A Girls' Road Trip to Calgary & Banff, AB #1: All the Views & Bonding

Simply amazing, is how I would describe what was already a week ago. Already over a week ago, I got home from a fun, mostly easygoing road trip with my mom, cousin Kirsten, and my aunt Corrine. They are lots of fun to be with, and Kirsten and Corrine are basically travel agents, and they scored us some amazing deals on hotels as well as found some great places for us to explore both on our road trip and in our main destination, Calgary, Alberta. Yes, I went back to Canada. But this experience was radically different from my experiences in Ontario, which you can read about here.

Before I get in to recapping this, some background information. First off, I’ve blogged numerous times about my cousin Kir on this blog, with the most recent post being here. I’m grateful I have her and that we have so many common interests, including driving our moms insane by taking ten thousand photos of us. Thanks so much, Corrine and Candi!!! Really, most of the photos you see here will be because of them, and Kir took some for me, also. I appreciate it so much. On that note, I literally probably have a good 500 some photos I want to share here on this blog, so instead of breaking my website and writing you all one big book to read, I’ve decided I think it will work best if I break this trip recap into four parts. The first part, which you’re reading now, will recap the road trip portion of our trip on the way up to Calgary, where we spent three nights. We spent two full days and a half driving up to Calgary. That is what this post is going to recap—our first two days. Then the second part will be about arriving at our hotel and going to see Banff, which was an amazing tourist town only a little over an hour away from Calgary. We spent two days checking out that place. The third part will be all about Calgary, from getting back from Banff to the full day we spent exploring the city. The last part will cover our trip back and hit hard on everything this amazing trip taught me.

I have always tried to learn something from my vacations because I think anytime you experience a different part of the world or take in new experiences, there is such a potential for you to grow as a person and become wiser if you let God speak to you through the experience. I also learned rather quickly that you can’t expect a vacation to go perfect, and you can’t expect it to be an escape. If you have crap thoughts at home, you’re going to have crap thoughts on vacation. I’ll write more on this throughout this post, but there were definitely some overall major takeaways I learned from this trip that I’ll share once I’ve recapped all of it. So stay tuned! We were so blessed by God to witness so many parts of His beautiful creation, and so many things worked out great. While of course there were still some hiccups because a vacation can never be perfect, as is true of life, God worked them all out, and I can look back on this trip with wonderful memories and thankfulness to Him for it.

Kirsten had been wanting to go on a trip for awhile, and when she invited my mom and me, I was ecstatic. We bounced ideas off each other for awhile and, at first, I didn’t think this trip was going to work out. I think it was something we all definitely needed, though, to bond with each other after our extended family had been hit hard with trials, and I think God blessed this time for us as a result. Sometimes it’s hard planning for four people who all have slightly different interests, and there were a couple times I didn’t think things would work out, but of course God is faithful, and everything had a way of falling into place. One thing I really appreciated about this trip was how it combined both nature and the city. My mom is definitely more of a nature person and loves things having to do with the outdoors or with history, and this trip had that. This trip also had the city, which was a dream come true for me, so it truly was the best of both worlds. I only feel a bit overwhelmed on recapping this as there is so much to share, so hopefully I haven’t missed any information.

Now, without further ado, let’s get straight into recapping this because there’s a lot, and I’m so excited to share it all with you!


The Day Before


Driving Up to Corrine’s House

We live about four hours away from their house up in Minnesota, which is also not too far from the Twin Cities. This is where our road trip was going to start. I didn’t mind the extra drive with my mom at all because we talk so much, and it seems there’s never enough time for that. We left later in the evening, after my dad had gotten off work. I was going to miss my boys, so we made sure we talked to them and said goodbye and made plans to be in touch throughout the trip. One of our cars doesn’t have air conditioning, either, which makes things brutal in the summertime, so that’s another reason why we left later. I know I’ve said this before, but I truly do love my state, so I enjoyed our mini road trip through Iowa as it was the last I would be seeing of it for a week.

Mom and I decided to have our supper at Wendy’s. We ate inside, at a Wendy’s off the interstate in Clear Lake, also home of the Surf Ballroom, which I’ve had the privilege of seeing when I attended a Hairball concert there with my family. Yeah, that was an experience in and of itself I need to write about eventually…

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What can I say, I love Wendy’s. We wanted to eat somewhere where we couldn’t easily at other times, and we don’t have too many Wendy’s around us, so I’m glad we ate there. One of the wonderful but dangerous things about this trip was all the eating out we did. I absolutely loved it. I’ll make sure I recap everything we ate, don’t worry!

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Target

The weather was mostly nice on the way up, but it started raining as we got closer to their house. I was so thrilled to see Kirsten again, even though it had only been a month since I’d seen her last. We had lots of fun talking to each other the night before on the phone as we packed. What we packed is a whole other story, haha. As we arrived, Mom realized that of everything she packed, she forgot a coat. There were a couple other things, so we wanted to make a run to Target, especially since we don’t have too many Targets nearby except for in our “cities” like Des Moines, Ames, or Iowa City. Kirsten adores Target, so I knew she’d come with us. Theirs closes earlier, like around ten, so by the time we arrived we basically had to pick her up and then head over.

