Holiday Shopping & Dealing with Mood Swings

Last weekend my mom and I headed up to the Altoona outlet mall for some Christmas shopping. We did this last year when it first opened, and they had some new stores I was elated to check out. My mom also wanted to stock up on Christmas Bath & Body Works products! I had a blast with her and am so grateful we got to go.

We didn’t buy a whole lot of things on this trip, it was more just for the fun of it than anything. But I did get this body wash from Bath & Body Works because I’ve been needing a shower gel. Oh my gosh, on my last shopping trip I talk about here, I found a body wash at Sephora that smelled wonderful but was called “Brazilian 4 Play” or something and I was like um no…

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One of the new stores I was thrilled to see? Michael Kors. I’ve never been in a store of his before, and honestly I didn’t expect much from it, but it far exceeded my expectations. I would’ve bought, like, half the store if that were practical. :)

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My mom is not a big shopper whereas I totally am, but I think it’s starting to grow on her. ;) I’m working on her haha. Once I can get her to go Black Friday shopping we’ll be great! But we both agreed that this outlet mall is practically better than the actual mall… I just find that the overall layout and setup is so much nicer, and since it’s an outlet obviously there’s a lot better prices. I’ve even found that there tends to be cuter products here.

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However, over the weekend I dealt with some wonderful mood swings. You know, the stereotypical teenage girl emotions that oftentimes make me forget every life lesson God has ever taught me INCLUDING one I JUST wrote about in this post here, that is, about learning to control my thoughts! But that is part of the ups and downs of life, is struggling with things, and unfortunately, especially at this time in my life called growing up, controlling my thoughts is probably going to be something I have to be conscious of. But I’m not going to give up even when I fail because God in His grace has ALSO taught me things to do when I feel like my thoughts are turning bad. Obviously being conscious of taking them to Him, like I talk about here, and reading His Word, which I talk about here, are critical—you’ll never get a grip on your thought life without those first and foremost. But I also have some new tips I have yet to share that I thought I’d go over.

1. Journal your bad thoughts and then pray over them

I think I may have potentially mentioned this in this post here, but it’s something that has helped me with praying, for one. If you read the post I linked up above about praying your thoughts to God, I talk about how sometimes doing that is a struggle for me, especially the bad thoughts, because I think we get these ideas in our heads that we shouldn’t say our negative thoughts to God, but that’s far from true (1 Peter 5:7). But if you do struggle with being real and honest with Him about negative thoughts, especially if you are just starting to do that and are uncomfortable with it, I’ve found that for me, it helps if I journal my thoughts first, and then I can go over them. Sometimes I write a prayer in response to them. Sometimes, if I’m really worked up, I take a day to just write about it as a form of release and then wait another day, and it helps put those thoughts in perspective (especially when the cause is hormones, which it often is!). I think journaling is a therapeutic tool on its own, and just because you try journaling doesn’t mean you have to write well at all or that you even have to write in complete sentences. Sometimes when I’m lazy, I just do the bullet journaling method and make lists of my thoughts to save time. But I definitely recommend this; it helps put things into perspective, and looking back over the years helps you witness and observe God’s faithfulness, which is pretty cool!

2. Reread old notes you’ve written

Going along with journaling, this is why I believe it can also help: you can learn from your old feelings and mistakes so you don’t keep getting imprisoned by them. Managing my emotions is nothing new to me. I’ve been blogging since I was 11 years old, and the insecure feelings I tend to feel even now were present in my life clear back in sixth grade, and guess what? I wrote about the truth to combat those thoughts right here, back when I was 12 years old. Looking back on those lessons helps put my thoughts in perspective and to remember what God has already taught me. The same things may still tempt me, but I don’t have to give in. I have tons of notes scattered throughout my phone, and making the time to look through those gives me an immense feeling of peace and overwhelming joy for God’s glory about what He’s taught me.

3. Look through old photos and videos for a boost

Here’s another tip that surprised me at how well it lifts my mood: sometimes in life, the best thing to do when you have negative thoughts and feel moody is to just stop and reflect on what God has already done for you and wait for those gloomy moods to pass. One of the best ways I’ve found for me to do this is to look through my old pictures. Looking through old photos brings back so many memories for me and reminds me of all the special times God has blessed me with in life. I do this when I feel anxious, depressed, you name it, it helps with about all of that. Pretty soon I am filled with a true joy that comes from enjoying each moment God has given me, and I believe that’s why remembering (and taking five million photos) is so special. I’m going through the Old Testament in my Bible study now, and many of those books can get repetitive as they go over everything God has done that I’ve already read about, but it shows the beauty of people remembering that and aligning their hearts with His, and that’s why we do that.

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BONUS: Quotes

Another thing that sort of goes along with looking through old photos is looking through old quotes I’ve saved. I have screenshotted so many quotes on my phone, which is actually nice because they show up with all of my photos, so I can look through all of them. And I have a folder on my laptop full of my favorite quotes. Sometimes, you just have to stop and remind yourself of what you already know is true, and that’s why looking through Bible verses and Christian quotes is so helpful.

I hope you are all enjoying the fall holidays! I hope these tips can inspire you as you deal with negative attitudes, and let me know which are your faves!

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My Thoughts Lately

Oh my gosh you guys I am so sorry it’s been over a month since I’ve posted….. I’m not on another hiatus, at least certainly not by choice, but I’ve been more busy than I ever have been between balancing the workload of school this year and then taking driver’s ed, too. Thankfully that is about over—I just pray to God I pass ***I DID THANKFULLY—UPDATES LATER IN THE POST***. But needless to say, a lot has happened since then, in my faith and in life. So I’m going to recap all of those things now as well as things I’ve been learning along the way… And then hopefully I can start getting back into all the other posts I’ve been planning, like my second letter to my future husband, and yeah, all that good stuff. ;)

First off, I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been hard, though over the last month, I’ve seen a significant change in my thoughts that God has helped me with, and I’ll go into that later. I’ve been trying hard not to be so stressed because life truly is short, and if there’s one thing that’s been evident to me lately, it is that God always works things out, but there have been some legitimate times that would cause any person stress. In terms of my extended family, we’ve been hit with one of the hardest trials I think any of us have faced yet. It’s led me to do a lot of reflecting on life as a whole as this trial is closely tied with life and death, and that puts things into perspective. Now it’s been a matter of seeing all the things I’ve previously believed about the meaning of life become reiterated on how true they are—and then living that out at a time where it’s absolutely crucial to do so. I know we all would appreciate prayers with this because it’s really hard, but I have been amazed by the faith of people like my grandparents, who are a couple of the people impacted most by this. They have been such a witness to people, as they are true definitions of people with authentic faith. You seriously can tell how authentic somebody is by how they respond to trials. I’m not saying they don’t ever have breakdowns or times where it doesn’t hurt because it absolutely does and would cause any sane person an excessive amount of stress, but it has not stopped them from pursuing their hope in Jesus or from witnessing to others. And they really have, especially to someone like me, where very little goes unnoticed.*

*That may be a half truth. I always thought I’m an observant person, but I went to my friend’s volleyball game, and evidently she tried to wave at me and I never knew, so! I apologize for all the times I’ve blown people off like a snob; my head is in the clouds far too much.

