Head over Heart

I don't know if I've ever been one to just follow my heart, a common cliche line that this society loves. This Bible verse alone should make you hesitant on following that advice:

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
— Jeremiah 17:9 NIV
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Lots of people just rush into decisions based on the spur of the moment. They use quotes such as "live for the moment," "you only live once," and "no regrets" to justify it. Well, yes, you only live once, so I would advise you not to live like an idiot or else you WILL have regrets.

I was having a conversation with my grandma the other day about love. As I'm writing my new book, one of the themes it looks at is just that, specifically in a dating relationship. Something that I notice a lot of people doing, especially kids my age, is rushing to be in a relationship with someone when they're not ready for it. They only think they are because their brain is clouded by hormones, fuzzy feelings, and everything else. And they say it's just part of having fun or being in love. I'm not trying to undermine being in love, but there's a smart way to do it, too, without having to compromise your brain, something I don't ever think you should do because the heart and what it wants is fickle.

Sometimes it's difficult to make the right choice but always worth it in the long run. People have to think about who they fall in love with in an analytical manner—sure, doesn't sound very romantic, but hating each other down the road ten years because you were blind to their obvious faults isn't romantic either. Same with a job or any opportunities or activities people do. We've gotten so caught up into this heat of the moment mentality, and then you wonder why so many people can't make good decisions to save their life. More thinking needs to go into it.

There of course comes a point where you can think too much. I definitely lean more on that side, being the overthinker I am. Because nothing is going to be perfect in life, so you just have to do the best you can, always consulting God for His wisdom. I just read a few chapters of Proverbs today, and that was what it talked about: the importance and value of wisdom. I can't stand it when people degrade wisdom, especially based on age. They say that wisdom or maturity can come later, when you're older, and that when you're young you should just be wild and free and all that crap.

That right there shows the value of wisdom so that you can call stupid advice when you see it, which that is. Seriously? Just WAIT to learn what is right and good so that you don't have to end the fun, that's what they want. But God is not about ending your fun; He cares first and foremost about caring for you and making you righteous because only then will you prosper in life (Proverbs 2:7-8).

Yeah, you might have to sacrifice some things. You might have to sacrifice a fun party. Or a cute guy. Or an opportunity that comes at the wrong time.

But look at the big picture, the consequences of rushing into things without thinking. Would you rather have the fun now and have the rest of your life be hell or go through some tough periods of waiting and reap the rewards?

God is faithful, and He blesses His people for doing the right thing. So I challenge people—regardless of how young or old they are—to actually THINK about the choices you make. I hear people complain about their behavior and wanting to throw in the towel because they just can't seem to change, and you know why that is? When you look at them, they never seem to actually stop and reflect on what they're doing. They live by sudden urges and emotions without fear of God. That's not how we're intended to live, though.

Use your head first to consult God and think over the right decisions in life. Your heart can catch up—which, coincidentally, it always seems to when you make the choices that honor God. I hear people who are trying to justify sin but deep down there's this unsettling feeling in them that they're trying to battle in their attempts to excuse it. And I just want to say, you know what, there's a reason it hurts. Sin should never be justified; it will always stay in your heart and hurt it in the long run, after the pleasure dissipates as quickly as it came. Coincidence? I think not.

We can't and aren't meant to live off of our emotions, chasing finite pleasures. Fix your mind on something greater—living for Jesus—because trust me, your heart WILL catch up (2 Corinthians 4:18).

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Back in Estherville + Life News

Hi everyone, sorry for my lack of posting the past few days. I've been sick with some viral thing and allergies, but finally I'm starting to feel better! I am up with my grandparents now—YAY—and so I should be able to write a lot more now. We put the finishing touches on my room before I left, and I hope to take some more pics with my Instax camera this week to add to these new lights I got!

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And since I was sick, that meant I had plenty of time to break in my new mattress THAT I LOVE!!! It's also so much higher up than my old one, which I really like.

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We met my grandparents in our typical spot (read my whole post on spending time with them and being in their town here) and got the usual pictures!

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I always love the car rides up getting to talk with my mom. Lately we've been talking a lot about college and my options there. I love talking about that because I find it fun to think about, and I don't think it's too early to start figuring out what it is I want in a college or major. And speaking of which, the other day I had an orthodontics appointment where we look at my annual pictures and x-rays of my jaw and teeth. I have the worst possible teeth and jaw ever—clearly, if you've ever seen my pictures. And unlike just about everyone my age, I haven't been able to get my braces on (or off, which many my age are already getting off). We've had to wait for so long because my jaw has kept growing, and so of course they didn't want to start anything with braces or whatever only to have it grow more and then need to redo things. But, and we expected this, it looks like I'll be needing jaw surgery.