And of course we got distracted right away. Right away, they had the cutest swimwear. I’d been wanting a Fourth of July bikini for awhile. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’ve always had a thing for the Fourth of July and it’s one of my favorite holidays, or maybe it’s because I still have my fantasies of being on a boat in Okoboji for the Fourth if that ever happens… Either way, they had the cutest bikini top but no bottoms left. But I bought it anyway. Kirsten got a new one piece there, too, that she ended up liking.

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It was also pouring rain while we were in Target. Mom ended up getting a denim jacket as her coat, but another thing about this trip we were so blessed with was nice weather. It was never too hot or too cold. I mean, there were a couple times I felt it was chilly, but I’m always cold so what’s new. We didn’t really have much rain, which would have basically ruined all our plans if we had since most of what we did on this trip involved being outside. I am so thankful to God for that.

While heading back, we stopped at a gas station to fill up our truck so it was ready for when my mom and I drove back home, and there was a guy in the gas station who dresses up like Johnny Depp in those pirate movies, so we just went on in there to get a picture with him. Kirsten had known who he was, and Mom is evidently not afraid of just walking up to people and asking for a photo, so that’s what we did. He was great, haha.

At the House

Once we were back, we talked with her family for awhile and carried our luggage inside. Thankfully the rain had let up by then. It was fun because we had gotten them some little gifts for our trip—my mom got Kir and me these adorable custom made notebooks—and Kir got us some things, too, like a hat for me we wore for one of our pictures you’ll see in the next post.

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It was also fun because we were down in their basement where Kir’s room is that my mom and I slept in, and her computer was down there, so she and her mom booked our first two hotels on the way up. We’d had our hotel booked in Calgary for awhile. They go through some awesome sites that find hotels for really cheap. I don’t think we ever spent more than a hundred bucks on any hotel, except for the one in Calgary, and even that one had a good deal. There was also not a bad hotel we stayed in, either. Some were better than others, but I couldn’t say I didn’t like any of them. But I love hotels!! It was heaven for me getting to be in that many different hotels in the span of a week. I’ll write on all of those, too. We had decided to break up our road trip into a couple different parts. For the first night, we were staying at a hotel in Dickinson, North Dakota. On the second night, we were staying in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and then we would drive the remaining distance after that to Calgary.

We went to bed somewhat early because we had to. To get our rental car, we had to be up at such an ungodly time in the morning. I don’t even remember what, I know it was before seven, and that’s too early for me.


Day One: Road Tripping to North Dakota

Getting the Rental Car

Yeah, so I don’t remember much about what I did in the morning because it was too early. All I remember doing is getting myself dressed and washing my face and making sure I didn’t forget any of my closet I brought with me, haha. All of us drove up to the place near the Cities in Kirsten’s car. Once we got that car, which we were thankful was a size small enough to be cheap yet a mid size car so there was room for all our luggage—which we each had a full suitcase just of our own clothes and then some, so it was a miracle everything fit in the trunk haha—Corrine and my mom drove it home with Kirsten and me following them. Kirsten and I enjoyed jamming to the radio. It also is worth mentioning that it cracked me up because I took a video of one of the songs on the radio, and Kirsten made the comment about making sure she recorded on this trip because she always regrets not doing that. Meanwhile, by the end of the trip, Corrine had driven Kirsten up a tree about everything she wanted her to record. It was hilarious.

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Breakfast and Leaving

It was also funny because we stopped at Target another two times before leaving as Corrine had to pick something up, so Kirsten joked that a couple hours later we would be on the road. Everything worked out really well, though, and we weren’t really in a hurry, which is nice. We picked up breakfast at some gas station. I had the breakfast of champions of course, a lovely donut, while the rest of them tried to be healthy, but I’m not about that life even though one of these days I really need to be.

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As we left the Cities, I admired all of their glass buildings and how one of them is a college. And I let everyone know about my dreams of having a career where they send me off to different cities around the country, haha. If anyone knows where to find these careers specifically with communication or writing or design, it’s not too early for you to give me much appreciated advice!!

See, like look at this. They’re rose gold buildings.

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Mom was really good about helping Corrine with directions, and Corrine was very gracious about doing most of the driving, especially in the city, which Mom can’t do. Once we got on the road, we started plotting our route and the things we could check out along the way.

Stopping for Lunch

I don’t know what town we stopped in to eat lunch, but we had KFC inside. And we were so rowdy, oh my gosh. That’s what being in a car for that long will do to you. Like we couldn’t stop laughing about things. Mom said there was this one cute guy sitting by himself Kir and I noticed that seemed quite amused by us… We kept poking fun at Kirsten because Mom said there was some pyramid attraction thing, and then we drove by one of those big piles of dirt that forms a pyramid shape, and Mom joked to Kirsten, “There’s the pyramid!” And Kirsten was like, “Is it really?” But then I had a moment at KFC when we got this biscuit with frosting or something like that, and I go, “It tastes different. It’s like…a biscuit.” Well, what summer does to your brain, anyways.

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Well, KFC didn’t really work out for one half of us as we found out a couple hours later, and that’s all I’ll say about that, so we didn’t have that on the trip again.

“WHERE DA OTTER AT?” or Fergus Falls, Minnesota

My parents used to live here, so Mom asked if we could stop there for a trip down Memory Lane since we went right by it on our route. They had this giant otter structure by a scenic pond, so we had to get pictures. Kirsten is the author of that wonderful quote, by the way.

