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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My Thoughts Lately

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Headed back to the hotel

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I do love working in hotels

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Except I always get distracted with shopping :’)

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My dog while I was sick

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

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

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

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Kinnick Stadium, home of the Hawkeyes

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

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Then we went to the mall of course :)

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

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

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

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

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Zach Parise <3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How Racing is Like Life Part 2

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Knoxville Nationals 2k18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I loved the bag ;)

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lessons Learned from the Knoxville Nationals

Seeing all the people can inevitably lead to comparison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Daily Essentials

I've been wanting to do a post for awhile over all of my "essentials" and favorite things that help me to be productive on a daily basis or just some things I love to use or have each day. Some of these are actual products, but I've also included some things and activities I like to do on a daily basis that help keep me going and stay positive and focused on my ultimate life goal which is to glorify God in the way I live. So here's my round-up of all those things!

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my first phone...the iPhone 5c—I was thrilled to get one in a coral color haha

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the phone I have now...an iPhone 6s in the gorg rose gold color

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gotta have cute cases, too :)

1. My iPhone

My iPhone is without a doubt the thing I use most. You can do just about everything on it, although there are some things I prefer to do on my laptop any day, like writing, for instance. But I'm very thankful for what a resource it is. I love Apple products. I'm somewhat biased though, since I grew up using those, but I think personally they're the most straightforward to use. I have various different apps I use on a daily or consistent basis.

My favorite apps—

  • Notes: this is built into the iPhone, and I use it so much that at one point I had over a hundred notes... I get a little disorganized, but I love how I can easily jot down thoughts like when I'm in the car or at school.
  • Bible: I love this app because it makes it super easy to read the Bible with multiple selections of which version you can read in, like the NIV, KJV, etc. There's also "plans" that are like little devotions over a multitude of topics you can choose from—they have just about everything and make it very easy to find what you're looking for. I use this when I need a quick boost of encouragement, or sometimes when I'm doing a Bible study where I already take notes in the book, I'll use my phone app to look up the verses.
  • Squarespace Blog: I love this app! I've already talked about that here! I can very easily work on drafts of blog posts, go back and see old ones, and read and approve comments. I don't typically write full posts on my phone, but this app is great for when I need to reference an old post or go through and look at my drafts or write down some ideas or a beginning of a new post when I'm away from my computer.
  • Google Photos: This app is a lifesaver. Or a phonesaver, because mine explodes with all the photos I take. And this lets you upload YOUR WHOLE CAMERA ROLL. FOR FREE. WITH UNLIMITED STORAGE. ISN'T THAT AMAZING. Plus, it makes it super convenient for me when I'm trying to get photos on my computer; all I have to do is back up my photos onto this app, and then I can go online to the website and easily download them to my computer. It's holding all 5,000+ of my photos and videos for free. I LOVE IT.
  • VSCO: This is a cool photo editing app. I use this app a lot, sometimes just for fun and other times to try and edit a photo because they have a lot more options for photos than the camera options that are programmed on my phone. Just recently I figured out how to make my own pink filter that still looks natural! I also use them to try and fix photos that are too dark or have awkward lighting. A lot of the features are free, though a lot of the filters cost money.
  • Spotify: I love Spotify for streaming music, so I have the app on my phone that I listen to all the time.
  • Of course, I'm able to manage my social media from my phone, which is convenient.
  • Evernote: I use this app as a place for me to "dump" my ideas for books, mainly, or to keep track of different things I will want to reference later. I also have the app on my computer, so it makes it easy to keep track of those things I will use for my books or blog. It's also easy to organize, as there are "notebooks" that you can group different notes into.
  • I also have like three email accounts synced to my phone, so it's super easy for me to check all of them. I have like five email accounts, honestly, between school and my personal email and emails for my writing. It's nice to be able to have one place where I can check all of them at once.

