says in the post. The Power Of One is one of my favorite messages and I hope this inspires you to step up and make a difference.


Sitting down and thinking of one thing I’m really passionate about is harder than it sounds.  I have many things in my life that I am passionate about.  Faith, Family, and Friends are three things that have helped me find my true passions.  I absolutely love fundraising, volunteering, and spending time with the people I truly care about.  When I realize why I am passionate about a lot of these things, it is because I know that I am truly making a difference for others, because of four simple words of reassurance: The Power of One.

I am very passionate about the phrase, “The Power of One.”  Some people are afraid to challenge themselves to further progress their ideas because they believe that it won’t make a difference; however, this is not the case.  It only takes one person to make a difference, no matter how big or small.  If there is one thing I got out of boring history classes growing up, it was that it only took one person to change the world.  I like to compare it to a chain reaction.  It is not necessarily the action that the person takes, but the reaction from others that truly makes the difference.  I always like to share this example to prove how the power of one really is a true statement:

An 8-year-old girl that is very close to me was diagnosed with brain cancer.  The minute I found out, I was very upset, but knew that just sitting around and moping would not do any good.  I immediately made a Facebook profile picture and cover photo, and started tagging everyone I knew that was close with her.  Within a few hours I had many notifications telling me that other people had changed their profile pictures and cover photos as well.  A few days later, a Facebook group called “Pray for Tara,” was created.  Then shirts were being made with the same logo.  This is just the beginning of a huge campaign that is now up and running.  There are so many more things that have been done for this sweet girl, all because I showed that I was not afraid to start something for someone I truly cared about.

It is really easy to find something you are passionate about, but how to do something about it is sometimes very tricky.  I would like to take this opportunity on Shelby’s amazing blog to encourage you to really follow your dreams.  Do not be afraid to make a difference, no matter how big or small.  Let your passion rub off on others.  Get other people excited for your cause, and you will have an army of people helping you before you know it!

Through all the great speakers I’ve ever seen, they all had one thing in common: there were not afraid to be the first to make a change.  I am not sure exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life.  Right now I see myself doing marketing/ fundraising for children’s hospitals.  I know that the Lord will put me in the right place, but at the end of the day, I just want to know that I’ve helped someone out and made someone’s day a little bit better.  I also hope to be able to continue to share my experiences with big groups, to encourage them to achieve their goals for their passions.  Never forget, the power of one can make the difference, YOU CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE!

Elizabeth Orantes
Fairfax, Virginia
July 10, 2013 

everything happens for a reason

One of the things that’s so appealing to me about the passion project is that I don’t write anything for it. It is all these awesome people that I know and meet and I get to share them with you. But I realized that it is important for me to share my feelings with my readers as well so they can attempt to be impacted by everyone’s stories as much as I am. I attend Auburn University on scholarship, however as of this morning, I am no longer on scholarship. This means, I can no longer afford to attend Auburn and my world is completely flipped upside down. I’ll admit, this didn’t come completely out of the blue. I didn’t get the GPA I needed to maintain the scholarship so I tried to appeal it and today I found out the appeal was unsuccessful. So now y’all understand why I am stuck on the saying “everything happens for a reason.” I sincerely believed Auburn was the perfect school for me, their focus on global issues even began to encourage me to change my major from marine biology to something to match my non profit minor, like civic and community engagement or something of the sort. But now I am filled with concern and confusion. Clearly, Auburn is not the perfect school for me and after sophomore year at Auburn, I will have to find a new place to call home.  There is something else that God has planned for me. It is with every fiber of my being that I am scared, but I am trying to trust God. He makes things happen for a reason, it is in Him that I trust my future. But now, I have no idea where my future will take me. Someone once asked me what I wanted to do with my life and when I said I didn’t know his answer was “if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, maybe you don’t know yourself.” A pretty profound statement to make and it threw me for a loop. It has been since then that I have been working on finding myself; my identity on my own, my identity through Christ and the combination of the two. It is because of all of this that I renew my energy for the passion project. With each person I learn new things, and maybe one day, through the combination of everyone, I will know who I am and have an idea of what I want for my future. Each day is a new and perfect opportunity to carry out small acts of selfless love. Each day a beautiful blessing. And every person, in each day, is my chance to figure out this crazy mess we call life.

maggie smith; people

This is a truly incredible post because as I’ve said before, my passion lies with people as well. It’s inspiring to see how many people in my life have the potential to make a lasting difference in this world!


What am I passionate about? At first a question like that seemed simple, but putting into words what my passion is may be one of the most difficult tasks I’ve done all day, and I’ve attempted math today! I finally have summed it up into one word (yay me!): People. That’s right, my passion is people. Every passion that I have ends up coming back to people. My obsession with traveling, photography, art, missions, and even my love for Jesus goes back to people.  

