The Most Inspirational Days of My Life

Sometimes I’ll be out doing something with my family or just having some time to myself in the middle of a school day where I think and reflect on my life when it hits me. How grateful I am for my life or, more accurately, going through life with God as my best friend and letting Him be in control. I wanted to share some of these moments or days that God has blessed me with to grow me as a person and inspire me to live the abundant life He wants all of us to have (John 10:10). And, the thing is, not EVERY DAY has to be great or even remotely significant to make an impact. Sometimes, the worst days of your life can even be the most inspirational. You don’t think this at the time, of course—something I will address in a bit—but God uses those just as much as He does the good days. It’s often because of those challenging seasons that make those moments of reflection so much sweeter and rewarding on all that He has done and carried me through. So let’s get into it—the most inspirational days of my life, and I want to hear what yours are, also.

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Shopping days. I have some fond memories of going shopping with various friends, and I remember talking about deep issues while bonding over that shared time. It makes me realize how a lot of those things, shopping, eating out, or whatever it may be, are just as much about being with people as they are the event itself. And I’m very thankful for the memories I have with people who have taken me shopping. :)

Hunter’s doctor appointments. This might seem like a weird thing to put on here, but being around my family and observing how they have learned to release his health has been very special to see how God is honoring that and taking care of him and, more importantly than that, giving us the faith we need to trust Him always. I also loved getting to be in the city—shock—and remember dreaming about future careers (because I would always see different psychologists or other professionals in the medical field, or one time we were in a waiting room overlooking the skyscrapers* outside and so then I would think about if I worked in one of those), future guys and what my husband would do for a career, and just my longings and having to trust in God for my own future.

*Yeah, I realize we don’t have “skyscrapers” in Des Moines, Iowa, because I said this one time, and my family made fun of me. I am just a small town Iowa girl, so they look like skyscrapers to me. ;)

Nights at Knoxville. That shared camaraderie with family as everyone has their people to talk to and that sense of everyone belonging and fitting in their own roles while being entertained at one of these events is priceless. Those are the kinds of memories that stay in your heart, like I talk about here.

Struggling in school. There was quite the variety of drama throughout middle school for me, but I remember how God put special teachers in my life at just the right times, and they helped me greatly in determining the truth amongst a society that preaches lies. I talk more about this here. Even the drama with my friends all ultimately made me who I am today, and I had to go through it like every other teenage girl to get where I am now and to own my faith like I have now. But there were also those brief funny moments or times of fun where you are thankful for that break of being able to laugh and enjoy life even if you’re not exactly where you want to be.

Car rides with family. On our way to Estherville and traveling across the state under various times of day, like sunset or nightfall or in rain or cloudiness or sunshine, I just remember enjoying that and it was always a time for me to think and reflect. A time to give me this blog post idea. :)

Having Willy. Having our dog become part of our family and going through his life with him has been a blessing, one that you often don’t realize is so special until after that time has passed, like when I was able to pick him up! You can read more about him here.

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Taking Willy on walks. Having revelations about ideas for books and thoughts laid on my heart from God as I’m taking in His beauty to relax and unwind, always while listening to my favorite music I had just discovered, in the heart of summertime, and then taking pictures of all the gorgeous views from the country, are some of my favorite days. Somedays I would walk specifically because I was stressed or upset, but talk about a way that God can help you when you do feel that way. Probably why my heart will always gravitate towards summer, too.

Nights at the lake. Fishing with Dad and just daydreaming about story ideas or enjoying nature once again. Dad would sometimes take me to do that when I was stressed and the weather was nice. It was always a great getaway.

The early days of putting together this blog. That joy that is always running through you when you begin a new project and trusting God to use this blog, though I would not have guessed it would mean as much to people as it is, and I’m very grateful and thankful to God for that. You all have inspired me. <3

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Nights persevering at intense basketball. Having to push through comparison issues for the first time and the start of my days of crying all the time. :D While I have great memories of playing basketball and enjoying the game and feeling of being active, it brought with it quite a bit of heartache as I struggled with not feeling good enough. But again, God used that immensely to help me know my worth in Him alone. I talk more about this here.

ALL the times spent with family in Estherville. This is my grandparents’ small town, and I won’t be redundant, I literally have a whole blog post dedicated to this town and what it’s meant to me you can read here. The bonding with family and our deep talks over real struggles have been absolutely priceless. So much of my development in faith and as a person has taken place here. Read that blog post for all the details on that; it’s really been such a gift to me.

Playing Minecraft with Hunter. Bonding with my brother through that game on the Xbox in the summertimes when I had to babysit because our parents were working and our memories of our epic fails and having fun building things together. Although too often than not we would end up fighting, but it was mostly a bonding experience! ;)

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Hockey games. I need to write more about hockey because I love it *almost* as much as shopping, so that’s how you know it’s high on my list! Going to my first hockey game with my family, I was skeptical but loved the environment—it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and take that as you want, ha—and then this has remained a constant in our lives, a way for me to release stress and enjoy time with family. It’s also been crucial for my development as well, like when I thought I was sick one time because of something I noticed that night but then learning to trust God and enjoy life while I have it—in that moment. I also have witnessed the (sometimes) trashy environment or the potential for that, just like what is prevalent at any event, and learning to love God all the more and be close to Him. He blesses me with nights like those, and they are not sins, but they have the potential to be if one is not pursuing Him and chooses to indulge in worldly things. I also remember writing to my future husband because hockey players sure have a way of making me dream hahaha, dreaming about the city again because THE VIEWS from Wells Fargo Arena—they should get a location award, honestly, and dreaming about going on DATES at a hockey game. ;)