2. Relaxing time

I try to always make time to just relax and not worry about any obligations with school, writing, or whatever it may be. For me, this consists mostly of laying in bed while on my laptop, either reading things for fun, taking a million random quizzes, or watching a movie. It could also be me reading a book I've been wanting to. Now that it's summer, I've probably been engaging in way too much of this to the point where I don't do anything, but hey, self care, haha. ;) Bonus points when Mom makes me her ah-mazing cheeseballs!

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3. Time spent with people you love

This is also hugely important, as life is clearly about relationships. I try to make a point in texting people that I am close to like my cousins or going out to do things with people. Just the other day I went to some swimming/fitness classes with my grandma that I've enjoyed, and we went shopping and ate out, too, and that was a blast. I also love my dog; sometimes when I'm getting ready for bed and just laying down looking at my phone or reading, he'll just plop down by my legs and snuggle against me. <3

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4. Devotionals/Bible studies

I love to read devotionals. They have Bible verses with meaningful, applicable ways to apply it to your life. I try to read something in the Bible everyday whether that's a Bible study or devotion. Sometimes I do both, but usually I do one or the other depending somewhat on my mood and what I need. Like for example, if I'm really struggling with a certain topic, then I might read a devotion over that to help me. Or if I want to learn about a certain topic, I'll go do a Bible study over that topic. Like I said, I try to do both or at least one, a devotion or Bible study, each day, usually at night since that seems to be the best time for me personally because with school, I barely have enough time to get ready in the morning...which is mainly my fault, and if I were more of a go-getter I would wake up way earlier to make time for everything...but to be honest, I think way better at night (RIGHT GRANDMA?!!). I'm in more of a reflective, calm mood, and usually if I'm going to be upset it hits me later at night, so it's better timing for that anyway haha.

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Anyway, my favorite devotions—

  • 365 Days to Knowing God for Girls: this one has practical advice that is always encouraging and that helps you learn to apply different truths about who God is to your life and relationship with Him. I've enjoyed it.
  • It's been awhile since I read the devotional pictured, but I remember liking it! I also remember it had call to actions with specific things you could do, so if you like that sort of thing, it'd be really good.
  • Soul Surfer Devotions: Okay I love this one. I was reading some devotions out of this one a few weeks ago, and everything I read I just loved; I agreed with all of it, and it was so relatable. It had just the words I needed to hear.
  • Jesus Calling: another great devotional book. I took notes on this one. The perspective this one is written it, like it is Jesus actually telling you this, was a perspective I'd never read before, and I enjoyed it so much. It felt truthful to Scripture and what He really said. It was definitely one I recommend for anyone at any stage in their relationship with God.
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As for Bible studies, I have many different ways I go about studying the Bible—in fact I plan to write a whole post on it, so I will try to keep this part short. Sometimes I use books to help me study, or sometimes I just read my Bible and take notes myself.

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Pictured above is a Bible study I was doing at church, and I had a notebook I would write things in dedicated solely to my Bible study. The only book I have for a Bible study is Living So That, and I LOVE it. Yeah, this one I wrote about here... The one I got four years ago... And still haven't finished... That's embarrassing. But I was doing other things in my Bible besides that, which I'll get into more in depth in a later post. But I'm really enjoying that book; it's the study I'm currently doing.

5. Bags

I always use some sort of bag on a daily basis: in the summer, it's my purse; in the school year, it's my backpack.

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I used to have a gold crossbody I really liked because crossbodies are by far my favorite type of purse, but unfortunately as I got older I needed to fit more stuff into my purse, and the crossbody I had just wasn't big enough for all of it. So now I'm using this purse I got at Okoboji (I actually blogged about that here), and I really like it despite it not being a crossbody. I have this dream Michael Kors crossbody I want... I don't think that's happening anytime soon, though... I could always ask for a Louis Vuitton purse though, haha!

