Jesus and Weight Lifting: My 2018 Journey

I've tried to sum up my experience at Iron Tribe Fitness for a while but I keep coming up blank. I tried to start with the story about how I found out about it: at a work event with a girl who was on a meal plan and couldn't eat carrots. I tried describing the process and how it works: healthy eating and safe workouts. I tried starting by talking about the staff: they're fantastic but more about that later. But none of it stuck.

Instead, I want to tell you about the why. I didn't join to lose weight and get skinny. Although, I did need to lose weight and have lost over 20 lbs in the past 3 months there. I joined because I wanted to be healthy and strong. Emphasis on the strong part. I didn't want to lose weight and be thinner; I wanted to be strong. I wanted to lose weight and have no issue carrying 10 bags of groceries up the two flights of stairs to my apartment. I wanted to be able to do push-ups and pick up heavy things. When I joined, I wanted to be healthy.


I'm unmarried so it seems silly to worry about but I also wanted to be living a healthy lifestyle before I got pregnant. For my theoretical future babies, I want to be as healthy as possible. And I want to be able to bounce back easier after I have the theoretical future babies. And then I want to model a lifestyle of healthy choices to said theoretical future babies.


I don't know if I'll ever get married. And if I do get married, I don't know if I'll be able to have children. That's all for future me to find out. Regardless, my healthy body is honoring those theoretical future babies, myself and God.


And I'm stronger. But not just physically, I'm mentally and spiritually stronger.


It's funny. In 2016 and 2017 I shared blog posts about my word of the year. Courage and rooted, respectively. In 2018, I choose cultivate but I never wrote about it. 2016 was the year of taking risks and doing things even when I was scared. 2017 was the year of placing roots in my new phase of life and my location. When 2018 rolled around, I knew I wanted the word to be a continuation of 2017. The roots were placed but I wanted them to grow. I never really know what the word means and how resonant it will be until at least halfway through the year.

So after prayer, I came up with the word cultivate. After you plant something, you cultivate it to make sure it grows. You water, fertilize, make sure there's enough light. Cultivating is treating something with care.

But cultivating isn't always about adding good things. Sometimes it's about removing bad things. Toxic relationships, unhealthy work environments, fried foods, processed sugar, sin, and selfishness, etc.

You take out the bad and add in the good. That's what cultivating is about.

This year Jesus is cultivating my life. After begging him to save me, he removed the toxic relationship from my life. My sense of community and belonging grew from tenuous and a bit lonely to connected and thriving. Bad things have been removed and good things have been added.

A major way that I, with help from Jesus, have cultivated my life this year has been through fitness and healthy living. Joining Iron Tribe is one of the the best thing that's happened in 2018. Maybe it's the healthier foods, maybe it's sweating out toxins like my dad always extols, but I feel like working out and becoming physically stronger has made me become mentally stronger. I mean if I can make it through a 45 minute workout consisting of 120 squats, with Jesus's help I can handle the rest of what life throws at me.

It's too early to wrap 2018 up in a blog post but I feel like it's been a pivotal year of personal growth. My relationship with Christ has deepened, and as I grow more aware of his goodness and grace, I grow more aware of my need for it and my utter sinfulness. Maybe Iron Tribe is a metaphor for that. As I get stronger, I'm able to handle more weight and do more reps, and so the workout isn't any easier than it was the first day in.

Another metaphor for life is that I'm stronger than I think I am. In the beginning, I would tend toward one of the lighter weights because I didn't want to overdo it. And without fail, the coaches would tell me "hey you can handle more." While I didn't necessarily I agree, I did respect their knowledge and wisdom in an area I was a beginner (but seriously if any of y'all are reading this: Tori that time you had me use a 45 lb kettlebell was rough) .

Likewise, after arrogantly deciding to "take a year off from serving" at church God called me to do more than I had done in the previous two years. Because I was capable of more. And I can only imagine that this will grow me too.

I should give a little more info about Iron Tribe now. If you're interested in joining, you should go to the website and learn more. The meal plan I was provided with is basically good foods in good portion sizes. The workouts are doable for any fitness level. They introduce you to all the exercises slowly and ensure you have correct form.