We've heard about this potentiality since the beginning. When you have a jaw as bad as mine, it's probably inevitable. But my orthodontist was so sweet and assuring, promising that we could work with whatever I decide. I think that I am going to get the surgery done, though. The way they have described everything sounds like without me getting the surgery, getting braces could do something with my bites, resulting in me looking really weird without the surgery. I just hope getting the surgery doesn't make me look uglier, but that's why she explained that we could go meet with the surgeons, who are down in Iowa City. She said they're really good and the ones they collaborate with, which I can believe because Iowa City has a good reputation in the medical field. I go meet the surgeons where they'll examine me and give us more information, and then there would be more talking with my doctors after that. She said that more than likely they won't even take me for surgery until I'm 18, so it would be awhile, but then they could finally start working on my teeth.

It wasn't the ideal news. I was hoping to avoid surgery, especially since 18 is an inconvenient age to have it considering you're a freshman in college, but there are ways to schedule it in, like the summer before or after. To be honest, I think it will be kind of fun getting to go down to Iowa City to meet the surgeons, especially since the building is on campus, a college I've been considered (it is known as the "writing university"). I've never been on campus or to Iowa City, so that should be fun. Also, my orthodontist told me that they have cute residents and interns there so...

#WorthIt.

Okay, well, I am going to blog deeper posts in the coming days, like my letter to my future husband in which I can warn him about his competition in Iowa City I guess ;) So read the first one here (from 3 years ago...)! What have you all been up to? Has anyone ever had jaw surgery before?! I'll be on a liquid diet for one month... I can't imagine how that is going to go!

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Doubts as a Writer

Being a writer and also a major perfectionist are two things, I've learned, that often seem to clash. My perfectionistic ways haven't always hurt me, though: sometimes it gives me the extra drive I need to go above and beyond, which is critical as a writer, since writing is one of those things that so many do or want to do.

I don't always remember feeling so insecure about it, but time has gone on, and maybe with age I've just realized more hard truths about the writing and blogging world. And the reason I figured I'd blog about it is because I think it's something a lot of people will be able to relate to, even if they don't admit it. And really, even though this post specifically focuses on doubts with writing, this could be with anything, any dream you have or thing that you want to do.

I've been doing a lot of thinking back. Back to my journey of writing and actually finishing my first novel. I can't believe that was almost four years ago. The thing about it is that you oftentimes hear authors and writers say something along the lines of, oh, the first book I wrote was terrible and not at all suited for publication, but it was good practice, or something along those lines. But honestly, I don't feel like that really applies to my book. The writing of it is kinda sloppy, but it wasn't like I didn't know what I was doing, either, and I fixed a lot of it with edits. But even more than the writing was the themes. I know that it was a story that needed to be told. And if I had the opportunity to publish, I would. I might go through and add some things like I talked about here, but that's still a book I hope to publish one day.

The thing that I think about most, though, is how seemingly natural it felt to write that book. I'm not kidding. I know it was tough; writing requires perseverance. But I finished it in under a year. The themes and characters just seemed to develop with clarity—even though I know I can still make them better. I just don't remember it being a constant struggle like this second book has been for me. It doesn't have anything to do with the second book's plot—I daydream about it all the time and sharing it with people, but for whatever reason, it's like whenever I go to write it, it's always lacking. I just don't remember the first book being that hard to write.

Maybe it's because I truly didn't have any expectations for my first book. I mean, I was only eleven years old; I didn't even think I had it in me to finish a novel. But God helped me do it, and He helped me do it swiftly, which is how I know it was important. I think this next story is important, too. I think the thing that's changed, honestly, is the distractions.

I've talked about distractions before, here in this post. I've talked about how there is such a thing as too much information, where it's overwhelming and makes you overthink everything. That can happen with anything. Take the blogging world, for instance. I think one of the reasons I stopped blogging for so long is because I absolutely despised the new direction of blogging. It felt cheap to me, and I almost thought what was the point? Blogging, once upon a time, used to be about telling stories, plain and simple. It was a place for people to share their thoughts and entertain somebody with their writing or even inspire them, which was perfect for me, and I jumped right on board. But then I watched, oftentimes with horror, as everything started to change. Suddenly those honest posts where you would just write out your thoughts were meaningless, and it became all about blogging what you know. And you know what cracks me up more than anything? There's like, honestly, hundreds of blogs and "businesses" ALL blogging about the same thing: how to blog. And how to make money blogging. And how to make so much money blogging that you can quit your real job and travel the world to write!

