Y’all, it has been a HOT minute since I got on my blog and wrote anything. To be quite honest, it has been a hot minute since I felt there was something in my life worth sharing on this platform. However, I feel like the current events occuring in our nation – one’s that have been stimulated from centuries of events similar – deserve to be acknowledged.

I wish that I could start this post by saying that I have spent countless hours since George Floyd’s murder (yes, murder, there are no “but”s about it) researching and educating myself on the subject of black oppression, but I pride myself on honesty, and I would be lying if I said that I had done so.

In the days since George Floyd’s murder, I have been really disheartened and sad. I have been watching the news, listening to outcries from the community and nation as a whole, watching riots among individuals trying to peacefully protest. I have shared videos, posts, and educational pieces on social media from others, but I have been wrestling for days with the idea of speaking on the subject personally — What would that look like? Do I, a white woman from an affluent, mostly white community, even deserve to speak on the subject? Am I allowed to comment on the murder of George Floyd while also disagreeing with the rioting and looting occuring across the country?

In the days since George Floyd’s murder, I have been mourning the loss of another human being gone too soon.

I have also been mourning the loss of the society I knew – or thought that I knew. Growing up as a white woman in an affluent, mostly white neighborhood, and growing up in church, I have never really witnessed or experienced racism. I am privileged in that way… well, I am privileged in a lot of ways… solely because of the lack of melanin found in my genetic make-up. In fact, I am so privileged that I honestly did not believe that racism really existed outside of the police brutality I witnessed on the news (yes, I realize how niave that is of me).

Until today, I was unsure about posting any of my own thoughts on this subject… and because I was unsure about posting and the words I could even say (since my words won’t bring back George Floyd or the countless other black lives we have lost to racism), I was pretty sure I just wasn’t going to post anything. I have always functioned (and still do) with an “actions speak louder than words” mentality. I whole-heartedly believe that conversations such as these are far better in person where tone, inflection, and passion of voices can be experienced. Because of this, I have disagreed with two comments I have seen frequently on social media in the last couple of days… 1. by not speaking up on social media, I am being complacent and 2. by not speaking up on social media, I am being racist. But what I have realized is that right now, in a country that is still mostly shut down due to the spread of a pandemic disease, it is difficult to have these conversations in person. Honestly, it’s difficult to have these conversations in general because they can make us uncomfortable. It’s time for us to become comfortable with uncomfortable conversations.

As I told a friend today – I am very obviously not black. I do not, nor will I ever, understand the difficulties and hatred she endures just becuase of the color of her skin. I do not fully feel or understand the pain and heartache she feels.

But I promise to listen and learn – and then share that information. I promise to have the difficult, sometimes uncomfortable conversations. I promise to stand with you. I promise to speak up. Most importantly, I promise to continually pray for you.

I don’t know what your faith background is (or if you even have one), but I serve a God who is bigger than me and you. And while I don’t understand your pain and circumstances, I serve a God who not only hears your cries, but feels your pain.

I serve a God who has given us these truths to hold on to:

But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:11)

This is how we have come to know his love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)

We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:19-21)

So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. (Genesis 1:27)

I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. (John 13:34)

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

I know this post isn’t going to make many waves in a broken world, but I hope its a start. And to everyone reading this – regardless of the color of your skin, your age, your sexuality, etc. – I hope you leave this post knowing that you are seen, loved, and valued. You matter – not just to me, but to the One who is far greater than me.

How I Fight my Battles

Part of being on a 9 AM serve team at Hillsong KC means going to team rallies before anyone else gets to church. Team rallies are one of my favorite parts about serving at church, and I believe they are one of those times where Heaven and earth meet (and it’s magical, let me tell ya). It is a time where all the serve teams get to come together, hear an encouraging leadership thought, lift up our church and the day in prayer, and praise the name of our Savior. Each week, someone (pastor, intern, worship leader, etc.) brings a new word to our rally that leaves our hearts full and ready to serve — last Sunday was no different.

Last Sunday, before we set out to serve and ring in the new year (and new decade!), one of our pastors shared a leadership thought that completely rocked my world. It was a word that I needed at the time, and one that changed my perspective on my life.

He shared this story from Exodus:

"While Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, but whenever he put his hand down, Amalek prevailed. When Moses's hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat down on it. Then Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down." Exodus 17: 11-12 (CSB)

Maybe you have heard this story before and it already resonates with you. Maybe you have never heard this story before. Or, maybe you are like me – you have heard this story before, but you have never really understood the full weight it bears.

Let’s break it down like my pastor did last Sunday.

