A Prayer About 10th Grade

Dear Lord,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Jesus' name I pray, Amen

Ashlee


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

How Racing is Like Life Part 2

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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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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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What I Learned from My Reading Diet

I finished reading ten books over the span of a week. I had three nonfiction books I had been needing to read, and my OCD forced me to read them before I got busy on the seven books I bought—which was good, because I'd had them for awhile. I decided to spend as many days as it took just reading all of these. Not just for fun, though. This time, I was reading to learn.

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See, this is what happens when your writing goes stale. I have this writer's block chart on my Pinterest that has been a cool resource: whenever you feel stuck writing, it asks you simple questions over what you're stuck with, such as characters, style, etc. And then it gives you simple prompts and exercises to help get things flowing again. My problem was with my craft. It seemed like every sentence I wrote was crap. So for that it recommended writing only to please yourself and not a bunch of people at once—not bad advice at all for an overthinker and perfectionist like me. But that still didn't get me unstuck because my overthinking and perfectionism still took over. So then it recommended going on a "reading diet" because it will help improve your style, or it said to simply just get air and have time away from your story. So I did both, long story short.

As a writer, there's two types of reading: reading for fun and reading to learn. I wanted to do both, but especially reading to learn, that is, to help me improve my own writing. What I was surprised about, though, is how much I would learn not just for that but also about our culture and the things we believe, the messages that are portrayed in these books and what I've learned from reading them.

The nonfiction books were very good, over Christian themes that I could really take to heart. One of them was even over patience. And while it didn't change my life in the sense that waiting suddenly got easier—ha, when is that ever supposed to happen—it was still a good reminder for me. I'm learning, people, slowly, yes, but I'm getting there. Maybe one of these days I will even blog about what I've learned about waiting. Because if I can, then, yeah, there's hope for anyone.

From that point on, the rest of the books I had to read were all fiction, young adult, which is a genre that is written specifically for the teen audience. Besides Christian fiction, young adult is easily my favorite genre because, well, obviously. I'm right in the age group, so it's the most relatable—except when it's not. Sometimes it's not, when they do the little fairytale storyline crap that I hate. But sometimes it is. You have to find the right books. And oh my gosh, that is HARD. Finding the right books. I think I've just gotten so picky, but there's no variety in it, it seems. And then on those rare occasions when I find a book that I seriously love, I can never find any stories that are similar in what I like about it. Ugh. I guess finding what I DON'T like is helping me narrow it down... Slowly...

But anyway, enough on this. Like I said, I realized a lot of things while reading these books. And the books that I'm going to be talking about are the fictional young adult ones. I bought a whole series that I'd read the first three books of and had enjoyed those—clear back when I was in seventh grade, I believe, and the reason I know this is because I had pictured the hot guy as a hockey player I was obsessed with then—as well as a companion book to that series that I'd also already read, and then I bought two books that completed another series by a young adult author I really like. I liked the majority of the books I got, except for the two books at the end of that five book series. They were told from a different character's perspective, so I was skeptical about how much I would like them. But here's what I learned from all of them:

~There's so many stereotypical perspectives. We need new ones.

When it came to that new character, I couldn't relate to her. In fact, she really got on my nerves. It was like that stereotypical female leader type character, in the sense that to be a female leader the female has to tough, dominating, and snarky. Which I disagree with. There are plenty of great female leaders who don't fit that stereotype, ones who are more gentle or quieter. That can be the young adult genre in a nutshell, though, sometimes, is that it is FULL of the cliche characters. Especially when it comes to guys. You get the same bad boy personalities that are supposed to be portrayed as sexy and blah blah blah. One of my favorite YA authors—who was the author of the other two books I got to finish a series—I think she does a good job of creating realistic characters with varying personalities. She even writes young adult romance, but you can still see how the guys are flawed. And her female characters lean on the side of being more innocent and naive, and before her, I had never found a young adult author who wrote their characters that way, and I LOVED that perspective. As a teenager myself, I have yet to find stories that imitate how relatable those were for me, even if they were secular, too. That's kind of one of my complaints about the Christian fiction genre, too: the characters feel too plastic to me. Like it seems like they're gifted with way too much to the point that it's not realistic, and you don't get an honest portrayal of their flaws. There's this one author who seems to give all of her characters natural beauty, and it's like, okay, not all of us are blessed with that... But sure, we'll pretend to be happy for her when the guys just love her... Oh that's right, I forgot real people usually struggle with jealousy, too—that's what it would be nice to see more of.