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I’m not huge on this photo of me below because I look wide for whatever reason, which reminds me of one of the most hilarious moments on this trip—to me, at least, because I don’t think Kirsten is going to appreciate this—but we were having issues with how we looked in the photos, and Kirsten made some comment about looking 500 pounds, and Corrine was flustered and said, “Well, you are what you are!” I about fell off the picnic table I was laughing so hard.

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I thought Fergus Falls was a nice little town, and I know my parents appreciated the memories because my mom was texting my dad about it.

Driving Through North Dakota

We stopped at some gas station in Fargo, North Dakota. Mom was looking at shirts, and at first North Dakota didn’t look much different than Minnesota, but that eventually changed.

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We had bags of snacks for the road, and Corrine and Kir introduced me to these little chocolates you can eat about ten of.

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Kirsten was our pro at taking selfies with all of us in them, and it was hilarious as we tried to get one in the car. I remember all the laughing the most, which is what is so special. Life isn’t meant to be stress, pain, stress, etc. Pain is part of life, but it doesn’t have to kill you. God wants us to have an abundant life, and you can know for sure that joy and laughter is part of that. Don’t take everything so seriously, that’s one thing I learned on this trip. Just relax and enjoy the moments of being with each other.

Jamestown, North Dakota and a Buffalo

Our first stop we made and decided to check out and that was free was this cute little town called Jamestown, and this hit on the history that my mom enjoys. They had this old town set up where you could walk around and read about past buildings and such, and this is where the “World’s Largest Buffalo” is. We enjoyed stopping to walk around and check out all of those things.

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This was our view of the interstate we had been on:

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More Driving Through North Dakota

For supper I had way too many Mike and Ike’s. I had way too many of these on the trip, but they were wonderful for the car rides…

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North Dakota could be extremely flat at times…

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I always enjoyed the radio playing, too, and we heard so much Kenny Chesney and Shawn Mendes from listening to Kir’s and my stations, and then Mom played some of her and Corrine’s music, too. We had a good variety, and I found quite a few new songs I liked. We got lost a bit in Bismarck, but it was okay because I enjoyed seeing one of their “cities.”

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Eventually, as our drive continued and we got closer to our hotel, it got a lot more hilly, and that was cool to see. I actually really enjoyed the scenery of North Dakota.

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I found it cool how they would put a bunch of power lines or towers on top of the hills. It reminded us all of communicating with aliens haha.

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Dickinson, North Dakota

I was very excited to finally arrive at the hotel. The hotel we stayed at in Dickinson was a Ramada and my favorite we stayed in on our road trip. It had a lodge theme and was very nice. I loved the style of the rooms, and all of the beds in the hotels we stayed at were heavenly. Dickinson was also a fairly good sized town, so it was nice to be around civilization haha.

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We really didn’t have trouble finding things too much thanks to Mom’s GPS on her phone, so it wasn’t too far of a drive to our hotel.

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We had to bring all of our luggage into the hotel because we needed mostly everything but then later figured out to condense some stuff, but in the meantime Kirsten and I had quite the time trying to figure out these carrier things and find our room. We only got lost like three times… I’m sure the people at the reception desk were like there they go again!

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We made a run to Walmart that night to get more snacks, and then while Kirsten and I wanted to eat at a restaurant, it got to be super late by that time, so we decided to just have fast food for supper. We ate at Burger King! It was wonderful to me of course.

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When we got back, Kirsten and I wanted to check out the hot tub. We didn’t stay too long, especially because it was packed with kids even though it was so late, but it was relaxing while it lasted.

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We got to see a lot of the lights while driving around from Walmart back to the hotel. The town reminded me of the size of Ames, so there was a considerable amount of city lights, my favorite thing.

The main thing I learned from this first day was to just let go of negative thinking. If I’m not careful, thoughts of how I should look or how things should be and other things I think I need right now can steal my joy out of moments like these. I typed lots of notes to myself on my phone for this reason. I knew I didn’t want to be thinking negatively on my trip, but you can’t just rely on the trip itself to fix that. You have to be intentional and seek God, which can also be hard to do when you’re so busy like we were on this trip. But remember it’s as simple as just telling Him your thoughts. Or taking some time while everyone is laying there in the hotel room falling asleep to stay up a couple more minutes and share what’s on your heart. And you’ll be amazed at how much that makes a difference.


Day Two: Road Tripping Through Montana and Alberta

Once we had our first day of driving down, it made things easier as we knew what to expect. We had to find a route, however, that had a station where we could cross the border into Canada. In the meantime, we were going to continue our road trip by going through Montana and then up to Canada.

Breakfast

Things were slightly more laidback in the hotel. We had free breakfast at this one, so we got dressed and ready and headed down. I tried eating eggs and sausage for protein, but once again the only thing that really impressed me were the chocolate chip muffins… #ineedhelp

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And as far as packing for this trip goes…I think all of us agreed we overpacked a little bit. But you never know, and Kirsten and I think it’s better to be safe than sorry, so we take our closets with us basically!

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On the Road

Before we got on the road, we stopped for gas. We didn’t have too far to go before we would cross into Montana. I was excited to see Montana because I’d heard it has beautiful views, but another thing I found interesting to see in North Dakota that you’ll all probably think is ridiculous were the oil rigs. The reason why is because of my favorite movie Twister, and if you’ve seen the opening scene where it shows all the clips of storms brewing, there’s an oil rig in one of them… Well, I’ve never seen one of those in real life, and I got to see tons, so I was quite happy about that.