Upon reflecting on some of my own stress and still having to go to school and function like a normal person and meet constant deadlines, here is something God laid on my heart that I took note of:

You know you have the peace of God when everything around you should leave you crying hysterically and unable to function but instead you’re up and you’re not crying and there’s this sense of feeling good inside of you that makes absolutely no sense given the circumstances and moods. It makes no logical sense but it’s there and it’s undeniable.

You get it through humbling yourself, by reading His word, by talking to Him as often as possible. And then He works in your heart and it catches up.
— My note

I have been honestly amazed by the times it feels like any other person my age would lose their mind, and instead I’ve felt downright happy, almost on top of the world, even though my world could be crashing. But that abnormal feeling is exactly what God promises for His followers: it’s the John 14:27 peace He’s promising for anyone who is in Him, the peace that sustained His followers through their darkest times repeatedly throughout history. And even though my trials may feel insurmountable, they’re seriously nothing compared to some of the horrors that Christians before me have went through, yet they acted amazing and did not give into sin or pressures of the world. They are my inspiration, and my prayer is that my life can reflect that, too.

And you CAN obtain that peace. It comes from developing a relationship with God. So many people say they believe God gives that peace and that they personally have tried to find it but still feel incredibly stressed in situations—situations that I think, to be blunt, are just drama compared to what some people go through. And then I look at their walk with God, and I’m like, well, how serious are you, really? Because these are the people who go to church when it’s convenient and otherwise spend no time with God save for their prayers that are purely about their own problems. A) I am not saying prayers about your problems are always selfish, but I am saying when that’s all you pray for and the only time you give God attention and never just because of who He is, then yes, I think that’s selfish. B) If you are not dedicating yourself to God everyday, why would you have His peace? These are the people who just want to use God or use Christianity as a social label or insurance for heaven, and it doesn’t work that way. The very essence of Christianity and the whole purpose of why Jesus died for us is to connect us to God, so we can have a complete, intense relationship with Him. So if you give Him your time when it’s convenient or when it looks good or when it’s fun such as during retreats and games (which again are not bad but can be if that’s the only time you give God attention), then would you honestly call that a relationship?

And if you don’t have a relationship with Him, WHY would you have His peace? His peace comes from knowing and enjoying Him, from the faith when it’s hard, from the readings in your Bible even when you don’t feel like it, from the diligence of praying for things you already have a million times. THAT is when a relationship with Him is built, when good seeds are sowed, and that is when you really develop that relationship through good and bad that sustains you through anything. But don’t think you can give Him attention one day out of the week or between five second prayers about your problems and then experience that peace, because you don’t know God, so why would you know His peace? I know this from personal experience. When I am so stressed to the point where I can hardly think—which has happened to me about thirty different times over the past few months, no lie, about stupid things—it truly is because I haven’t been devoting myself to God. That’s the hard, honest truth, and I’ll be the first to admit it. But when I focus my attention on Him? It’s amazing, the changes that happen. It’s why I can’t stress this authenticity enough. People act so shocked when they fall apart during trials because they claim they had faith, but I’m like, well, if your faith was only as good as going to church every Sunday or talking to God when it’s convenient, that just isn’t enough as the purpose of being a Christian is that you’ve died to yourself and live for God—ALL OF THE TIME. And again, I’m not saying you don’t ever screw up, but your heart is right with God, and He helps you back on the right track because you feel that conviction.

We were blessed in spite of all this to still create some special memories, though, and get to do fun things. On one weekend, we went up to Estherville again (read all about that town here) to see my grandparents.

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In the meantime, I became addicted to these. I actually bought these thinking they’d be chocolate overkill and therefore disgusting, but no, they’re actually amazing:

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AND I got the most gorgeous (and most expensive ha) notebook to add to my expansive collection, BUT IT HAS MY NAME ON IT so what’s not to love?! This is actually my writer’s notebook, so it’s a comprehensive notebook consisting of everything from novel ideas to blog post ideas to character development ideas to song inspiration. I’ve been needing a notebook like that, and I’m certainly getting my money’s worth with how much I’ve already wrote in it.

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See, isn’t Estherville beautiful? I had fun getting to see some cousins of mine, and also I spent a majority of my time outlining this notebook, which was a tedious process as I’m a perfectionist and this is the prettiest notebook I’ve ever owned, so it has to be perfect. ;) This is the Swinging Bridge we were on that goes over the Des Moines River.

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There have been so many little things that have stressed me out where God has always remained faithful. I ended up being sick pretty early in the year for multiple days, and missing a couple days with my workload is like missing a month, so that had me stressed beyond measures. BUT there would be times where I may not know exactly what I’m doing, but somehow manage to get a high score on an assignment. I pray for favor, and I know my mom and grandma do that for me as well, and it just goes to show how God honors that. I’ve had to do a lot of reflecting on that because it’s turned into a pattern, where I stress excessively about something and somehow it works out. In fact, one day after learning how to park in driver’s ed (a huge stress for me haha), and it went way better than I thought, a verse I read in Psalms came to mind: “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all,” (Psalms 34:19 NIV). That has been so evident for me. It oftentimes feels like problem after another, and I just think, well, once I make it out of this, or that, etc. But then I am reminded of what God revealed to me in my prayer here, that life is a series of good and bad and the only joy that can be found is knowing and enjoying Him in the right now. He works the rest out. :)

The next weekend we headed up to the Cities for some much needed and cherished time with family up there. That visit was wonderful, and I loved having another opportunity to connect with my two cousins Kirsten and Amanda, who are like my sisters. Read all about them here in this recap of the fun things we did in Okoboji and the Cities last summer. We were leaving right after school for a weekend, so the downside to that is since it’s a five hour drive it made for a long night, BUT I got to do something I absolutely love: seeing city lights at night. I don’t know why that appeals to me so much, but it always has and always will. Going through Des Moines at night is my fave, too. But I’d never seen Minneapolis illuminated at night. I got some decent pics; what I really need is better camera quality haha. On our way up, we stopped and ate at Wendy’s by Cabela’s (of course the boys had to go there…whoever said men don’t shop has never been with them there for hours ha…).