~I still hate cliche endings.

Agh, those same books also had the worst endings. They were too fairytale-ish. I don't necessarily mind happy endings, but they have to be authentic for me, like I talk about here.

~More than that, I think I hate the way endings are wrote, period.

Okay, this one may be more of a critique of myself than the actual stories. I'm insatiable when it comes to the way endings are wrote. If they're too happy, I don't like that because it doesn't feel real—it's too cliche. But if they're too sad, then I'm left depressed (if you've never been depressed over a book, you don't know what you're missing, haha) and needing more. And, as I found out just recently with the conclusion to this other series by the teen author I love, I don't like it when they're too open-ended. NORMALLY open-ended types are my favorite because they're more of a middle ground: not too happy, yet not too sad. So maybe it was just because this particular series dealt with a hot guy who she only now got back with at the end of the story, and I would've loved to read more of him BEYOND A PAGE...

Endings aren't fun, though, especially when you're super engrossed in a story, and you feel attached to the characters. I have some characters I love so much, I could read book after book with them and never get bored. I suppose it's kind of like certain people, in a way. You have some you love to see and miss horribly when it's time to say goodbye, and then there are others where you're like get out of my life already...

~I would love to know the psychology behind why I get so attached to certain characters.

Seriously, it's almost insane. I have some characters I just don't forget, but I suppose if they feel real and relatable, you feel like you know them but yet you don't. After the conclusion of the series I loved, my grandma told me to call her to let her know how it ended because I was worried I would get the ending I did, so then I was ranting all about this guy and how much I loved him and how I didn't want to be done reading about him and how ONE PAGE is not nearly adequate enough. My brother thought I had lost my mind, insisting it was only a book. Well, you should see what his video games do to him, so I think I'm fine, and every other teenage girl would agree. This guy, though... He had finally just come around, and he was so sensitive inside and had such capabilities to think deeply, he was great. <3

Okay, I'll quit now, but I guess I definitely learned lots to put into my own writing. My grandma was telling me that now I'll know how to end my book, since I was so unsatisfied with the other series' ending. Well, I don't know about that, but it definitely got me thinking, especially about the power of good characters. I mean, this fictional guy, is like, awesome to me. He's FICTIONAL, though, but as they say, he'll live on in my heart... Maybe it's because in my head I pictured him looking really hot...? I don't know. Well, what I do know is that when it comes to me personally, I have my physical type of guy all down to a T, but personality wise? I have no idea. I guess I should just create a million male characters and see which one I fall in love with. And then somehow find a real life version. Ha. Like that'll happen.

Okay but in all seriousness, it has made me think even about the grand point of why I write fictional stories as a whole: there is something about them that, when done right, can resonate with people on a deep, knowing level, and that literally has the power to change their life. I don't know how or why yet—I haven't started my research psychology career yet—but it does. It really does, and it's not just because of hot guys, not ALL of the time, anyway. It's because when done right, the characters do feel relatable, and you can learn things from their struggles and pick out themes for all of this—all of the stories in the world—that all lead to something bigger than ourselves. And I know that that's God and what He has done for us.

As far as being done right goes, that really depends; there is no set definition of the perfect way to write a novel. But I think there's something to be said for those novels that are completely raw and honest, that show characters' vulnerabilities and inner darkness, and that depict great themes. That's my goal when I write, anyway, but everyone is looking for something different, which is why, as my writing chart says, it's important first to just write for yourself. And it is pretty amazing, what writing can do for its author. You can explore your own darkness and hurts, your own doubts and attitudes about life, all with your imagination. I can't get enough of it, and now, after reading all these books, I really am itching to write my own. Someone once asked me if I prefer to read or write, which one I liked better. It was a very tough choice for me because I've always loved to read, but as I've gotten older, there's only so much reading I can stand before I have to write my own stories. It's like a necessity, a way for me to release my thoughts and comb through them.

So now I must go do that, ugh, and pray I don't let my perfectionistic crap get in my way... That will come in handy for revising, but I've got to get it through my head somehow that YOU CANNOT REVISE WHAT IS NOT FINISHED...