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We made one last stop before leaving North Dakota. This park looks like just a rest stop off the main road, but it gives an absolutely surreal view of the Badlands. We definitely stopped for a million photos here and took some for other people as well, since it was fairly popular. Mom cracked us up because Kirsten and I were first to discover the views—our moms were busy in the gift shop, and my mom bought a buffalo stuffed animal! His name is Buff. We did see a buffalo, by the way! It was laying down way out there, but it probably can’t be seen good in photos, and I don’t have the photos of it, but I’m sure my mom took some. These views are what we’d been hoping to see, and talk about humbling. It’s just amazing to know God created this and to take it all in and just wonder how He formed all of it.

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They had an awesome overlook perfect for photos! Kirsten is a photographer and was hoping to get photos of views like these, so she took a lot, and then we got some altogether, too!

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On the Way to Montana

After those views, we were all super pumped for the rest of the trip, as it was truly only the beginning. I ate more crap food and brought my favorite pop with of course.

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The Montana Sign

Yes, I’m not kidding when I said we were all pumped. So pumped we had to pull over to get a bunch of photos with the Montana sign. There’s even a little path along the side of the road for it. And we had quite a few people honk at us as they went by on both sides of the divided highway. I have such fond memories of this! It sure is fun being tourists, haha.

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Driving Through Montana

The pretty views extended into Montana for quite aways, too.

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Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum

This was the first stop we made early on in Montana. I LOVED THIS PLACE. We didn’t have the time to actually pay the fee to see all of this museum, but we perused the gift shop, where they had lots of neat items, from jewelry to other artifacts. They also had so many books I wanted. Why? Because this place has a distinctly Christian and biblical view on the creation of the world, aka the truth you never hear about in public schools… I’ve always despised learning about evolution in school. If they were going to teach it as a theory and also share these other views, that would be one thing, but instead this manmade idea of creation is considered and taught as a fact. It’s very reassuring to see places like this that accept the truth and share it. I wanted honestly like five books, but I just got one to start with, and I’m definitely excited to begin educating myself on the truth.

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Driving in Montana Some More…

Okay, here’s the thing about Montana: it is absolutely gorgeous in some areas and so very dull in others, haha. As our drive stretched on, there was basically a whole lot of nothing, and at some points we were the only car on the main road. But those speed limits though!!! You wonder why, haha. I remember we were all about to die because we were getting so hungry for lunch, but all of the towns we would pass through were so small and run down we couldn’t fathom them being a town, so we kept waiting and eating whatever crap food we had left. Finally we stumbled on a town that was more populated, and they had a Subway! We also found people who were very nice at a gas station and helped us with directions because we were trying to figure out if we were on the right track to cross the border. I don’t know what you would do if you ran out of gas there. It was also the beginning of the end of our phone reception. In more populated towns, you would have data, but way out in the middle of nowhere you didn’t get much of anything.

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However, we had so many funny moments and just times to talk with each other. My mom had said she’d always wanted to go on a road trip, so I’m very thankful we were able to do all of this together. There were points where it felt drug out, but really, everything went quickly in the scheme of things because of that. We were still able to contact our boys back home for awhile, too, which was nice. I couldn’t believe the amount of ranches out in Montana. Yeehaw, haha. It started looking more and more like the mountains…

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I mean, look how flat this is. But hey, it’s still beautiful. All of God’s creation is beautiful, and Mom kept telling us to imagine life as a cowboy and that’s what you saw. Kir and I were more like please find us a cutie cowboy but anyways, I probably shouldn’t because I don’t think I could do that life personally, haha. I did enjoy seeing and imagining what it would be like, though.

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Driving in Alberta

Oh, my gosh. So we thought Montana was bad. Alberta was absolutely nothing for MILES. And the speed limit made a rather steep drop. We couldn’t figure it out at first thanks to the lovely metric system and our rental car didn’t have conversions to kilometers, but Mom finally found a photo of our speedometer she had for some reason, and then we got to go a little faster. But we were going at a turtle’s pace for awhile and thought we were going to die. That final stretch did get long. We had aways to get up to Medicine Hat, where our second hotel would be. It did get hillier at some points, though, and at another point, I saw those trees that are littered abundantly throughout Ontario.

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Arriving in Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat was another fairly good sized town. It was my first time seeing a “normal” Canadian town because you don’t see too many of them in Ontario, that’s for sure. Corrine spotted a Dollarama there, which is their version of a Dollar Store or something, and she is in love with those the way I’m in love with a lot of my stores. We saw like three of them throughout our trip, and we stopped at most of them except one was closed. Kirsten was thankful. But the first time we went, Kirsten got a Canada t-shirt, and I got one, too, which we wore in photos I’ll recap in a later post. The hotel we stayed at here was still nice but probably one of my lesser favorites of the trip. It was a lot older, but for the price, it still was nice, had a comfy bed, had a hot tub, and we got free breakfast, so no complaints from us. This is one of the structures Medicine Hat had, and actually we had a funny moment later that night at the hotel because Kirsten said, “I don’t really know what people would stay in this town for,” since we quickly figured out it wasn’t a destination for tourists primarily. And Corrine goes, “They can go see that teepee!” We all cracked up, including her, and she ended up spitting out her water, which just added to the humor. It was neat looking, though.

