Reflecting on My Favorite Quotes {Faith}

Around this time last year, I started a post series where I summarize some key concepts I’ve learned from quotes I’ve saved that follow truths that align with God’s will. I’ve wrote two posts in that series, and I really want to finish it. I share my struggles with anxiety here, as well as the lessons I’ve learned to deal with it. And I also shared my favorite quotes about fulfilling your dreams here and how I live by those.

I also have some quotes that specifically go along with faith I want to summarize. I’ll try to keep this post short because obviously I’m constantly talking about faith and what I learn on this blog. But a lot of these quotes offer good reminders of the Christian faith we all need to hear. So hopefully some of these can inspire you, too!

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1. Nothing is ever irredeemable.

I love quotes that talk about how God works through brokenness in people and how those people can become some of the strongest when they allow God to take over. I know that has been true for so many people in my family, and I hope it’s true for me, too. I don’t always feel unbreakable every day. In fact, most days I do struggle with some thing or other. But God is always so faithful; there is never a pain I’ve had in my life where I haven’t seen how He’s used it. There are definitely times when I’ve gotten close to thinking I’d never see it. For example, in the first post of this series where I share my struggles with anxiety, I felt like the biggest failure. I thought I was regressing as a Christian and losing all my faith, and I had no idea how that was ever supposed to propel me forward in life.

But now? I can totally see how God used it. Because of my experience with anxiety, not only am I able to understand others better, but I also have a better perspective on life because I know what it’s like to go through life both with and without anxiety and how God can help me through it. That helps me in the future when I get anxious, that helps me assure other people, and it helps me write more authentically. So please know that whatever situation you’re in, God really will make it better when you trust Him with it. I’ve seen some super ugly, heartbreaking situations, and I’ve seen God do miracles through them in the sense of how He works in people’s hearts. And that’s the true meaning of life, is not even gaining external things, but when people’s lives change. If you want any hope for making the world better, it all starts and ends with God. There is no more beautiful thing than watching people’s lives be transformed for Him. I think that’s one way God uses pain, is because you can see how He alone steps in to these terrible situations and revives them. Sometimes you don’t see it right away. I know I’m guilty of looking for showy signs from God that He is working, but honestly, you have to look at those little things He’s doing.

It’s like physical growth in people. When you’re around them constantly, you never notice those changes in height or whatever it may be. But then sometimes it hits you, like oh my gosh, you’ve gotten so tall. And I’ve noticed the same in life. With so many situations in life, one day you just see it. It hits you, like wow, look at what God has done through this, and I didn’t even see it. So just trust Him. It’s so hard in the middle of heartbreak to see what He’s doing, which I talk further about in this post, but you’re not going to see it then. He’ll show it to you in His timing, when you trust Him. So just rest in Him. He promises He will take care of you! I read Exodus 14:14 in my Bible study last night—look that verse up, it’s a beautiful reminder of this.

2. Believe in what God promises you.

His love is always there for you, that never stops. I know sometimes I am guilty of doubting His love when I struggle repeatedly with the same thing because I feel He’s tired of me messing up with that. There is a beautiful quote, though, that talks about how God would rather have us coming to Him when we mess up and believing He still loves us rather than distancing from Him until we make ourselves “better.” Also, I know that doesn’t work, running away from Him like that. Going to God when you fail is precisely how you end up getting “better” because the more aware you are of His love for you, the more you respond in love naturally, and the less place sin has in your life. He is always patient with you. I am so thankful for that. I talk all about His love more in depth here.

Believe that He will do good things for you when you are living for Him! He has good plans for you! Sometimes I get this false idea that because I love God, He’s going to do things to somehow test me or whatever, and these are all bad things I imagine, like never being successful at things He’s laid on my heart or fulfilling my dreams. But that’s when Jeremiah 29:11 is so crucial. His plans are good, not bad! He does care about your desires and dreams! As I talked about in my post reflecting on quotes over that here, they were given to you BY HIM if you are in Him.

The whole point of having faith is you believe that even when you don’t feel it. When you place your trust in God like that, never think that goes unnoticed by Him. Do whatever you have to do to submit your worries to Him and believe His promises. One night, I made a list on my phone of things I would tell myself everyday, whenever I felt upset. These were just simple statements ranging from beauty to dreams to faith in Him. You can’t just hope to trust Him, you have to be intentional in believing what He says. That is also why studying the Bible and what exactly it is He promises is so important, which I talk about here.