When Moses lifted his hands to God, his side was winning. So, with God, we can win our battles. When Moses lowered his hands, his side was losing the battle. So, without God, we lose our battles… are you following? Well, why did Moses have difficulty keeping his hands lifted then?

Because the battle was longer than he expected.

I don’t know about you, but 2019 was full of plenty of battles. And I don’t know about you, but there were some that went on far longer than expected. There are even some that have followed me into 2020. If I am being honest (and much like Moses experienced), it can become really tiring to continually lift my hands towards God when battles are happening. It is even harder when things are not going my way, but that is when we are supposed to lean on Him the most! Psalm 46:1 tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble” (CSB). This leadership thought – at the perfect, God-determined time (because God is never early and never late) – reminded me of the need to lean into the Lord during my battles.

It took me over a week to really sit with this message and to let it marinate. In that time, I have really reflected on what this passage meant to me, and why God waited until now to reveal it to me. I whole-hearted believe that 2020 is the year that I will see victories in the battles that I have been fighting for far longer than expected. I believe that this is the year that I will learn to, and continually chose to, lean into the Lord – on the mountains, in the valleys, and definitely during my battles. I believe that 2020 will be the year that I choose to continually lift my hands to God – in my weakness, in faith, in His triumph, in praise.

This is the year to declare that my God only triumphs. The year to declare that my battles are His, and that the battle is already won. This year, I will declare that He is waymaker, miracle worker, promise keeper, and light in the darkness.

And through all my battles, while lifting up my hands, I will remember that I… I am who He says I am (a battle all on its own).

How will you fight your battles this year?

Drained

Several weeks ago, I started to write a blog post because I have not posted in what seems like forever… which also seems to have become a theme in my life lately. The blog post started like this, “I have not written in a while because quite honestly, I have been exhausted with life lately”. I was going to catch y’all up with my life – what I have been doing, and what I am looking forward to… but I never posted it. Mostly because I was exhausted, but also because the way I had chosen to start that post. I did not know how to be honest with myself or in my writing about how I was feeling. I did not want to come off depressed because I am not. I did not want to come off ungrateful because I am so blessed. So instead, I just deleted the post and left it alone.

Well, then several of my friends started sharing this post on Facebook. Not having time and too tired to read it, I saved it for later. Later never came, so I still had not read it… until today when it popped up again. I read it, and I have shared it as well because it expressed (mostly) everything I feel in the most candid of ways. I want to be completely vulnerable and honest with y’all in this post because I think it is important… so here we go.

For those of you that do not know, I am currently pursuing my doctor of physical therapy degree, as well as, my masters degree in health management. Since starting my graduate programs this summer, I have felt exhausted by life. Again, I do not want to come off as ungrateful because I realize that I am so privileged to be afforded these opportunities. I am grateful, and I am so blessed. I also do not want anyone to be concerned for my mental health when I say I am exhausted with life. I am truly and honestly the happiest I have ever been in my life, but I am also physically, mentally, and emotionally drained.

I fully agree with the author of the shared post when she says that with graduate school comes immense pressure – at least for me. As someone who has always struggled with anxiety and personal image, I have always placed pressure on myself. I have always put my whole heart into everything that I have done because I have always convinced myself that people would somehow think less of me if I gave anything less than every ounce of myself. I was well into my college career before I realized that I really could not do everything – which I still struggle with today.

The pressure I place on myself is at an all time high in graduate school, which leaves me constantly trying to remind myself that I have earned my seat at the table. It leaves me completely and utterly exhausted. And, like a never ending cycle, it also leaves me placing even more pressure on myself.

I go to school Monday through Thursday. I put in my best effort at school, and then I come home and put in even more. On Mondays, I take Gramps to PT before class; on Tuesdays, I coach GOTR; on Wednesdays, I lead Kids Connects at church; on Thursdays, I have night class; on Fridays, I take Gramps to PT; and on Sundays, I serve Kids at church. I do not say this to brag about all that I do, but just to say, that at the end of the day (and most of the weekend), I am drained.

Most people would never know how drained I actually am because I never want people to think that I cannot handle what is on my plate. I am capable of doing all that I do, and I am capable of doing so with a smile on my face. I do not want to change any of the opportunities I have said “yes” to because each and every one has added so much abundance to my life. But as rewarding as it is, it is also just as exhausting, and it has required a lot of “no’s” too… which I struggle with, a lot (FOMO is real).