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Corrine and Kirsten took a pass on the hot tub, but my mom wanted to go to relax our muscles, so her and I went while they went to pick up some things, and we ordered pizza, so they were going to stay for its delivery. Those hot tubs were the perfect thing to look forward to after a long, full day of being cramped up in a car. This hot tub was much more tame compared to the other pool. There weren’t as many people with their kids.

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We ordered pizza from Papa John’s, and it was delicious, especially after being in the hot tub. It was such a great feeling to come back from that, get dressed in comfy pajamas, and then eat pizza on the bed with Kir.

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This time at night to just relax and talk with each other was also fun because we started generating ideas for what we wanted to do in Calgary. Kirsten had seen pictures of the mountains and lakes in Banff, which wasn’t far from Calgary, so she wanted to go there and get pictures. We also wanted to go shopping, I was dying to go up in a skyscraper so we saw the Calgary Tower was something we could do, there was this awesome bridge that went over a river by the skyscrapers we wanted to get pictures at, Mom wanted to see the Saddledome and get a picture for Hunter (home of the Calgary Flames!), and so on. We started browsing through ideas of things to do both in Calgary and Banff, and it was a lot of fun looking at photos of all the attractions and getting excited to soon be doing those things.

This is Buff. His full name is Buff Shawn Trip because we heard Shawn Mendes constantly, so now we named him after Shawn, but it only seemed fitting because Shawn is from Canada.

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And here’s all of us with Buff!

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All my energy and excitement must have finally gotten to me, proven by like five different things I wrote down on my phone that I thought were funny. I was driving my mom nuts because we shared one bed while Corrine and Kir had the other, and Mom goes to bed too early just like my grandma and I kept laughing, and it’s hilarious because I took a selfie of us where she’s, like, about knocked out, and you can tell she’s just about ready to strangle me, and then there’s me, wide awake and loving life. I’d post the selfie, but it’s really not that flattering of either of us.

And that’s about how I feel now about being able to share this first recap post! These days were truly just a glimpse of what was in store for us. I was so thankful for all God blessed us with and also for helping us through other times in the trip when some things didn’t go as smoothly. I’m so thrilled to share all of it! Stay tuned for the next post that should be out soon! I don’t know if I’ve ever had this much fun writing blog posts, even though I was irate with my photo app because evidently uploading 500 photos at one time is too much to ask. But it’s all coming together! The next post will recap driving to Calgary, our wonderful hotel there, and both our days in Banff! Thanks so much for reading about our adventures and the thoughts I have along the way as well as how God is continuing to grow me. There’s much more to come!!

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Weeks of Reflection

My family took their annual trip up to Canada where they would be fishing for a whole week, and this city-loving-girly-girl took a pass on that last year and did so again this year. I did spend the two years before that going on the trip with them, and while I highly enjoyed the experience of seeing another country and the outdoors in that way, I’m more than ready to explore other things. Like cities! And more shopping!! And hotels!!! (I did recap my experiences of Canada here and here.)

But the time hasn’t come for me yet where I can pursue those fascinations except for the shopping, so instead I spent about two weeks with my grandparents in MY “happy place,” their little small town that is also not too far from MY ideal version of the lake life in Okoboji. And I shopped online. A lot. I didn’t buy anything though, unfortunately. And we ate a lot. But I really had a good time with them. It always feels bittersweet when I leave their house. After that period of time, I was definitely ready to see my family again and my lovely room. My three minute a day conversations with Mom weren’t really cutting it, since there’s no internet up there or phone service and so she had to call me with a calling card. But I miss my grandparents terribly. I miss just going for drives around town whenever and our talks. I miss getting all dressed up everyday. I miss staying up late with Grandma!!! Most of all I miss all the time I wasted online shopping. Well, kidding, because let’s be real, I do the exact same thing just about everywhere.

It was one of those times where I did want to write, or at least, my intentions were there. Because I guess what I really wanted to do—and did do—was stuff my face with junk food and go online shopping. Pray for me, my motivation at this time could use a little work.

As the days went on, though, I began thinking about a blog post that would be perfect to recap this time. I didn’t think I would write one, honestly, because eating and online shopping are interesting to me, but probably not to the rest of the world.

The one productive thing I ended up doing was journaling. I know I’m one of those types of people that can be guilty of trying to do too much, too soon, where a time to relax can’t be that because you feel like you have to be doing something productive constantly. That’s important to some extent, but so is rest and taking time to renew your mind. I’ll be honest about this time: I still felt like my mind was reeling from the end of the school year. When my last day of school came and went, it didn’t even feel like the end, and it still doesn’t. These school years have been more challenging than most, for sure, because my greatest struggles aren’t really with academics or even people.

They’re with my mind.

And I was kind of taken aback when my “happy place” didn’t give me all the answers. Didn’t just erase the anxiety or the sadness. I know I’ve expected that before. You go on a vacation or plan out some time that should help you regain your sense of sanity, but it doesn’t. That’s not anyone’s fault but mine. You can have everything, but usually the people that do are some of the most unhappy because that can’t fix you, and then you become confused as to why. I want to share more thoughts on this from the weeks, but first I have to share all the little moments that make it so wonderful and that make up true life.

