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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How Racing is Like Life Part 2

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Knoxville Nationals 2k18

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 Most Inspiring Music, Movies, and Books That I Love

Around three years ago I did a blog post talking about all of my favorite books that I also found to be really inspiring with life and faith. They were some of my favorite books as well at the time and still are; you can read all about them here! But now it's been around three years since then, and I've had the privilege of discovering a whole genre of music I was oblivious to, various movies that I found inspiring, and of course, more great books! I figured I would share some of my favorites that are also what I think are meaningful; entertainment can be meaningful! In fact, I really think it should be. I have yet to really blog about music before, except for a couple songs in this post here, or movies, so I'm excited to include them on this list as well! Most of these are distinctly Christian of course, but there may be a few on here that are more secular but still have elements of inspiration or faith.

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Music

Okay, so I was oblivious to this whole genre of music known as Christian contemporary music. And it's basically just how it sounds. I always thought that Christian music only consisted of, like, hymns, which I loved but were probably not going to end up on any playlists of mine for, like, everyday things. But enter the world of Christian contemporary music! I BECAME OBSESSED. I love pop music, which basically that's what this is, a modernized version of songs with just as powerful messages as the ones in hymns. I have tons of songs I've found that I love. Here are some of my faves:

"Battles" by The Afters: talks about God fighting your problems and is a great message for anyone going through anything. It has really helped me when I've had particular problems that seem recurring and like they don't go away. It's that boost of encouragement that God is fighting for you, even if you can only see the little things. It's really good, definitely one of my favorites.

"His Name" by Urban Rescue: another one of my favorites that kinda goes along with the song above. This one really goes over personal hurts, and this is very powerful for whenever you may feel depressed or broken about life. There's a lot of people I wish I could forward this one to, so definitely check it out. It's that quiet yet beautiful reminder that whatever you're going through, you're not alone. God will be with you and He alone can heal the despair in your heart.

"Afraid" by Tenth Avenue North: a great reminder for someone like me who worries and obsesses about literally everything, with a great, upbeat tune. It makes me nostalgic because I remember myself in eighth grade and all the things I worried about and how when I found this song, it was just what I needed to hear. Listen to it often; it's a good one.

"Runaway" by The Afters: I found this one working on my latest novel, and not only does it resonate with one of my characters (yes I have songs that go specifically with make believe people; welcome to the life of a writer), it is really good for anyone hurting inside, feeling unloved or unworthy, or anything along those lines. I don't know if this one specifically addresses faith like the above do, but The Afters are really good, and this song is very truthful and can be applied to the faith easily.

"Miracles" by Jesus Culture: WELCOME TO MY FAVORITE CHRISTIAN SONG OF ALL TIME. This song is slow and quiet, building into more power towards the end, but that really gets the mood and message of this song perfectly. I found this song at a time in my life where I felt very broken about the brokenness of other people and our world in general. It was a soft, moving reminder of how God can and will work through that in soft, moving ways, if that makes sense. It's the little things He does, the probing and convicting and soul searching, that are what changes people's hearts and therefore their lives, and this song beautifully portrays His power.

"Relentless" by Hillsong United: talk about a powerful, urgent message: the message of God's overwhelming, relentless love. The only thing that can change a person's life. Everyone should listen to this song! It's just perfect in every way!

"Because of Your Love" by Chris Quilala: I really like Chris Quilala, and this song by him does not disappoint. This is one of those songs that makes you envision people who really need to hear it, and it just makes you want to forward it to them with an urgency. For anyone who feels unworthy of God's love or who just needs the reminder of it (and don't we all), this is the song for you.

"Forgiven" by Sanctus Real: this is a song I've had to listen to often, as I am truly my own worst enemy when it comes to my relentless perfectionism and thinking I don't deserve things, much less God's love. But this song reiterates what the Bible's core message really is: that Jesus has taken all of our sins and done away with them; we are completely forgiven through Him. I love this one.