My heart aches when I have to say no to church events where I know help is needed so badly. My heart aches when I say no to friends because I am so tired that I just do not want to leave the house… and then I get anxious that after so many no’s, they will just stop asking me. My heart aches when I miss church because I am too mentally and physically drained to show up – even when I know that it will renew my heart. My heart completely breaks when my Sweet Anni tells me that she misses me and wishes I was around more, but that she is proud of me. My heart aches that I cannot be the friend, daughter, granddaughter, sister, cousin, etc. that I want to be because a lot of the time I just do not have the capacity to be fully present like I once was.

Much like the girl in the post I have shared, I have been ranting and rambling on without a real trajectory. I just needed to put my thoughts and feelings to paper (or computer screen). I needed to clear the air for myself. I needed to remind myself that I earned a seat at the table, but that does not mean it will always be easy sitting there. When I said yes to pursuing this dream, I knew it would mean saying no to other opportunities. I may have not known how hard that would be when I signed up, but I am learning and adapting. I needed to write this to remind myself that I am human and to give myself grace. And, well, maybe you need that reminder too.

I do not know what you are facing in your life right now, but I know you are not alone. Always remember, you earned your seat at the table, so own it. Give yourself grace, you are only human. And most importantly, God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good. If you remember that, I promise, no matter how draining life is, you will always find joy in it.

Slow and Steady Growth

I have not posted a blog in what seems like forever, so here is a little update on me. Right now, I am currently enjoying the last few days of my two week break from school. My first semester of graduate school kicked my booty in more ways than one… but I made it through, and I am so expectant for what is to come. About a week ago, my grandpa moved from Indiana to KC, and in about a week, we are moving into a new home. This has been a season full of transition and new beginnings, and it has required an abundance of open-mindedness and patience – both with myself and others. During this season, I have stepped into my faith more than ever before, and I have felt more joy than ever before.

This Sunday, at Hillsong KC, Pastor Liz gave us a “Season Survival Guide” to help navigate our seasons of life. The word she brought was amazing, and I am so thankful for her passion and obedience to the Lord. As I reflect on her sermon, I cannot help but meditate on how far I have come in the last year.

A year ago, I was the happiest I had ever been. I was starting my senior year of college, living with my best friends, dating a boy, and overall loving life. I truly thought that I was happy, and that I could not ask for more. What I did not know, or maybe just did not want to acknowledge at the time, was that I was a twenty-one year old girl who was still allowing others to define her. I let a boy define me, I let my friends define me, I let my sorority and popularity status define me… and I never felt like I was fully myself. Do not take this the wrong way – I loved that boy, and I still love my friends and my sorority with my whole heart. Looking back at my past, I would never want to change it because it brought me to where I am today. However, I am so grateful to no longer be stuck in that season of life.

Over the past year, I have learned to advocate for myself. I have learned that I deserve nothing less than the love I give to others, and that I should never lower my standards. I have come to know and love that my worth is found in Christ, and Christ alone defines me. I have stopped comparing myself to others because I know that God has a plan and purpose for me, and that plan and purpose are not the same as anyone elses. I have stepped into my faith more fully, and I have learned to use my God gifts to lead others. I have made some of the best friends of my future, and I have been able to feel at home in my church community. I have become more vulnerable; I have let my walls down and have allowed myself to open my heart to others. I can whole-heartedly say that I am the happiest I have ever been, and I feel as if I step into my true self more and more each day.

I do not say this all to brag or to gain attention; rather, I want to highlight God’s amazing ways. Although I look the same on the outisde, my heart and soul have forever been changed by Him. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour over fifteen years ago, but at tweenty-two years old, I have never felt Him be so present in my life. He did not change, but I did. I decided to chase after His heart more fully, and in turn, He has changed mine in so many profound ways.

A year from now, I hope I am even more on fire for Jesus. I hope I am even more grateful for my past and expectant for my future. I know God will get me through whichever season is next, but for now, I am trying to live more fully, more confidently, and more contently in my current season.

Hey God,


Thank you for navigating me through all of life's seasons. Thank you for continually showing up in big and little ways to guide me in your plan for me. Thank you for how far you have brought me in the past year, I know I would not be where I am now without you. I pray today for the individuals that will read this post. I pray that you would show up in their lives in undeniable ways. That they would come to know you - maybe for the first time or maybe just in a new and deeper way. I pray that you guide them through whatever season they are in, and that they would have peace in your presence. Lord, I pray that whatever valleys they may face, would only allow them to more fully trust in You and more fully know the joy that only You can bring. I pray this all in Jesus name and with a grateful heart, Amen.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven" - Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)

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A Week in Illiana

Some of the things I learned in Illiana – that is, on the border of Illinois and Indiana.