AND SEEING ZACH PARISE made my life and was proof of how dreams do come true and God does care about those seemingly more shallow things because him coming down to the Iowa Wild was truly a once in a lifetime thing. I remember we bought tickets on a whim, like, the night before or something. It was awesome. And there was this one night not too long ago when I didn’t want to go to the hockey game because I felt down about life and stressed, but God worked out the most amazing, “small” thing that was like a miracle to me. It’s those little moments that come when you know God intimately and He knows everything about you, and those little moments that may not seem like much but are so special because of your relationship and how He works. Hopefully that makes sense, but hockey games have truly been a blessing He’s given to me. That’s why one day I want to marry a hockey player haha ;) <3

Also, when I was first getting into hockey and had my crush on that hockey player, it actually did push me to grow in my trusting God with my future husband and helped me narrow down what I wanted in a guy in the future. Oh my gosh, I literally remember being stressed because I thought my hockey player was so cute but knew I would never have him (he’s married and twice my age hahaha), but then I began to worry about if God really could find me another guy as cute or if He even cared about shallow things like that. I literally prayed those things! :D And it is what led me to one of my favorite books, “The Chase” by Kelsey and Kyle Kupecky that I talk about here. And yes, God does care about all of that, I have had quite the few experiences that show that. :) But I will write much more about this in future, but for now, read this post and this post.

Reading books at school. Craving that time for free reading so I could pick up where I left off when I was really into a good story that was truly authentic and inspiring and reading throughout my study centers in middle school. Unfortunately in high school there’s never built in time for this, and I feel like I haven’t read in forever. :( But it makes those memories that much more special. Oh, how much reading I did in middle school! And probably read through some mature books that were way above my head, but hey, I think I’m doing alright, and that’s how you grow, right… :) This was also true when I was reading for leisure at night on my Kindle and all the things I learned as I began to grow into a teen from reading young adult fiction. ;) My dog would lay with me, too, and I remember just plowing through books and, with series, always asking Mom if I could buy the next one ASAP because it was so good, and then at the end of that year (sixth grade) they would have a party for kids who read a certain amount of books, and there was all this ice cream and wide array of toppings. It was wonderful and even more special because I genuinely loved reading also, and that in and of itself gives life meaning.

The beautiful trip to Florida. Experiencing the world more deeply for the first time in my life and how big it is and my appreciation for my own life and my yearning to explore more and reach more people. I also remember a car ride home at night from our last day when we went deep sea fishing and talking as a family about how thankful we were for the trip and our lives and growth. Read all about it here. Definitely one of the highlights of my life.

Hanging out with my friend and our ideas we came up with as we developed and tried to make meaning of our lives. We would come up with stories and act them out. We were young, and I have great memories of doing that.

Going for walks with Grams and her always listening about my stresses and big dreams, and the memories of location like walking in the early mornings to Casey’s or around town at sunsets.

Time with my girl cousins and our bonding, watching movies, being goofy, taking pictures…I write about this here. Amanda came down one time, and we enjoyed being together after my family took a loss, and Mom and Dad went to have their fun at concerts while we got to talk deep and enjoy what matters in life with Gramps and Grams and just had fun going for walks in the summertime and more you can read about here. Kir and I went jet skiing also, which was another top experience of mine.

Dreaming with my friend while we would walk and talk about shopping and things we wanted, our dreams for our futures, and always (well, me, anyway) having BOYS on my mind and her being patient with me as I talked about my various crushes over the years. ;) Thankful for those memories. We also did cross country together and would run with each other at practice. I remember how nervous we were for our first meet but how I told her (and myself) to put it into perspective, and what is its impact in the grand scheme of things?

Getting involved in church for the first time and my deep talks with Mom at night as we would drive over. This led to my increasing hunger to read through my Bible for the first time, and I started doing that shortly after and finished that following summer. There was also my longing for a friend there, but that all led me to deeper relationships with adults and that shared fellowship because of what God has done for us was amazing to see.

The intense season of school basketball. Those early morning basketball practices and having to learn to be independent by setting my own alarm so I’d have enough time to get ready and realizing that isn’t what I wanted because throughout every practice, I would always dream of my book or my blog and how I wanted to work on those. I was also very stressed for games because I would overthink a lot, and I remember one of my teammates even telling me that I was just trying to come up with every scenario that could happen and overthink it, so it was good for my faith to go into the unknown like that and really surrender my worries to God. And He would always deliver. I enjoyed being able to have fun with my teammates for that season also, like talking on the bus, and I also remember it pushed me to manage time well. I had to pre-write all of my blog posts on the weekends and schedule them out for the week because I had absolutely no time for writing during the week, but I knew I didn’t want to abandon this.

Staying up late to watch movies with friends. Some movies they showed me are like OHHHKAY BUT ended up fostering talks about issues we were facing as teens and our curiosity about other things and our guys one day. I also remember bonding through writing together with a lot of my friends because we had that in common, and those memories are very special to me, even if they were only for a short season.

Studying my Bible in depth at church through discipleship and having those mature conversations I craved and feeling reassured that amidst feeling deeply lonely at this time in my life, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and living for God and learning to completely depend on Him gave me a sense of freedom and completeness like never before.

My first church retreat and dreaming about my future guy (I was hoping I would find someone there but not God’s timing ;) and reflecting on the impact I want to leave for the glory of God. I remember recapping all of it with Mom when we got home that night and as she picked me up and we drove home. I talk all about this retreat and how wonderful it was here!

Our wonderful family trip to Canada that exceeded my expectations and affirmed how I need to trust God with everything because He alone can work things out, and I also did a ton of theological reading (I had bought about a million books from that retreat ha). That was a big growing stage for my faith as well.