Okay seriously, like I really need to get on that. But I also want to hear from you! What are your fave genres and types of stories to read? Any recommendations for me?! I feel so weird not waking up to read anymore because I read all my books...but now it's time to write my own, I guess!

Oh, one last thing—for reviews on some of my fave books, read this post here. It's from like three years ago, so I really need to do a new one now!!! That one took an emphasis on Christian fiction, but maybe this next one could deal specifically with young adult? Then you could hear all about the hot guys!!!

Okay. I'm done for real now.

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Bailing on Canada | Estherville & Okoboji 2k18

Long time with no writing! I was hoping to update my blog as much as possible over my vacation spent with family when my parents went to Canada, but we got to be so busy that it made it a lot harder. But I took tons of pictures, so I'm thrilled to recap this now!

I got home yesterday and just finished unpacking a little bit ago (as of 3:44 from June 23, 2018). I had quite the amount of bags to unpack: when I left, I had brought five bags. Yeah, I know that sounds like a lot, but since my mom was bringing her huge suitcase that I normally take for all of my clothes, I ended up bringing three bags of clothes. Yes, I brought the whole summer portion of my closet, and I'm glad I did: I was able to wear a new outfit everyday, haha! And I made Grandma take a picture of me everyday so I can post them all like the wannabe fashion blogger I am! Haha just kidding, but I am saving them for a future blog post on modesty.

I did only end up bringing one bag for my entertainment type things, and for once I brought only the bare minimum for those. So it all balanced out. And then my fifth bag was just my purse, so I don't know if that really counts. I ended up coming home with NINE bags though, but that's because they were smaller bags of things I bought that wouldn't fit anywhere else. I got a lot of good deals and things I bought that I'll go over, too!

First things first, my parents and brother went up to Canada with some friends, and it sounds like they had a good time! I already recapped our first trip to Canada as a family here, here, and here. I never did post our second trip, which was last year, and honestly that's because it wasn't too interesting on my end at least. I determined the fishing life isn't my life, so I mainly stayed at the cabin and read. Canada was still beautiful, though, and I did have pictures that I never posted, so I'll show you them below here:

*we went to Cabela's on the way up, Tobie's with amazing donuts, and attempted to feed deer
**Hunter caught a huge fish right off our dock when our parents were out fishing, so I helped him but he had most of it done himself, and then these guys in the cabin next to us had just come back from fishing and helped us store the fish—it's mounted in his room now
***on the way home, I got Arby's and went by the Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild


I already miss everyone and Estherville so much I could cry. It's always a blast, and I'm already making plans to go up again. I blogged some images of my first day there here. I went up to Estherville to stay with my grandparents a couple days before my family left for Canada. They were spending the night at my uncle's house, also, so I would have a few days to talk to them before they had to battle finding an internet connection. I had fun just hanging out with my grandparents and making the rounds at ShopKo and Dollar General.

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I had ordered some jeans from American Eagle that (finally!) came back in stock, so as soon as Mom and I saw that, we jumped on them and bought them and had them shipped up to Estherville because I would be up there when they came. Also about that swimsuit, that didn't get shipped until after we left to see our relatives up in the Cities, so I hope nobody has stolen it or the elements haven't destroyed it...because I guess Estherville is drowning right now with all the rain...

That night we made it a goal to walk down on their recreational trail everyday, so we headed down.

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This is random, but I was kind of proud of myself because I made it a goal to shower every single day I was up there (because normally when I'm up there I slack off and then always regret it because I have greasy hair in all of my pictures), and so I actually did that, AND I actually rotated through both of my shampoos I'm supposed to be using every other day, so yeah, now if I can just get that disciplined with my writing, Bible study, and fitness routines we'll be good.... I also had had horrible drainage for the majority of my time up there, but it got better with each day, and I had to take these horrible pills that tasted disgusting on your tongue, and they were so big that I about gagged on one of them each time I took them. Ugh. Good memories.

The next day, I went for a bike ride with my Gramps. It was cool in the mornings with a faint breeze, and since I wore an airy top it was bearable. We didn't get to ride bikes much later though due to the humidity and high temperatures. But we went on an extensive ride that day, clear down by the hospital and then headed south down by this church that always greets us upon coming into town. Then we had to find a place to cross the busy highway that goes through downtown, and it was uphill from there. We were definitely shot after that, but I loved it.