  1. If you take Gramps on an 8 hour car ride, he will talk the ENTIRE 8 hours.
  2. If your tire blows on the high way, not only are you in trouble, but you will get fined (something I learned while Gramps was talking for 8 hours – my tires were fine).
  3. Sometimes you will hit what seems to be every pot hole on I-70 from MO to IN, and it will jostle your driver’s door open forcing you to take the next exit to close it… the most effective way to go about this is to slow down on the exit ramp just enough to open and slam the door closed and then be on your way.
  4. If you don’t eat all your food, Gramps will.
  5. You never know what you will find when cleaning out your 91-year-old Great Aunt’s stuff, so look closely. (And if you find $100, Gramps will let you keep – like I said, look VERY close).
  6. Gramps has the world’s best laugh and the world’s cutest smile – he’s also the funniest/goofiest man alive.
  7. Windmills are the hands down, absolute coolest thing ever – especially when you drive through a field of them.
  8. When you introduce Gramps to new music, he will ask you about the artist for at least an hour – “Does he dress like a country boy?”, “Where’s he from?”,  “Why hasn’t Travis Tritt (or insert any other country singer from the 90’s) taken him on the road yet?”
  9. I am capable of loading and moving a ton of stuff (as in, literally 2,000 pounds).
  10. The best way to intimidate boys is to offload a couch at the dump by yourself – plus, it will make Gramps’s day.
  11. Gramps will watch anything on TV with you, including the Bachelorette… which he now plans to watch every Monday at 7. (Update – he has not missed a single episode to date, we talk about the show every Monday and Tuesday (and almost every other time I call), and he hates Luke P.).
  12. There are a lot of untold stories and family history waiting to be told if you are willing to listen.
  13. You can get sunburnt while driving… like REALLY sunburnt.
  14. Gramps stays up later than I do.

There are so many other things I learned from Gramps during our week together, but the most important was that time is a precious gift. I will never forget the time I got to spend with my Gramps, and I am so thankful for that.

Next time you get the chance to go on a road trip with your grandpa (or any other person) – DO IT. You will never regret spending quality time with them, and you won’t forget it either.

When does a Joke become a Dad Joke?

When it becomes apparent! (Excuse me while I laugh out loud at myself). For Father’s Day today, I wanted to tell a little dad joke (check!) as well as honor some of the amazing and influential men in my life.

Fu – you have worn a lot of hats over the years – Chief, friend, brother, son, husband… but the greatest of these is Farter (I mean, father). (I also may be biased, but that’s beside the point). Dad, you are the greatest human I know, and you continually inspire me. You are a devoted son, father, and husband. You have stood by all of us in the good times and the bad, the easy and the hard. You have supported us in more ways than we could ever deserve. You are persistent and driven in all that you do. You have never given up on your dreams, and you encourage and inspire us to go after our own. You are courageous, brave, and fierce – you were truly called to be a fire chief and you have blessed so many lives on both sides of the line. You are diligent and hard-working; there is never task left unfinished or a mountain you have not climbed. You are wise beyond your years, and there is no one else I would rather have to help me through all the challenges in my life. You are loving and kind. You care so deeply for each and every person who enters your life – a blessing and a curse which I am thankful you have passed on to me. You are passionate about the relationships in your life, the work you do, and God. You are fearless and strong, and yet you are God-fearing and vulnerable too. You continually show us what it means to love God, to freely give, and to walk by faith. I could go on forever about just how amazing you are Dad, but I will never have all the words to truly tell you what you mean to me. So for now, this will have to do – I love you endlessly forever Daddy.

Gramps – good thing you used to be a clown because you are hands-down the goofiest guy that I know. You make the best jokes and have the best laugh. There is no one else that I would want to take selfies at the dump with or watch the Bachelorette with from 482 miles away (here’s to hoping that Luke P goes home before the final rose!! *fingers crossed*). You are the depiction of sacrificing for your family – not many people would move away from their family just to ensure they could provide for them. Whether you say I love you or not – you are one of the most loving men that I know, and you have your own way of showing it. You are hard-working, resourceful and inventive. I am fully convinced that you do not know the definition of retirement or rest. Thank you for always being my best friend, Gramps – you deserve all the candy in the world today (well, every other day too). I love you lots Gramps, see you in August.