Nights where I felt extremely alone. Because I was so thankful for my joy in Jesus on these nights or when I just felt out of place at school, because I was able to feel the peace and assurance He alone gives (John 14:27).

My heartbreak over some broken people. I say “some,” but literally every person is broken or has been at some point in their life, but it took some people in particular to open up my eyes to this. Of course, I’d always known this, but it lit within me a passion to share my own experiences with people who may not have anyone to do that, and it was one of the most meaningful things I’ve done.

Shopping with Mom. We dream and talk about my own future one day and how thankful we are for our relationship, or those nights when the boys would go their separate ways (like to hockey games—they were the ones to start first and then we all ended up loving it) and we have our time. I wrote about our time in November spent holiday shopping here and how that was actually a really special time in particular for me because before we went, I had felt down about a lot of things and just very insecure and doubting my own worth or if God would do things for me in the future. But she was so patient with me and talked with me about all of that as we drove over to eat out afterwards, and we were just so thankful for our relationship with God because He alone does that, and it’s awesome to think of just what He’s done since that time.

Beginning my novels. I’ve “officially” started two books but have attempted to start many others that get pushed back either because I try to start too many at one time or just want to come back to a certain project later. But either way, that feeling of starting something is very special and trusting God to use that for Him after He’s laid ideas on your heart. I love that feeling.

My doctor appointments with Mom in Des Moines. It would turn into a full day event, and we had to learn to navigate it together (because Mom hates city driving), but we kept an open mind, and it worked out well. I don’t feel guilty for making time amidst business or school for those fun times because they’re crucial for your mental health, to take those breaks and have those special times, and what ultimately matter and what you remember in life. I remember one time I had one on a school day and my doctor even saying things like how she remembers those days where she took her daughters out to do fun things like shopping or eating after an appointment and those times really are priceless. I don’t think you should abandon responsibilities, obviously, but this society gets so wrapped up in productivity, and sometimes it really is good to take that break just because. Look at the big perspective of things. These days will inspire me and stay with me more than any productive thing I could’ve completed. That stuff can’t love you back, I heard it described well in an article one time.

Playing an online game with my friend. These days were wonderful because that was my way of releasing stress and hitting pause on other things, like writing, even. I remember always looking forward to playing that when I got home from school. And actually, I remember not wanting to go to that first hockey game as a family because I wanted to play that game. ;) It actually did help me be creative, too, though, and it was just a fun way to unwind and appreciate that season of my life. I was 12, haha.

Seeing hard work pay off at the end of middle school. I got this award at the end of the year, but it wasn’t even that so much that meant things to me. During eighth grade, a year I felt very lonely and overlooked, I remember a teacher pulling me aside and thanking me for everything I had done for their school and telling me not to think that goes unnoticed. I was shocked because, being as quiet as I am, I didn’t think I really did anything. But I think that goes to show that God does make people pay attention to you, even when you think they aren’t, which is why it is all the more important to lead by example always and live for His glory.

Time with Grams at her Y. I remember dreaming about college a lot (because she would take me to Ames sometimes, which I loved, and I’ve been considering going to school there), and just relaxing my body in the swimming pool after some anxiety about various things I was struggling with going into high school. I remember one time, probably the first time I went with her to a class in the swimming pool, reminding myself to take it a day at a time and trust God to take care of me and appreciate each gift He gives me, like a simple day with her at the pool or if we go out to eat or go to Ames. Those seemingly simple days end up being some of the very best, truly.

My struggle with anxiety during my first year of high school. It felt absolutely debilitating for awhile—the thoughts were just relentless and irrational—but I am honestly thankful to have gone through it. When you deal with something like that, it only makes you that much more prepared to handle future worries better, and I know God used that to strengthen my faith even though it made me feel like a failure at the time. I talk more about my anxiety and what I learned to help overcome it here.

Days in PE just relaxing. Having time to think about all that God has done for me when we did things like tracking our resting heart rate and had to lay down for about twenty minutes was wonderful and just having that break between stressful classes to work out was great. It opened up my eyes to how much I really do enjoy exercise.

Eating out with my parents and our talks. When it’s just me with my parents going out and doing things, or like just me with my grandparents, there’s something special about that sole attention and having time to do both fun things and also spend time together and be able to have discussions about more serious topics. Those are some of my favorite times. The lesson I’ve learned from all of these inspirational days that I will get to in a minute came from a night where just the three of us were going out to eat.

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Furniture shopping with Mom. We went on a whim one day on a beautiful, rainy spring day (I’m not being sarcastic; I seriously love those), and the furniture store we went to was so nice, and I enjoyed dreaming about my own future house. Half of these days included me dreaming about something hahaha, but I like how all of that has been sparked by the moments I was in at that time, God’s way of reminding me to enjoy the right then.

Going to the city at night. Staying up late in our hotel with my family to make sense of some horrible trials in life but still having that joy only God can bring from hard times and knowing that we would make it through despite how hard and ugly life can be sometimes. I think those times in life have probably been the most inspirational, is going through hell but still being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel that only comes from living for God.


The takeaways from this

Here is what I wrote down, as the basis for one of my blog posts that I thought went really well with all of this. I wrote it in the car on a night not long ago when I was going out to eat with my parents: “The beauty of loving God: how my heart overflows with the beauty of my life because of Him that even makes me cry joy about the bad times because of His faithfulness and just those special moments I’ve had where I really feel like that and how He shows me a joyful balance between work and play and how it all leads back to Him AND YOU LITERALLY HAVE EVERYTHING TO GAIN WITH HIM - WE WERE MADE FOR HIM <3 <3”

You often don’t realize the moment you’re in until it’s gone. I know I especially can be prone to thinking about what’s next in life and where I want to be that I forget where God has me now, but then you look back and think of that and how you would love to have it back. So just enjoy every bit of life as it comes, even the bad times, because to grow in life and get to that point where you aren’t burdened by the chains of this world, you have to develop through the trials and can’t run from them. Appreciate the right now, as that is where God wants you to be, and He provides for the rest. He’ll give you that next step whenever He sees fit—you don’t need to go around looking for it or trying to make it happen on your own, something I am also guilty of.