"When I'm With You" by Citizen Way: another song that is really special to me. During eighth grade, I had these recurring problems, and remember how I talked about getting my bad thought life and defiant attitude in this post here? Well, this is when some of my defiance really started to flare up, and I began to have these doubts due to my impatience with God's timing (surprise, haha, we all know what a patient person I am—NOT). But of course I didn't want to actually tell God any of this because I think sometimes there's this unspoken message sent by Christians that, well, you don't tell Him your doubts, or your frustrations, and I'm that type of person who is very guarded, and so telling GOD felt very scary. But this song...you just have to listen to it. It's just perfect. If this doesn't spark your prayer life to be completely authentic and vulnerable with God—which IS what He DESIRES from you—I don't know what will. It helped me learn that I can be real with God, that He can take it, and it won't lessen His love for me. In fact, through being honest with Him, even when I don't like it, that's how He can mold me and shape me into becoming better. So thankful for Him and our relationship, it really is the only one that counts... <3

"Love So High" by Hillsong Worship: a beautiful song about the love of God. This would be a good one to fall asleep to, and I've listened to it whenever I need to give my heart a break from the strain and stress of the world. Because seriously people, THIS is what matters in life. To know that God loves you completely. When you learn this—REALLY learn it—it completely changes the way you live your life. Because suddenly it's not all about YOU, because YOU know that YOU are taken completely care of in God. And it makes you filled to the brim with a desire to go tell people this, because what a world that would be... It's the only thing that can save a person's broken heart. But more on this in a book I'll share later in this post...

"Start a Fire" by Unspoken: I love this song because it reminds me of my desire to be a light and help people. Many of these songs were discovered at this time I talk about in this post here, and they were really special to me at that time and still have helped me immensely.

"Say a Prayer" by VERIDIA: another inspiring message about the brokenness of the world but how God can help each of those people and how we have an active role in prayer to help those people. Seriously, don't ever underestimate the power of praying for someone. This song is a great reminder of that.

"At the Cross (Love Ran Red)" by Chris Tomlin: a beautiful song about all Jesus did for us on the cross, THE most important message there is to share. I even wrote some blog posts all about that, here is one over what He did for YOU.

"Real Love" by Hillsong Young & Free: talk about a song that will get you fired up over God's love! I love this one.

"Here for a Reason" by Ashes Remain: okay just when I say this is my favorite Christian song, then I will find another one and be like, NO, this is it! Either way, this one is definitely top of my list. I even shared this for a music class I had to take in middle school in eighth grade because we had to find a song that means something to us. Well, I don't know if it gets any better than this, and it couldn't have come at a more right time for me than when it did: this song is all about knowing your worth and purpose in life. Another urgent message.

"Fierce" by Jesus Culture: like I said, I love Chris Quilala, and he's the singer of this song for Jesus Culture, and this is just another beautiful song that illustrates God's love. I love everything about this one, from the lyrics to the tune to just everything about it.

"Keeper of My Heart" by Kari Jobe: Kari Jobe is a beautiful singer, another fave of mine. And this song is beautiful. I listened to this my first week of starting eighth grade, and based on my feelings which you can read about here, it was the perfect reminder on how God is taking care of me, including the deepest needs of my heart.

"Forever" by Kari Jobe: this song is absolutely beautiful and perfect; it's one of the first Christian songs that really touched my heart in a way I'd never felt before. I can remember exactly where I heard it and why it was so special to me, too. Well, I first heard it at a Christian retreat I recapped here, but I was inspired to look it up again during the summer of 2016, at my grandparents' house, after hearing about a situation that absolutely shattered my heart. Sometimes in broken situations, the only thing that can really give you peace is to know that God is bigger than any of it, and He has conquered and done the impossible, and He can oversee it. Plus you just have to take your eyes off of certain situations like that and focus on Him. That is the only thing that can give you peace with some things—well, with anything, but sometimes you just really need that reminder. And this song was perfect for that.

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Movies

As much as I like to watch movies, I've often found that movies and TV are much harder to find when it comes to having good, inspirational messages. But I have found some good ones.