PawPaw – you are the epitome of a devoted husband; mawmaw is very lucky to have you, and the rest of us (as in, the whole stinkin’ world) are so lucky to get to learn from your words and actions. You are always there for each of us whether it is our time of need or our time of celebration. You have the greatest listening ears – even though your ears are normal size. It is amazing the abilty we have to take a 5 seconds conversation and turn it into 50 minutes – I love that. You are a problem solver through and through – Numbers? You’ll math them; Broken? You’ll super glue it.; Sad? Mad? All the feels? You’ll talk it out and give some free advice. Thank you for being constant in each of our lives, we love you!

Uncle Jim and Vern – although you do not know one another and although you are vastly different men, there is one big reason I am addressing you both together today – you both are the greatest dads you never had to be. Some kiddos are lucky enough to have two dads, and I think my cousins are the luckiest kids in the world to have you guys in their lives. (And I am the luckiest to have you as uncles – by blood and by choice). In different ways, you both pick up and carry a torch daily that was never yours to carry – you did not have to do it, but you have never regretted that decision. I admire you both more than words can say for that. Your selfless love and kindness inspire me, and I love you both dearly.

Happy Father’s Day y’all!

RU Ready for Graduation?

Am I ready to graduate? The answer is still unclear… I am not going to lie, graduation has been something I have had mixed feelings about ALL. MONTH. LONG. As excited as I am to graduate, I also do not really feel like I am graduating in just over a week. I graduate in 9 days, and I start graduate school in 19 days… so this whole cap and gown, walk across the stage, smile for pictures, and celebrate your achievements thing seems a little wasted to be honest. Then, there is this whole sentimental, mushy stuff I am feeling towards Rockhurst, my friends, and my family… which logically makes no sense because I am not going anywhere! I am literally going to be away from Rockhurst for 19 days, so why am I getting all sad about being done with my undergraduate career? Did I mention I have to walk the stage twice? That just STRESSES ME OUT… I could literally fall walking across the stage, not once, but TWICE!! As you can see, I have some very conflicting and confusing feelings about all this. I know I am mostly just being dramatic (probably because a lack of “real” finals has left me with too much time on my hands), but graduation has left me feeling all SORTS of ways. Most of all, it has left me with some immense feelings of gratitude, so I want to take some time to say thank you. Bear with me, and if you don’t like sentimental stuff… you might grab a tissue box or just stop reading now.

To Mommo – I want to say thank you for being (one half of) my biggest support throughout my 17 years of school, but especially over the last four years. Thank you for always understanding my struggles with mental health and perfectionism, and for always listening to me vent about the important difference between an A and an A-. Thank you for answering your phone the fifteen times a day that I call and for always acting like you cared about the trivial things I was telling you (it was probably about an old man I just saw, let’s be real). Thank you for crawling into bed and crying with me when boys broke my heart or (I thought) I got a bad grade. Thank you for the countless times you left work early because I was sick and just wanted my mom. Thank you for all the lunch dates that I suggested and that you graciously paid for. Thank you for constantly leaving early for work to drop something off that I accidentally left at home (this happened at least once a week).  Thank you for consistently showing me how to be a strong woman of God. Thank you for being the best role model. Mostly, thank you for loving me so well.

To Fu – Thank you for being the other half of my biggest support. Thank you for the hours you put in helping me study for anatomy and Spanish. Thank you for always giving the best advice (and for still supporting me when I ignore said advice). Thank you for leaving work and coming to fix at least one thing on my truck every year. Thank you for constantly coming to my medical rescue because I should never be left to my own devices. Thank you for always making me laugh, even when I think I am going to cry. Thank you for always showing me the kind of love and respect I deserve. Thank you for always doing the heavy lifting and moving me in and out of various living situations. Thank you for always being my cotton candy dealer and taking ten million selfies with me at the Royals game. Thank you for all the Windstead’s dates. Thank you for insisting that everyone card me on my birthday and the whole week following. Thank you for always being excited to see me, even when I came home every weekend. Thank you for always asking about my day, even if you were pretending to be interested. Thank you for being my best friend, but more importantly, thank you for being the greatest Dad.

To Bubs – Thank you for being you, I would not be who I am today without you. You have taught me to stand up for myself, you have taught me to never give up, and so much more. Even when I did not like your teaching methods, I am always thankful for you. I am thankful to call my brother my best friend and to continue to build memories with you. Not many people can say that, but I am so thankful that I can.

To MawMaw and PawPaw – Thank you for constantly opening your home to me and for letting me complain to you whenever I have to vent. Thank you for supplying me with all the cheese crackers with peanut butter, all the Jolly Time kettlecorn, and all the oreos my heart desires (the real reason I gained the freshman 15). Thank you for always supporting my dreams and encouraging me when I start to lose sight. Thank you for always telling me how proud you are of me and reminding me that it is okay to stop and celebrate myself. I could thank you for so much more, but I am starting to cry and we all know I do not like that.