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And I just walked around being conceited as always and trying to find photo opportunities and expensive clothes to buy and daydreaming about my future husband probably and if I’ll go through the same with him ha. You know, the usual ;’)

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Here are some of the best pics I could manage, even though they weren’t as great as they could be:

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All of that of course put me in a very contemplative and wistful mood because then I started dreaming about where I may live or what job I have, but the whole visit really put life into perspective for me, and I decided, while praying to God on the way there as we passed through the glowing city, that this needed to be my prayer through it all:

I pray that all the success I get in my life may be used to glorify You, God, and that I can have success for Your glory. And help me to have a positive attitude and know that You will use me, I just have to be patient.
— My prayer

We got to stay in a hotel, which thrilled me, because I just all around love the hotel/city life. A random side note is these flip flops I got—they were the only shoes I wore the whole weekend, and I absolutely love them. I picked them up super cheap at some JCPenney store I believe, and for the price they are very comfortable and add that sparkle I need to any outfit. :)

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Another random note is that I think it’s cool they have a Bible in the rooms like this. My brother asked me if I was going to read it, and while I didn’t get around to doing that, I think it’s nice that each room has that. It’s what people ultimately need, and cities often make me think of where different people are at in their lives. Everyone needs Jesus, though, and everyone needs the hope He alone offers, so it is appropriate that they have that. It also reaffirmed my dream to have a job where I can (a) travel to various cities and (b) stay in hotels. I think some job in business communications would be good for me if my dream to be a millionaire author doesn’t work out ;D Luckily an English or communications degree can open doors for both, something I definitely am going to pursue.

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That night I did some really deep thinking and deep writing; I’ll have to share some of that in a later post because this one is already turning into a book. I had an awesome visit with everyone, though, and got to see my two fave girls!

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Headed back to the hotel

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I do love working in hotels

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Except I always get distracted with shopping :’)

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My dog while I was sick

The good news is that lately God has helped me get my thoughts aligned with His, which I am so thankful for; it was something I prayed over here. For example, I’ll use body image. That’s something I started struggling with heavily since entering high school, but God has been showing me just the encouragement I need to combat that unhealthy mindset. I read Kylie Bisutti’s book I’m No Angel and have also looked into her blog and interviews, and God has used her to help me immensely. She was a former Victoria’s Secret model who actually left the modeling industry to pursue her faith. The advice she gives about body image and the insight she has on that horrifying industry is exactly what I’ve needed to hear—and essentially what people have been trying to get through to me all along. But it finally clicked, and I’m so thankful. I’m actually learning to have godly confidence—not to be arrogant, but not to always put myself down, either. Going off the example of body image, just because I see another pretty girl doesn’t mean that I am not, necessarily. And that could be with anything: writing, school, etc. God is teaching me not to be so competitive and just to trust Him with opportunities in life. I’m very grateful for that.

Another fun thing—well, fun for the time being—was getting to go to Iowa City to consult with my jaw surgeons. That is unfortunately going to get worse before it gets better, but I was thrilled to check out Iowa City since I’d never been before, and I got to go shopping, so for right now it’s all fun and games, and for right now, just let me stay in denial, thank you.

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So when it comes to the Hawkeyes vs. Cyclones debate, I’m personally a Cyclones fan, haha. Which is totally against, like, everyone in my family… But for whatever reason, ever since I’ve been little, I’ve wanted to go to Iowa State. My grandma and I have had some fun trips over there to this one bookstore I love and just driving by the campus, which I am convinced is the prettiest. But we’ll see… Iowa is known for its writing program, so I might convert… Might…..

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Kinnick Stadium, home of the Hawkeyes

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My mom and I walked around for a little bit after my appointment, which went very well. The downtown and traffic was actually dead for whatever reason, but I know Mom was in heaven because she had been terrified about the driving.

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Then we went to the mall of course :)

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I got these adorable stationary items my mom picked out for me that I can’t wait to add to my collection and a tee from PINK.

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So I suppose I should also talk a little bit about driving. Well, I was stressed to the max every single time, but again, God remained faithful. I did have one traumatic moment… All I will say is that I-80 sucks, but I passed thank God, so I’m more than happy for that part of my life to be over.

And here is Kylie’s book that I got signed!!! She is so sweet and such an inspiration in faith. I would recommend her book to any girl; it sheds so much insight on a world that is portrayed as being glamorous when the reality is far from.

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Another thing we did as a family was attend an Iowa Wild hockey game with some of the Minnesota Wild players in it. Unfortunately my fave Zach Parise couldn’t come see me but whatever… Oh my gosh I don’t even remember if I told you all this, but I actually got to see him!!! Last December, he came down to play with the Iowa Wild for a night to see how he was recovering from an injury, so of course we got tickets on a whim because Zach Parise coming to Des Moines is an opportunity one should never pass up. SO I GOT TO SEE HIM!!!!! <3 I went down by the glass with my brother, and we were so close to the players. He actually waved at this little kid next to me, but of course I got nothing… :’) And Mom with all her practicality of course was like “well he’s married so why would he wave to some teen girl?” Well, some actors have been known for teasing their fans even if they don’t actually mean it, so he could have still winked at me but again, whatever. ;D

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Zach Parise <3

Well anyway I hope he never reads that… The game was still a blast, though, as they always are, and I know Mom enjoyed me badgering her for food and to take my picture by this window I’m in love with because all.the.city.lights.

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This is really random, but I think this bridge would be a good place to be proposed to on. Maybe, I don’t know? I’d really like to walk it sometime, I know that much, and for whatever reason it just seems like an ideal location for that.

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I also want to go driving around at night in Des Moines just to see the lights, which may or may not be a good idea, who knows, but I’ll definitely be having someone drive me haha…

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I’ve loved the fall weather these past months, and one night we got to have a bonfire.

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Willy has also been doing a good job hunting. <3

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It’s also worth mentioning that I embarrassed my mom with this picture in the middle of the grocery store aisle. ;)

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And though you can’t see it very well in this picture below, over the summer I got this strawberry pink winter coat that I adore:

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AND these booties that Mom thought were quite obnoxious, but once I saw them I knew I had to have them… :) I am SPARKLES by Ashlee after all!