First off, anytime I am with my grandparents I feel so much joy. I thank God so much for them because they’re encouraging, loving, and are always there for me and listen to me and all my teenage problems and negative mindsets. Having people like that is truly a gift from God, since there’s nothing I did to have them be in my life. And it’s things like that I have to remember when the days get hard and it feels like you can’t trust God: remember all the things He’s already done for you. Sometimes when you want something so much, you are unable to see what you’ve already wanted and been given. I think that is one of the main issues I faced my sophomore year that trickled into this time, is wanting what I want, right now, and God is not ready to give it to me yet. Then I let lies from the devil tell me that He doesn’t care about my dreams or desires or that He won’t do anything with them. Yet when I pause to truly think about that and be rational, I realize that all He’s done for me proves the exact opposite.

This is why reflection is huge. I’m too guilty of letting my emotions run my life and just going with the flow in terms of what I feel. If I’m not intentional in praying to God about what I think, my thought life will be a mess and threaten to destroy me. I’ve never believed more in the power of what you think since I’ve started reflecting on my own thoughts. It’s amazing and almost kind of frightening how one problem can look like the end of the world to one person yet another person can look at it with peace and clarity, and it has no control over their behavior. Why? Because they think about it differently. This is true even for me. There are days I could cry because I am so thankful for the life God has given me and all the little miracles He’s done to keep me on the right track, and then there are days I could cry because I feel so down about everything and nothing seems right. This could happen over the course of two days, when nothing has really changed at all. It’s called watching what you think, and the Bible even talks about this in being on your guard for attacks from the enemy (1 Peter 5:8).

I am thankful that I have people to help me with this. Sometimes all it takes is just having a conversation with my grandma to bring me back down to earth or her encouragement to quit worrying and just turn to God. I’ve always been a worrier, which is not something I like about myself, but I’ve also grown so much in my faith through God helping me overcome it. And one quote I remember saving as a kid said something about just taking a breath and letting that worry go. It’s amazing how just that very simple word—breathe—can make all the difference when it comes to anxiety. Seriously. When I have a worry just consuming me, and I actually take the time to stop and take a breath, it loses its power over me. Or I take the time to stop and pray about it. It’s no wonder the Bible is filled with words like “be still,” and that is why Psalm 46:10 is one of my favorite Bible verses. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Worries don’t hold a candle to that if you just stop and meditate on what that means. God is sovereign over any worry, over your whole life, and you can know you can trust Him. I write this for myself just as much as I am for all of you because I know I’ll be back to worrying about something, and that’s when coming back to read this is so important.

I also am extremely grateful for the influence my grandparents have. They’ve been through so much recently and are of course still human, but their faith is so strong and has inspired me so much. It proves that God can get us through anything.

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If I didn’t recap the food we ate, would it have really been a week with my grandparents at all?! Grandma made me these bagels for breakfast, and then I also discovered frozen French toast sticks at HyVee that taste just like the ones I used to love at my school. I’m not sure how healthy they are, but I don’t really care either because they were amazing and I was finally eating breakfast because normally I don’t… Grandpa was undergoing radiation treatments over in Spencer when I was there, so we would have to leave by noon, which didn’t leave us time for lunch until the late afternoon, but let’s be real I didn’t wake up until ten most days anyway… #summer

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This was the real highlight of all the food we consumed. Their Hardee’s has these little sliders you can get, and they’re super cheap and the perfect size for me because I don’t usually eat a full sized cheeseburger unless I’m super hungry, and then the curly fries are the perfect addition. I miss these so much…

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This was in the waiting room that Grandma and I were in while Grandpa had his radiation done. Thankfully, it didn’t take long, but it takes its toll, so I was glad I could be there with Grandpa. He had to do it everyday, Monday through Friday, and now we just pray that it got all the cancer. I was up for the end of his time doing this, which just proves how every moment should be appreciated and is a gift from God. I also remember talking with Grams in this waiting room about the thoughts I’ve been writing about and needing to release my grip on things. Life can feel very unpredictable, but we can’t let that shake our faith because God never changes. He is always good, faithful, and His promises are always true. That’s something I have to remember when life hurts or when I feel anxious for the future.

Their waiting room also had these cookies, which I ate most of the days, so yes, please still pray for my diet. It’s just as wonderful as ever. And that’s one thing I don’t have any desire to change, which is why I need all the more prayers…

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I loved getting to go for car rides, too, like we always do. I had good talks with Grams on those, and then Grandpa would take us out for an ice cream cone at McDonald’s, too, almost every night, and we’d drive around town. I regret letting worries about things that aren’t even relevant to my life right now seep into my time with them, but now I can take it all as a learning experience to just be in the moment. That is so huge and something this society is forgetting how to do. We’re so driven by what’s next, what we should be accomplishing next, etc., and that is draining us. It’s okay to just have some weeks like these that are low-key and maybe not the most productive but an essential time for God to speak to you and for you to just rest in Him while He takes care of it all. Because He can, and He will, and the thing I have to remember is He doesn’t need my help with that. He’s never asked me to worry about my future or otherwise try to manipulate it and figure it out myself. He knows just when to bring the insights, opportunities, and connections that I need, and me worrying and obsessing about finding those doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make time go faster. It doesn’t lead to any answers. Again, be still, He says, and know that He is God. That’s His job. I just need to obey and relax.