The Grace Card: I really like the message in this one, and it has an engaging plot. It's about dealing with bitterness and learning how to forgive, something that I definitely need the reminder of.

Grace Unplugged: this may be one of my most favorite Christian films, ever. I think this one hit close to home for me because it's about this girl who feels like she's being sheltered when it comes to her dreams by her parents, and maybe she somewhat is (that's not what I'm talking about when I say it was relatable though haha), but then she decides to abandon her faith and take matters into her own hands by going to Hollywood, pursuing a music career. I've often felt similar desires of wanting to take my own dreams big like that, and I've been guilty of craving the fame and fortune aspects of it. But I really liked how this movie offered a truthful insight on how that life isn't all it's cracked up to be. I also have the book that ties in with it, which is also wonderfully done.

I've seen some other good Christian films, but I don't know if they were my all time favorites like these ones were, just due to some inconsistencies or other small things like that. And I'm by no means a big TV person, so I don't really know of any inspirational TV shows, but if you have any recommendations, feel free to comment!

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Books

My favorite of them all... I have quite a few new ones to add to the list!

God Loves You by David Jeremiah: EVERYONE in the WHOLE WORLD needs to read this book. I'm not exaggerating at all. There are some books I've read that have changed MY life, but I know they wouldn't have that same effect on everyone. But this one... Wow. I don't care who you are, you really need to read it. It's one of the most urgent messages you could ever hear: the truth of God's perfect, unfailing love. I also love David Jeremiah's writing style. I've read various Christian nonfiction books by some different pastors, but I think his is my favorite. He has a way of being scholarly while still being understandable for people who aren't as into that. And if you ever read a book in your life, even if it's just one, it really should be this one. It is literally a whole book on God's love, and whatever you think you know about His love, this book will stretch your knowledge of it. I promise. Plus, one thing I really liked about it, is that he goes over some of the commandments and rules that God has set for us and how those reflect His love toward us. Because yes, you can be loving while still having boundaries and rules, something this society has forgotten. Rules are meant to protect you, and he talks about that more in the book. He also talks about some hot issues in society, like abortion, and where God fits into those and even how His love applies to that. Seriously, you just have to read this book. It's over the most urgent message this world needs. I also have a blog post about God's love for you here.

Ten Questions Christians are Asking by David Jeremiah: like I said, he's a great writer, and I read multiple books by him during eighth grade. This was another really good one of his. I bring a free reading book to all of my classes just in case, and I remember one time I had it just sitting out on my desk, and one of my teachers asked me if they could read a summary of it, so of course I was like go for it. With some of my teachers, I may know them outside of school or have heard enough to know that they are Christians, but then there are others where I don't think they are, just because of little things I pick up on that say otherwise. And this was one of those teachers where I didn't know where they stood in faith, but if I would've had to guess I would've said probably not. But I won't forget how there seemed to be this genuine curiosity in it, almost like that type of soul searching you hear that people do. And I just wanted to say, READ THE BOOK! You will LOVE it. Because the truth is, the questions in this book aren't JUST asked by Christians. They're a great introduction to the foundation of the Christian faith, questions like how you can find forgiveness or is there an unforgivable sin? In all honesty, that's why I bought the book, is because I wanted to know about an unforgivable sin—if there was one. Remember my worry about that I talk about in this post? Anyway, I just loved this book; the answers are far from generic. He answers each question thoroughly and precisely. I highly recommend it. And like I said, this is another one that is good for anyone: people with no faith or people with a serious faith.

Fifteen Minutes by Karen Kingsbury: this book reminded me a lot of a story kind of like the movie Grace Unplugged. It is about a guy with a very strong faith in Jesus, and he has a great singing talent. Anyway, he tries out to be on this singing show—called Fifteen Minutes—and his family is worried about what his new life of fame may do to him and his faith. I don't want to spoil anything, but I'll just say that it was something I needed to hear. I oftentimes find myself with a rather innocent desire like this kid—to be famous so you be a light for Jesus to as many people as possible—but that innocent desire can easily turn into something worse and bring bad consequences. It really shows you how the world of fame isn't all people dream of. I liked this one a lot.

Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey: a book I got at my retreat, I have to be honest with you: I don't remember as much about this one. It was two years ago I read it, BUT I do remember really, really liking it. It answers the tough questions people press against God in what I remember to be both theological and relatable, and it made me think of things I have never thought of before. And I actually shouldn't say I don't remember this book because there are some parts I do, because it shifted some of the ways I thought about God—in a good, more informative way. The one thing I will say about this book though is that I had my mom read it after me, and she wasn't as big of a fan of it because she thought it was a little too scholarly/theological than what she normally looks for, and I agree. Though I was like, oh I thought it was perfect to understand—BUT eleven year old and younger me also read through Revelation and thought that was easy to understand, so! I later found out how wrong I was, and sometimes I think I just act like I get the gist of things and I don't, so make what you want of that!

But in all seriousness, I did pick up on the fact that he does have a different style, and he's definitely more theological/scholarly than David Jeremiah; Philip Yancey requires more thought to be put into what he is saying, if that makes sense. It's not so much that he is smarter or anything because they're both very insightful; I think their styles are just different. But if you really like to dig deep into theological, deep matters like he does, then I think you would really like this. I loved it, personally, but I really like going deeply into things and having to concentrate on what I'm reading. However, my mom said there was a part near the end she really liked, where he basically summarizes everything he goes in depth into in the book, and so if these are questions you struggle with, I still think you should give this a read because you may find some good insight from it.

Wow, I think that does it! I'm so thankful I get the opportunity to learn and be inspired in my faith through other talented people. Let me know if you check out any of the things I listed and what you think!! Also feel free to send me recommendations! :)

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Summer Fashion & Modesty

Okay, I have loved fashion and wearing pretty things for as long as I can remember. It's obvious that my sense of style has definitely evolved as I've gotten older—despite the pink and sparkles, which is never going to change I promise. When I'm picking out new clothing, I try to focus on these three things mainly: how pretty it is (duh, you know I care about my aesthetics), how comfortable it is (I try not to sacrifice this no matter how pretty something is, but of course there are exceptions because I, like, really care about how pretty some things are), and then the last would be how it looks on me and if it remains true to my values. Since style is an expression of who you are, I try to make sure mine is consistent with the person I am, and that includes making sure I'm not conveying anything that goes against my beliefs.

There is, of course, numerous debates in the Christian world over what is modest or not on girls. I have even found myself asking questions like how much is too much, questions like whether I should buy a bikini or stick with a one-piece. I definitely think it's wise to consider modesty when making clothing decisions, because the Bible says our bodies are meant to glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), so we definitely should consider what messages we're putting out there when we dress. Unfortunately, I really haven't found Christian blogs to be that helpful when it comes to advice on modesty. I'd love it if they could just give me clear yes or no answers on whether it's okay to wear a bikini or not, but of course, you get this big long post that tells you just about everything but, instead leaving the decision up to you at your judgment. Which is fine. I understand that with a lot of these, there is no clear definition on what is too much, which makes it that much harder.

Personally, I think there are two extremes when it comes to modesty and fashion, and I don't agree with either one of them because I think both are degrading to women. So the first extreme is that women can't wear ANYTHING that is the slightest bit revealing or form flattering. I think that's degrading because there comes a fine line where it's like, that's how we're made, and trying to conceal that to the extreme is acting like we should be embarrassed or ashamed of how we're made. Yet then you get the other extreme, where women can dress anyway they want and just, you know, leave it ALL out there practically, and I think that's degrading too, because it's like have enough dignity for yourself to not just put it all out there for attention. So like most things, I think it's about finding a balance that works for you and your relationship with God. Like most things—and I know this is another cliche but just hear me out because it's true—it really does come down to your motives and attitudes for wanting to wear something. More often than not I see a lot of girls taking the second extreme where they are so flippant about what they wear, not caring at all about honoring God or themselves in their fashion choices, and they just throw out excuses like how He doesn't really care or it's not that important. Well, maybe these little choices aren't as important as some, but I can assure you that God still cares because the little choices you make on a daily basis are what end up defining you as a person whether you like it or not. I've been very disappointed with a lot of supposed Christians who repeatedly wear very revealing outfits even though they claim modesty is important, and I don't take their advice for anything in the faith as a result, because seriously, talk about hypocritical. If you're gonna talk the talk, you have to walk the walk, period. So that's something I try to be conscious of always, is making sure that I live up to what I believe.

