When Your Life Plan Goes in the Trash

“If you wanna hear God laugh, tell him your plans.”-Iyanla Vanzant


I’m a planner. I want all my ducks in a row, and I can get cranky if one steps out of line. But, I’ve come to learn, that plans are not all they are cracked up to be…my plans aren’t anyway.

My master plan was in place. I’d get my bachelor’s degree, meet the love of my life, go on to get my master’s degree, and get married. Perhaps, I would get my doctorate, but if I didn’t, I’d have a full-time job waiting for me upon graduating with my masters. I’d move out and get a place of my own. Then, set life to cruise control. Pretty good plan, huh?

My master plan is essentially non-existent now.

So, what happened? Why is my carefully designed life plan obsolete now? Because, it was MY plan, and as much effort, thought, and emotion went into that plan, it wasn’t good enough. I just didn’t know it.

I thought I knew exactly what I wanted, but how can you know exactly what you want when you don’t know all the options? I thought I had the perfect plan, but I didn’t. God did. He knew that there was a far better plan than the seemingly fabulous one I had concocted.

Don’t get me wrong, God didn’t do away with everything in my plan. I got my degrees. I met my man. The rest, though…well, let’s just say when God heard my plans, he laughed and turned me down a different path.

Before graduating with my master’s, I started panicking about getting a job. So, I began to scour the internet. I deliberated so hard about applying for several jobs, but ultimately, I just didn’t. As May got closer, I got a job lead. I interviewed. I was offered the job-a full time job. A good job. But, instead of jumping up and down, I had a nagging feeling of doubt. I cried. I prayed. I talked it out with those closest to me. Then, I turned the full-time position down. I turned my back on my master plan, and I am so glad I did.

Since then, I have been given so many opportunities that have been the perfect fit for me… opportunities that I didn’t know existed. Someone else did, though.

In the months since graduating, I have been asked countless times, “what are you doing now?” Good question. I’m teaching Presentational Speaking at my alma mater, Campbell University, a dream of mine since graduating there.


I am also teaching Intro to Communications at Wilson Community College (yes, I drive a lot). I am Director of Engagement for NC Farm Families, where I fight for an industry that I love and combine my love of agriculture with communications (bonus: I’ve been on TV but my autographs aren’t worth much).


I have also snagged several contract jobs–all with agricultural emphasis and communication. In case you were wondering, I’m balancing a total of 5 different jobs.

My photography was published in the Pork Report and even featured as the cover.

The path I’m on is a tad unconventional, but it is perfect for me. Because of this path, I have a lot more flexibility. I have been able to attend so many of Isaac and Gideon’s activities and competitions because of that flexibility. Because of this path, I didn’t have to choose a career; I get to do several. I couldn’t have chosen a better path for me. I didn’t choose it, but then again, I didn’t know it existed.

Come to find out, God knows me a lot better than I know myself. I’m doing everything I love. Does that mean this is what I’ll do for the rest of my life? Not necessarily. I’m not going to make those plans, though. I already did that once. Apparently, I’m not as good of a planner as I thought.  I will say, it drives me nuts, though. I’m a planner. So, not planning important things like my life, is hard. It takes a lot of trust, patience, and simply letting things go. That’s how I got onto the path I am now.

I wasn’t confident to make this step. It was scary as heck. I doubted–hardcore. I had told myself for so long what the plan was. It was hard to let MY master plan go, but I came to realize that the Master’s plan is way better.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”-Proverbs 19:21

I Have a Passion for Agriculture, but I Didn’t Go to College for Ag

Although I love agriculture, I chose not to get an agricultural specific degree in college. I chose to go to a college for my undergraduate degree that didn’t even have an agriculture program on campus, but that didn’t mean I left agriculture behind me. I brought it with me to school.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a vet. It made sense to me. I loved animals, and loved working with all the livestock on my farm. Despite passing out at the sight of blood, I still was determined to go to vet school. I had it all planned out. I would attend North Carolina State University and double major in animal and poultry science. I’d graduate and then head to vet school to specialize in large animals. In high school, I was in preparation mode. I went to any animal and poultry science camps I could go to. I was taking advanced chemistry, but one day, my fast track came to a screeching halt.

I couldn’t tell you the exact day, but I came to the realization that I hated science and math. I got queasy at blood, and I didn’t want my passion of animals to become something that I viewed as just work. So, I did something incredibly scary–I changed my entire future plans. I didn’t even keep the same college I had planned on. I went out on a limb, and it ended up being the best thing of my life.

My new chosen major was communication at a small rural liberal arts college–Campbell University. I fell in love with both the campus and the major. I chose to concentrate in public relations and health communications. Although I was not in an agriculture degree, I brought the ag with me. I wrote as many papers as I could on communication in agriculture. My honors thesis was about creating transparency in the ag industry. I was even able to go New Orleans to present that paper where  many in the audience asked me about agriculture. They were inquisitive, and I was in a position to answer those questions which was super exciting!