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I also want to start trying makeup haha. I bought a lot last year but never use it because I’m too lazy to get up in the mornings to do it. I’m also unsure of exactly what type of makeup I should use…like blush, foundation, bronzer…? I know a lot of girls are way more knowledgeable about this than me, so leave me recommendations please! :) My mom was trying to put some mascara on me in the below picture, but I can’t hold still because I thought my eye was going to be gouged out, so I ended up wiping it off and then taking this mirror picture like the conceited girl I am. :’) But seriously, leave me makeup recommendations that don’t break the bank please, and I’ll let you all know how that process of me doing makeup turns out…

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But I ALSO HAD ONE OF THE BIGGEST HAIR WINS OF MY LIFE… You know, God is very good at surprising me with the little things, and He totally did with this. I left my hair in that bun pictured above and slept in it like that, and then the next morning I pulled it out and got my dream blowout hair… It didn’t last long, but if I would’ve used hairspray then we might’ve been onto something… I took about two thousand pictures of myself with it, because oh my word, it made my day. I’ve wanted curls like this since I watched Big Time Rush as a kid and saw some blonde with curls like this…

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I also got a whole stash of pink ornaments I’ll be putting in my room eventually, because my room can always use some more pink as you can see! :D

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My mom and I also got to spend a nice day together for an appointment. We want to go to an Altoona outlet mall in November for some Christmas shopping, and I’m thrilled for that. Getting Mom to shop with me is a hard job but is always worthwhile!

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And so of course while we were in the city we did do just a little of this…

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And I think this recaps about everything. I would love to hear from all of you now: what have you been up to lately? What are you struggling with that I can pray about/write about? What future posts do you want me to write? I love and appreciate your feedback, and thank you so much for following along with my thoughts and adventures! xo

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A Prayer About 10th Grade

Dear Lord,

Before I go into my requests for a new school year (TOMORROW, wow—just when I think time drags, haha), I must first humble myself and allow You to work through me, and to do that, I need to pray that I would have a pure heart this year, that I wouldn't get stuck into the old mindsets I had with freshman year. I don't want to make those mistakes again. But I know You are so patient and so loving and You are with me every step of the way, so thank You, so, so much. I want to always reflect Your patience and love, so please help me to always do that. And forgive me for any unrighteous attitudes I have—I'm sure there's a lot of those lurking in my heart, which is why I wanted to especially take the time to write this out. I want to get right with You and have a healthy mindset so that You get the glory through the way I live and treat other people.

When I sat taking some notes on what especially it is I want to tell You, God, there were definitely a few topics that You laid on my heart. Four things, mainly, that I feel very compelled to pray over in regards to not just this school year but my thinking and life in general. Thank You in advance for hearing these and laying them on my heart.

I pray that no one makes me feel inferior or steals my joy and contentment.

Ever since August has began, people are already asking me all about whether I'm ready or not to go back to school. And You already know my answer to that, which is, "Not really." I've been thinking about what has caused this shift in me, God, because with ninth grade, I was so ready. I was nervous because it was high school, but I was also elated because it was high school, and I'd been waiting forever (or so You know how I always feel, ha) to begin the new chapter. But then came reality. And I began to realize that I'd done it again: set my expectations on something that they weren't supposed to be and then felt crushed when it didn't come to be.

You know I'm guilty of doing that, where I expect a certain time of my life to bring me joy or renew me. But whenever that's not You, it's not good. Only You can complete me. It's a constant reminder I need. Because I thought high school was it. That was when I was going to be completely happy. Not true. The bad news is that waiting for something to make me happy will never work. The good news is that with You I can be completely happy right now. So, this is actually something I was going to pray over with a later point, but all this being said is to say that I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed with how freshman year went. It wasn't any better in terms of meeting people, but I think that's also because I'm just so introverted and quiet, and plus I know what I want in life, and sometimes I find it hard to step out of that into being with people who don't share the same goals. But I do need to do that because I want to be able to connect with people for Your glory. So I pray that You will help me to be outgoing when I need to be and to have the connections that are going to help me get opportunities to shine for You.

But really, the whole point of this point I'm on is to tell You that when people asked me why I wasn't ready to go back, I usually said, I'm just not ready to see people again. You know what I mean by that, God. I often feel exhausted having to witness immature behavior that doesn't change. I know that sounds incredibly self-righteous, and I'm sorry because I don't mean it to sound that way, but it is how I feel. But what I want You to help me with is to know that even when people do things I don't agree with, I can still do the right thing. I don't have to let someone else's behavior dictate my mood. I often get discouraged—why? Well I also think that because I know You as well as I do, I often do feel the pain of weeping over others' behavior, much like You did (Luke 19:41). But I know that You work in brokenness anyway, so I want to, too. And I don't want to lose my mind doing it.

Seeing other people play social games and status games and all that drives me insane. But I don't have to let it drive me insane. I can acknowledge that it's wrong and set an example, which please help me to do, but please also help me to have Your peace, to know that You win in the end, that doing the right thing reaps a reward (Galatians 6:9). It goes way behind dumb high school drama. Life is so much more than that. So don't even let me waste time being depressed about it. I did too much of that last year, playing the victim and trying to play the games. I know better than that—I don't want to do that anymore. Help me to know my worth in You and to become confident in that, just like You taught me how to do in middle school, which I talk about here.

I pray that I don't waste time being stressed when it's not practical.

I know how You've delivered me countless times. In my prayer about eighth grade, I was so nervous about the start of the year, but a week into it when I wrote that prayer, I was once again so thankful for how You carried me through. You've done that for me every time, God. Thank You so much. I had a lot of anxiety during freshman year. And I just pray that You will take that away. Help me to know it doesn't come from You, and that through You I can focus on good things. Help me not to stress about things that aren't practical. Or about anything, period.

I pray that I don't become depressed wishing for the future, expecting my expectations to be met then.

You know this about me, God, how I easily tend to look down the line into the future, expecting my joy to come when I get to high school. When I get to college. When I get married. But the problem with that is the list is never ending...and I'll never get happy chasing things that aren't You. I know You want me to enjoy each of those things when they come, but they're never meant to take Your place. The biggest mistake I made upon entering freshman year was expecting it to be everything. It's not everything—You're everything, the bread of life (John 6:35). It's no wonder why I became so upset, when here I'd been waiting the better half of eighth grade for this year that I thought was going to be a turning point... Well, it wasn't. But You are, and that's what You've done for me this summer, is helping me to see that I can enjoy You right now. That's what You designed me to do; it's no wonder people turn into messes without You. We were never created to live without You. So please, please help me to enjoy right now. Each moment as it comes. They do come, God, because You're so faithful. Looking back, I'm filled with such a fuzzy feeling of just how many special moments You've given me that I didn't even think were significant at the time. I don't have to be in college or married or anything to have those. I just have to be walking with You. Please, always help me to do that. Joy comes through You alone and the everyday little moments of knowing You and seeing You at work. Thank You for those and most of all for giving me Yourself.