Anyway, here are some of my summer outfits that I've put together. I figured I would post these so I have an excuse for making Grams take all of these pictures of me besides me being conceited. ;)

Well, first, I should show you what I used to wear—four years ago, so like when I was eleven and started this blog, I was obsessed with the store Justice haha, and so I had all the sets of tops and shorts to match... Oh, those were good days. I do miss some of their fashion pieces honestly because as I said earlier, PINK AND SPARKLES. You really don't find too much of that in the women's clothing, but don't worry, I'm going to scour everything to find out because you know the saying... If there's anything pink or sparkly, of course I want it. :) My dog was only a baby in this photo, too... Like where does the time go.

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I loved these sparkly shorts... I have yet to find another pair like them.

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Then I also started wearing a lot of sporty outfits because that was the big trend, but now I read fashion blogs so... Haha. They give me a lot of ideas, but above all I try to buy outfits that reflect my own style and not somebody else's because that's the fun in it, and you don't need to worry about being just like somebody else because you have your own personality.

Also, can we just take a moment with this photo... This was me in SIXTH GRADE, the night before it started. Also the first month of me writing this blog (read my first post here!).

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This is me on the first day of sixth grade. This was actually one of my fave outfits; I would still wear it if I could. For summer, my style largely consists of blouses or tees with jean shorts and sandals. I'm not big on accessorizing, but I have my ears pierced and so really I should be wearing different earrings because I have a bunch, but you know, maybe one day I'll get around to doing that...

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summer 2k17

So during this whole week I was with my grandparents last month (read all about it here!), I made Grams take a picture of me everyday because I brought my whole summer closet basically, so I had a new outfit to wear everyday. Some are more basic than others, but for simple days going to town those work fine. If I'm going to a dressier occasion, I definitely wear sandals instead of flip flops, and I also have a pair of dress pants that I'd pair with a summer, dressy top. Or I also have this dress I have yet to wear because I can't find an occasion that warrants it, but I could also wear that with sandals, too.

This outfit is one of the more basic ones with the simple black flip flops (they have glitter on the straps though!!!). I just wanted a basic pair to match outfits like these, and I think I got these ones on DSW for a really good price.

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I also have quite a few sheer tops in my wardrobe. I don't necessarily mean to buy them that way, but some are definitely more sheer than others, and usually the white ones are a lot like that. I can't remember where I read this, but if you're looking to get away with wearing a sheer top without anything underneath such as a cami (because I hate layering, especially in the summer), wear a nude bra. Seriously, it works; you can't see anything. I tried wearing white ones thinking that if it matches the color it would work, but really, wearing a nude one is the way to go. Also, with bralettes being a huge trend right now, you could also wear one of those underneath a more sheer top. I think this is also one of those situations where using your best judgment on modesty comes into play, too, because some sheer tops can easily not be modest—in fact I've seen girls wear completely sheer tops that are made just for the purpose of showing off a bralette, meaning you can easily see what they're wearing underneath. And I don't think that's very modest, but I think if you get a top that's more concealing with some sheerness and then want to wear a bralette, I think that's fine. I have a new bralette I have yet to really break in, but I think I do have a picture where you can kinda see the straps of it that I'll show later.

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Here I'm wearing a more casual outfit with my favorite pair of flip flops that are on the fancier side, they're Michael Kors! Haha. Unfortunately they're about shot, though, because I wore them so much.