And I'm sorry, but that just feels cheap to me. Look, I'm not saying it's a bad thing to want to make money writing or even to want that to be your job because I myself have wished for those things. But I think the thing that annoys me most about this attitude shift is just people's motives for wanting that. They're cheap, kind of selfish motives, really. The whole point of writing is to share something with the world that you feel you need to, something that I believe should be meaningful. And, seriously. Does the whole world really need to know how to make millions of dollars off their blog so they can, what? Quit their job? Buy a bunch of ridiculously expensive clothes to show off? Travel and run away from everything? I mean, seriously?! That makes writing and blogging look so cheap, like it's just some quick get rich scheme for people who just want to live off their romantic life fantasies! That isn't the point of writing! It SHOULDN'T be.

And I will probably lose all of my blogging connections for saying that because that's seriously what most of them do nowadays, but sorry not sorry, I think it's wrong. And I know some people will probably get offended by that and claim they don't do that, but I've had a lot of time to watch and observe, and that's what it looks like to me. Why else would there be thousands of e-courses promising to teach you how to make so much money so you can...quit your job...make tons of money...? Do those reasons honestly sound meaningful? They're not promising to teach you how to write meaningfully, how to inspire people through writing... No. They're teaching you how to make MONEY. Which is not in and of itself bad to want money, but again, it all comes down to people's OBSESSION with that. Welcome to America.

My point in even bringing this up is because it hurts my heart to see a writing career degraded like that, because then everyone wants to do it just to live out their getting rich fantasies, and it has nothing to do with them being actually passionate about writing or inspiring people through writing. Being an author is the same way—I see TONS of articles on those, too.

It reminds me of those Christians who do nothing for God—you know they don't really care about Him—but yet still talk the talk because they want the perks and benefits of going to heaven and the title of being a Christian. And sorry, it doesn't work that way. If you're not serious about your faith, then don't you dare pretend to have one just to get the benefits. It's not fair to those who legitimately have faith.

My point in this post, though, wasn't really to stir up anything controversial, but then the more I thought about it, I thought that nobody addresses this in the writing world, and somebody really needs to. I mean, I read a post on selecting an English major, telling people the hard truths about it: that no, not everyone makes it "big" like everyone seems to want to in their writing for the money. There's a lot of work, dedication, and craft that need to—and should—go into writing. And people need to know that.

But here's my point in sharing this: seeing all of those articles about making money writing and blah blah blah filled me with insecurity. For one, because like I said, it sends a horrible message about the purpose of writing as a whole. But more than that, it was just so overwhelming. And when talked about like a money making scheme, EVERYONE is going to want to try their hand at it, even those who do not have the willingness to truly develop as a writer. That means more competition, and I hate competition. So I began to wonder what my point even was as a writer. Because I know I won't be making money off of mine anytime soon, though that was never my intentions to start a blog and get rich anyway. But I just thought, with all of these people who may know the business aspects of marketing yourself and I don't, what is the point in writing?

And it became a similar pattern with my book. I just couldn't stop reading things about improving your craft—which is important to become educated on writing; I mean, I just complained about people who aren't willing to do that, but it just goes to show that there's a balance.

What happens when you get tangled into this mess is that you lose sight of God. And He's the reason I write. He's the One who, ultimately, is going to decide where my writing goes, not the business analytics, or SEO, or anything else. And I just shut Him out of it. Same with my book. I read too many articles and began to doubt everything about myself as a writer. Just the other day I was reading an article on showing and not telling in writing. It talked about how you should not use the word "felt" because you can SHOW how a character is feeling. So I did a search in my book for the word "felt." I already have almost thirty uses of it in the first 10,000 words. Talk about discouraging you before you can even get going.

But that's where you have to stop that. You have got to remain focused on God and doing what He tells you to do like I talk about here. So if He's calling you to write for His glory? Then DO IT. And don't spend the better half of your time going crazy trying to figure out promotions and the business side of it. What? DON'T do that? Yep, I went there. Seriously. I was going crazy for the longest time because I had all the social media and was doing my best I could when it came to promoting my blog and getting it out there, and I don't feel like I was getting good results. It was immensely discouraging, and it made me want to quit, to be completely honest. Because I don't like sharing things if I can't help people, and you're obviously not helping anyway if no one sees it. But I had to learn to release that. To just trust that God would get my writing where it needed to be. So I deleted the vast majority of my social media because I was done playing the games. Done trying to compete and market myself when really, I just wanted to write. That's why I started.

And it's the same with my books and with anything you do. You just have to do it. Don't get sucked into the world of being a "girlboss" or whatever. You'll never make it on your own. You have to have God's help. And it is hard sometimes to wait on those opportunities—take it from the most impatient girl alive. But even back then, I blogged about that here.

I'm so guilty of doing things on my own, of not consulting God and just plowing into everything, taking on more than I can handle. But God never asked me to do that. He asked me to write. And I know, that if it's His will, and these are stories and words He wants to share for His glory, then the rest will come. The opportunities and everything.

