First Exciting Announcement — Opportunity Unleashed is Joining Youtube!

I’m glad to welcome y’all to my youtube channel!  I have been wanting to start this channel for YEARS, and never felt confident enough to do it, but now is the time!  Watch my welcome video

HERE!

Thank you all, for supporting me here at Opportunity Unleashed.  I am so thrilled to be expanding into this new area of the world wide web, and I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback!  If you have ideas for future videos, questions about blindness, guide dogs, or music-related requests, please comment or shoot me a message.  If you have been a reader here at OpportunityUnleashed.com, please become a viewer, too, and

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Thanks, and see you again soon!

More Thoughts on Opportunity, Plus Exciting Things Coming

Sometimes opportunities are like shining golden gateways, open portals that just appear out of the myst and beckon you to enter.  More frequently, though, I’ve found that opportunities do not just appear.  They must be sought out, excavated, cleaned, tended, and shaped to achieve MOP (maximum opportunity potential).  Achieving MOP is no easy task, primarily because MOP cannot be reliably achieved until every possible outcome is thoroughly assessed and explored, and the best possible outcomes selected as the target result.  It also carries with it a whole laundry list of risks, disappointment prominent among them.  As someone who feels very passionately about achieving MOP, my first disappointment in considering this process lies in the fact that I am not a computer, and life is not a concrete series of data points.  There are just some things we cannot predict, which is what makes seeking and taking opportunities all the riskier.

But that is also the thrilling thing?  Opportunity taking is organic.  You may have a vague idea of what you are getting into, but you’ll never quite know ahead of time what exactly you will learn, where you will go, who you will meet, who you will become, or what new opportunities might arise through it.  In a life lived to the glory of God, we can be sure that whether or not we achieve maximum opportunity potential as we or the world define it, the Lord will make our paths straight, and bless us richly through it.  God is the only omniscient opportunity optimizer, and therefore the only one who can ever really attain MOP.  Thus, we must place our trust in him, and recognize that he will be faithful to guide us.

I’m excited to share that I have been digging up some cool new discoveries lately, and they will become evident on this blog as time goes on.  Look out for my first of a few announcements in the next post!

A Second “Second Journey” – Training with my Second Guide Dog

And so it begins. Just as there was a second journey recorded on this blog in Scotland absent of Oleta, my darling first guide dog, here commences yet another second journey in her absence, that is, my second experience at guide dog school, and a new partnership with another wonderful Guiding Eyes dog. I plan to keep a careful account of my training and related musings in the pages of this blog. My hope is that it will prove useful both for me as an opportunity to reflect on the things I am learning and feeling throughout the process, and for others who want to discover more about guide dogs and guide dog training. When I was a teenager preparing for my first guide dog at 16, I scoured every website I could possibly find related to guide dogs. Training blogs like this were one of my favorite ways to learn more about guide dogs in general, as well as specifics about the varied training philosophies and programs in existence.  If this account is as interesting to someone else as similar blogs were to me as a first time applicant to guide dog school, I would be humbled (and also impressed that your attention span is that long because seriously I am a wordy writer.  Haha. Prepare yourself!)

See you in New York!

Adventures in Fund Raising: THe Concert

Among many other things, missions work is teaching me how to be a bit more organized.  I am not naturally so, especially when it comes to planning, especially especially when I am planning something that has no real deadline and no grade.  If life had a syllabus, I’d be set.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t, at least, not one that contains a list of specific goals, required readings, and scheduled due dates, so I took on this particular fund raising effort with no idea what I was doing, no clue where I was going, and very little in between.  Nonetheless, my half-thought out, mid-midterm brain child came to fruition last Saturday, in the form of a (very casual) afternoon of music in our back yard.  It was a concert, of sorts, one with only a week’s preparation music-wise, little time to advertise, and two extremely allergy-affected singers, but it happened, and it went much better, all things considered, than I imagined it would.  I was expecting about 3 audience members, but we had at least 17, and our donations, all totaled, amounted to over 350 dollars.

Wow!!!  I cannot express how grateful I am for your attendance and gracious gifts!!!  Y’all are amazing!  Thank you!

Yet another opportunity that God has used to exceed my expectations in every possible way.  Thank you Lord for that, and thank you that my lack of organization skills doesn’t keep you from accomplishing your will!

A Second Journey

Well, here we are again… it’s the end of the semester, in the middle of countless assignments, projects, research papers, concerts, seminar performances, juries, finals, and not enough hours to study for them, and in spite of all that, what am I doing now?  Writing a blog post.  Why?  Because it’s about time I let you know that Oleta and I will, God willing, return to Scotland this summer to serve as missions workers!!!

I am thrilled to be able to take this opportunity a second time and cannot wait to discover what new experiences await us in Scotland this year.  We covet your prayers in this venture, especially concerning Oleta’s paperwork, and my charity workers visa, that I will be granted one and it will arrive in time for my departure.  Please pray for our team, that God would prepare all of our hearts to serve together in Scotland in the best way we can.  Please also pray that I would trust him in all these things, especially with our financial needs.

As with last year, the cost of the trip is over 2000 dollars, and we have a great deal of fund raising left to do.  If you would like to donate, please go to this link:

http://rpmissions.org/donate

Don’t forget to check the “Responding to a specific need” checkbox, and write my name, “Shea” and my trip location “Airdrie, Scotland” in the text field.

We would greatly appreciate any assistance you can provide financially and even more so prayerfully.  We are so thankful that we have you as a support system and look forward to sharing this second journey with you.