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This is one of the more dressier tops below, along with the sandals. In fact I think I wore this exact outfit to a special event and just swapped the jean shorts for a pair of dress pants.

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So this top was kind of a struggle for me in the outfit below because I think I got it from my cousin when she asked if I wanted it, but it's just a little too big on me, but I liked it so much I took it anyway and thought, oh, I'll just make it work! Anyway, it does work well for the most part, but since it is a little big on me and I'm moderately tall, it's one of those awkward situations where if I pull it up, it's like a crop top on me, which I don't like, but if I pull it down too far, it shows too much in the chest area. So if my body looks like it's at an awkward angle in this photo that's probably why... But I was so happy I found a top to match these pink flip flops I'd had for awhile AND my purse!

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This is that same outfit except with my leather jacket over it. It adds to any casual summer look, if it's not 90 degrees out haha like when this was taken.

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Sometimes I'll also wear crops or capris. I like my pants to fit tight; I don't know why, but I've just always preferred that. I think that as long as your clothing covers what it needs to, I wouldn't be as critical about how tight or form fitting something is. I know some people have a fit over leggings and whether those are modest or not. Personally, I wear them everyday in the wintertime basically, and I'm okay with doing that because I usually wear chunky sweaters over them, so it's more a means of comfort than hey, look at my legs! Again, I think it really comes down to your attitudes on why you're wearing something and using your best judgment on something. I don't think there's any excuse for wearing clothing that is super revealing because MOST of the time those things aren't unintentional where it just kinda happens. Like if you happen to wear a larger v-neck shirt, that may be unintentional, but then are some tops that are low cut on purpose, for the point of showing off and revealing more. That's what I don't think is okay. And trust me when I say that you can tell the difference between people who are unintentionally wearing a top like that or people who are deliberately doing it. I remember seeing this one girl who wore what I thought was a really revealing top, but I decided to let it pass because I thought maybe it was just one of those tops where she couldn't really make it cover more. But after seeing twenty more pictures of her in various different tops that were all like that and some you know were designed for it, that's how I knew she dressed like that on purpose, and I thought that was upsetting because she was a Christian and even MARRIED, so it was like what are you trying to prove?

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Below is the photo with the bralette I mentioned earlier, where you can sorta see the straps. I think it adds a nice pop of color to an otherwise rather dull look.

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That's all I currently have on summer fashion, but if you enjoyed posts like this with fashion, just let me know and I could always do more! I'm by no means a fashion blogger, but I do like to buy what they tell me to. ;) I try not to break the bank either; I've gotten pretty good at finding designer items on sale if I do say so myself. Now if I can just find this dream Michael Kors crossbody I want on sale...

Also, hopefully my views on modesty make sense. If you're confused about what I mean by some of my views, just let me know, and I'll try to clarify. I also want to say that I'm NOT trying to act overly judgmental or nit-picky about these types of things. At least, that isn't my intent to make you feel that way. I don't want to be one of those Christians who makes up rules or goes by man-made religion along those lines, but I don't think modesty is about following a set of guidelines, I think it's about making pure choices that will best honor God and yourself. After seeing so many "Christians" completely not care, I just had to shake my head because it sets a terrible example. Knowing Jesus is about having a relationship with Him, but everyone knows that relationships are a two way thing, so to just not care about the little choices you make because you think He won't care is, first off ignorant, but it's also taking advantage of grace. And it's ignorant because God DOES care, but does that mean you're going to hell if you wear a top more on the lower cut side? Um, no, but again, use good judgment. If a top is way too low and you can pick a better one, then why don't you? Being modest is also about knowing your own worth in Christ, too, though: when you dress modestly, you're showing respect for yourself because let's face it, immodest clothes are designed for attention, but that cheap attention is not the meaningful kind you want—you want to be valued as a whole person and not just for your body, so I think we should dress like that. But hopefully this post can also show you that dressing modestly isn't some boring chore; you can still dress trendy, cute, and stylish while being modest at the same time.

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