You have to trust Him. You have to do what you do for pure motives, because it's what He wants. Not to make a million dollars, even though, at one point in my eight year old mind, I did write this in a journal:

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Haha. I'm also not trying to specifically call anyone out or be mean to anyone, bloggers or writers. But I'm just trying to emphasize that in today's society, everyone thinks it's about money and stuff. And it's not. Life is about so much more than that; writing is about more than that.

And it all goes back to God, to trusting Him to take care of us and looking for our joy in Him. True joy is found in obeying Him, so if that means writing for Him, then do that and don't get so insecure about what other people are doing. God has a plan for YOU and what He's called you to do. I always worry that I'm missing it because you know me, I don't take waiting very well, and waiting to me looks like missing hundreds of opportunities. But not to God. And I have to trust that. And I have to write for Him alone.

Oh! I took an online quiz one time (ha, one time, no, I take them all of the time because I get a kick out of them and because they give me meaningful advice like which type of house I should live in and what makeup style I should wear, haha {for the record, it says I should live in a castle, and I don't disagree}). This particular quiz was over what I should blog. And it said I should blog about my life, and that it's actually pretty interesting. And I was like, you know, you're not wrong. I don't know if sitting on the computer for hours on a Friday night taking random quizzes counts for anything, but who knows, you might learn a lot from that that needs to be shared! Yeah, they said I should blog about boy drama and hanging out at school and all those wonderful things. And of course I was like, why not! I don't have much boy drama for you right now, but just wait until I write another letter to my future husband! I'm sure talk about living in a castle will come up. :)

But anyway, this meaningless quiz actually did give me a bit of insight, saying that the best blogs are ones over personal experiences anyway, which I totally agree with. It just reaffirmed everything I've been writing about and my goals in writing, but then just when I need it, God also sends just the right people to encourage me as well, and that's why I want to write. To inspire people and encourage them, too.

And if that million dollars shows up somewhere along the way? All the better. But that's up to God. :) And money or no money, that isn't the point of life. The point of life goes back to my fourth blog post I ever published: inspiring people for His glory.

That's the goal, and that's my goal as a writer. I'm not going to let doubts of anything else stop me because I want to live for and honor God. And my final advice is to not worry about what other people are doing. Worry about what God is telling you to do. You'll be rewarded for it, because He's amazing like that, and it's reward enough even to see Him working.

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Let's Catch Up Again

I am so thrilled that it's summer. The first few days have been lazy days for me, which I probably needed. I have been a bit productive though, especially in terms of my room. I've been blogging about the process of redoing my room forever: here, here, and here, just to name a few. It's been a slow process, but finally it's just about completely done!

I was able to find a new white dresser that was both affordable and in good quality. I was shocked at how many dressers weren't in good quality despite having an expensive price tag. Finally I found one I loved at a local furniture store, and they delivered it for free. That simple change has already made my room look much better.

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I also have a chair that I sit in for most of my days; it's furry and velvety and a crisp white like the rest of my room (despite the rosy walls haha, but some pink is an absolute necessity). And I got everything rearranged and cleaned—I think I have approximately twenty notebooks inside my nightstand. The life of a writer! And I use each one of them haha.

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I'm also finally getting A NEW MATTRESS!! The mattress I have is close to a million years old and has been killing me, so I'm thrilled to get a new one. The one I picked out is super plush, my favorite. I'll probably never leave it.

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I've been keeping up my usual diet of eating all the time and haven't done a workout since the end of PE class. I found these things at Walmart and have been eating them daily as a nutritional breakfast—they're wonderful ;)

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And we've also been to one race already at Knoxville. We tried something new; we went into the pits because evidently kids can go in there with parental permission, and we tailgated right by this fence nearby one of the turns. It was a new experience that I highly enjoyed!

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I also have a blog post on life lessons learned from the races, and you can read that here.

A Writing Update

I have something that I will be sporadically working on, and I'm going to announce it here as soon as I get it going. I've been talking about doing it for awhile, and I actually did attempt it once. Hint: you should follow me here. :)

I think that's about everything new going on with me. Next week I am going to see my grandparents because my family is going to Canada. I bailed on that; two years of the nonstop fishing life was plenty for me. I will blog as much as I can up there; I already have one post idea in mind because I did it up there a couple years ago. Hint? Read this post first. :)

What are you all up to? I'd love to hear! Remember, if you ever have any questions for me or any specific blog post requests or topics you'd like to hear my thoughts over, you can simply ask me on this page right here!