One of my favorite quotes says that if we fully comprehended how much God loves us, we would never fear anything. That is so true. So meditate on His promises daily. In eighth grade, when I was so down and upset all the time, one of the things that helped me the most was immersing myself in God’s love. Reading about how He loves me, asking Him to remind me how He loves me, etc. You cannot feel upset when you think about how God loves you. There is an amazing book on this by David Jeremiah I totally recommend, and I talk about it here.

3. Talk to God all the time, just by sharing one thought at a time.

I don’t know how much I’ve addressed prayer on this blog, but one quote I have by C.H. Spurgeon says, “Short prayers are long enough.” The whole point is that no prayer is ever a “bad” prayer. Lots of people, myself included, get the idea that prayer has to be like ten minutes long at a time, or it has to be about “meaningful” things, etc. Whatever the misconceptions may be, the only way you can “mess up” prayer is by doing just that, filtering things from God because you think it’s not worthy of telling Him. Well, He knows it anyway, and He wants you to tell Him. Be completely real with Him. I know I used to hide things from Him. Now I’m the opposite, I say things I probably should never tell Him, like when I’m so mad at someone I could hurt them or I actually swear. Well, again, it’s not like He doesn’t know I’m thinking those things! And He can save you from actually hurting someone if you go to Him in prayer first. ;) Haha, seriously, I’m not kidding, people: He really can handle whatever it is on your heart.

How do you learn to pray all the time? Seriously, just take it one thought at a time, even if it is something so simple like what you’re doing. Make it like a conversation. You probably talk to yourself in your head anyways, so why not tell God what you’re thinking? That’s how you develop that relationship. Before you know it, you’re praying all the time, all day long, exactly how we’re commanded to do. Just because it’s a command doesn’t mean it has to be dreaded. Prayer is such a gift, to be able to have that relationship with God. So treat it like any other healthy, special relationship you’d have with someone who loves you and then some. Because God loves you more than even that person, and a relationship with Him is literally what we are made for.

My favorite quote to end with

There is a quote I love that can be seen so much throughout the Bible as you look at the people who are close to God, that says the people who fall and get back up are a lot stronger than the people who never fall—or don’t seem to, anyway. Don’t feel like a failure if you’re in a hard situation. Just keep doing these three things: remembering nothing is irredeemable and submitting your life to God, remembering what He promises you and resting in His love, and talking to Him constantly about whatever goes through your mind. I tried to pick some of the “main” points or messages I think people need to hear or be reminded of the most. Again, I know I talk about a lot of these things, so I hope this wasn’t overly redundant, but I know I need reminders constantly of these things. I pray they can encourage you, too!

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How God Is Teaching Me More Than I Ever Dreamed & Other Updates

I wanted to take the time to write a “lighter” post because I think Iowa is maybe in the clear for lighter days? I pray so, anyways. I’m a summer girl and live for the warmer weather. I can’t stand being cold. And so far I think we’ve been transitioning decently, at least compared to other years! How are all of you doing? As always, I’d love to hear what’s going on in your lives and any thoughts or requests you have for me, whether that be blog post ideas, prayer requests, etc. So please do reach out to me and let me know!

I have a couple things I want to share with you all in this post, and I’m excited about all of them and about the things I’ll be doing in terms of writing this summer, when I finally have nothing but time. The good thing about my classes this trimester is that I’m taking a few English courses, so I’ve been getting to write and develop new stories, and it is so cool for me personally to see how God helps me write based on past experiences, emotions, and lessons He’s taught me. Oh, and hockey also ended on Saturday. :( October is way too long of a wait for me, but our Iowa Wild actually made the playoffs this year! I already miss it, though. I have so many pictures to show you all from hockey, but I’m going to save them for future posts where I’ll write all about it. If you can’t wait (because I never can), you can read this post about hockey here or this one where I talk about lessons you can learn at a hockey game.