Scotland Trip: FInger printing, Paperwork, and the Nonexistent Quantum Vacuum

Preparing for the Mission Trip and What I’ve Learned So Far

“I need you to stand right over here.” the lady said, guiding me to the proper spot with a gloved hand on my arm. I smiled at her and complied, finding the tall desk with the machine atop it in front of me.
“Left hand please.”
I felt the cool, soggy touch of a paper towel as she wiped off my thumb. She lifted my hand and pressed the digit against the warm glass of the machine, and was rewarded with a business-like, “beep”.
Yes, this was me getting finger printed, and no, not for the reason you are thinking. I am NOT a blind-supremacist criminal. The blind protection agency has turned over a new leaf—I promise.
No, my finger prints were necessary for my charity workers visa, which I need in order to participate in my mission trip to Scotland with RP Missions.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about opportunity, it’s that it’s not always easy. In fact, more often than not, it takes a great deal of preparation, and committed care to carry out. When I felt God calling me to missions back in October, I didn’t really think about all of the pre-cursory work that would need to be done before we entered the field. I was too wrapped up in financial considerations to think much about travel plans, team instruction, or spiritual development. That is, I knew they were all part of the process, but I underestimated the way they would affect my second semester as a whole.
It all began in late December, as I filled out the online application, wrote the required essays, and secured recommendation letters. I had already decided that the calling I had felt to missions work was legitimate, but actually submitting the application made the whole thing real to me. Suddenly, I felt rather like I was jumping off an airplane, without quite knowing how to release the parachute. This particular leap of faith was going to take more faith than I had realized.
The next weeks were crowded with activities, as I returned to Nashville and resumed my many collegiate pursuits: attending class, studying, practicing, performing, studying, occasionally cleaning, and practicing (Did I mention practicing?). Soon, it was late February, and readying for our mission trips began in
earnest. We received emails instructing us about how to handle fund raising, how to go about making travel plans, and the paperwork we would need in order to travel overseas. We also began attending weekly, online training sessions, led by RP Missions’ wonderful director Mat Filbert, where we learn about various topics related to missions, from discussing the very purpose of missionary work, to exploring some of the challenges we might encounter during our time there and how we might overcome them. Our sessions have been useful too, in that they have in many ways informed my personal preparation time. Not only were the missionary handbook and reading list they provided helpful, but their suggestion to go through the book of Acts has been instrumental for me. I don’t know why, but it never previously occurred to me that studying the way Jesus’ earliest followers handled missions might be a good way to figure out how to do it myself. (Don’t judge me, I’m a blonde)
Of course, the problem I ran into was: all of these things take time! research, Training sessions, bible study, fund raising, phone calls, flight plans, and paperwork didn’t get finished in some sort of quantum vacuum. I was happy to be doing them, but they were minutes I would have otherwise spent… you guessed it—studying or practicing. However, it did teach me an important lesson; my relationship with Christ IS something I have to (and should want to) MAKE time for, not an assignment I can push off until midnight. Umm, hello Shea! We are talking “God of the Universe, King of All Creation wants to have a personal relationship with you” here, not music theory homework!
It also gave me a new sense of purpose. I have a responsibility to the people I will serve in Scotland, to be as well-equipped as I can possibly be. That means my relationship with Christ and my knowledge about His Kingdom has to be the priority, if not for my own sake, then for the sake of others. Maybe that’s not how it should be, but it motivates me for the moment.
So (to conclude this outrageously long entry) hurray! Most of the practical preparation (paperwork, flights, etc) has been completed, and I am free to concentrate fully on the spiritual side of things. As my sweet, former-roommate would say, “Rejoice!”

The Story Behind the Second–SQUIRREL!!!

A continuation on the explanation of my blog title.
I consider my college campus basically perfect when it comes to location and overall vibe. It is in the heart of Nashville, but it is not, like some universities, integrated into the city itself. Rather, it is a separate community of its own, with plenty of green grass, gorgeous gardens, and giant trees. Of course, that means the allergy season is a little bit miserable, and it also means our campus is completely overrun by squirrels. That’s right, squirrels LOVE our university, and who can blame them, when the only other comparable population on campus (college students) carry food with them nearly everywhere they go?
Unfortunately for me, I have a guide dog that loves both food and squirrels, and while the combination may seem perfect to her, it is slightly frustrating from my point of view. I can’t seem to convince Oleta that she is not a squirrel wrangler, and that licking the cafeteria floor is flat out gross. Still, she sees food on the floor right under her nose, and squirrels that run feet from her on the sidewalk as opportunities, and usually, she takes them without hesitation. If I let her off the leash, she might actually fulfill those opportunities, I.E. Catch those darned squirrels, and lick the cafeteria floor until it’s shiny clean.
So yes, I’m saying the possibilities in our lives are squirrels, and we are the labradors, always ready and eager to chase after them until we’ve got them trapped between our teeth. (Ooh, that was graphic, sorry.) Ironically, we are also the handler holding ourselves back from chasing every last one of them down for fear that we might not succeed, or that the rodent in question might turn on us and slash us across the nose, or bite us and give us rabies. But here’s the thing: God is the ultimate hunter/veterinarian combo; he wants us to go after them, and even if we do get a little hurt in the process, He’s got the cure for anything those tree rats can throw at us. Besides, we’re labradors–squirrels are tasty.
So take off the leash, because we are in a world full of squirrels, and it’s time to take them on!