And the last thing I will say is don’t evaluate your life in the middle of the hard seasons. It’s hard, a lot of times, to see what God is doing when He’s in the middle of it, but looking back, it begins to make sense. You begin to see why you had to be so alone for a season, or why your family had to go through ten different things at a time, or whatever it may be. You look at your life and don’t even realize the growth and work God has done in your heart if you’ve surrendered to Him, just like when working out, it takes several months or more sometimes to see the big results. That is why try not to think about why you’re going through a certain thing or why a certain season is hard. Because that is just life, and it’s hard, but it has to be hard to motivate you to totally depend on Him. And when you do that completely—not perfectly, but with your whole heart—you will be amazed at how beautiful life really is despite hardships (more on this here). Because God makes it beautiful. He alone is the key to an abundant life, and I’m so thankful for His work in mine.

How about you?

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2018 | Reflection

I know every person in the world, just about, has done the cliche new year posts from blogging to social media, and one thing I have tried to be conscious about when doing mine is to always keep it centered on Jesus. While it is just another year and there is no need to be worked up about it beyond what is healthy, I do think reflection is crucial. And this brings about the perfect opportunity to share everything God has done and taught me in 2018. It’s not all about recapping trips and career milestones like some seem to think it is, because while those things are fun and should be shared, there is a lot more to someone’s year than that. And I sure hope that many are not just living for the good times, because it is only through being present in the bad times that you can grow as a person, with God, which is the ultimate goal for any of us.

2018 was a stressful year. Oh, I loved and enjoyed so many parts of this year, but no year is without pain. As long as we’re in this sinful world, that is normal. But the key to that, I’ve found, is to be PRESENT in it. And by being present in it, I don’t mean simply enduring it. Plenty of people endure pain, but they never think about it. They try to cover it up with the good times or choose to ignore it. But we need to be present in it and what pain is telling us. There are so many essential things in life—joy, peace, intimacy with God, to name a few—that very clearly can be learned through pain and really no other way. Pain provides the foundation for growth if you listen to what is happening through it and choose to think about what God is allowing through it.

I had plenty of opportunities for that this year.

But I know I have been made stronger for it, as well as others who have gone through pain, and that is a beautiful thing to see. I would like to share that with you through this post as I recap each month (I promise I will try not to make this post a book and will instead link back to other posts you can read at your own time, if you wish). It was especially cool because I consistently grew throughout the whole year. In 2017, it seems I fluctuated a lot, but this year each had its own season, and I’m thankful for that. I’ll also share some of my favorite moments from this year and some new projects God helped me work on and, lastly, share a few goals for 2019. As always, I want to hear about you all as well, so if you have anything about your year or something you want me to pray for, please let me know!

Without further ado, let’s recap 2018!


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January

The year began with me halfway through my freshman year. I took a long break from blogging towards the second half of 2017, which led into the beginning of 2018, so I don’t have any posts to link back to. I do remember, though, the struggles of freshman year it seems I fought a lot, with hormones to restlessness to anxiety struggles. While I was not thrilled about starting the year that way, I actually think it’s better to be broken because that is when God can help a person become better than even before. I know that was definitely true for me as the rest of the year unfolded.

Lessons

I also started an online college course I was thrilled I got to take, about current events in the world. I loved the broad scope of the topics learned, and it opened my eyes immensely to the complex problems of the world and how there’s not an easy solution like we wish there would be, but with God, all things are possible, and no situation is without hope, thankfully. Sharing Him is always what’s most important.

I had to learn not to worry or get overwhelmed about things that aren’t here yet. I have to rest in God’s good plans for me now and focus on the things in front of me now. Time always comes sooner than I think—high school certainly did—and so just enjoy right now.

Memories

Playing Minecraft with my brother. We started doing this the summer of 2015, where we would have fun playing this game on our Xbox together when our parents were working and I had to babysit. We have a lot of funny stories of trial and error on this game, and it’s one of the few things we do where we don’t fight! We also did this a little bit in the beginning of the year. I’m not a gamer at all—though my brother definitely is—but I do like the creativity in this game. Plus my pattern texture pack is gorgeous, but of course Hunter doesn’t think so ;)

Hanging out with my cousins at our grandparents’ house. We have “our” own little room upstairs that we hang out in, watch random things on TV, and just hang out. I always laugh a lot, which throughout the year I learned is so important, and enjoy that time together a lot.

Staying up late with my grandma and cousin Kirsten on the phone, tormenting her because we won’t let her go to bed. ;) And then Kirsten and I sharing our fave songs with each other and blaring those. It’s also hilarious to hear the things that come out of Grams’ mouth past a certain time of night… And the poor thing doesn’t understand double meanings of things in this society where people pervert things, and given the right context, she has said some absolutely hilarious things as a result.

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February

Again, I still hadn’t woke up from my hiatus with the stress of high school and my own anxiety problems at the time, so I did not blog throughout this month. I turned 15! We went to our first hockey game of the year—love those. We got to go down on the ice afterwards, for some event they were holding where they let the public skate on ice. Hunter brought his skates; I attempted not to fall and kill myself. Thankfully, I was successful. Our dog, Willy, had a near-death experience I witnessed, which did not help any anxiety I had and almost became a contributor to the year’s stress, but praise God he was okay. I’ll write about it sometime when I recap more about Willy’s life.