After graduating from my undergrad, I decided to go on to get my masters in communication. Although, I looked at degrees that were specifically agriculture communication, I chose to go to North Carolina State University (this time I was not looking at animal science). I am currently in my second semester there, and have written every research paper on agriculture communication.

While I love communication, it has been a bit bumpy at times incorporating agriculture into my studies. Typically, I am the only one with my interests. Often times I have to explain things, that to me are common knowledge. My papers often turn into a bloody mess from comments asking for elaboration on a term and to cite more. I also get a lot of comments that I sound like I am a public relations person for agriculture. I suppose, in a sense, I am. My passion just comes through. Thankfully, all of my professors have been open minded and really supported my interests!


While it can be frustrating to explain a lot of what I write and really work hard to explain my concepts, it has also meant I have been able to share my knowledge and passion with others. In both undergrad and grad school, I have had professors make an effort to visit me at the fair to watch me show animals and learn more about what I do. I have been able to stand in front of audiences and be a”public relation” person for ag, and answer questions. I have had the chance to hear what other people think about agriculture and try to understand that point of view. That has been an amazing aspect of majoring in a non-agriculture major–the discussions that have developed.

So, no, I didn’t major in agriculture. As much as I love it, that was not the path for me.  I chose to bring the ag with me to college, but that has been the best decision of my life. Sure, it has been a bit bumpy, but I have been able to share my passion with more than my fellow farmers. I brought agriculture to the classroom, and I hope to bring more communication to agriculture.




A World Without Ag Wednesdays: Tennis Balls–We Don’t Get Along

Let me go ahead and say that I am not a sports person. I am all for watching them but I fail epically when it comes to playing them. My sport of choice was target shooting–no balls or running involved. However, I was forced to play a sport during my undergraduate career. To graduate, I had to pick a PE, so I chose tennis. I’m not sure what I was thinking. Actually, I know what I was thinking–swimming was at 8am and bowling required driving. That left me with tennis. Quite frankly I was more worried about what I was going to wear than anything. Really, I was also worried that achieving an ‘A’ would require actual talent… something I don’t have.

Anyway, before I get into what this has to do with agriculture, I wanted to share an awkward Marisa life moment. Don’t judge. I had been doing alright in tennis. I could hit the ball some and serve a little. I was doing ok. My goal was to not get noticed for doing bad or good, but to just blend in. I epically failed on that front one morning. Tennis was from 11-12, and I had a class before that. As usual, I skipped breakfast (I’m not a big morning eater). It had never been an issue before, and I got lunch right after tennis. That day it was an issue.

I was standing around with the other students, listening to coach explain different terms and stuff. I started to get really dizzy, and decided that squatting would be a good idea. I knew what was happening. I was getting too hot and hadn’t had anything to eat. I was going to pass out if this guy didn’t hurry his speech up. Hold it together, Marisa I thought to myself. I lasted until he finished his talk, stood up to walk, and made it to the fence and plopped. The world was definitely black and swirling. I would say I was embarrassed, but honestly, I was too busy concentrating on making my world go back to a normal angle. Coach came over and started asking me questions. I don’t think I really responded. He asked if I wanted him to pick me up and carry me to the bleachers. I held up my hand emphatically, horrified at that thought. I got my butt up and wobbly walked to the bleachers. Coach gave me a granola bar and Gatorade. I was completely fine in 5 minutes. Now, that the world wasn’t spinning like a fair ride, I was thoroughly embarrassed.


During my semester of tennis, I learned a few things: 1) eat breakfast before participating in sports 2) if you don’t want to play tennis one day, just pass out 3) tennis balls are made of wool.

The third point brings me to agriculture. The yellow fuzz on tennis balls are wool felt. Originally tennis balls were made of wood, and over many years, evolved. Early tennis balls were made of leather and stuffed with wool or hair. We now have the neon green fuzzy balls today. The fuzz makes them more aerodynamic, and the more bald they get, the faster and bouncier they get. Around 300,000,000 tennis balls are made every year in the world. That is a lot of tennis balls, I will not be playing with.

I know this is a world without ag post, but how bad would it really be if there were no tennis balls? I know I wouldn’t have an embarrassing story to tell, that’s for sure.




A World Without Ag Wednesdays: I want a steak

I just got out of class–6 hours of class. A lot, I know. After that much lecturing, discussions, and brain power, all I really want is a steak. Yes, it is past 9 o’clock pm and I want a steak. If you are around me much, you will quickly learn that I always crave steak or chicken wings. Tonight is a steak night, though. Sadly, all I have is pretzels and peanuts. Anyways, since my taste buds are not able to enjoy in the deliciousness of steak, I figured I’d feature steak on today’s “World Without Ag Wednesdays.” So, here goes. I’m not sure how wise this is considering the degree I want a steak right now.