P.S. In terms of the shopping world, I have been doing my research and finding good deals on things I need. I don't think I've mentioned this before, but I've been desperately needing a new swimsuit for a year now. The last swimsuit I had bought had been for my trip to Florida, and then in spring 2017 we went to a hotel to spend a couple days swimming for spring break, and I needed a new one because I had obviously outgrown the other one. So when we were up in Des Moines at that time, we stopped at Scheels to find one and were not so pleasantly surprised at how expensive they turned out to be. I got the cheapest one there, which was $60. And it was cute in its own way, until I actually wore it. Then its functionality seemed to disappear, and plus I didn't care for the way it fit on me. It was a two piece, and the top kept floating up, which I didn't like because that's not comfortable when you're swimming. Plus, every now and then I go with my grandma nearby us to some swimming classes that are a blast, and so I've been wanting a new one, all of this is to say. And so I did research online, only to find that the vast majority of swimsuits are, on average, $100! I have this dream swimsuit here (it's called the One Way Ticket and is a one-piece) that I fell in love with after I saw it on a fashion blog, but at almost $120 I knew I wouldn't be getting it anytime soon.

Plus, I generally prefer one-pieces. I'm not huge on bikinis due to the modesty (or lack thereof). I know there are modest bikinis, but I just lean towards wearing a one-piece because if they make them and they look cute, then why not? Plus I think they're more functional anyway and can be worn as a cute bodysuit if you pair them with jean shorts over it. Anyway, when Memorial Day sales were going on, I saw that J.Crew was having special discounts on their swimwear. I decided it couldn't hurt to look as I was almost out of options, and I wanted a new swimsuit badly. I was shocked to find this swimsuit here, that looks nearly identical to my dream swimsuit and had only a regular price of sixty something—I probably would've payed that—but then it was on sale for thirty something. It's mainly sold out now, but I was thrilled. It was also backordered when I bought it, so I hope I get it eventually. I actually had it shipped up to my grandparents' thinking that maybe it will arrive when I am up there—hopefully. It'd be fun to wear when I go jet skiing at 'Boji!

All of this to say that it definitely pays to do your research. I have this Wishbin account that lets me keep track of all the items I want or need, and periodically I go through and check for good deals. You'd be shocked at how many you can find if you just give it time.

I'll keep you updated on any more deals I find and will also let you know when I get this swimsuit, haha. :) Maybe even I can be a fashion blogger? Haha, we'll just have to see.

Thanks for following along! ♥*♡

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An Honest Post: Me and My Thought Life

Whenever I do a blog post specifically titled "An Honest Post," it's probably really personal to me. I mean, ALL of my blog posts are personal and honest; I make sure to keep them that way, but there are some topics that even I feel more hesitant to talk about, or I just need a disclaimer to be completely real and raw because some things aren't the easiest to talk about, even if I want to. I've done one other post with this title, about my honest thoughts over what I'm like in school. Read it here. That was in SIXTH GRADE, people!!! It's just crazy to think that after this week freshman year is already done. And get ready for an honest post over that, too. ;)

But I do remember coming up with that title for that first post because I knew that really going deeply into my personal issues, such as feeling alone at school, may not be the easiest thing to write about on the internet. I had a lot of doubts because I didn't want people to worry about me or think I needed help, and I didn't want them to think that this had turned into my diary where all I do is whine about my problems. Because that is never my intent with this blog. Rather, the reason I ultimately decided to post those thoughts is because I thought that maybe they could resonate with someone, and I wanted to share how God had worked through that for me.

So nothing has really changed in that sense, this post will be along the same lines. Except this time instead of talking about feeling lonely at school, I'm going to go even deeper and tell you about my thought life! Haha as if you want to know :) No but really, I have learned a lot, even though it feels like I haven't. Dealing with the mind is complicated, which is why I want to pursue psychology, but it's necessary because almost everything is dictated by it.

I mentioned in my post about taking a break from social media here how I didn't like my thought life. That was the summer after eighth grade, and that whole year, really, had been a struggle for me. Don't get me wrong, I had some really special memories also, and in terms of how school goes it was actually one of my favorite years, but just mentally, it was like I couldn't get a grip on my thoughts. I began to keep a journal so that I could document my craziness of one day being completely depressed and the next day as I try to regroup and reflect on everything. My thoughts were just a mess. I had experienced deep sadness before, but what I was even thinking about the other day, was that it seemed like my rebound rate was higher. Like I could sort of just come out of it faster. But then as I got older, these started turning into patterns. And what I've learned about the mind is that once you form a certain way of thinking, it's really difficult to simply break that pattern. Because against my best interests, that's what started happening to me. It just became a pattern. Even when every part of me knew intellectually the truth, it was hard for my heart to accept it because I was so stuck in the ways of thinking.

**Just a note before I go into this: even though I've felt depressed before and it's felt pretty crippling at times, I still wouldn't say I have literal depression. Some people have it way worse than me, where they literally have chemical imbalances, and of course I would advocate for them to get help just like I did here in my post on anxiety. And as always, this isn't professional advice, this is just my thoughts and observations on my personal journey of battling with depressing thoughts. I don't need help or to talk to anyone; I have people that I can talk to and go to if I need it. I've gotten to the point where I think I'm doing much better, and I feel confident about writing this.