Lessons

I had to learn to just be a kid at times. Being extremely sensitive, I don’t respond well to conflict or when circumstances and changes come up with my family. I never have. It’s not that I respond poorly in the sense of my reaction, it’s just that I feel distressed and powerless when things like that happen. A lot of things happened this year like that. February brought the beginning of that. But I remember, amidst uncertainty about what may happen with something and my anxiety as a result, I actually FaceTimed my cousin, Kir, and had fun just talking to her about our inside jokes and the not so serious part of life. I think I needed that. I think I needed to know I was capable of putting adult, mature problems on hold to just act like a kid. Kids don’t worry about family problems. And this can be good or bad, because I do think A LOT of kids need to learn to care more about other people, especially their families, but when it’s excessive and you can feel like you have to put your own life on hold, like I felt, that’s when I had to learn to release what I can’t control. I can’t control other people and their decisions. I can’t control the consequences. And I should not have to. God has promised to take care of everything, and the reason some people have extra problems is because they interrupt His work.

I reached out to a Christian leader I had respected for some time from hearing his personal testimony of living a reckless life that resulted in tragedy for himself and other innocent people but how through it God changed his life. I sent him an email telling him about my faith and how I admired his story. He also provided me with some valuable insight for my current book and was overall sweet, genuine, and godly. He is a living example of how seemingly lost people can be redeemed and live productive lives in society for the glory of God.

Amidst researching colleges (as only a freshman, yes, but I love making plans and knowing my direction, so I was very eager to jump on my college search), I was considering both Christian colleges along with secular, public universities. I became worried about even considering those because of the potential things they may teach contrary to living for God since they don’t have that faith distinction, but then I realized—and really, have long known this since it’s true for me now in high school—that the way to “remain” a Christian (I mean staying dedicated to God and am not talking about salvation), then it does not matter where you go. Knowing God is just like any other relationship that you must invest in daily, and as long as you focus on one day at a time, doing what you can to live for God, that is enough, and no one can take that from you.

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March

Back in December when I went to my annual eye appointment, I was told I could get glasses to help with eye fatigue and another minor defect I had. I love the frames I got, which arrived this month. Sometimes I like wearing them just for fun. ;) For spring break, I got to spend time with my grandparents in Estherville, which I always love.

Lessons

There were times this month where my feelings of loneliness and sadness intensified, leaving me to struggle with even the basic truths I took for granted that I had thought, such as that people cared about me. Of course I knew intellectually that people cared about me, but going to school day after day amidst people who share such vastly different life goals and feeling so out of place as a result, it was easy to forget that truth and just listen to my raging emotions and the lies from the devil. I remember, though, specifically: I was on my way to my PE class—and I don’t know why, but I was deeply upset about something pertaining to school and my peers, and I remember doubting my worth again. But I had also just gotten a message from a girl I keep in touch with online and is a complete sweetheart who also loves Jesus and has been encouraging me with my dreams for Him since I was really young. And I remember the way she ended that message was by telling me that I am loved, even though she had no idea about my feelings. And as I walked into that locker room to change, I remember that dawning on me specifically and reclaiming that truth. You are loved. Never let the ugliness of the world make you forget that. Don’t let feelings of despair overrule.

Speaking of PE class, I also learned the importance of exercise on mental health and overall wellbeing. Okay, I remember looking ahead to my last trimester of school and being terrified for PE class because my time in sports left me feeling insecure about my athletic ability, and I just wasn’t looking forward to having to do activities for it. Well, PE ended up being my favorite class that year. The mental strain of my other classes left me counting down the hours until PE, where I could run and enjoy being active without pressure or worry of deadlines and other projects. I also regained my confidence in my athletic ability by playing team sports like volleyball and other fun games (normally I hate games, but I thank God I had friends in my class that made it fun).

Memories

During PE we got to lay down on the mats for twenty minutes to track our resting heartbeat, and it was so nice because I could just pray and talk to God about life, about everything. It was so special. I’m beyond grateful for our relationship.

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April

In school, I took a practice college entrance exam, which was exhausting, but I was glad to have the practice. But I started blogging again!!! Read my first post back here. I also shared some of the life lessons I learned while being away so long (read here). I remember during this time how society seemed to be in upheaval about many complex social issues, ones that especially touched on morality. I wrote about how sometimes it’s okay not to have all of the answers and how we ultimately need to rely on God in those times (read here). I also recapped the spring break with my grandparents and how memories like that never fade here. And lastly, I opened up about my struggles with anxiety and everything I’ve learned to help me cope with it (read here).

Lessons

I had to learn how to find peace from feelings of sadness and despair. On a note in my phone, I wrote how it comes through reflecting on who God is and the wisdom He’s trusted me with. From getting real with Him and knowing that He doesn’t expect me to have my act together before I come to Him. From praying just whatever is on my heart, the dumb desires or things I’m too ashamed to ask for out loud. He understands and He is so good to me. I’m writing this so I can always remember that.

Memories

Going shopping for my birthday with my mom. We went to Jordan Creek together and ate at a hotel we had stayed in the year before, and though we had to spend literally an hour at American Eagle just to buy three pairs of shorts (trying things on is so fun!!!!!), I also got some other fun things at my other favorite stores, and it did get me in the mood for summer with all of the wonderful spring fragrances and styles.