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He also took me for our truck ride!! No visit to Estherville is complete without one of those.

Grams also took me on some rides out to Fort Defiance, and I love being able to talk with her on those.

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My older cousin Kirsten who I'm super close to and who feels like more of an older sister than a cousin called us frequently, which is always fun getting to talk to her, especially past midnight when Grams is ready to kill us both. ;D

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We also went to their VFW to talk with some extended relatives. I enjoyed the company of everyone and was glad I put on that long-sleeved shirt, which Grandma nagged me to change into because it was freezing.

Hey look... It's me with Grandma in her signature pose, on the phone. ;) <3

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All the small town vibes <3

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My family also recently introduced me to Forrest Gump, and oh my gosh, that just may be one of my next favorite movies. So Grams and I watched it at night and only finished it in three days, haha. That's because she was too tired the one night and then too busy on the phone the next, haha.

The next day, we headed over to Spencer because Gramps got his windshield destroyed when a rock hit it when he was going to pick up Grandma after her trip. It turns out they ordered the wrong one, which he was not at all happy about, but we at least got to go shopping down at their little strip mall. It had rained heavily the night before, and thankfully we got back before more storms came, because Grandpa said that if it hailed on his car with all of the damage it already had he was going to drive it off a cliff... ;D

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I went into JCPenney with Grandma, and I found two new summer tops that were both up to 70% off! The material also felt really nice, too, and not at all cheap. Then we went to Hobby Lobby, a store Grandpa and Grandma love that I do also now, and their girly room decor took my breath away! I think it was supposed to be marketed at five year old girls, so I guess I'm still five...? I don't know, but I absolutely loved it.

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Then at Hobby Lobby, I got this frame for my room. It's hard to see completely what it says because I haven't taken the packaging off of it yet, but it says "Live big little girl." I liked that a lot, even though I don't know if I'm so little anymore, but I probably act like one with all of my far fetched dreams and fantasies. ;)

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We did our nightly walk again, and I believe we also went to the Dollar General again. I can't remember what day this was, but on one day Grandma had to go to the Dollar Store so many times—I think five, no lie—and Gramps was so exasperated, he was like, we should move it to our front yard. ;D

Here I'm under the bridge that goes over the trail downtown. It has a weird echo, and every time we walk underneath it I morbidly wonder about it collapsing on us... I'm sure it's fine though, and it is definitely different to walk underneath it, but I like it. The trail is a blast to walk on and so is the Swinging Bridge.

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The next morning I bought six donuts at Casey's because they had some deal going for that. And I ate all six of them over the span of two days. My diet is so good, you guys. I don't even know what to do about it, except keep eating. :D

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I actually did do some sporadic writing on my book, and there were some times just driving around the town, under the perfect sunset, that my heart seemed to just swell with the story and the themes and the thoughts I had that I just can't get over until I write about. If that's not motivation to write, I don't know what is. So I am going to seriously start working on it.

We went to the library later just to look around. I wanted to get a feel for the young adult books, to get an idea of any I might want to buy. I am SO picky about the books I read anymore because they are all so redundant—especially YA. As if teenagers can't handle any deep things of substance. And sometimes they will put deep problems in the books, but you know what is always missing? DEEP THEMES. I don't know if I was in the best of moods after reading all the summaries, haha. I have such a deep desire to make my stories different from the norms, but who knows if that even sells? Even most of Christian fiction is repetitive and fluffy: sure, they give their characters problems—that are all miraculously solved. It's annoying because it's not authentic.

But anyway, enough on that rant. I LOVE their library. While ours is more modern and sleek, theirs is more classic and timeless. I think I like their look more to be honest.

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They also have the best furniture and these cute tables that I loved. I also like how theirs is two stories. The library gives such a fancy addition to the downtown.

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I got to go eat out with Grams at Godfather's again, and then we hurried home to see company and had some nice chats. I always love being able to talk deep with her though. 

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Their town is so pretty, I love committing it to memory. <3

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I did stay up late working on the draft of a letter to you know who that I've been promising on here, but it got late and you know how Grandma gets when it's "too late," and then we went to meet my cousin Kirsten the next day (yay!!!) so I never got time to finish it up there. I will eventually, though.