To Gramps – Even from 482 miles away (yes, I Google mapped it), you never cease to encourage me. Even though you are a man of few words, I am always comforted from hearing your voice. Thank you for always being my partner in crime. Thank you for always supporting me. Thank you for always thinking I am funny, even when I am not. Thank you for all the big things and the small. Thank you for being the person I have always looked up to. (And I am sorry if I make you cry for the fifth time in your life).

To Tracey – Thank you for always encouraging me and cheering me on. Thank you for always being there for me. Thank you for being my confidant and shoulder to cry on. Thank you for being one of the strongest female figures in my life. Thank you for showing me how to stand up for and to demand the best for myself. I really do not know what else to say besides thank you for always being the aunt that you did not have to be, I love you.

To Jackson and Keighan – Thank you for allowing me to be a role model for you, one that I hope you will continually look up to. Thank you for always taking an interest in my life, you make me feel much cooler than I am. Thank you for our college sleepovers and all-nighters, they are the only all-nighters I did in college (so far). Thank you for letting me help you with homework, it makes me appreciate college classes. Thank you for always giving me a reason to do my best and to push through the hard times. Thank you for always reminding me how lucky I am to be surrounded by family. Thank you for being the little brothers I never had, I am so lucky to be close with my baby cousins.

To Anni – Thank you for always sharing your sass and laughter with me. Thank you for alwyas being my other half. Thank you for always giving the best hugs and cheek kisses. Thank you for always taking pictures with me, even though you hate them. Thank you for always making me laugh and smile so much it hurts. Thank you for always believing in me and teaching me that you can be humble and still brag about yourself sometimes. Thank you for understanding me in ways that some people just never will, I am thankful for the bond we share. I am so blessed to even know my Great Grandmother, let alone have her as my best friend. For that, I am so, so thankful.

To the ones who should be here – Granddad, Lucy, and Chaddy – I am not really sure how I have survived without you three because I never thought I could. Even though you are now longer here, your memories continually push me to be the best that I can be. I always want to be the girl that you are proud of, and I hope that I have succeeded thus far. Every time I think about graduation, I am disheartened that you will not be there. There are so many moments in my life that you will continue to miss, ones that I have always dreamed of sharing with you. As for graduation, I will carry you with me every step of the way, and I know that you will be carrying me too. I hope they throw graduation parties up there, I know you are bragging to everyone regardless. I love you all endlessly, and I miss you even more.

To my aunts, uncles, friends, and everyone else I wish I could thank – Thank you for everyone who has encouraged me and cheered me on over the last four years. Although I cannot thank each and everyone of you, I hope you know just how monumental you have been throughout this journey. Even the small things in life have made a huge impact over the years, and I am so thankful for each person who has come into my life. I am so happy to share this accomplishment with you.

To Rockhurst – Thank you for molding me into the woman I am today. Thank you for teaching me to reflect and appreciate everything around me, big and small. Thank you for continually calling me to be a woman for and with others. Thank you for teaching me the value of community and service. Thank you for teaching me to find God in all things. You have taught me so many things over the last four years, and I cannot wait to see the things you reveal to me in the next three years.

To God – Thank you for all of the above. Thank you for creating me in your image, for guiding my path, and for blessing me in more ways than I know. I know that without you, none of this would be possible, and with you, anything is possible. I am so thankful for all you have given me thus far and all the ways you have changed my life. I will continually submit to your will and your plans, and I am ready for the journey you have for me next. Thank you for loving me so immeasurably and eternally. You have given me so much.

Okay, I am ready to graduate now, thanks.

Living Loved Pt. 3

Throughout the past month, I have spent a lot of time learning about myself and learning to love myself. It is definitely a journey, one that I am still on, but I have seen so many changes in my heart and mind. Throughout this process, I have found things that have worked for me, and I have found things that did not quite cut it. I want to share some of the things that helped me to love myself more in hopes that y’all will start the journey of loving yourselves more too.

Healthy living – changing what I eat, drinking more water, working out, and prioritizing sleep has definitely made a noticable impact on my life. I feel more energized, I have seen some physical changes, but, most importantly, I have gained a confidence and a sense of pride in myself that was not there before.