I feel a little guilty that Tori got a shoutout since I've spent the least amount of time with her of any of the coaches at the 150 location. But she also followed up outside of the gym when she found out I was going through something emotional. In the short time I've known her, Tori is one of those people who loves on you and challenges you to grow. She's a gem. Of course, the other coaches are too. First is Zach, one of the PM coaches. He knew my name after 2-3 classes which was impressive to me because there's a lot of people in and out. There's Luke who was my "assigned" coach at the beginning in the 6 week challenge. He's kind, knowledgeable, patient and a little bit goofy. There's Matt who's the best example of a consummate professional who connects with everyone on a personal level. I don't slack when Matt is watching because I know he'll hold me to at least try to do my best. Last but not least is Meghan. The 150 gym manager. Meghan made me comfortable in my uncertainty about the gym and was super encouraging of my goal to be strong. She cares about people and wants everyone there to succeed.

So there is it. You should try something like Iron Tribe that challenges you to grow. Allow Jesus to stretch you.

For the record, this glowing review is 100% sincere. I was not paid or compensated in anyway to say this. It's that awesome there.

crying through life and finding grace

I am a very emotional person. As a very emotional person, I cry. A lot. On my phone I have a list of ridiculous things I’ve cried about. It includes things like taking down a Christmas tree without the boxes to put it in and a google plus commercial way back when google plus was a thing.

Since becoming an expert on tears, I’ve discovered that I experience two main types of crying. One is the release of a deeply felt emotion like being wounded or righteous anger. After you cry these tears, you realize that despite the tears and despite the fact that the hurt is still there, you feel better. It’s like taking a cleansing shower after getting covered in mud.

The other kind is indicative of a sorrow or grief deep in your soul. These tears don’t stream down your face like the Niagra Falls of emotional healing; they well up in your eyes, unwelcomed. You try to push them back down or blink them out much. These tears are inconvenient and unwelcome. Unlike the first kind, these aren’t final. When you cry at 2 p.m. and you know you’ll be crying again later whether it’s 2:20 or 5:30 or at 10 p.m. as you try to go to sleep.

We are only five months into 2018 and I have already cried over two boys. It might be a personal record.

The first was hard but good. I cried the first kind of tears. I was hurt but relieved and ready to move on. It was the end of a relationship that had been going nowhere for a while. And in spite of the hurt and the pain, he was doing the best he could and he was respectful of me. He ended it telling me what we both knew was true - that I could and should do better than him.

The second boy brought on the second kind of tears. Not because he meant more to me but because of what he represented. This time I had made a wise decision; he checked all the boxes: Christian, smart, same taste in tv shows as me, planned dates, initiated texts, wanted a family. 

So when he mentioned meeting parents and grandparents on the first date, watching the Game of Thrones season premiere together a year from now on the second date and buying a pet together in a few months, I ignored the voice in my head that said, “This is what your ex did. He said all these grandiose things and when he couldn’t deliver, you were devastated because you believed him.” I ignored my gut and listened to the people who told me not to overthink it and tried to have fun. To be fair, I did have fun. So much fun that I began to hope that maybe I found someone I could build a life with. Someone who would want a family with me. I thought “maybe I’ll have a boyfriend on my birthday this year” and joined him in imagining fun things we could do together.

Then when he unexpectedly said he wasn’t ready for a relationship I fought all these ugly feelings. I was disappointed at what seemed like it had potential being taken away from me. I felt dumb for allowing myself to hope. I was mad that he took away a little bit of my natural trust and is adding to the baggage I will take to the right relationship.

I’ve hesitated writing about dating and singleness for a while, and I’ve always been cautious to share particulars because it is never my story alone. But hopefully, I’ve written it in a way that is vague and nondescript enough that even if someone who knew the second guy came here and read it, they wouldn’t recognize him. More than that, hopefully, I have told my story while allowing grace to the people who play a role in my life.

However, this is more than about me and more than about this one incident. I want to implore my brothers in Christ to be respectful of the women they date and to guard their hearts. I didn’t need to hear about stuff we could do in the future to have fun with this guy. All I needed was to laugh and have good conversation; all that other stuff can come later. I want to ask the single men I know to inspect their thoughts and actions while dating. Are you saying this because you mean it or you want to impress her? Do you mean it in this moment or do you mean it forever? And last, when you feel and think those thoughts, take a minute. Pray on it. Talk about it with wise counselors. Wait. Make sure you really and truly feel it and then when you know the girl’s character and know how you act as a couple and are certain, “I mean this.” Then you can say it.