For a year, Kirsten and I had been planning to go jet skiing over at Okoboji, and we had set money aside to rent one. We also had other plans to do things, and we got mostly everything we wanted to done. Both of us had just recently bought leather jackets, so we wanted to get tons of pictures together. We made poor Grams come out with us to the Swinging Bridge where we bossed her around with different photography commands. I'm sure she was close to throwing us off the bridge, but we made sure to thank her profusely, especially since she actually got quite the batch of good pics haha!

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Then we made Grams take us out to Fort Defiance, too. :)

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We had some downright hilarious photos as we attempted to get this one:

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Kirsten requested that we eat at Godfather's, which of course I wasn't going to deny just because I ate out the night before. We were rowdy when we arrived—we were the only ones there—haha. And then when we went to ShopKo, Kirsten yelled "I gotta go pee!" a little too loud, right by a worker, haha. Memories. Since I'd gotten pizza the night before at Godfather's, I decided to try their chicken. It was so much better than what I remembered it to be; I loved it.

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Kirsten and I also went for a bike ride around the neighborhood.

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We brought Kirsten with on our nightly walks and of course made Grams take more pictures.

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That night we did our nails, and I finally used some of my polish from my large collection of nail polish I've neglected since 6th grade (right Mom?). It was a blast, except I'm so slow and messy when it comes to doing my nails. I need to do it more often.

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We stayed up until three something talking about everything: guys we like and our types of guys, inside jokes, deep questions that are going into my book, psychology, creepy stories, our memories, etc. I love having someone like her to talk to.

The next day was going to be the day we had planned for: jet skiing at 'Boji and all the fun things around there! There was a place to rent a jet ski just off of Arnold's Park. We wanted that so we could have something as a landmark so we didn't get lost out in the lake haha.

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Jet skiing was so awesome. Seriously. It affirmed my dreams to live on a lake and get a bunch of toys for the water, a jet ski now being top of the list. We didn't venture too far away, but we did go out to the center of West Lake Okoboji. Maybe if we're braver next time we'll go under the bridge that we drive over coming into Spirit Lake like we saw some other people on jet skis do. :) We also couldn't have asked for better weather. It was a blistering hot day, but honestly, those are the days you want because the water is cold if not, and the coolness of the water on your skin is that much more refreshing when you're out there. Plus, you do get WET, as we found out, so if it's hotter outside you dry off faster.

We rented a jet ski for half an hour, and I made Kirsten drive. ;) I think she was worried about it, but she did a great job. We rode it as fast as we could (only like 7 mph...for some reason I thought they could go up to 70 like a car and I have no idea why I thought that haha). She was also smart about her driving, too, though, because the last thing we wanted was to tip over! And there were some solid waves out there because it's a very populated lake. We made sure to slow down for those, but I absolutely loved each second of it. I let my arms dangle around Kirsten's waist and made sure I stayed snug against her so that I wouldn't fly off, but I really think that's harder than one imagines. Both of us agreed we would do it again, and hopefully we can! We didn't think we would get as wet as we did but wore a spare change of clothes just in case, and I'm glad we did. The water temperature was just right: my bare feet were getting scorched as we walked down to the jet ski, but letting my feet rest on the sides of it where the water collected felt amazing. Kirsten took the brunt of the splashing waves, haha, while I ducked behind her. But being the back, water would spray up from behind and splash me, too. I absolutely loved it. I wish we would have gotten more pictures of us on it, or that we had a Go Pro. We both agreed that if we ever become rich like a lot of the people over here, the first investment we're going to make is a photographer who can follow us around and take pictures, haha. :D

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At first we didn't know if we'd be able to get to go jet skiing but had a backup plan of going canoeing if not. I'm so thankful we got to go jet skiing though. I'm very thankful that God blessed us with those moments together. For years we've driven over the lakes, and I've watched as all of the people had their fun on the lakes, and so it was really special to finally be able to get to be a part of that. I hope we can do something like that again next year, and who knows, maybe one day I will make my dream come true of having a lake house on 'Boji. ;)

Okay, then there were these pictures when we were done that Grams took. They crack me up. I just love how our movements are completely identical to each other—in this picture we look like zombies or something, and then Kirsten has an even better one of us where we're looking over to the side and we LITERALLY look like the real BigFoot. Yeah, I can see that one: two BigFoots spotted live in action on the coast of Arnold's Park.