I LOVE my Under Armour backpack, though. It's a bright neon pink, and it is so durable; it has been through years of hauling around my laptop, books, and everything. I've taken it on trips to Estherville and to Canada and everywhere. I love it, and actually I'm sad because it's getting kind of dingy and faded. But I've had it for three years—since the end of sixth grade, jeez—so I'm definitely using it. But I looked up new backpacks from various different places, and honestly, I can say I don't care for any of them. I like my bright pink backpack—you know I'm all about that pink—so yeah, I don't WANT a new one, so pray I can get this one cleaned... If you have any tips please tell me...

6. Mom's cheeseballs ;)

I WISH I could have these everyday, though this summer I practically have. She's going to make them for me tonight though YAY...! *At the time of me publishing this, a day later, I ate them all last night. :(

7. Photos

I try to take photos daily, but I also don't like forcing them either, so I don't all the time, but one thing I do try to do everyday is look through some old photos. There is something about that that really gives your mood a boost; I love looking back at old photos.

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8. Pens

I am addicted to stationary. I have millions of notebooks and many pens to accompany them. I do write a lot, though, about different things, and so I need different colors of pens and styles of notebooks for each purpose because I am OCD like that and because it's more fun that way. BUT THESE PENS... <3 They are my all time favorite; I always go through so many of them, and the black and pink are usually the first ones to die... Surprise surprise... :) These are Paper Mate felt pens, and I love the way they write and the array of colors they come in. I use them for literally everything.

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Look closely at this photo below and you can see for Christmas that I got all those pens in a limited edition with the tropical colors, which I love. <3 <3 <3 And you can also see my dog in the background with his huge rawhide he got, haha.

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9. A diary or journal that is special

I like to pick out a special journal just for my own journaling and diary. I like for it to be pretty obviously, and I also like it to be more like a journal than a notebook. I don't always journal everyday—I used to be way better at this, but when I need to dump my thoughts I will. I have this journal I'm using right now, and it is the prettiest journal I've ever had in my life. I'm not exaggerating whatsoever; it's my favorite, and therefore I feel like I need to be extra careful with what I write in it because I like it so much I don't want to waste it, and so far I feel like I'm doing just that! But I know that's what it's for, so I need to quit worrying about it. Anyway, it's gorgeous. I don't think I'll ever be able to find another one like it.

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In fact, it's kind of funny, actually, because in my first novel I wrote about a journal my character kept, and I described it the way I pictured my ideal journal to look, and part of that description was that on the pages there would be bokeh in the background...

LOOK AT THAT. BOKEH IN THE BACKGROUND ON THE PAPER. I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW SUCH A THING EXISTED EXCEPT FOR IN MY MIND.

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10. A million other notebooks

I love notebooks, but that's merely stating the obvious. And I really do have purposes for all of them—or most of them, but trust me I will find purposes for all of them. I usually prefer composition books for my writing; I have a composition book for notes on each novel I write. For my idea recording and organizing, I use journals. Those I put all of my ideas in just one journal though instead of one journal for each idea because that would be overkill. But yeah, I love notebooks, and I'm really good at finding a million of them and all the pretty ones there are.

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Sometimes I even use matching colors. ;)

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I always love creating new systems with each notebook of how I'm going to color code, haha.

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I'm serious, I have a million notebooks. These photos are only scratching the surface.

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11. Keyboard cover

For my laptop, I consider this a necessity. I learned this the hard way, unfortunately. When the squares light up you can see the dog hair that has floated into the keys. What a view! So yeah, that's probably never coming out, so buy one of these if you don't want that or other things like crumbs getting stuck in your keys. That, and it's pretty and feels awesome to type with, so why not?

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12. Music

I LOVE listening to music everyday. It lifts my mood and even gives me inspiration to write—I have playlists for each of my books. Not a day goes by where I don't listen to music.

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My grandparents have this awesome TV station that plays music nonstop with NO COMMERCIALS and has pictures and facts about the artist singing, and ugh I wish we had that station!!!