I pray that I can always live with integrity, maturity, and peace, for Your glory.

Basically, God, please let all of the fruits of the Spirit be evident in me, the ones You list in Galatians. I know I still have work to do; we're still working on patience, aren't we!! Yes. Unfortunately. No, I guess I shouldn't say unfortunately because You say it's necessary, and You're right, as You always are. And in fact You actually are teaching me things about how being patient isn't as horrible as I thought. It's unbelievable! My blog readers aren't going to believe that, God, that I actually am learning to be happy with waiting, but hey, I try to tell them You're the God of miracles. I know I obviously still haven't learned this one perfectly...but we'll get there...one day...

Anyway, I pray specifically that You help me to do the right thing. In school, I hear a lot of things, and that doesn't mean they're all right, even if a teacher is telling me them. You've taught me to consult You and look at what You say is right before anyone else; I pray You will continue to lead the way. And help me to stand up for my opinions and convictions even when they're not popular. Many times they aren't, but that just makes me more motivated to keep at them for Your glory.

I also pray You will always help me to be mature. In high school, obviously there's a ton of immaturity. Don't let me get sucked into that; I pray I will act responsibly even when nobody else does. You said that if anyone asks for wisdom, You will give it to them (James 1:5). I've asked. You've delivered. Especially through other amazing people like my mom and grandma, to name a few. Help me to apply what I've learned. I want people to know what I believe by how I live so that I can be real for Your glory. I also pray that even when I do screw up, to know that You are forgiving just as You are just, and to just get right with You and keep going again.

And I also pray that You will help me to be the calm and peaceful person in a society full of depressed, anxious, angry people. I'm not knocking anyone who experiences legit problems of those at all—because You know I've faced them myself—but sometimes I'll get a glimpse of kids being hysterical about something, or see someone who's getting so worked up over something that isn't worth it, and I get this glimpse of my own behavior: like oh, I don't want to be that way. And I know I've acted that way! I act like I'm the one losing my mind half the time, but God, I don't want to. I know You; Your peace is always with me (John 14:27). Help me to be the calm one, the one people can trust with their problems. The one who will forgive easily and not be quick to attack someone or blow up on them, but also the one who can calmly tell someone that I don't agree with what they're doing. Help me to have a grip on my emotions so that Your peace radiates through me.

I also want to thank You, God, for Your deliverance in every grade, but for also revealing to me things about a specific grade in general. There are some grades and times in life that I don't know are going to be special until they're in the past, and then I think, wow, what I would give just to have a couple more moments then. I NEVER thought I'd be feeling that way about eighth grade, God, but honestly I really do. In eighth grade, while I know I had Your joy, oftentimes I remember feeling discouraged because I wanted more, now. And I thought all these things were going to give me that, high school being one of them. And then I was so disappointed in ninth grade because I was more upset throughout that year than I was in eighth. And I realized that what changed was that when I went into eighth grade, I was in a position where I felt very helpless and out of control of what was going to happen. The year before was extremely difficult emotionally, and therefore I had absolutely no expectations for eighth grade, I was just going into it completely trusting You and knowing I was going to walk with You. And You know what? It was one of my favorite grades to date.

Did I still have times where I felt discouraged and stressed? Oh yes, but You provided—I logged all those times on my notes in my phone. Did I still get upset and cry some nights? Oh, You know I did. But it was a really beautiful year because I really, really saw You walking with me in a way that had an intensity I'd never really seen before. In fact, when outlining this blog post, I came up with some things I would go back and tell myself:

I would tell myself to chill the heck out. You have blessed me with gifts and wisdom that will eventually grow into more for Your glory, but for right now, I just need to relax and focus on developing those. I was so eager in eighth grade, God, and I still am. I have so much ambition which is a curse when I have to wait, ha, but I know You are faithful with that. I got so eager that year that I let it steal my joy many times, not realizing how special the moments were that I was in. Because looking back on them, they were. And so I would just tell myself to relax, to keep trusting You and appreciating where You had me.

I would tell myself not to think so much. To not waste the better half of years being so indecisive and perfectionistic about writing that I quit enjoying it or don’t write at all. When I did a short story for a project in my English class, that really opened up my eyes as to how special it is to just take an idea You've laid on my heart and run with it, even if I don't know where it's going. And I know I think way too much into things, and I just want to stop second guessing myself and trust that when You've put something on my heart, it has a purpose, even if I don't see that right away.

But yet I would tell myself to keep thinking. To keep learning for Your glory and keep doing my research on living with integrity and living for You. One thing I will say about eighth grade is that we had many projects we had to do that I thought really prepared us for high school and just to think deeper. I enjoyed many of those projects, even if they were intense. I looked into a lot of political subjects that helped me determine where I stand on those issues and how You play into those, because You absolutely do. I had assignments that helped me to better understand other people and the darkness of the world, that have in turn taught me lessons about having good values. Thank You for that, God. Help me to keep researching what is right, to keep thinking about other people beyond myself. 

I would tell myself to enjoy where I'm at. Because now, gone are the days of cozy, conservative middle school. I never thought I'd enjoy those, did I? But now I'm growing up, God, and realizing just what a gift those were. The key to finding contentment in life is enjoying You where I'm at, and oh what a magical year that was in terms of knowing You. I'm actually extremely frustrated with myself right now because do You remember my late night reading when every night I'd look up deep topics in the faith because I genuinely wanted to be educated on them? So there was this one topic that had me stumped for awhile, but then I stumbled across a blog post that did an awesome job of explaining it, so I screen-shotted the part I liked. Well tonight I was thinking about that topic again and wanted to find that picture, but oh no, I deleted it. WHY did I delete it?!!!! I always say I'll never delete anything because I'll regret it but then I go on another deleting spree.... Ugh anyway the point is that I got to learn so much about You, which I am so thankful for. You really are the only One who completes us; I've never felt more at peace than when I'm learning about who You are.