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Their Godfather’s went out, which still upsets me, but we ate at Pizza Hut instead, and theirs was also wonderful. Then at the end, we asked for one brownie and cinnamon roll, but I guess they only come in packages so…we got a whole box of both! Which was perfect for our diet!

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Lastly, we of course had to stop at Okoboji, and while it was a really hot day, I had fun just looking through some of the stores. I actually didn’t buy anything though I thought about it, but I’m glad I didn’t because one day we went to a JCPenney’s in Spencer and I scored much cuter finds at much better prices there. A dress and sweater totaling under $50. June is the time to buy sweaters, people. It was like $5, regularly $40 or so. Then I also got a dress I hope I ever find an occasion to wear it to, and that was on sale.

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Back to the thoughts I was talking about earlier. I actually cried a lot during these few weeks. Again, that wasn’t really because of any circumstances. Hanging out with my grandparents is a blast, and it wasn’t related to being there at all. However, I let thoughts that I battled my whole sophomore year consume me. One thing I’m learning has to do with desires because sometimes my dreams absolutely consume me, and it’s exhausting. Constantly looking for opportunities because I’m afraid I’ll miss something or waste my life if I don’t. Constantly wondering, obsessing, and letting what I want in the future take me out of what God has given me in the present. It’s a battle I constantly face, but I’ve learned this: every moment, no matter how joyful or painful at the time being, is part of the journey God has you on to shape you into the person you’re meant to be. You’re not going to miss anything, unless you do go on your own way ahead of God. Then you’ll miss blessings He wants to give you right now. Because my life doesn’t start when I publish a book. It doesn’t start when I get married. It’s unfolding right now. There’s so much beauty in the right now. I have so much anticipation and longing for things I still want to do, but God knows. He’s given me those desires, and He says if I am seeking Him first, those pure desires will be given to me also (Psalm 37:4).

But that’s where I went wrong. I’m consumed by my desires to the point where God isn’t first anymore. How can I expect to get those things—and actually be satisfied with them—if God is not the center of my life? My desires mean nothing without Him at the center, and my life will not be enjoyable if I’m not putting Him first.

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We love listening to country music on their TV station and in the car, and two songs I found that I love and that spoke to me were “Catch” by Brett Young and “Living” by Dierks Bentley. The former talks about how when a guy was just going about his life and not looking for anything, a girl came along. It reminded me that God knows just when to bring everything into your life that you need, and just relax in that. You don’t need to go looking for things and wear yourself out. The latter is another good song about just appreciating the life you’ve been given and really taking in your blessings and each moment as it comes. I listened to both of them a lot when I felt down.

Chasing after dreams and desires is exhausting. It’s exhausting because God never asked me to do it. He already knows the plans He has for me, for you. And He knows just how to accomplish them in His timing. So here’s to letting go of all the how’s—that’s not our job to figure out. The most amazing, wonderful miracles come when you least expect them and when you may not even be aware that you need them because when you’re seeking God, He knows how to keep you on the right path. He knows how to bring you back when you’ve strayed. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to stop trying so hard. Take the pressure and expectations to perform off. Let God do His work in preparing you for what He has planned. And rest assured that when you’re seeking Him first, all of the pain, all of the longing, and all of the desires He’s put in you each have their purpose in your journey. He WILL work it all for the good. You don’t have to know how. You just have to believe Him when He promises that and enjoy what He’s doing right now in the everyday.

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What Life Is All About

A little over a week ago, I got to attend my cousin Kirsten’s graduation ceremony at the University of Iowa, and I have to say, the entire day we spent with her and family was amazing. So amazing that I felt the need to write all of it down that I could possibly remember in my journal, and now my nails hurt from clenching my pen so much! It was one of those days, though, that you just want to hold onto forever. But of course reality has to set back in, and as I texted her the next day, I felt depressed thinking of the fun times and then having to return to the monotonous grind of school/”the real world.” Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way because I can look back on that time and let the joy of it radiate in me now. I wanted to blog about it, though, because not only did I have a great time and want to remember it, but I also…well, I’m trying to think of some other way to say “learned a lot of lessons from it!” because I feel like I say that with literally everything on this blog. Lessons learned from hockey, lessons learned from shopping, lessons learned from staying up late on my phone stalking social media… Okay, fine, I get it. It’s always important to learn, though, am I right?! We may as well just change this blog tagline to “everything a teen girl does and every lesson she learns from it.” Well, there’s worse things to blog about, I think!

Anyway, I really enjoy spending time with my family, and Kirsten is the type of person you just always have fun with. I’ve blogged about our times together before, including just last summer when we tried jet skiing, an experience I highly recommend! You can read all about that and many other adventures right here.

Kirsten was graduating from Iowa, and seeing as we live only an hour away from Iowa City, my mom and I were going to go to her ceremony. Mom gets pretty anxious about the driving and making it there on time when we knew it was going to be crazy, but once we got that part out of the way, we were able to relax. I’ve only been to Iowa City one other time before this, when I had to go see my surgeons there to talk about jaw surgery, and I wrote about that experience here as well and—you’ll never guess it—more lessons I’d learned!

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I was very overwhelmed by how many people there were and how big the stadium was that the ceremony was held in! There were crowds of people so big that when trying to walk through, you’d actually rub against someone, haha. Trying to find her family to sit by was a little hectic, but thankfully we were able to find them just before things got started and settled in. I enjoyed where we sat because we sat at some table/desk-like structure in the middle, and these plastic rolling chairs were actually very comfortable. It was nice to see her family!