Anyway, so I've mentioned that I'm seriously getting into psychology. So the more I got to be thinking about this, I sort of tried to self-diagnose myself. It wasn't like my intellectual ability was skewed when it came to these thoughts. I knew perfectly well what was the truth, and even though I had these thoughts, they never interfered with my life in the sense that I couldn't function properly. I mean, I was crying, like every other night, but even that I had some control over, because it wasn't like I would be sitting in class and just start crying. I always did it in privacy somewhere, and then I would talk to somebody. And don't freak out if this sounds new to you, because at first I did too, thinking that I was literally depressed. But then I would hear other stories about girls, and the more I thought about it I was like, okay, maybe this is just a teenage girl phenomenon. :) And again, I'm not trying to undermine the severity of sadness, but I feel like I can do that to myself because I know I don't literally have severe depression. If I took a quiz about it or something, maybe I would have mild depression. But I also believe that some of it is inevitable, and it doesn't mean you can't function and need to freak out about it. But I'll talk more about that in the future.

Anyway, so I started tracing back to the past. I started looking for where this curve was, where it switched from being some deep sadness that could be resolved the next day to always feeling this sort of longing and emptiness that was followed by a pretty jaded attitude. And then I realized that the curve honestly came around when I turned 13. :)

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Honestly, though, I do think hormones play a huge factor in this. That was when I began getting my wonderful monthly gifts, so that's always fun to deal with. And I've read stories from Christians I respect who look back on their childhood and are like, oh, that year I think I cried every single day, because you're an adolescent and that's just how it goes. :) But it was still difficult for me to cope with after awhile, which is why, ultimately, I'm writing this, is to share how, FINALLY, I'm learning to control my thoughts once again. This is going to be a long post, I apologize in advance... ;) And also, sometimes I like to blog these types of posts even for myself, for two reasons: 1) writing is SO therapeutic, but don't worry, I'll save the deep rants for my diaries, and 2) it really is assuring to look back in time at how I thought. Some of that is actually what has helped me with this. I can look back and see, oh yeah I was crazy then, too, so this isn't anything new. ;) Haha but seriously, it really does help. God can teach me things that you subconsciously begin to forget over the years, so going back and looking is a great way to refresh and remember that you can get through hard times.

So, I turned 13. My birthday is in February, so that would be maybe about halfway through the school year, or maybe a little more than halfway, I'm not entirely sure. At that time, I was in seventh grade, and if you read my post here on my middle school years, I went into my thoughts on seventh grade... Essentially, seventh grade was my worst year in middle school. Once again, academically it was fine, I even remember some of the projects I had that I enjoyed, and really, I did have some good memories made with some friends over the course of the year. But towards the end of the year, things really got bad, because I lost a lot of friends, and suddenly I wasn't just feeling lonely, I was lonely. I'd always felt lonely, clear back to the beginning of sixth grade, and I had some really good friends. But I just craved this deeper connection, especially with my faith, that I didn't get with anyone. But suddenly when I lost my friends altogether, I felt lonely, and then I was lonely. I hardly had anyone, and that was a struggle.

There was also a ton of guilt that went with it. I started wondering about myself and having doubts, thinking things like, what did I do to cause that, and maybe I should've been more this and less that, etc. You start to wonder what it is that you're doing wrong. That hurt me, too. I began to think that maybe I was just unlikable and insatiable, where nobody would be "good enough" for me. And I tried my absolute hardest to be loyal, to be the friend that I wanted. I know I didn't do it perfectly; I could still get sucked into drama, things that I look back on now and ask myself what the heck I was thinking. But then, that's life, and that's middle school.

I wrote about this struggle here towards the end of that year. But I think that's where it all started. Life is hard when you don't have any good friends. Thankfully, I had my family, which definitely made up for a lot of it, but there's still that gap there, and then it made me really anxious because I kept thinking, maybe I'll never have friends, and it won't get better, and I'll be alone my whole life. But I know that's not true. I've made some really special connections with teachers, and I met this wonderful girl who's a couple years older than me, who really took me under her wing and was there for me through all of eighth grade and even into freshman year. I seriously don't know where I would've been without her and the teachers that God put into my life; it would've been an even longer year. And plus, it also made me feel a little bit better to know that I was capable of having human connections, haha. :) I wasn't turning anti-social just yet. ;)

That happened near the end of fall during my eighth grade year. But during the summertime of 2016, I think that's really where it all began. I was able to trace back my anxiety, also, when I was dealing with that, and sort of self-diagnose that, too, and I think that's really important. I remember looking back at years where I felt pretty stable emotionally, and I would go and make lists of the things I did during that year that could've contributed to that. It was just a way for me to kind of help think about what I could be doing differently, and it did help me.