I learned what it meant to become independent, to see the ugly truths of the world for myself but also the authentic hope that has never shone brighter. I learned to see people as You do while at the same time shaking my head at their godlessness and learned that I can do both: condemn bad behavior but help the broken people stuck in it, just as You call me to do. And I'm going to do those things. But I just have to be patient. And I learned that it’s not as hard to be patient as I thought (gasp!), that happiness can come in each moment as I grow in my relationship with You because YOU are the bread of life (John 6:35). That verse always reminds me of how You are the One who sustains us in life, who gives us satisfaction and enjoyment in You. Thank You so much for revealing this to me; help me to remember this often when I get restless, as I often do. But I also pray that You will use my restlessness; You know I have big dreams and huge desires to reach people for Your glory, so please give me opportunities. There's only so much waiting I can do, God. ;) Haha but I know You will always get me through (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Other things I need to mention, God: please don't let me kill myself or end up in prison with driver's ed this fall, like I am actually terrified I am going to hurt someone because of how bad of a driver I am. Then again, I am a huge drama queen, so I'm sure I'll be fine, but YES I SO BADLY NEED YOUR HELP WITH THIS JUST TO PASS... I'd also like to get a job, so I pray for opportunities, favor, and protection there. And help me to get academic opportunities and opportunities in my writing to shine for Your glory this school year.

Also, Lord, thank You so much for this summer. I don't know if I've ever had a summer as fun and peaceful and renewing as this one. I tried really hard not to put my expectations into the summer but rather on just enjoying each day and You, and that made it great, God. Thank You for helping me do that and for helping me establish beauty, fitness, and Bible study routines. I just need a writing routine now, so please help me to find time for that. Oh and I need a new diet too...

Seriously though God, the summer was beautiful. I had a blast doing things like jet skiing but also learning truths about life at fun events like Knoxville, and I just had a nice, calm summer relaxing at home. Thank You, for that, for my family, for Your love, patience, forgiveness, and all that You are. Thank You for always walking with me, even when I'm defiant, impatient, and restless. I love You so much, and please let my life echo that.

In Jesus' name I pray, Amen

Ashlee


Hey everyone! Thank you so much for reading this. I like to post these prayers as a way to collect my thoughts and also in hopes that they can inspire your praying. I also did these for both seventh and eighth grade: you can read those here and here. I'm praying for all of you!!

How Racing is Like Life Part 2

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Last night *at the time this post was wrote* I had a blast with my family and some friends of my dad's attending the Nationals at Knoxville. I posted a lot of photos on my story (yes...I actually got back on Snapchat, just to have some sort of social media that can help me interact with people my age; my username is "sparklesbyablog"). I got a request to do a recap of the night, so I was thrilled to do that. And when I thought about this post, I thought back to my old racing blog post where I talked about what can be learned from sprint car racing about life. So I thought I would follow up on that post and add some more life lessons I'm learning, since after all, that post was written three years ago... Read the first part here!

With that being said, I wasn't sure at first if I actually had any new lessons to share. Our nights at the races were pretty much the same, though just as fun, so what more could I really have to say about it? Well, the more I thought about it, I thought I was only 12 when I wrote that first post, and now I'm 15, so there are definitely more things I pick up on than when I was 12. Yeah, it was like this one time when I was 12, I watched this horribly cheesy movie about high school, and I knew it had some dirty references at the time. Then one night a couple months ago I was bored and saw that it was prime on Amazon, so I thought well, I'll watch it again and see if my opinion had changed. Well, it didn't, but I was traumatized, because there were so many references that went way over my head when I was 12, and they are so bad I'm not even going into them...

Anyway! This post is not about that train-wreck of a movie. So, life lessons, beyond the fact that if you hated a movie when you were 12, you probably won't change your mind at 15. I definitely had a lot of fun at Knoxville as I always do, but this time there was something different about it. You know how I talked about you just pick up on more when you're older? That's basically what happened to me. I started seeing themes that I didn't like. It wasn't that the races necessarily promote those themes; it's just how people act and was evident at any event I've been to, like the Cyclones football game or hockey games.

I'll go more in depth on that, on just the culture of our society. I also learned some lessons on dealing with insecurity and comparison. And then some about being humble, too. These lessons may not be learned directly from sprint car racing so much as they are just being at the races, because when you go to events like these, you expect them to be all fun, right? Of course you do, and of course they usually are. But you'd be kidding yourself if you don't get moments of reality in there, too.

They're different for each person, but for me that might look like we're walking around, and all of a sudden I see this girl who I think is really pretty, and then I'm insecure and thinking of all the things she has that I don't. It's a fleeting moment, or a fleeting thought, but it just goes to show you that these events can't be an escape because eventually you have to deal with your inner insecurities. I'll talk about those. But I'll also show you what we did, too, so let's get into it.

We walked around for awhile to begin with, and it was insanely busy, but Nationals usually is. We went to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and then ate nearby. There is a lot to see as many people sell various things like clothing. I found this cute place and snagged a t-shirt I can't wait to wear.

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I loved the bag ;)

I wasn't as hungry as I usually am because I wasn't feeling the best due to a wonderful girl thing, but I did get my favorite chicken and the cookies sent straight from heaven I'm pretty sure. ;)

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I really enjoy the time spent with family. What I'm learning is just to enjoy and live in each moment instead of getting lost in my thoughts that lead me to want worldly things and not appreciate what God has put and blessed me with right in front of me. But stay tuned; I'll go more in depth on this in one of the lessons.

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The night itself stretched out pretty long, but the final race was intense and awesome to watch. I love how they had fireworks going on at the beginning of the race.

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Once it was done, we went into the pits as usual. I was dying to see this new puppy that a friend of my dad's had recently got, so when I heard that he was there I couldn't contain my excitement. He was adorable, and it was hilarious because he was chasing my brother around trying to bite his shoes!

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Mom and I usually just follow the boys around the pits as Hunter got pictures with some drivers, and I got a picture with one of my favorites, too. Then on the way home, we had to stop and get gas, and Mom got a Dr. Pepper for my dad, but look at the bottle—one of the best I've seen:

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On the way home, my phone was nearly dead, but there were some thoughts on my heart that were making me want to explode, and my mood was somewhat in a daze as I was contemplating different observations. So the good that came out of that was that I finally wrote on my novel in the notes section of my phone as it was on 1%, hahaha. It made it, though, while I finished! In fact I think it made it all the way home while I listened to Spotify, so phone of the year award. I had these thoughts that were perfect for the scenes in the middle of my book, but suddenly the inspiration just hit me, and I've learned from trial and error that when that happens, I need to write it down as soon as possible or it will be gone. So I'm really glad I got to do that, it really gave me the boost I needed in my writing. I typically write my novels in order, from chapter one to the end, but if I get a great idea for the climax and the inspiration is there, I won't NOT write it. In the past I used to be so OCD about going out of order, but then I realized if you don't write it then it's gone. I'll also talk about some of the thoughts I had as I get into the lessons learned from the night.


