GUEST BLOG: Who do you want to be your senior year? (Wisconsin Senior Portrait Photographer, NorthWestern WI)


Who do you want to be your senior year?

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”  Brene`Brown


I believe so strongly in community and vulnerability.  Life is not meant to be done alone…it was intended for us to enjoy companionship and in order to do that, we must be willing to let our guard down and come alongside, help others and also let others help and encourage us.  As humans we should always be growing, always be moving in a forward direction.  It is so much easier to take a step back and play it safe…that way..we won’t get hurt…and we risk nothing.  But that truly is no way to really live…sure it’s safe…but nothing ever really changes when we play it safe.

I know how important community has been in my own life…the value of having others to walk alongside of me…push me to be better…to DO better.  And so it is important for me to encourage the next generation to embrace the concept of community as well.

So the evening before the first night of their last and final year….I opened my home to any senior who wanted to come and enjoy a campfire and a smore and be gently persuaded to think about some of these concepts as well.  My goal is that women everywhere always be growing in a direction that they feel called to and that they are always evolving as people and challenged to be the best they can be.  My friend Carly, who I consider to be part of my community, took the opportunity to talk with these seniors about WHO they wanted to be their senior year. Not list out a lengthy list of goals…we’ve all been there…we know how that doesn’t work and the frustration it invites into our lives. But to pick ONE word of WHO they really wanted to be by the end of their senior year.  It was truly one of the most memorable evenings…as we watched the sun set together…while choosing a word that would empower and push us to be who we were really created to be by the time graduation came around.  Each girl chose one word of WHO she wanted to be by the end of her senior year.  She wrote a letter to herself using that word as a starting point….sealed it and wrote the word on the front of the envelope.  At the end of the year once graduation comes around…the letters can be opened and read in the hopes that her character has been shaped and molded a bit to reflect the word. It’s been so awesome the past couple of weeks to be able to talk with the girls about their word and see how it is playing out in their life…to hold them accountable and to encourage them to be the best versions of themselves…all something that is VITAL to community.  The girls shared with each other what their word was and why they chose it…something that I know wasn’t easy for them…but that is the first step to having community…to be honest and vulnerable with one another.

I asked Carly if she would write a small summary of what she presented to the girls that evening at senior sunset.  I hope you are as blessed by it as I know the girls and myself were.


What do you want to be when you grow up? Or… if you think you’re past your prime… what DID you want to be when you grew up? When I was younger, I wanted to be a vet and hold puppies all day. That was, until I realized that they would sometimes be sick puppies and that made me sad, so I changed my mind. Then, I wanted to color for a living. I didn’t know that coloring wasn’t paying the big bucks in the real world, so I let that go too. (Sidenote: I’ve been a graphic designer for the last 16 years… so I guess some things turn out 🙂 ) As we grow up, the dreams of who we want to be get jaded and we allow gravity to outweigh our hopes and we get sucked down to the ground of reality. As if we haven’t fully learned the lesson taught from the hard-knocked life, we seem to make big aspirations for the new year. There’s something about turning the pages of our calendars that seems refreshing and that we can finally make a turn for the better. Lose more weight. Save more money. Have more date nights. Work out more… And then January 10 comes along. Nine days after our pledge to ‘be a new me’ and boom. Chocolate chip cookies are made. Nordstrom has a ‘sale.’ Netflix and Dominos is just easier. And let’s face it…sweat just isn’t your thing. NINE DAYS! We can’t stick it out to day 10 because we feel like it’s just impossible. Let me let you in on a seldom recognized truth: Change is possible, but focus is required. You don’t need a gym membership or more will power, a new organizational system or a financial planner to make the changes you desire this year as much as you need clarity and sustained focus over time.


Plus, resolutions can be “broken,” leaving no room for the process of growth. What if our hopes for the year ahead centered instead on who God wants us to become, and the transformation process?

It’s okay to want to be a better you, and the new school year is a natural time to start. You have the ability to replace broken promises with a vision for real change. You can move toward the future rather than swearing off the past.


Take some time to decide what kind of person you want to be at the end of this year. This goes beyond simply being healthier and wealthier and in a relationship that’s awesome. It has to drive deep into your soul. What about the condition of your heart? What about the person God himself has created you to be?


Get a picture of that person and then simply identify their major characteristics. Is that person gentle? Is that person generous? What are the qualities of the person you want to become?


Once you have a list of the characteristics, simply pick a word. There might be 15 things that you want to change, but you must resist the temptation to promise you will do them all. Instead, simply commit to one word. You will now have a lens to see the changes you need to make as well as a way to determine whether or not change is actually happening. This process is hard, but staying focused on your word will help you to struggle in the  right direction so that you can actually see God working in your life.

And enjoy the chocolate chip cookies along the way. 🙂

***Carly Brenneke is a fun loving…Texan who moved here one year ago, convinced she wouldn’t last more than 6 months.  For the first time she experienced what it is like to actually have to shovel snow, own a winter jacket,  and learn what it means to be a Packer.  She is the Creative Worship Pastor at Red Cedar Community Church where she unleashes her brilliant creative ideas every single weekend.
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