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The lake life in 'Boji? Heck yes. Canada? Sorry, but I had my two years and was more than ready for this change of pace. ;)

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We went into a nearby restroom to change into drier, fancier clothes. And then got pictures!!! Duh.

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They've been making some new changes to the park, which look awesome. I thought it would've changed in appearance a lot more than it has, but I'm okay with that because I wouldn't want the look to be unrecognizable. But Kirsten and I went walking through all of the shops, and there was this new museum for rock and roll and a new fun area with this huge slide we might try one day haha. Then up at the Emporium, they have a brand new Lilly Pulitzer store. OH, MY GOSH. I died, because I've always admired Lilly Pulitzer from afar and wish I had the budget to splurge on their clothes. The shop was so cute, and I found two tops easily I would've loved, each only $100! Not. I totally don't have a budget for that right now, but maybe one day... Nonetheless, I'm glad they have the store; it's adorable.

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We also did the free Mirror Maze and Tipsy House inside the park, which are always fun. We got gum balls from the golf course I've always wanted to golf at and even won a yellow gum ball, which means a free round for one person to golf there! So then we made Grams take this picture, too:

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We went to go eat at the Spirit Lake Dairy Queen (it never fails). Originally we had wanted to eat at a restaurant on the lake, but they were unbelievably crowded. Kirsten and I tried to check out one, and you could barely walk.

We actually got Gramps to go mini golfing in the park with us! Since it was Father's Day, he got to go free. It was actually way cheaper than I expected it to be but very crowded. It wasn't horrible though. I really enjoyed it, except it got a bit long after awhile especially with the heat. Every once in awhile there was a breeze. Ha, actually there was a breeze a lot, because our balls kept going all over the place, and Kirsten's and my hair kept flying everywhere during pictures. It was fun though, and I'm glad we got to do it. Grams kept score for us; I don't think golf is her thing. We always joke with Gramps about mini golf because a long time ago he went mini golfing, got mad, and hit the ball clear over the highway! Normally that's how I feel because we went mini golfing the year before, and I did absolutely horrible. Gramps beat us by a lot, and Kirsten and I almost tied for last, but Kirsten lost by a couple more points. Kirsten's ball really liked her: it kept coming back down the hill to the starting point hahaha.

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Gramps also took us for truck rides, too, which we enjoy. We went on the Swinging Bridge again, too.

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On a ride around town, the sunlight peeking through the clouds was an awesome sight:

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Kirsten wanted to watch Forrest Gump with me since it had been years since she'd seen it, so I was more than happy to because I'm obsessed with it! We stole some of Grandma's M&M's from her food she was saving for circle at church the next day, and I sprinkled them on my popcorn. We paused the movie for awhile though to talk with Grams, which I loved. Kir and I had some honest talks that I loved getting to talk with her over, like our unfiltered, raw thoughts on different types of people. It felt good to be able to connect like that. You know, the more I think about how lonely I feel, what God has lain on my heart is that I'm not as alone as I thought. At school, yes, and in my faith, yes. But He knows how to send just the right people, like my cousins. Getting to talk with Kirsten is like getting to talk with the older sister I wish I had or the best friend I've been wanting. I appreciate that so much. I also love that we can have our own inside jokes, jokes that are better off not told with Grams in the room...haha. :)

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The next day, Grandma had to lead circle for church. We were planning to go to Spirit Lake afterwards just to check out Walmart. Kir and I went for a bike ride while we were waiting. Grams had to be at church early to get ready, and the route we took led us by the church, and we saw her car. So we were like, let's stop and say hi! So we did. The church was quiet and black, with hardly any lights on. Kirsten and I were trying to find her, but we couldn't. Evidently she was outside and then tried to hide from us with one of her friends. It was funny. Their church is decorated really nice. What was even FUNNIER, though, is what happened a half hour after Grams said it would be over. We wanted to hurry and get over to Spirit Lake because Kirsten wanted to check out a consignment shop that would be closing soon, so we decided to walk down to the church since it wasn't that far away. On our way over there, I made the comment that what if Grams drives right by us? We were hoping we could find her and then just get a ride back.