Lessons Learned from the Knoxville Nationals

Seeing all the people can inevitably lead to comparison.

In racing, just like in everything else, I can only imagine that it's really easy to compare your team to other people and how you're doing. I may not be able to relate to that, but I can to comparing because I compare myself to just about everything. At the Nationals, sometimes when we're walking around, as I mentioned above, I compare myself to how other girls look or dress. Or if they steal my look a-like. ;) Haha just kidding, although one of my look a-likes was with a girl when I spotted him. (By the way, if you don't know who my look a-likes are, read this post. Even though I call them MY look a-likes, they don't look like me, haha.) I didn't find any look a-likes at the Nationals unfortunately, but I usually don't because it's just too busy. But back to comparison. It's something I'm slowly learning to let go of. How am I doing that? At first I honestly didn't know if I even had any advice to offer on this one since sometimes I fall into the trap and don't know how to get out. But I am realizing there's a way out, and it's not the cliche advice you hear.

You know the kind I'm talking about probably. Like how you just have to STOP comparing and appreciate who you are or that comparison is pointless. That advice is true even if it is cliche, and if it works for you, that's great. But if you get cynical like me and hate cliches, haha, you might need to go deeper.

When I'm trying to think through something, first I have to vent. It's hard to let go of something if you can't even acknowledge something is there (more on that in this post). I try to always vent to God, but I'll be honest, sometimes I feel embarrassed doing that or just don't know how to put my thoughts into words to tell Him, so then what I'll do is just write it out in my notes and then pray over it. That helps a lot. Then I can continue writing about what to do with those thoughts because obviously I can't just let them sit there; I have to learn from them. So when I felt feelings of comparison coming in, I first just wrote those out. I'll spare you the whininess of that rant, but here's what I concluded from it: "I know I'm insatiable, that even if I had...[everything I wanted] I still wouldn't be complete. So I have to be conscious of that and keep turning to Jesus. And just enjoy the right now and tell Him these thoughts instead of obsessing over them."

I can't even begin to count the number of situations where the people who look like they have it all end up in tragic situations where they're in rehab, or they committed suicide, or they got into trouble with the law, or they did drugs, or they just can't make themselves happy. No amount of money or good looks or whatever it is you want can buy you happiness. If you're not happy without it, you won't be happy with it. That's why you learn to rely on Jesus alone to meet your needs. It's a really beautiful thing when you fully submit yourself to Him and don't feel that need of having to fill a void. Of course you still have wants, but they don't consume you. Anything you get is just an added blessing in life that pales in comparison to knowing Him. That's how I want to live. I've done that before, so I know it's possible. It really is all about what you focus on. That's why I wrote that out as soon as possible so it wouldn't be following me around all night. I have to learn to let go and trust God.

You have a choice on whether you want to follow a crowd or be a light.

I've noticed this at every event I attend, from hockey games to football games to the races, and definitely more so as I've gotten older. It's the fact that our culture glorifies things like drinking and partying, at every age, and I think that's really sad. You should've seen the line for the alcohol at the race; it was absolutely insane. But I often think that says a lot about us, like wow, here we're at some nice event which is in and of itself supposed to be fun and entertaining, and we STILL feel the need to drink? It just goes to show that no amount of things or "moments" (because now society is big on experiences and living with no regrets...) can satisfy us. If they did, it should be enough that you're even there and able to enjoy time with family or friends, but nope. People still feel the need to get drunk and party like they're 20. And yeah, you might say that drinking is part of the fun, but why does it have to be? Why isn't it enough just to enjoy the night for what it is?

There's no good reason or excuse to hide what's obvious, that people still feel the need to escape reality, because no amount of events or partying can heal a heart with pain. On the way home as I was writing some of those scenes for my book, a song came up on my Spotify country station called "Drunk Me." I have to admit, I did enjoy the song, the tune and all, but the lyrics basically reiterated everything I previously thought. The lyrics went really well with the story of my book though, so I added it to the playlist for my book, haha.

But the point of my scenes for my book, of any blog post I write, is truly just to encourage you to live for Jesus because He alone heals the brokenness of a heart. I've been thinking a lot lately about what overarching theme I'm most passionate about when it comes to my faith. There are so many messages I wish to share that it's hard to just focus on one, and I want to focus on more than one, but there are a lot of Christian pastors or leaders who focus on multiple messages, but then they sort of have their one message that defines them because that's the one they're most passionate about or knowledgable about, etc. For example, David Jeremiah, a pastor I really like, hits on many different topics of the Christian faith, but he's also known for his emphasis on Revelation and the end times.

When I think about what that may be for me, if I do have an area or topic that I keep coming back to, I think I've finally figured out what it is: the brokenness of people and our need for a Savior. Every time I go somewhere where I'm surrounded by masses of people, this melancholy feeling comes over me, and I'm left wondering about each of the people I see, what their stories may be, what their life is like, how they think and feel, if they know Jesus. I wonder what's on their heart late in the night. And I always think about the whole message of being a light and ministering to other people's brokenness, how one person can affect this person, and that person can affect this person, and there's this whole revival over a broken world. That's what keeps coming back to me, and all of my interests and goals seem to align with that central message. It's why I love writing so much. It's why psychology is so fascinating to me and gets me fired up, you get to study how people think and feel and why they behave why they do. It's the essence of being human. It's why I was so interested in prison ministry.

That's something I've finally been realizing, is this deep desire I have to minister to broken hearts. And you don't think you can find that at an event where it's supposed to be fun, fun, fun, but I've learned that's where you seem to find the most brokenness because that's where people go to escape. And it's NOT bad to go to fun events. It's just about your behavior and motives. It's unhealthy to want to escape from reality in the form of getting drunk or partying. Even something harmless like an event like this can be unhealthy if you have the wrong motives for going. I understand that sometimes you just need a break, but needing a break and needing an escape are two different things. And I think that's what people need to be more conscious of.

Lastly, when you are victorious in life, it's so important to remember who deserves the glory.

It also saddens me when people do really well, but you don't hear any mention of God. He's the One who ultimately gives us anything, our talents, skills, etc. So He deserves and will get the glory. One thing I do love about Knoxville is how they pray before every race. I have a lot of respect for that because it just goes to show that of course even as a Christian you can still have fun, but when you're having fun, you don't have to leave God out of it. It's so important to remember God in both the good and bad times. He's the One who gives to you and strengthens you. That's something I've known, but it was a good reminder for me not to become lazy in my relationship with Him. Like any relationship, the effort you put into it is what you will get out of it. And God is no different. James 4:8 says that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. I can tell when I'm being lazy and when I'm really pursuing Him, and it makes all the difference. Of course, He's with me no matter what, regardless of what I do, but being conscious of that is what I have to remember.