Do what YOU enjoy – this one took a lot of reflection for me. As some of y’all can attest, I have read many books over the past month. Throughout this month, a theme of “pruning” has come up in many of my books, as well as, in some of my pastor’s sermons. The idea is that even good things can take up time, effort, and joy that we can place in something more fruitful. For me, this meant cutting out things that I did not enjoy, that I was not doing for myself. This has really made a difference in how I view myself. At first, it was difficult to cut out different activities or say no to different opportunities. I felt that I was becoming a quitter – and my daddy did not raise a quitter. What I soon learned was that by pruning my life, by saying no to an opportunity, I was able to say YES to so many other things – sisterhood, serving in ministry, family, etc. By saying no, I have been able to say yes to becoming the best version of myself – a version that I have come to love so much.

Change your perspective – there are a couple of ways that I have learned to change my perspective throughout this last month. One way is how I choose to view my goals. Rather than beating myself up by focusing on how far I have to go, I have learned to focus on how far I have come. When I think of how far I have come and take time to celebrate little accomplishments in my life, I create a sense of pride in myself and my abilities.

Keep moving forward – this is a practice that I love, but it can be very difficult to do (and I definitely struggle with it)! For every bad thing you think about yourself, strive to give yourself two compliments. If you take one step back, take two steps forward and you will always keep moving forward. It is easy to be negative and to beat yourself up. It is harder to be positive and to build yourself up, but that is a choice that you have the ability to make. You can move backward, or you can keeping moving forward. I promise, that if you choose to keep moving forward, you will learn to love yourself more.

Allow yourself to have emotions and to even talk about them – ground breaking, I know. But, when we allow ourselves to talk about our emotions, we acknowledge that we are messy humans with feelings and problems, and we are not alone. Sometimes you have to break down those walls of emotion in order to move forward in loving yourself – I know I did.

Stop apologizing – for being yourself, for making mistakes, for doing what is best for you, and so much more. Live the life you were meant to live. Your life is not yours if you constantly worry about what others think – and you will not be able to love yourself fully if you care what others do not love about you. So stop apologizing and live your best life being unapologetically you.

Stop comparing yourself to others – turn off social media notifications and limit the time you spend on it. When we compare ourselves to others, we forget that they are always human. They have flaws, they have bad days, they may even feel unloved, but that is not always what we see on social media. So, stop comparing yourself to others. Instead, spend your time loving yourself and loving others.

Vision board – this is what I loved most about the past month. I created a vision board, and I filled it with things I love. I spent time reflecting on myself – what I love, what I enjoy, things I struggle with, things I hold dear, and more. I wanted to create something to look at daily, something that would remind me of who I am at my core and who I am striving to be. It reminds me that in order to love myself, I have to constantly be true to who I am, and that I should not settle for anything less.

Read the Bible – in order to fully love yourself, you must first love Jesus and understand just how much He loves you. God is madly in love with each and every one of you – even before you love yourself.

This day, this week, this month, this year, I pray that each of you has an encounter with Jesus's love that changes your life forever. Whether you have known and loved Jesus your whole life or you are coming to know and love Him for the first time - I pray that He change your heart towards yourself, that He shows you the plans He has for you, and that He continue to hold you in His hand and that you know He will never let you go. There is absolutely nothing that can separate you from the full, whole-hearted, never failing love of God. And there is nothing that can make Him love you more.

Living Loved Pt. 2 – How Positive Psychology has Taught Me to Love Myself More

This semseter, I am in a positive psychology course with my all-time favorite professor. When I enrolled for this class, I was extremely excited just to have another class with this professor before I graduated. Little did I know, this course would change me in ways that I never expected and would shape me into the best version of myself. This course has challenged me to be vulnerable, it has challenged me to be more open-minded and shift my way of thinking, but above all, it has taught me to love myself more.

Some of you may be wondering, “What  exactly is positive psychology? And why has it been so life changing?” Positive psychology is a field of psychology that focuses on human strengths and positive attributes rather than the flaws of humanity – how empowering!! In this course, we have discussed topics from character strengths to spirituality. Along with class discussions, we are asked to do outside positive psychology practices and reflect on them. Taking these positive psychology topics and practices to heart have really changed my perspective – both on the world and on myself. These practices have empowered me to become a better version of myself. Although I have changed some aspects of my life, positive psychology has really shifted my perspective from looking at my flaws to looking at the strengths I already possess. This paradigm shift has allowed me to be more confident in myself and thus, to love myself more. I hope they may do the same for you as well.