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My advice for these final months of spring is to take the pressure off in life. I have heard so many stories over the course of this year of the stresses people feel they have to take on, and I am no exception to this, but please really take the time to be still and know God—a reminder and verse I need to hear constantly. It is so important for your wellbeing to do that. It’s really not His will for us to be stressed and depressed all the time. There are of course medical reasons for that in some cases, but for people where it’s not, it’s really a matter of attitude. It can be so hard to have a good attitude in some circumstances. Journaling has honestly been what God uses to save my life throughout the past couple months. I learn things, then I regress, then I relearn things. Such is life. But without looking back at what He’s done, I probably would still be on the same path, bound to chains He’s freed me from. I’m trying to remember those things and learn from them, even when I don’t “feel” it.

He is teaching me more than I ever dreamed that way. Even with the pain I feel, there have been times I’ve been so upset with why I have to feel pain, but one way God has shown me He’s used it is through some of my writing. Some of the scenes for my stories have been wrote when I feel the most upset, and it provides both me an outlet and the story a real, raw glimpse of pain. And that is what He can use to resonate with people, to relate to them and reach them.

This is also something I will be blogging about more. I learn so much through journaling, and so many of my thoughts go into that. I’d like to start posting some of those entries on my blog. Of course, since it’s essentially my diary, I’ll have to filter some of it. ;) But most of it can be shared. I think there’s no reason to keep it to myself, not when God has given me the ability to write and the insight I need to know Him more. So stay tuned for that! I have some blog post ideas I’ve been promising forever and that need to be wrote, but once I do some of those, I want to start posting more of those thoughts from my journals. I ended up finishing one of my whole journals just from using it consistently from the beginning of the year. Seriously, without it, I’d lose my sanity.

Now… I have a few questions for you all that I really want you to answer. They’re just super quick polls, one word answers you can select, and you don’t have to tell me your name or anything. Unless you want to comment, which I would so love. ;) But I’ve been reading some more stories on Wattpad, which is just where people can publish some of their writing like short stories. I’ve been writing a lot of stories for this creative writing class, and if you all would be interested, maybe I will post some (here or on Wattpad), and continue some of them into stories I write in my spare time. So, are you interested?!

Would you like me to share some of my fiction writing? *

One more question if you all would be so kind to entertain me… I know I asked this on my reader survey (which if you have not already, COULD YOU PLEASE TAKE HERE?), but I’ve been considering social media things and want to know which platform you receive updates from this blog on.

Which social media do you get updates from Sparkles by Ashlee on? *

Unfortunately, that’s all I have for you today. But I really am serious when I say I love hearing your feedback, and if you have not taken my reader survey, it would mean so much to me if you did!! Just click the button below!

Thank you all so much for reading! Leave me comments below about what you want to hear about and about how you’re all doing. :)

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The Most Inspirational Days of My Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The takeaways from this

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

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

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

How about you?

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2018 | Reflection

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

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

I had plenty of opportunities for that this year.

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

Without further ado, let’s recap 2018!


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January

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

Lessons

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

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

Memories

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

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

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

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February

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

Lessons

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

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

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

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March

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

Lessons

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

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

Memories

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

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April

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

Lessons

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

Memories

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

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

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

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

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May

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

Memories

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

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

Lessons

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

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

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June

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

Lessons

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

Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July

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

Memories

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

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

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August

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

Lessons

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

Memories

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

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

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September

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

Lessons

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

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

Memories

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

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

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

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

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October

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

Lessons

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

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

Memories

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

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

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

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November

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

Lessons

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

Memories

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

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December

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

Lessons

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

Memories

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

2019 Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Holiday Shopping & Dealing with Mood Swings

Last weekend my mom and I headed up to the Altoona outlet mall for some Christmas shopping. We did this last year when it first opened, and they had some new stores I was elated to check out. My mom also wanted to stock up on Christmas Bath & Body Works products! I had a blast with her and am so grateful we got to go.

We didn’t buy a whole lot of things on this trip, it was more just for the fun of it than anything. But I did get this body wash from Bath & Body Works because I’ve been needing a shower gel. Oh my gosh, on my last shopping trip I talk about here, I found a body wash at Sephora that smelled wonderful but was called “Brazilian 4 Play” or something and I was like um no…

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One of the new stores I was thrilled to see? Michael Kors. I’ve never been in a store of his before, and honestly I didn’t expect much from it, but it far exceeded my expectations. I would’ve bought, like, half the store if that were practical. :)

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My mom is not a big shopper whereas I totally am, but I think it’s starting to grow on her. ;) I’m working on her haha. Once I can get her to go Black Friday shopping we’ll be great! But we both agreed that this outlet mall is practically better than the actual mall… I just find that the overall layout and setup is so much nicer, and since it’s an outlet obviously there’s a lot better prices. I’ve even found that there tends to be cuter products here.