Anyway, summer 2016. The beginning of it was pretty great; we went to Canada for the first time, which was a blast. (Oh, but this year they're going for the THIRD time in a row, and I refused to. The second time kind of killed me; I figured out pretty quickly that fishing all day wasn't really going to cut it for me, so I'm going to MY happy place instead.) After that, though, it seemed like it just went downhill. Circumstantially, nothing had really happened. But my thought life? Yeah... I blogged really in depth about it here as well as what I learned from it. I just started feeling down about everything. The country, people, morals, school, everything. And it was like I couldn't pull myself out of it; I just became obsessed with it. Which I learned is a big mistake. I become obsessed with things pretty easily. I don't like to admit that, because some of those things I am actually passionate about, and hearing that it's an obsession doesn't make you feel very good. But then again, when you're getting to the point where you're depressed about it, you probably should put some boundaries on it.

And, finally, I'm learning and reflecting on ways to do just that, which I'll go over.

But I'll tell you what happened first. I became interested in a lot of different things. One of those that I talked about in this post here was prison ministry and how it was something I wanted to go into. I won't say it was a phase because it wasn't; I still have that desire and feel passionate about that. But going more deeper, I think it was just this overarching goal to help people and make a difference. That wasn't a phase either; I still definitely have that. But I think it was a lot more intense then, where I would get so impatient and frustrated that I couldn't do anything. Then that just sort of morphed into an obsession, and whenever I heard of anyone doing anything I would get jealous and cynical that I would never do anything. That lasted all the way through eighth grade; I wanted to do things and just couldn't because of age or because the timing was off, my absolute favorite. Not. I was impatient then, and I'm still impatient, so I wouldn't be expecting any posts on how to deal with that anytime soon! You guys should be writing those for ME, haha. All mine would have is cry and throw a fit, maybe you'll get your way, maybe you won't. Sometimes I did, but lots of times I didn't. ;)

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So that, I think, is a summary of how I got to where I was. Again, I blogged more in depth about things I learned during eighth grade in this post. Looking back on my journals, those were the things that kept coming back, as well as a couple other personal things, too. The thing that I noticed is that these weren't any new feelings I had. I was feeling lonely in eighth grade, but I can also remember the night before school started in sixth grade, I basically threw a huge pity party and cried to my mom about the popular girls and how much I couldn't stand them and how great their lives seemed to be, blah blah blah. But yet, I didn't turn depressed or get cynical then. So I began to wonder, what changed? ALL of the things that I said had worried me or made me sad, none of them were new. In fact, there were times where they were actually worse, and I coped way better. So what changed?

I started investigating that, and I started taking note of the things you should do to be mentally healthy. Things that tap into each level of who we are as people, like the physical sides of us, and the intellectual, spiritual, etc. There are a lot of great Christian resources out there that my mom shares with me and that I find, too. Ha, if there was one thing I remember doing in eighth grade practically every night was stay up until eleven, twelve, one just reading on my phone, on these Christian blogs where I would go to their topics, find what I was interested in, and there you go, read about it until my eyes are dead. No seriously, my eyes are a mess now and that's probably why. It was the first year I didn't have to follow any time-to-go-to-bed-now rules; I could when I wanted to. Clearly I handled that responsibly, haha.

But really, when I thought about it, there wasn't anything I had done differently or that I had stopped doing. Physically, they say exercise is great for you. I still walked my dog, though not as much, but I also ran a lot during the summer because of cross country. I did cross country during my eighth grade year again, and you can read about how fun that was here. Spiritually, I was actually doing more than I ever had to be close to God: we had found a new church with inspiring classes, I bought a study Bible that was helping me understand the Bible more deeply, and obviously I was READING tons of articles at night haha. So I started realizing that there wasn't a lot that had changed, but I had changed.

I had let the temporary times of being down turn into patterns. I let them fester and let myself grow bitter and cynical, something I wanted to remain committed not to do, as I talked about a long time ago in this post over basketball. Patterns of thinking, really, are what make or break you. I was telling my mom, you know, some sadness and feeling down, that's just normal and inevitable. There are going to be times where I cry and vent about popular girls, or feeling lonely, or because I'm sick of waiting, haha, and that's normal and bound to happen. The problem began when I started making these patterns, when I stopped chasing the light, stopped chasing God for my joy, and instead was bound and determined to seal off the pain by hardening my heart, essentially. Then it became a pattern, and that's what killed it. It's hard to break patterns of thinking. That's why so many people are messed up and why you can't just sweep in and save their life. That takes TIME. It takes God time to break down those walls that people build, to abolish those patterns.