Falling in love with One Direction again and putting their songs on repeat ;)

Lots of fun traveling down to the Amana Colonies to eat with Mom and Dad while Hunter stayed home playing video games (figures). One time we went in the pouring rain at night, and when we came back into town, this local dairy ice cream place that is so popular amongst people in our town still had a line out to the road. In the rain. #itsworthit I loved being able to talk with them, though, and of course my usual cheeseburgers never disappoint. ;)

Mom and I also discovered a wonderful new ice cream place at Jordan Creek because we had to go back to the mall even after spending an hour at American Eagle because one of the jeans didn’t fit. Hey, it’s shopping, who am I to complain?

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May

We actually had some spring storms, which I love, except one time we actually had a tornado warning and my brother and I went to the basement. I don’t think it was very serious for us, but one thing that is serious is how many notebooks I have as you can see… I don’t bring things down into the basement like I used to as a kid, but I do bring things I can’t replace, and I’m thinking I really need a new system of organization for my five thousand notebooks… I also got a free trial of Photoshop! I love web design, so it’s about time, right? That’s typically top of the line in commercial design, and it’s very expensive as a result, but I was shocked to see that they offered a free trial that didn’t even require entering billing information. It was overwhelming at first for me, but I watched some tutorials and just learned how to do one thing at a time and actually made some cool things with my short time having it, like my signature at the bottom of this post ;) In terms of blogging, I wrote a comprehensive blog post about my grandparents’ hometown and how it is so dear to my heart because of them (read here). I also wrote down my observations about life learned from shopping, which I did plenty of thankfully because shopping makes me a very happy girl ;) (read here). Lastly, I shared some of my thoughts on morality and why I believe it needs to be emphasized (read here).

Memories

Chilling with my brother in the basement for a storm warning and going shopping of course ;)

Going to Slumberland with my mom and having fun browsing and picking things out. It made me dream about my future house (that is going to have a king sized bed; I actually saw one in person haha and they look wonderful). It was also a gloomy, rainy day, which for whatever reason are my favorites, and it was perfect spring weather instead of the snow we had in March and even April.

Lessons

I learned to stop doubting God because waiting does not mean He isn’t working, or that nothing will happen. In fact, usually it is the opposite. I am still impatient—what will ever change, ha—but God showed me multiple times through this month how people I didn’t think would notice what I’m doing actually were, which showed me how He is working, and that just because I don’t see it or get the results when I want them, does not mean He isn’t. In fact, that’s usually when He’s doing the most on my behalf. And I have to trust Him and just relax. People are watching you. I’ve wrote about that numerous other times, but it’s worth repeating. I see it again and again.

Going along with above, you never know what exactly God is doing behind the scenes. I was surprised immensely by something someone did for me without my knowledge of it, and—had someone not said something—probably would never have known. It just goes to show that God is doing things, and just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Faith is believing what is unseen, and as I got older and more cynical, I found this a challenge. But God was patient with me and gave me an abundance of reminders and instances like those where I was brought to my knees by His faithfulness and humbled by how little I really do know or see. Trust Him all the way—you can be sure that with Him, He is always fighting for you, regardless of what you see. <3 Isn’t that amazing and so humbling? It’s one of the most crucial things I learned and something I must remember daily when impatience threatens my peace.

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June

I became a sophomore and got freshman year done, which really did seem to fly—not that I’m complaining. I spent some really special time with family and cousins this month, since my immediate family ditched me for Canada, which after enjoying past years there, I had decided I was ready for a break of the fishing life. :’) I found out during this month also that I am going to have jaw surgery eventually. :/ Upon completing freshman year, I wrote about the biggest lesson I learned: how to control my thoughts again, something I had been careless about and payed the consequences for (read here). Read this complete post of the lessons I learned from those weeks with family as well as the fun experiences I got to try, like jet skiing!

Lessons

I learned just how important it is to be able to have people to talk to. I enjoy my cousins so much, and I really enjoyed spending time with them. It’s important to be able to have that time to relax and just enjoy companionship with other people, and it helped me renew my mind immensely that summer and better prepare me for sophomore year.

Memories

Eating out with Mom after my last day of school and that glow of knowing I’m a sophomore and getting to talk with her about future plans.

Sitting in my new furry white chair I got for my room and completely finishing it over the summertime (except for my closet, but if you can’t see it, it doesn’t necessarily count…that would be a this-year goal okay).

The talks with my mom as we drive up to meet my grandparents halfway to their town, and spending a wonderful week by myself with them and making Grams walk their downtown trail and take my pictures, and then spending a few days with my cousin Kirsten and getting to go jet skiing.

The feeling of the warm, morning summer air and the sunshine beaming down while cruising down the street on a bike with Gramps—so happy he can still ride bikes with me!

Falling in love with the girls’ room decor section at Hobby Lobby because talk about pink and sparkles galore—what I live for.

Eating out, laughing about anything and everything, and doing nails with Kir and then talking of course until the early morning! :)

Getting to see my cousin Amanda and sitting in her room cuddled up with blankets on opposite ends of the bed or floor—whichever we happened to prefer—and being on our laptops or devouring the books we bought. We also called Kirsten and all talked about guys, inside jokes, and all that fun stuff! I’m very thankful for those girls. <3

Eating cheeseballs all the time in the summer because Mom was so kind to make them for me :D

Doing an immense amount of daily reading because I bought tons of new books and wanted to finish off a series I loved, so I saved them for last to give me motivation to read all the books I needed to.

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July

I spent a lot of time with family, mainly, which was very nice. I went to a swimming class with my grandma, which I always love, and then we ate out and went shopping, my favorite things in life! A big store at the outlet mall was also going out of business, so EVERYTHING was on sale and she bought me a wonderful Michael Kors sweater that was under $20 I believe. :) I also wrote about what I learned from reading all those books I bought the previous month—very interesting things, I promise ;) (read here).