I am saying this for myself, yes, but I am also saying this for the benefit of my brothers in Christ. If a friend comes to me and says “I dated ‘Tristan’ and he just ended things,” I want to still be able to respect how Tristan treated my friend. And right now I don’t respect the second guy. And I hate it. He is my brother in Christ. I want to respect him. Through prayer, I will respect his position as Christ’s child. But it’s going to take a little while.

That’s one of my reasons for sharing it. While I can’t speak for all women, I want guys to know that I am fine not jumping straight to serious. In the case of dating, there is rarely anything to be lost by using a healthy amount of caution.

One of the reasons, I’ve been hesitant to write about my dating experiences is because I don’t want a guy to find my blog, read it and think “Oh no. She’s just going to use our experiences for this. She’s a low level Taylor Swift and I won’t be able to have any secrets.” First, future guy, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for comparing me to Taylor Swift. Second, I hope you feel that i have been both fair in the telling and vague in the description. Third, well, I am a writer and I can only quash so much of myself down before it explodes into paragraphs.

Right now however, my experience is important enough to share. This particular hurt is hitting harder than it would have at another time of year because it happened around Mother’s Day. And for the first time, I am hurting that I do not know if I will ever be a mother. For a moment, I allowed myself to hope that not only was it a possibility, it was a probability. That’s why the second guy commanded the second kind of tears. It’s why even though I invested less time in the second guy, the tears stung harder.

The hard thing about being single is that I am constantly stuck in this place of “I like the time I have had to be alone and getting to have a super feminine home; I like my freedom” and being drawn by the desire to fall in love and create a family.

I learned a while back that if you talk about being single, people don’t always know how to handle it. They tell me things like “you’re so young!” and I am but that doesn’t negate my longing or address the fact that my mom was married at 18. I always envisioned myself following her path so 24, almost 25, doesn’t feel young in that regard. Another common answer to my desire for marriage is “It’s not easy!” I believe you. And yet singleness is not always easy either and you chose marriage. These are small quibbles but what they amount to is on top of not always being thrilled at the idea of going home alone, again, I rarely feel that I am allowed to express it. I hope that I am doing singleness and dating with class and grace. I hope that I am leaving everyone, even the guy who led me on, better than I found them.

The Lord is Good even if...

 

For a long time my favorite candy bar was a Take Five. The Take Five came in a red wrapper and was so named because it contained five ingredients: chocolate, pretzels, peanuts, caramel, and peanut butter. About the size of a Reese's Cup, this square shaped candy bar was first sold in early 2005. I had my very first one in March 2005. It came in a goodie basket that I remember opening with my dad and my sisters at the kitchen table. Quickly, it became my favorite candy bar. It's a small thing, but thinking of a Take Five always gives me hope.

12 years later, it represents hope and sweetness in the middle of darkness and uncertainty. It's funny how little things and little moments impact you years later.

My mom turned 54 today. For most people, 54 is an inevitably; for my mom, it wasn't. In fact my mom almost didn't make it past 40. Of all the things that have shaped me into who I am, this fact is one of the biggest factors.

At the age of 10, my mom was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. Stage three, have surgery ASAP or possibly die colon cancer. 

My family received the goodie basket with the Take Five when we came from the hospital after my mom had surgery to remove half of her colon. I have no clue who sent the basket, but I know it was someone from our church. It's one of the little things that mean the world when the world is spinning out of control around you.

One of the hardest things in my life was seeing my mom go through this. Seeing her lose her hair and smelling her metallic breath. In fact, I don't like the smell of pennies to this day because it reminds me of my mom being on chemo.

Sometimes thinking about it seems surreal. Like was I really there? Did I really go through that? I wish I could remember what I felt and thought a little more clearly. I know I was scared. I know I was confused and unsure, but I think in situations like that all you can do is take it one day at a time. All you can is fight for the moment you have and live in it. All you can do is enjoy candy bars and fleece blankets the chemo treatment center gives you.

Despite a couple of close calls at chemo sessions, my mom survived. 

And I gained a deeper sense of compassion that I didn't become aware of til much later. I learned that sometimes all you need is someone who took the time to call a florist and order a goodie basket, because while you don't need a bag of chips, you do need someone to say "I know this is hard and I'm thinking of you." You need someone who took the time to buy a bag of chips.

I saw simple kindness from relative strangers. My senior year college roommate was a friend I knew because her mother offered to watch us during my mom's treatments despite the fact that she'd known us very little time at all. My sister and I played monopoly and poker with Sarah, my future college roommate, and her little sister, Maggie. Mikayla, my vivacious little sister, taught Maggie and their younger brother John Parker how to climb door frames and hallways using your feet. I'm told there are still footprints on the wall. 