Where does a steak come from?

Let’s ask the obvious question right? Well, it comes from a cow. The less obvious question is where from the cow does it come from? Well, it depends what kind of steak you want–sirloin, rib-eye, T-bone, filet mignon, etc. Here is a nifty diagram for you to get an idea:

imageJust because it all comes from a cow, does not mean that all steaks are equal. There are few things that make them different.

What makes a good steak?

There are three key things that effect how good a steak is besides how it is cooked–marbling, muscle groups, and quality grades.


Marbling is the internal fat in a steak. The more fat in the steak means it will be more flavorful; however, if there is too much fat it gets pretty gross.

marblingMuscle groups–

Depending on the location that the steak comes from, it has an effect on the tenderness of the meat. For example, a filet mignon comes from the tenderloin which is used less strenuously by the cow than say a leg muscle which is more fibrous. This is why cuts from the rump like the round steak are far less favorable and are typically ground for processed meats. Muscles like the loin provide a more tender cut of meat.

More than the degree that the muscle is used, the way muscle groups tie into each other also have an effect. So, a sirloin is a steak that is made up of many different ends of muscles. If you look back at the cuts diagram above, you can see that the sirloin comes at the end of the loin muscle and connects to other muscles in the hip. In this way, it is far less favorable because it is not as neat and tidy as say a T-bone, which is only two muscles.

Quality grades–

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) sets standards for what quality of beef can be made into steaks. They have come up with the following system that includes eight quality grades (prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner) and five maturity grades (A,B,C,D,E).  The maturity grades represent the following age groups:

  • A- 9 to 30 Months
  • B – 30 to 42 Months
  • C – 42 to 72 Months
  • D – 72 to 96 Months
  • E – More Than 96 Months

Only A and B maturity grades can be used for steaks. It is a pretty strenuous process, and I didn’t even mention yield grades.



So, there you go. That is a little steak trivia for you. I would include how to cook a steak and a recipe, but I’m afraid that is going to be too much for me. Oh goodness, I can just smell it now… I’m so very thankful for the cattle business, a $49.5 billion industry. If only they did steak delivery.






World Without Ag Wednesdays: Lanolin Love

Oh my goodness. Where did the time go? Another semester of graduate school started today, as did the colder weather. True to North Carolina weather, it was in the 70’s on Sunday, and now it has barely gotten above freezing. Thankfully, I have a wonderful wool coat for the trek from the parking deck to my classes. No worries, guys, Rural Ris isn’t a popsicle yet–that may be in the morning though.

Tomorrow is supposed to be no higher than 27 degrees. Now, for those up north, I know 27 degrees is not that cold, but for us here in NC, it might as well be Antarctica. That much cold also means putting extra bedding down for the animals, setting out heat lamps, and making sure all pipes and hoses are drained. Depending how bad it gets, I may be swinging an ax trying to break the animals waters–funny sight for sure.

Anyhow, this first day of classes is now over, and I have survived. So, now on to “A World Without Ag Wednesday” where we highlight some of my favorite things.


I may be a farm girl, but I am all about bling, dressing up, and makeup. Oh, makeup. It is inevitably dangerous for me to go into the makeup aisles of the local drug store. I just want all of it. makeup

Clearly, I don’t need anymore (that is only half of my makeup collection). What am I saying? You can never have too much makeup.

I also appreciate a good lotion, especially in the winter months when my hands get chapped. What I love even more is that agriculture has a part to play in my beloved makeup and lotion.

In a world without ag, a lot of makeup and hand creams would not be the same if it were not for lanolin.

What is lanolin?

Lanolin is the grease from a sheep’s wool. It is also called wool wax or wool fat. It is of a yellow tinge and comes from the oil glands of a sheep. When you touch a sheep or unwashed wool, your hands will feel greasy and sticky. This is the lanolin you are feeling. It is the equivalent of the oils you secrete.

How do you get lanolin from the sheep?

After the fleece is shorn from the sheep, it is scoured (boiled) in water with added salt. The lanolin floats to the top. It is then purified by shaking it with olive oil and water. The impurities will move to the water and the oil with the lanolin floating between the two properties.

What is it used for?

Lanolin is a great moisturizer and is often used in lotions. This is a favorite of mine:

wool cream

It can also be used in other cosmetics. Cool huh? Wait, it gets better!

Because lanolin is water-repellent, it is used on oil rigs as a corrosion inhibitor. In the same way, it is also used for spare auto parts when put into long-term storage. In addition, it can also be found in paints, and is used as a leather finish.

Embrace the lanolin love. It gets a bit messy when you play with sheep all day but makes fabulous products!