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Even though the ceremony was super long, it didn’t really feel that way. We were able to spot Kirsten just before we missed her haha, as it moved fast and in no organized order. We did get good pictures of her, though. Then afterwards we were able to meet up with her and, seeing as my mom and I were starving since we hadn’t really had breakfast that morning, we decided to go eat somewhere. Kirsten wanted to check out the mall they had and try Zombie Burger which was in their food court, so we ended up deciding to meet there. Before we left, though, we took some pictures with Kirsten.

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I was, of course, ecstatic to be going to the mall, but Mom was still frazzled about getting out. Getting out was actually very stressful because there was not nearly adequate enough organization to directing people out, so everyone was just going as they please with no real flow. Once we got out of that mess though and then out of the mess of driving all the way through Iowa City because Siri thought that was the best route to the mall evidently, and after Mom was able to make it inside the mall and get food and such, it ended up being more relaxing with the stressful part behind us. We got food right away and enjoyed catching up with Kirsten and her mom. They actually ended up coming back to our house with us for a bit because we were going to end up going back anyway to pick up my brother, who wanted to see them, and spend some time at their hotel in Altoona. So it did end up working out that we were able to do just a bit of shopping, too! I made Kir go to one of my fave stores with me, and I was thrilled that finally a day where I go to the mall and they were having deals at my store! Mom went with my aunt to pick up some new soaps and stuff like that, and we met up with them later. We didn’t go too crazy, but hey, I was able to leave with something on sale from my store—and actually convinced Kirsten to get something, too—so I was more than happy with how it all played out. And then Kirsten and I went into a dressing room literally just to take a picture, and I’m sure the sales lady was wondering what the heck we were doing, but anyway, we got the picture, so what else matters?

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The car ride home flew by as we were lost in conversation the whole way. Seeing as Kirsten and her family live up in Minnesota, we don’t get to actually see them much, but when we do, it always goes by so fast. It’s those times you never forget, though, and they’re that much more special. I’m always so thankful to God, and even though the day stays full of activity and as a result I don’t feel like I talk to Him as much, I know that’s a blessing from Him and something He wants me to enjoy, is that time with family. It all leads me back to Him as I thank Him for those times and days and reflect back on them later. It reminds me constantly of His goodness and provision and the good times in life that I can enjoy while I’m here. We enjoyed talking with them once we got home after making a stop at our Walmart because Kirsten wanted to see if there were cute Hawkeye shirts—and normally there are—but unfortunately our Walmart let her down just like the Spirit Lake Walmart did last summer when she wanted an Okoboji shirt. Maybe one day, Kirsten…! I was happy Kir got to see my room because I’ve changed it immensely since she was last at my house.

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I love having her to take photos with because we both can be conceited together hahaha. But really, you gotta have some way to document those memories! And thankfully she’s as picky about her photos as me, so we always make sure we get some good ones and some not so serious, also, to highlight the fun of the day!

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Once we got my brother, we headed to Altoona to take them back to their hotel, since they’d be headed back the next day. That time was really special because everyone got to visit with one another in the room, although Kirsten and I were rarely in the room because we literally made the rounds walking around the hotel and talking and getting pictures about five different times, haha. We talked about everything from upcoming events we were looking forward to to guys to life now to Kir’s fear of elevators! And we took lots of pictures. And one time Kirsten literally walked into a room where there was a big dance for a wedding, which I proudly got on video, and then another time we walked into this group of dancers or something and that was quite awkward given how they were dressed, and then another time I found this cute guy, and we wanted to go look at the casino even though obviously I wasn’t getting in, and there was a gift shop, and all sorts of reasons why we were wandering around endless times! Probably one of my favorite parts of the day, just walking around with her like that and talking. I love being able to go for walks like that with people. Even when I’m at the hockey games in Wells Fargo, I always love walking around the arena.

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Gotta love that view!

I was so thankful we got to see them and have that time with them. I know that good gift of family is all from God, and it makes me so thankful for how He provides like that. He knows when I need a break or when the seriousness and routine of life needs to be broken up or when I need to be reminded of what really matters. And I know I probably say this all the time, but it just makes me so appreciative of my family and what He’s put right in front of me. It’s that reminder I need to keep enjoying the good and keep working because school can be difficult for me, both with people and with the stress of keeping up with the workload. It’s always nice to have that break, that reminder and refresher of what makes life rich. Working hard is good and important, but I don’t ever want to be so obsessed with things that I can’t let go or release control and just enjoy the season of life I’m in. Because believe me, I can get very uptight that way, and I can doubt God and lose my focus on Him and what matters. But then there are days like this, where He’ll remind me of it again and again, to remember those moments, those feelings, that knowing that He always provides and He is the One who makes life joyful. And there will always be those times for those who trust in Him completely. I’ll write much more on this in the future because learning to let go and appreciate the moment and NOT GETTING IMPATIENT LIKE I ALWAYS DO HAHA is something He’s been working on immensely in me this year. But we are getting there, people! So thank you for always following along and going on this journey with me. I pray all of you are doing well and will stop to align your focus in life with God’s because that is when you know what life is about and will have His true joy.

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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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