We got down by where the church was, and then Kirsten and I couldn't remember which road it was we took that led us to the front of the church. We started down one road, but then we realized that it would probably take us by the back of the church, so we'd have to walk around. I told her to keep her eyes peeled for Grandma, just in case. Then all of a sudden from the road over a block, I see her driving by. I quickly yell to Kirsten that that's her, so we actually RAN to the end of our road to go meet her. Mind you, Kirsten and I do not RUN, and we were certainly not dressed in running attire. We must have been a sight: running as fast as we possibly could right down the middle of the road, waving our arms and yelling. And Grandma? We watch as she drives right by us, not even slowing down. Kir and I were exhausted, and then we had to walk all the way home. Haha, good times...

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Shortly after we made our way over to Walmart in Spirit Lake. I sucked on gum balls that we got from trying to get a bunch of yellow ones for mini golfing, haha. Mom says this looks like my tongue. Yeah, I wish I had a pink tongue, that'd be interesting.

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I think Kir was kind of disappointed in their Okoboji clothing selection. I stayed by her to help her pick something out, but she couldn't find anything really. Then we went to the makeup section together and talked about some of our fave makeup brands and which ones we haven't found to be the best. We really waned to look at the nail polish in particular. When we did our nails, I had let Kirsten borrow a gold color I had, and so she wanted to find one like mine. We also wanted to find a rose gold color, and I wanted a bright neon pink color. She found her gold, and I found my colors, too. Then we did self checkout, which I just LOVE.

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It was our last night to walk, so we enjoyed doing that together. Grandpa would always drive us down and drop us off by the Rock Garden, where the trail begins, and then he parks down by the Swinging Bridge.

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We finished watching our movie, and Kirsten and I got preoccupied making food Instagram accounts. It was her idea; we decided that since we have so many pictures of our food, we should make accounts for them, haha. You can follow mine here!

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After that we had to take Kirsten back. :( The time with her flew; I wish we had a lot more. The three of us, my grandparents and me, were headed to the Twin Cities to see relatives. My other older cousin, Amanda, just graduated this year, so we were going to help them get ready for her graduation party. I am also very close to Amanda like I am Kirsten. I love getting to talk with her, too. We had a blast together and got to do everything we wanted to do. On the way up, Kirsten wanted a donut from Casey's, so we got an awesome breakfast.

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When we made it up there, Amanda and I convinced Grandpa to take us to Marshall's. Kirsten introduced me to that store last year, which is a store with expensive stuff for really cheap. I got this plain black tee I'd been needing from Ralph Lauren for half its original price.

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We had Wendy's for supper, one of Gramps' faves. He also likes Hardee's, and when we were back in Estherville, I introduced him to their shakes, which he didn't even know they had.

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Amanda and I had fun going on Pinterest looking up pins of hot guys, looking through her collection of books, and bugging Grams by keeping her up until two thirty. On our first full day, we decided to go to Barnes and Noble, our favorite.

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Afterwards we went to a nearby mall and checked out some stores. I got a few things there that were on sale from my fave store, though not as much as I thought. So I had a lot of money left over, even after buying three books. They also had the cutest puppies there in a pet store!! We had been to this mall last year, and I fell in love with them then. I wish they would let you hold them...

Two out of three books I got I liked. One was from a series I had already read and loved, but I wanted to buy it for myself. Another was the first book in a series by an author I loved because of their other previous series. And that series is actually being made into a movie on Netflix, and I'm already cringing over it. I've never read books first and then had movies made after them. Usually I see movies first, and then I go read the books. I know some people think that's weird, but my reasoning is that I can't stand it to go to all that work visualizing people in my head and having everything ruined by the movie. Which is happening with this! I was telling one of my older friends this clear back in December when I saw who they had got casted for all the people. They're, like, slaughtering everyone in my head. There's supposed to be this boy in the books who's like your stereotypical hot guy, right? And the actor they got to play him, oh my gosh, I just can't. I love his hair, but that's it. It just goes downhill from there. And then there's supposed to be this nerdy guy who's also supposed to be cute that the girl likes, and the actor they got for him literally looks like he has the face of a five year old. I know that sounds awful, but I'm serious. I had to do a double take when I saw him, like what character is he even playing?! And then there's supposed to be your boy next door guy who's supposed to just be average looking...and he's hotter than all of them combined. It's a mess. But I'm going to watch it anyway, and probably cry over the fact that the boy next door is cuter than supposed hot guy. You just don't make that mistake. It's unforgivable.