Memories

Getting to swim, shop, and eat out with my grandma. At her Y, she had a meeting the night before the class because I spent the night, and so I went upstairs and walked around this track that overlooked the rest of the Y—which I love, by the way. I thought only walking would not phase me because how active was I really being? But this was at the time I was not doing anything exercise-wise, and I think I walked maybe about three miles total. MY HIPS WERE SO SORE THE NEXT DAY. I basically floated my way through the class the next day; EVERYTHING HURT. But I remember dreaming about working out in college one day and just how much I enjoy being active. I also remember these mirrors I walked by at a certain point, and I would always check out my outfit because I am conceited and also because I plan my workout outfits as much as my real ones. :’) I also loved getting to eat Mexican food with my grandma and having fun looking through all the fashions at the mall together. Those are the types of memories that won’t fade away.

ALSO SHOPPING WITH MOTHER AGAIN!!! I could never shop too much. We went to an outlet mall again, one of our favorites down in Williamsburg, because she needed something as a gift for someone, and hey, I’m just along for the ride!!! We got some really awesome deals on stuff, though. That obnoxious—no, BEAUTIFUL—pink winter coat I have from Columbia? We got that for under $25. My life has become dedicated to finding good deals on expensive items, and I don’t regret it one bit. ;) Also, you all should pray that my future husband will shop with me one day because that’s just essential. ;) Everyone I love will shop with me, so he better! And besides, my father and brother, if you put them in Cabela’s, they are there for HOURS. At least an hour, minimum, every time. As long as it’s what they want, they’re all for it!

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August

I began working out daily, something I found to be very beneficial. I spent a lot more time with family again. I began my sophomore year of high school! I recapped going to the Knoxville Nationals with my family in this post, as well as the deep themes about life I noticed while there. Also, this prayer I wrote in this post about me entering 10th grade, basically sums up the biggest lessons God taught me throughout the year and in my whole life, really. If you only ever read one other blog post of mine, I would definitely read that one because of how God spoke to me through those lessons and how it’s really changed my life for the better.

Lessons

Working out is great for you not just physically, but mentally. I’d made it a goal to do a workout every night—nothing fancy, just simple toning exercises, and it’s definitely been worth it. I’d heard that exercise can strengthen someone psychologically, and I can definitely confirm that. It quiets the noise and makes you feel like you’re doing something, which you are, so it’s a total win.

Memories

Going to the Knoxville Nationals as a family and with some friends and enjoying the buzz in the atmosphere as well as the great food and just taking in a fun event on a perfect summer evening and night.

My mom buying me pretty pink flowers, just because. I LOVE FLOWERS ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE PINK! :D

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September

I began driver’s ed, which was not one of my favorite times of the year, but it needed to be done. I still got to see family again this month a lot—which is nice, because they really are so important, and we learned that this year especially while enduring one of the hardest losses. I got to go to Iowa City to consult with my doctors about jaw surgery, and while that reality is not one I like to think too hard about, Mom and I went shopping!!! :) I didn’t break the bank, though. And we went to a hockey game!!!

Lessons

Comparison really is a waste of time. I struggled with so much insecurity near the beginning of sophomore year, thoughts left over from freshman year, and I compared myself relentlessly to other people—with beauty, talents, just about everything. And I would get irritated when people would tell me to just stop doing it because I felt like I had to or have what the other people had, or I wasn’t good enough. But that really is a lie. Reading some books from people and hearing other people authentically talk about this—who were some of the people I had actually compared myself to—opened up my eyes about this. Even the most seemingly successful people compare themselves, and just because someone else is pretty or successful or talented or whatever it may be, does not mean you aren’t.

Believe in what God promises. I had to be so intentional about my thinking or else it would take over like I let it back as a freshman. I had to make the choice to trust God even when I felt upset or just didn’t feel like I could trust Him. I had to specifically write down what I knew to be true because He had shown me that through relentless praying throughout my life and cling to that. And that really does help fix your thinking, is by fixating on Him.

Memories

Driving through the city to see family at nighttime—ahh nothing makes my heart quite as happy as that!! I also loved getting to stay in a hotel; when I am older I want to stay in hotels all the time for the heck of it, but that’s obviously not that practical, but still. ;)

Sitting on the couch talking with cousins and my grandparents; there is something so special about being in the presence of warm, genuine people like that.

Being at Cabela’s for five years because see above ;)

Standing by my WINDOW at Wells Fargo! There’s this window in Wells Fargo (well, the whole arena has a panoramic view of outside, which is awesome haha) that I love and always must see because the river and bridge over it is so beautiful, I can’t even.

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October

I passed driver’s ed, thankfully! I was stressed out a lot about things, but God helped me through all of it and showed His faithfulness again and again, as well as perspective. How many of those things really changed my life in a drastic way that I’d worried about? None. I wrote more on this here, as well as more lessons I’ve shared.

Lessons

I learned not to compare myself to illusions. This goes along with what I was saying with comparison up above. It truly is meaningless to do so because especially in this digital age, everything can be made to look perfect. But don’t get caught in that trap. Most of the stuff, like images, you see online or on social media especially are edited to perfection. I know I got really caught into this with my looks. I would constantly see images of girls who looked amazing and then feel terrible with how I looked naturally. But that’s why comparing yourselves to others is a joke. You don’t see what really goes on behind the scenes or, more specifically, in their heart. People who feel the need to pretend are also very unhappy people, I can promise you that. It’s not bad to want to look nice or present yourself well, but again, it’s about that balance and still being authentic and relatable with others.