But I'm tired of living with mine. I realize now more than ever that it seriously is a choice. I got so weary of going back and forth, of one day we're high, but tomorrow we'll be low. And I'm realizing that if I don't want to think that way anymore, I have to surrender to God. I can't keep shutting Him out, thinking that these petty things I'll keep for myself. Yeah, I might feel awkward telling God some of the REALLY petty things that bother me, but that's what got me into this mess. Because I don't tell Him, and so then I keep them to myself, and I obsess over them, and they keep festering, and then before you know it, that's a pattern of thinking that gets exhausting and out of control.

But guess what? If you get yourself IN to one of those patterns, you can get yourself out. Maybe not on your own. Probably, definitely not on your own. You'll need God's help, for He's the only one who can fix a mind that's broken. I never understood why the Bible said to take each thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). I mean, I tried to obey it, but sometimes I really didn't know why it mattered, why each thought I had was such a big deal.

Ha. I completely get it now. Our thoughts are literally everything; how you think is for sure going to determine how you act. You know that quote that everyone probably thinks is cheesy, over watching your thoughts because they determine your character? Yeah, well, it is so true.

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When I was getting into prison ministry, that was actually kind of a beginning for my interest in psychology, but I didn't know that until later. Because I always wondered why some people behave so badly, or what motivates them to choose to commit a crime. That all leads back to the mind. It starts there, ends there. It's just like when the Bible warns about not hating someone because that's the same as murder (1 John 3:15). You might say, oh get a grip, how can hating someone be the same as actually committing murder?

Well, how do you think murderers make their decision to carry out their crime? Do you think they just wake up one day and say hey I think I'll go kill that person? Usually not. Now I know a lot of them do have some legit mental illnesses, but not all of them do.

For a lot of them, that's how it starts. It starts off by hating someone. And that hatred and anger, when left unchecked, continues to grow and fester—it becomes a pattern of thinking. And ultimately it consumes you, and then you act on it. It's the same with lust, too—the Bible says lusting after someone is the same as adultery. It's true. Adultery doesn't just happen—it starts with a thought. And what you do with that thought is up to you, but let it become a pattern and consume you...it might not be good.

And this doesn't ever mean you don't have bad thoughts. Of course we will; we're human, emotions are a part of our life. But this is why it's dangerous to let them go unchecked. It really IS a big deal, because big screw ups don't just happen. They start off with the little things. That's why I'm so passionate about having good morals, because if we can't have good morals in the little things, what makes us think we can have good morals in the big things? How you handle the little things ultimately is what defines your character.

But about getting out of these patterns, and about what I've learned through all of this. First of all, renewing your mind is absolutely essential. And making sure you're being renewed on all levels—not ONLY spiritual—is something that I think sometimes Christians can forget. Being spiritually renewed is critical, but we're also physical, intellectual, emotional beings, so you can't let those things go, or else you might feel down, and it may have nothing to do with you being distanced from God. I've also learned that going to Him is essential—don't hide things. Even the bad things that fill you with shame. Seriously, God knows it anyway, whether or not you tell Him. And He wants to hear it from you, that's how you have a relationship. That's how you get your mind renewed. It's incredibly hard to hate someone when you're praying, especially when you're praying FOR THEM. Why? Because God is not going to let you hate them. Not when your mind is on Him, and you're filled with His love.

This morning, I was feeling cynical again, just bashing people and not really caring. Yeah, what happened to my lovey-dovey blog posts about unconditional love? They became nonexistent in my mind when I let these thoughts go.

I think that's what really killed my mental health, is the cynicalness. Because I've been sad before and deeply down because of the reality of life, but the thing was, I always had hope, so it wasn't crippling (to see more on what I mean: read this post). It was more of a pure sadness for our world and longing for Jesus, whereas this sadness, without hope, turned ugly and selfish easily. Then it was about me being a victim, which is something I never try to be. I have more of a realist personality; I always have. I don't spout cliche lines just for the sake of being positive, so if I'm feeling sad, I will not try to fake it. But I also had a legitimate, authentic knowledge of the hope through Jesus, so I was fine. But take that hope away, and you're headed on a downward spiral.

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Now, as I'm completing this on June 6 and actually am a sophomore now and have published my reflections on freshman year, this is the biggest thing I learned, or maybe relearned. And I praise God I did because I don't want to fall into that gloomy way of thinking again. I remember praying, on the morning I began this blog post, for God just to work a miracle in my mind. I didn't know what to say other than that; I just knew that my down, grumpy thoughts were out of control. I didn't know how to fix it, so finally I just asked Him to. And then, as I'm going through the day, the bones of this post just came to me, and it poured out. I'm so thankful for His patience with me and what He's taught me about this.

It's like I said from what He showed me clear back in fifth and sixth grade: pain doesn't last forever. And there's always hope through it, so never, ever lose sight of that.

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