Anyway, that's super off topic. The last book was a new one I had bought, over a girl with mental illness and who meets this cute neighbor. I already had my concerns about it because I absolutely hate it when there's someone with a ton of problems and then someone else comes in to save the day. It actually wasn't like that though, it was way too slow and almost didn't even have a plot I thought. But you know, being a writer, I don't think reading a book is ever wasted, even if I didn't like it. A) It still helps that I'm reading, no matter if I like it or not. It's good practice. B) If I don't like a story, that helps me narrow down what I want to write about. Like okay, I wanted to read this book about forgiveness, but I felt they didn't dig in deep enough, so in my book I'll go way deeper, for example. The more I read, the more I want to write. This sounds bad, but I think it's because I honestly don't like the way books are wrote anymore. Like I mentioned earlier, they are all the same thing practically. It inspires me to write my own books, books that are diverse and interesting and authentic and deep. I really do need to get writing, I miss it so much.

I still have a blast reading, though. Amanda and I were holed up in her room, me sitting on the bed or floor with a blanket and her on the opposite end reading on her phone. I finished all three books in the two full days we were there. It was so much fun; it gives me so much joy. Then with my leftover money (and her family gave me money as a late birthday gift, thank you!!!), I bought five+ new books on Amazon last night because they're much cheaper on there, so you can buy more. I can't wait. I wish they would come sooner.

We also went with Grandma to the store, and Amanda and I were just a little embarrassed when we were checking out, and they tell us that you can get another box of donut holes free since we bought one. We were already done checking out, so Amanda and I said to just forget it, but Grams goes running back to get one, and then we're just left standing there when someone is supposed to pay... The guy behind us made some joke about how he would have bought them too or something. It was amusing.

On our last full day, we went to Target. I bought this planner I needed for next year, for $16... It was pretty and thick with lots of space to take notes and places to record specific times, which my old planner didn't have. However, I'm that girl who uses a planner diligently for the first few months until gradually by the end of the year I don't use it at all. So I hope this doesn't happen with this one. But $16, that may be motivation to not slack off...

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That night we went walking down to Walgreens together with Grams. By their busy road and everything...

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That night, Kirsten called Grandma, and Amanda and I put her on speaker so that all three of us could talk. Honestly, how do you even describe the warm feelings you get in your heart from moments like that? From being understood and just getting to goof around over inside jokes and everything? They're like the best friends I don't have, and I'm so thankful God has put them in my life.

The last day, my family came home from Canada and was going to stop and visit with their family for awhile. The visit was really nice, and I enjoyed getting to see everyone. The week flew by, but it was a great start to my summer.

On the way home, I was heading back with my family. Going through the Cities, we passed this big, sleek building that had to do with neuroscience. Sometimes I am filled with a sense of longing as I contemplate where I'll be in my future. I don't know why, but sometimes I think of myself dressing professionally, working in a big city in a pristine building like that. It's probably a shallow desire—after all, that's the American dream, and I hate to be one of those people who wants the cliche things everyone else does. But only God knows, and if I can give Him glory through a position like that, then I'll do it. More Christians need to be in positions like that, and I'd be more than willing to do it.

Here is back in Iowa... Man, I do love my state, though. I have a hard time thinking that I'll move away from it, but I know that all depends on jobs, my future family, etc. But no matter where I end up, I'll be thankful I was raised here.

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My dad picked out a souvenir for me from Canada. I never did get a souvenir from Canada when I was up there because I never found anything that really caught my eye. However, what Dad got me far exceeded my expectations. I don't think I could've asked for anything better. This pretty dreamcatcher is a representation of the Native American culture up there, and it's so gorgeous that it will definitely be used as a decoration in my room.

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I am so thankful for these memories. It has been the perfect boost to my mood after freshman year. I regret spending the better half of freshman year being such a baby about things and letting myself develop mindsets I never wanted to have. But I am so thankful that God is faithful and that He never gives up on me. I hope I can get right with Him this summer, too, back into the healthy thought patterns He's helped me have. And I know He will. I had to do a lot of growing up during 9th grade, but I'm thankful for that. Looking back on it all, it was worth it.

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