Remember the things God has done for you when you face feelings of doubt. I began to worry a lot about my future at this time and just getting impatient about when things would come, if ever. But I had to remind myself of all the wonderful opportunities and people God had already put in my life, and I didn’t even have to DO anything for them. It’s the same with those other things. He will surprise you when you least expect it, and you won’t have to worry about orchestrating everything on your own. In fact, some of the most special connections I’ve had in my life came truly from Him—I didn’t even do anything to reach out or have these people in my life. The best things in life come from Him, so don’t try to force them yourself.

Memories

Waking up and getting my dream curls in my hair just from being lazy and going to bed with my hair still up.

Appreciating life where I was and being with Mom in Des Moines for a doctor’s appointment and rejoicing for what we have, which is each other, and then some shopping afterwards of course :’)

Going to a hockey game with Dad and finding a new song I absolutely love—you’ll hear about this later, trust me—and just enjoying the environment with the food and the arena and MY WINDOW and the players too :D

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November

November had some sad times as trials worsened, but what God taught me about my thinking was a pivotal moment for me. When I went HOLIDAY SHOPPING, I shared some of those lessons here.

Lessons

Write down what you know God wants you to believe, and then believe it. This changed my thinking way for the better when I did this. And I absolutely had to. Sometimes you have to be firm with yourself if you don’t want to just wish for better thinking. You can’t just hope you think better—that’s not enough. I had “hoped” to think better this year, so when my thinking still didn’t align with how I wanted it, that’s when I knew just wishing for it wasn’t enough. I HAD to take action and be intentional about seeking God and His will for my thinking. I wrote down everything He had laid on my heart in response to the insecurities I faced and had my mom read them over as well. And I reread them when I get down again. THEY HELP IMMENSELY. It’s all about perspective. Don’t let your thoughts run wild—you have to be conscious about what you believe. Doing this is what has made my thinking so much better now than where it was. And all glory to God for that and for changing my mind. I’ve learned that there’s definitely a balance: while the world will put thoughts you don’t want in your mind, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LET THEM STAY THERE. This is one thing I used to be so good at as a kid—would I get upset? Yes. But my perspective was always solid and I was able to focus on God and not let it bring me down for long. When I got older, I got lazy with that, and my thoughts ruled my life. But that’s happened long enough, and I begged God to show me how to get back to being optimistic again, and He did.

Memories

Going to the mall AT NIGHT (<3) to pick up some things, and just wandering around the aisles with Mom. We didn’t actually buy anything unfortunately, but I want to go shopping at night sometime—the atmosphere is so tranquil compared to going in the day.

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December

This month was very sad as we lost my aunt to a long battle with cancer, but it was amazing to see how our family came together and trusted God with her ultimately because talk about putting life in perspective—that is what matters, and situations like that prove it. I also shared some thoughts on dealing with disappointment and hard things in life here.

Lessons

I’m not alone in how I feel, and neither are you. There are times I would get upset because I felt I was the only one who felt lonely or misunderstood, but I remember rereading a book I talked about here and how a girl similar to me felt the same way. And I’ve heard so many people say that they may feel that way, even though exteriorly they look to be happy constantly. Sometimes, though, those are the people who feel the most lonely.

Memories

The wonderful anticipation and warmth of opening presents with the serenity of family.

2019 Goals

I am so thankful to God for another year and for all that I was able to accomplish in 2018. Though it didn’t feel like much, I am learning to be patient and enjoy where I am now and just do what I can with God’s help. I’m also working on making my goals more simple but still effective. Here are some of mine for this new year:

✧ Pray more. One time in the summer when I felt overwhelmed by emotions, I took time to journal out my thoughts and a prayer over them. Wow, does that change the game. Praying helps hugely with perspective, and I love God so much and want to talk to Him always—I don’t ever want to be too busy for Him.

✧ Go on college visits and consider programs I would like. I CANNOT WAIT FOR JUNIOR YEAR AND COLLEGE VISITS! I definitely have an idea about where I want to go as well as what I want to major in, but I definitely want to take the time to ask each college tons of questions to make sure they will be a good fit for me and help me with my goals for my life. I also want to consider additional minors I could add to my major to make myself more marketable, especially since the major I want is very flexible and pairs well with other things.

✧ Finish my novel. This absolutely does need to happen this year—it’s been five years since I wrote a book now…which I’m embarrassed to say. I really need to get one done this year because this, like other things, is also about being intentional and just making the time to do it, even when I don’t “feel” like it.

✧ Write with a more real approach on this blog. I want to start blogging more about my actual life experiences and telling stories through them—like going to a hockey game! If you have anything specific you want to hear about, tell me!!

✧ Be intentional with social media. I want to take baby steps to growing on social media, like sharing old posts from here on Facebook, for example, or replying to more people on Twitter—and not worry about results.

I also want to sincerely thank all of you for reading this blog and for supporting me. Just when I least expect it, someone will reach out to me and tell me about how my writing has impacted their life, just when I think it isn’t. And that humbles me so much—my dream for my whole entire life since I was only 8 years old has been to write and inspire people for God’s glory through that. And when I get caught up with impatience, I forget that this dream is literally being fulfilled right in front of me thanks to God and you all. So thank you, so much. I pray you all have a wonderful year and that you cling to the hope of Jesus above all because I promise you that with Him, nothing else in this life can bring you down. <3 Thank you all again!!

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My Thoughts Lately

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Headed back to the hotel

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I do love working in hotels

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Except I always get distracted with shopping :’)

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My dog while I was sick

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

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

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

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Kinnick Stadium, home of the Hawkeyes

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

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Then we went to the mall of course :)

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

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

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

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

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Zach Parise <3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How Racing is Like Life Part 2

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Knoxville Nationals 2k18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I loved the bag ;)

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lessons Learned from the Knoxville Nationals

Seeing all the people can inevitably lead to comparison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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