Like I mentioned earlier, these lessons are more learned by attending a race versus lessons actually learned from the sport. For lessons along those lines, read my first post here. I had a blast at the Nationals, though, and have enjoyed all the memories made from attending Knoxville races over the years and the lessons learned. Have you ever been to the Nationals? What was your experience like?

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The Best in Faith

Now that I've been blogging for FOUR years (sometime this August was the beginning...you can read my first post here haha), I thought I would round up some of my posts where I share the life and faith lessons I've learned. Chances are that some people have not been following me since clear back then or maybe would appreciate going back and rereading some posts if you missed them before. We all need encouragement, so hopefully by me rounding up the posts where I share my faith can help you.

To Inspire: one of my first posts that talks about my beliefs and mission

2014 Basketball: although this recaps my time playing basketball, it also shares a lot of my thoughts I struggled with and what God taught me

An Honest Post: Me at School: all of my thoughts over my struggles in school and what God taught me

Writers Observe: my thoughts on being real about life and having authentic hope and how that ties into my writing

Rejected: a personal story about a time I got rejected and what I learned through it about our society and the hope

How Racing is Like Life: even if you're not into racing, this post includes the life lessons that racing has taught me that can also apply to you

It's a Beautiful Life: my thoughts on the sin and pain in this world but how God leaves us with hope and how we can enjoy that

A Prayer About 7th Grade: I wrote this out upon entering seventh grade just as a way for me to organize my thoughts and share my own personal prayer to God in hopes that it could inspire you to be real with Him and serve as a guide for getting real with Him, so even if you're not going into seventh grade, you might still find some of the drama or just needing to share your thoughts with God relatable

Show It: a post all about the importance of sharing your faith and how to do that

The Problem with the Media: my thoughts on our media-saturated society and the bad messages it sends us, plus what to do about those

How to Use Social Media for God's Glory: a short guide I came up with on using social media in a healthy, God honoring way, after I saw even Christians' social media where it was something to be desired (I'm being sarcastic...so many people need to actually truly ask themselves if their posts would glorify God)

The 5 Biggest Reasons Why I Believe in God: a short introduction to my thoughts on why I believe in God—hopefully I will eventually go more in depth on this topic

Why Being a Light?: a post on why being authentic and being a light for Jesus is so important to me and why I think it matters

3 Ways to Fulfill Your Dreams: a post on what God taught me about working towards my dreams

Living Your Faith: I Will Not Chill Out: the importance of living boldly for Jesus, some of the reasons why people don't want to, and how to respond to critics

The Dream List: A Guide to Help You Fulfill Your Dreams: more tips on how God wants us to fulfill our dreams for His glory

5 Tips for Telling Others About Jesus: my tips on how to share your faith from my personal experience

The Power of Jesus: a post where I just share my thoughts on living for Jesus and how thankful I am for Him

Jealousy: I Want to Be the Only One: a post I often need to go back to as I consistently struggle with jealousy; includes the only advice that I've learned can really set you free from it

A Prayer About 8th Grade: a more in depth prayer I wrote about all of my fears upon starting eighth grade and how I wanted to glorify God no matter what—I'd really like to do another post like this with tenth grade coming up, so stay tuned

Jesus Died for You: part one of a four part series, an urgent message about the verses God laid on my heart that all tell you about what Jesus did for YOU and how you can find forgiveness in Him

God's Amazing Love for You: part two of the series, this post follows the same format and highlights the powerful truths about God's love for YOU

A Unique, Hopeful Plan Just for You: part three of the series that talks all about God's plan for your life, no matter where you're at

The Ultimate Hope: the last part of the series, all about the hope we have in Jesus

When Running the Race Sucks: a post all about how to persevere and God's faithfulness based on my wonderful cross country experience haha

Is Life Beautiful?: a comprehensive post on all my thoughts over if life is beautiful and how to find true joy in life

Just Do . . . {What God Is Calling You to Do}: my thoughts on being a light for God and just going by what He lays on your heart and not getting hung up on the expectations of society

Why Do We Need to Read the Bible?: the importance of studying God's Word and some tips if you don't like to or are unsure of where to start or what to do

I Can't Sleep: when thoughts of the world steal your peace and how to give them to God, plus a hilarious story of my grandma murdering a lamp hahaha

Darkest Hour, Brightest Hope: finding hope in the dark times of life and what I've learned

Finding Yourself | My Middle School Journey: a huge post covering all of the lessons God taught me through each year of middle school and what I learned above all

Unplugging: my thoughts on how social media is hurting us and why it's more than okay to take a break from it (or not even be on it)

In the Midst of Complex Problems: the overwhelming darkness in this world and how most of the answers aren't easy and how we need to humble ourselves instead of thinking we have them all

Serious Observations You Can Make at the Mall: how people in this society fill their voids with worldly things and my thoughts on that


Thank you all for following along no matter how long you've been here, it means so much to me. I pray that some of these posts can inspire you, and if you have any requests for topics you'd like to see me post over, feel free to do so right here. I feel bad that I haven't been blogging as often; the days just keep flying by, and it still seems surreal to think that already it's going to be my sophomore year of high school. I didn't write a prayer over freshman year because that was when I took a long blogging break, but hey, maybe if I would've done that I wouldn't have felt like I was losing my mind the whole year! All I know is that it's a new year, so I really want to take the time to make sure my mind is in the right place going into it so that I don't get sucked into worldly worries and shallow attention games. I know better than that, but I still struggle with typical feelings like anxiety, jealousy, etc. So if you need some help with that, too, definitely stay tuned for a new prayer I will write out.

There just seems to be so much I want to do between writing on this blog and writing more stories, but I do hope to keep updating here at least once a week. Also with the new school year, I'm hoping it will make me more motivated to write new stories. I definitely want to begin working on a diverse array of short stories as well as keep making progress on my novel. And for whatever reason, I seem to be more motivated during the school year than the summer. I always think it'd be the opposite since school wears me out mentally, but I think it wears me out so much that all summer long I have to lay around and do nothing to make up for it, haha.

Anyway, thank you again for reading, everyone! Feel free to leave me post ideas that you'd like to see! Keep enjoying every season in life and keep looking to Jesus above all.

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