Positive psychology practices that I love – 

Strength cultivation –

In class, we were asked to take the Values in Action (VIA) survey which ranks character strengths (such as gratitude, humility, judgement, etc.) from 1-24. My top three strengths were gratitude, kindness and humor, which made a lot of sense to me. I see all those strengths in my daily life, and to me, it was evident they were some of my top attributes. However, I know that I do not always see myself the way that others see me, so I had my parents and my grandparents take the VIA for me as well. OH BOY were their results vastly different from mine. At first, I really struggled with the thought of this – why did others perceive me so differently from the way I perceive myself? It occured to me that my interactions with others influence how they see me. For example, my grandparents see me being creative in my every day life in the way I approach difficult situations, the way I balance different aspects of my life, and the way that I can take something and just go with it. With my family’s results, I made a list of their top three and set out to find ways in which I see those values playing out in my everyday life. By doing this, I was able to see strengths in myself that I did not normally identify as significant or valuable. This process of strength spotting made me more aware of what I offer as a person, and it made me more confident in myself. I encourage you all to think about your top strengths; ask a friend, family member, or significant other what they believe your top strengths are; and set out on your own journey of identifying those strengths in your life.

Another way I have learned to cultivate my strengths is through identifying which of my strengths are overused and underused. Strengths all have a time and a place to be used – it would not be appropriate to make jokes at a funeral for instance. For me, I really overuse my strength of humility. Because I do struggle with perfectionism, it is hard for me to accept compliments. When I continually do not accept compliments and downplay my achievements, I come off as self-deprecating. In order to bring my humility to a more middle ground, I have been working on simply saying thank you when someone compliments or congratulates me rather than thinking (or stating) all the things that could have been better. Even this simple act has made waves in my life that I did not expect. Are there strengths in your life that you are over or under using? I encourage you to find ways to bring those strengths to a middle ground where they are able to flourish.

Flow –

One of my professor’s favorite topics is flow, and most of you are probably wondering what the heck it is (and I hope I do not butcher explaining it). Flow occurs when you do things that you enjoy and are good at, but that also challenge you. This creates an optimal state of well-being or happiness. For me, my flow state comes in reading, among other things. I love a good book, and I can sit and read for hours on end. To me, self-love includes creating as many flow experiences as possible. I encourage you to find something that you love (and that challenges you) and pursue it.

Optimism –

I have always been an optimistic person, and positive psychology has really reiterated the importance of optimism to me. It has empowered me to surround myself with positivity and to remove myself from negativity. You become what you surround yourself with, and I do not know about you, but I do not want to be a negative person – they just are not my cup of tea. Refuse to allow yourself to exist among negativity and choose to exude positivity instead.

Gratitude –

I have said it before, and I will say it again – an attitude of gratitude changes EVERYTHING. There are an abundance of ways to practice gratitude – choose one and start living life with a grateful heart.

Meditation –

I will be the first to say that I have always been skeptical of meditation – mostly because I struggled with it. However, my professor starts each class period out with five minutes of meditation, and it has quickly become my favorite. I love slowing down for (at least) five minutes a day to be one with my breath, to set my intentions, and to embrace the present moment. I have found it very helpful to meditate when I am overthinking or stressed. Five minutes has the power to change my perspective and to relax me. I use the mantra “be held” in my meditation, and you can create a mantra of your own if you wish. For me, reminding myself to be held is key. It is a reminder that God is holding me, so I do not have to stress. I can relax, slow down, and trust that He is in control and will never let me go. I encourage you to try meditation with an open mind. Start with just 5 minutes a day, and see how it changes your life.

Self-reflection –

Throughout this journey with positive psychology practices, the most important has been self-reflection. In order to more fully understand myself and the way I perceive and interact with the world, I have had to reflect on myself, my values, and my intentions. It requires me to be open and honest with myself – which can be hard. There are things that I would rather not admit to myself, but if I cannot be honest with myself, who can I be honest with? Are you being honest with yourself? Try journaling and reflecting on yourself, your values, your dreams, your goals, etc. Ask yourself if who you are now is who you want to be. Do your values, dreams, etc., line up with your actions? In what ways can you learn to love yourself more?

As you read this and possibly start on your own journey of self-love, remember these things - 

Be gentle with yourself. 

Self-love is a process, and you are human. 

Be kind to yourself, allow yourself to make mistakes, and be patient. 

I am not perfect, and neither are you. Like me, there will be times when you struggle and question your journey. 

Self-love will not happen over night. It may not happen the first time or even the fifth, but do not get discouraged.

Explore what works for you. These practices work for me, but everyone is different. Just because something works for me, do not be discouraged if it does not work for you.

Stop "should"ing yourself. There are no rules for this journey, so stop telling yourself where you should be, what you should feel, what you should be good at, etc.

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