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However, over the weekend I dealt with some wonderful mood swings. You know, the stereotypical teenage girl emotions that oftentimes make me forget every life lesson God has ever taught me INCLUDING one I JUST wrote about in this post here, that is, about learning to control my thoughts! But that is part of the ups and downs of life, is struggling with things, and unfortunately, especially at this time in my life called growing up, controlling my thoughts is probably going to be something I have to be conscious of. But I’m not going to give up even when I fail because God in His grace has ALSO taught me things to do when I feel like my thoughts are turning bad. Obviously being conscious of taking them to Him, like I talk about here, and reading His Word, which I talk about here, are critical—you’ll never get a grip on your thought life without those first and foremost. But I also have some new tips I have yet to share that I thought I’d go over.

1. Journal your bad thoughts and then pray over them

I think I may have potentially mentioned this in this post here, but it’s something that has helped me with praying, for one. If you read the post I linked up above about praying your thoughts to God, I talk about how sometimes doing that is a struggle for me, especially the bad thoughts, because I think we get these ideas in our heads that we shouldn’t say our negative thoughts to God, but that’s far from true (1 Peter 5:7). But if you do struggle with being real and honest with Him about negative thoughts, especially if you are just starting to do that and are uncomfortable with it, I’ve found that for me, it helps if I journal my thoughts first, and then I can go over them. Sometimes I write a prayer in response to them. Sometimes, if I’m really worked up, I take a day to just write about it as a form of release and then wait another day, and it helps put those thoughts in perspective (especially when the cause is hormones, which it often is!). I think journaling is a therapeutic tool on its own, and just because you try journaling doesn’t mean you have to write well at all or that you even have to write in complete sentences. Sometimes when I’m lazy, I just do the bullet journaling method and make lists of my thoughts to save time. But I definitely recommend this; it helps put things into perspective, and looking back over the years helps you witness and observe God’s faithfulness, which is pretty cool!

2. Reread old notes you’ve written

Going along with journaling, this is why I believe it can also help: you can learn from your old feelings and mistakes so you don’t keep getting imprisoned by them. Managing my emotions is nothing new to me. I’ve been blogging since I was 11 years old, and the insecure feelings I tend to feel even now were present in my life clear back in sixth grade, and guess what? I wrote about the truth to combat those thoughts right here, back when I was 12 years old. Looking back on those lessons helps put my thoughts in perspective and to remember what God has already taught me. The same things may still tempt me, but I don’t have to give in. I have tons of notes scattered throughout my phone, and making the time to look through those gives me an immense feeling of peace and overwhelming joy for God’s glory about what He’s taught me.

3. Look through old photos and videos for a boost

Here’s another tip that surprised me at how well it lifts my mood: sometimes in life, the best thing to do when you have negative thoughts and feel moody is to just stop and reflect on what God has already done for you and wait for those gloomy moods to pass. One of the best ways I’ve found for me to do this is to look through my old pictures. Looking through old photos brings back so many memories for me and reminds me of all the special times God has blessed me with in life. I do this when I feel anxious, depressed, you name it, it helps with about all of that. Pretty soon I am filled with a true joy that comes from enjoying each moment God has given me, and I believe that’s why remembering (and taking five million photos) is so special. I’m going through the Old Testament in my Bible study now, and many of those books can get repetitive as they go over everything God has done that I’ve already read about, but it shows the beauty of people remembering that and aligning their hearts with His, and that’s why we do that.

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BONUS: Quotes

Another thing that sort of goes along with looking through old photos is looking through old quotes I’ve saved. I have screenshotted so many quotes on my phone, which is actually nice because they show up with all of my photos, so I can look through all of them. And I have a folder on my laptop full of my favorite quotes. Sometimes, you just have to stop and remind yourself of what you already know is true, and that’s why looking through Bible verses and Christian quotes is so helpful.

I hope you are all enjoying the fall holidays! I hope these tips can inspire you as you deal with negative attitudes, and let me know which are your faves!

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