At an early age my parents instilled in me the value of a human life and how important each individual is. They explained to me that Jesus’ death and resurrection was much too precious for anyone to pick and choose who is worthy to hear the gospel. By the age of eight, I was overflowing with this love for Jesus and people that I couldn’t wait to share with the world. That summer my parents took me with them on their first mission project. I probably was in the way more than I’d care to admit, but everyone there really made me feel like I was making a difference. One lady even let me measure the sheetrock for the walls! I know, I know! It’s not that big of a deal to measure sheetrock, but as an eight year old I was on top of the world.

Fast forward about eight years and I had already been on four week long mission trips, and I was about to leave to spend my entire summer as a missionary. I was completely scared to death, and only one thing made me put one foot in front of the other to get on an airplane headed to the unknown: knowing that Jesus had people in Montana that needed to be loved and needed to hear His name. I spent two of the most amazing months pouring out every bit of love I had with every child that I met, every teen that I spoke with, every adult that I encountered and every church that I visited. I could not get enough. The next summer I went to Sacramento to do the same thing. Every break in school since that summer in Sacramento, I’ve spent loving on other people. It didn’t matter if I was at home handing out lunches on Saturdays to families in my home town with needs, or if I was in Port Saint Joe, Florida building wheel chair ramps for local churches. I was always doing something. I guess you could say that I was in my element.

Now, I’m twenty-one and my major is Human Development and Family Studies. My concentration is Child Life and with my degree I plan to work with terminally ill children in hospitals as a Child Life Specialist. Eventually, I’d love to take child life abroad to third world countries as a missionary permanently.  But right now, I’m just concentrating on loving the people I’m surrounded by. I guess it’s my love for others that pushes me to meet new people every day. My mama always said that I’ve never met a stranger, and I’m beginning to think that she may be right. 

I believe that if everyone spent a little more time loving people and a little less time judging them we would all be much better off. Every little bit counts. While I may not be changing the world right now, I’ve learned more about myself, the Lord, and this world than I ever dreamed possible. I’ve learned that doing the little things can make all of the difference if you do them with the right heart. 

 I realize that my passion may seem weird, but there are over seven billion people in this world and every single one of them deserves to know that they are loved. Not just by me, but by a Savior who took on flesh and conquered sin and death.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:12-13

Maggie Smith
21 years old
Mansfield, Georgia
July 10, 2013








alex jay; special needs

This gem is one of my sorority sisters and close friends at school that has the biggest heart of anyone I know. Her relentless acts of unselfish kindness show the world that putting others before yourself is the way to go.


I really don’t believe that people only have one passion. I knew what my passions were before I knew that the definition of passion meant. I have been working with individuals with special needs for as long as I can remember. I was 5 years old when I met one of my closest friends, Omead. Over the years he has taught me patience, strength, kindness, and many other traits that make me the person I am today. Thanks to Omead, I continued my work by being a special education aide throughout middle and high school. High school was a place where I realized my potential & where I figured out that I could make a difference in people’s lives. During my freshman year of high school I met the most influential person in my life. Her name is Alesha McDaniel. She is a strong and independent woman who just happens to have down syndrome. Alesha will always be special to me because she is my soul mate and my best friend. She is a daily reminder of why I do what I do and to stay strong whenever I get discouraged. She is my person.

Today I continue my passion by being involved with Best Buddies in Auburn where I’ve made many valuable relationships. It has been a program that has challenged me, but has also encouraged me. I am currently studying Special Education at Auburn with a minor in Philanthropy and Non-Profit Studies. I plan on teaching special education in the public school system for a few years, but then I hope to be able to something that incorporates all of my passions into one career.

That career is Hippotherapy. Hippotherapy is “a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention program to achieve functional outcomes.” Since I have been riding horses for as long as I can remember and I have also been working with individuals with special needs for a long time now, I could not imagine a better occupation for me to have that combines all of my passions into one; individuals with special needs, horses, and teaching. I have been blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at two extremely amazing therapeutic riding centers here in Alabama. One is in my home town in Birmingham called Special Equestrians, and the other is located in my current home in Auburn called Storybook Farms. Both locations have been a blessing to my life and I am forever thankful for the opportunity to do what I love. The men and women who run these centers are all inspirational, but the real heroes are the riders. Each rider has a special place in my heart and has placed a fire in my bones to fulfill all of my dreams. 

I hope that everyone has something in their life that they are truly passionate about, whatever it may be. In my life, passion gives me purpose.

Alex Jay
19 years old
Birmingham, AL
July 8, 2013