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13. Beauty products

I always use a variety of different beauty products on a daily basis. I'm not big on makeup yet, and I don't know if I ever will be, though I do have some things like eye shadow and a couple lipsticks on hand. I have yet to use them, but one day... Haha. What I do use everyday though is some sort of body mist or perfume. I also have a Scentsy thing in my room that I love; it's not from the actual Scentsy brand, I think I got it off Amazon, but it works great, and it gives my room a nice boost of light. My favorite scent that I have for this that I just got at Walmart and have been using currently smells like the ocean and beach, and it reminds me of the books I reviewed here because the series I loved was set at a beach house, so now I always associate that smell with those books, haha.

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What I love even more than this are the body mists I've accumulated. I spray one of those on everyday—I LOVE THEM. I've gotten all of mine so far from Victoria's Secret or PINK just because I have yet to find a scent of theirs I didn't like, so I just keep going back for more. I love to just go through and smell all of them; I have them all set out on top of my bookshelf as decorations because of course I pick out scents by how pretty the bottles are! :)

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My favorite scents:

  • PINK Fresh and Clean: I got this one for a Christmas gift many years ago and finally started using it about a year ago after gym class, and I just love this smell. I think it's my favorite ever, but unfortunately it's almost gone. :(
  • Victoria's Secret Aqua Kiss: I love the fresh smell of this one!
  • PINK Warm and Cozy: another favorite of mine, I bought a hand lotion for this shopping with my friend when we were like 11, because that's really all we could buy from Victoria's Secret at that time, and I always loved the smell, so recently I just got a body mist with it, and it smells just as amazing as I remember it.

I also have a cute little rollerball that I keep in my purse from Victoria's Secret called Crush, and I love using that when I'm on the go!

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Also from Victoria's Secret, I have a cute metallic pink beauty bag that is big enough to hold my lipsticks and eye shadow, the rollerball above, and my millions of hair ties but is small enough to fit in my purse, so I use that a lot. I also have a pink bag in a similar shade of pink as the makeup bag with black polka dots that I love, and I store my tons of nail polish in there. That definitely doesn't fit in my purse, but it's still small enough that it's convenient to take when I travel.

14. Sunglasses and case

For sunglasses, I have gold Aviators that I love. I got them from American Eagle, and so far they've held up pretty well. I also have a pink, glittery case to put them in while they're in my purse. The case came with this cloth for the lenses that is also pink and glittery, but it also has a picture of Marilyn Monroe on it...? I didn't really want that but it came with the case, and I wanted the case...

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15. Laptop

Obviously I use this a ton daily, my laptop that I love. I can do just about everything on this, plus it's synced with my phone, so I can even respond to texts on it!! My favorite apps that I have on my laptop are Evernote, Spotify (which is even better on the computer because you can skip as many songs as you want or just click on the song you want to listen to!), and Photoshop. Okay, I don't have Photoshop, but I had a free trial of it that has since expired, but I LOVED IT. Whenever I get money, I definitely want to invest in that. The websites I use the most are obviously social media and my blog, but I also use Dropbox consistently to back up things, and Wishbin is another cool site I use to keep track of all the things I want, and that definitely comes in handy around the holidays when I can send that to Mom, and she can shop for me easily!

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16. Planner

Last but not least, I love staying organized, so I always have a planner. In high school, this becomes a necessity to keep track of homework and due dates. I'm not even involved in anything yet, and I still use them, so I definitely recommend using a planner. My new planner I talk about in this post has been working great for me!

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Bonus: pop

Okay. I didn't think I was one of those people who needed caffeine to function everyday, but oh my gosh, as I was looking through all my photos to pick out the images for this post, I WOULD SAY LIKE HALF OF THEM HAVE POP IN THEM. Just when I think I'm healthy... ;)

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Seriously. I could make a compilation of all the photos I have with pop in them the same way I could make a compilation of all the times my Grams Marjean has fallen—literally, a conversation I had with her last night. But as she said, I'm still alive! Hahaha.

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