That's what keeps you sane during a tragedy. It is the worst time of your life and the time where you can fully experience the kindness and compassion of friends and acquaintances. It's small moments in the middle of an unknowable future.

It's when you focus on a candy bar because everything else is falling apart but the new combination of chocolate, peanut butter, pretzel, peanuts, and caramel is enough hope for one day.

For a while I couldn't hear the word cancer without falling apart. It was the first time life stopped being perfect for me. 

I could wrap this up with a bow about it taught me things I would never have gotten on my own or how it was worth it to see the kindness of people. How it's allowed me to become a writer who writes with depth and compassion about hard times. How it taught me to seek out hurt people and lean into hurt rather than running the other way.

But I don't want too. It very possibly could have ended in utter tragedy. It could have been devastating. It could have wrecked my family and killed my mother. I could be remembering a mother who passed away too soon today. And I want to think that despite the bow on the end, there would still be good.

I think it's important to remember Job's words.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Too often, we get caught up in happiness and living by the standards of the world. I am so thankful the Lord let my mother live. I am so thankful of the good that came of it, but you know what? I hope I would be here saying "Praise the Lord. He is good," today even if my mother had passed away. 

I want to be like Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego. I want to step into the fire and say "God will save me BUT if he doesn't he is still God and I praise him regardless." 

Right now, I am acclimating to the idea, that life after college is different than I expected. I am learning to say "You are God. You are good and I will serve you and praise you no matter what my circumstances." Paul said it a lot better than I do in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 if you wanna look it up. 

Elisabeth Elliott. Corrie ten Boom. Katherine and Jay Wolf from Hope Heals. Kathy Giles.

People who's life didn't go according to plan and yet, followed God relentlessly. Those are my heroes and role models.

Jesus said it best, "In this world you will have troubles, but take heart; I have overcome the world." 

Blessed be the name of the Lord who overcame the world. Blessed be the hope we have for life after this earth. Blessed be Jesus. Blessed be a future without cancer and chemo and sin.

Take heart, friends. We have hope in Jesus.

 

Learning to live in the nitty, gritty real world when the fantasy passes

In our culture, when you graduate college you step out of the growing up phase of your life and into the real world.

It looks glitzy and glamorous– like a marquee board lit up and flashing “Welcome to the Real World.” This is an exciting adventure. It’s time to enter The Real World.

For reference, The Real World is a place where you find a job that you both love and pays you enjoy to support yourself. In The Real World, people live in houses or apartments with nice furniture and art on the walls and plants on the porch. You find the perfect guy with a great, well paying (duh) job who takes you on dates and adores you and in a reasonable amount of time pops the question.

Except like most things lit up on a marquee board, The Real World is a fairy tale; it’s a fantasy with very little substance. Turns out the world is grimy and dirty and flawed. The idea of The Real World you’ve been sold, or sold to yourself, is, at best, an exaggeration and, perhaps, a lie.

Maybe I’m just an entitled, lazy millennial, but adjusting to what life after college actually is versus what I thought it would be is hard.

Saying it’s hard is putting it lightly.

The reality of my situation is like when you go to the beach all day.  You faithfully apply sunscreen only to realize there’s a patch where the swimsuit rode up and you have a second-degree sunburn. Every time you move, you ache. You hole up in the dark and only wear baggy clothes that barely touch you. The beach trip was supposed to be glorious, and instead, you are condemned to spend your time inside.

It’s a major let-down. This is not what you paid for.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a tad bit melodramatic. Turns out I’m a tad bit melodramatic, so what can you do? Maybe my disillusionment with the real world is my fault for being too idealistic and having a tendency to romanticize things. Maybe it’s my college’s fault for selling me the American dream if I went to college. Maybe it’s all the tv shows and movies I watch. Maybe it’s Instagram teaching us to post the edited highlights of our lives. Probably it’s some combination of all of the above.

Regardless, I, and I suspect some of my peers, am struggling to learn how to live in this new reality we’ve been thrown in. Some of us have good jobs but are disappointed in our social or romantic lives. Others can’t find jobs or are stuck in low paying jobs where we are unfulfilled and unappreciated. And the hardest thing is our problems no longer have immediate end dates in sight.

There is no more “if I can only make it through to next Wednesday this will all be over.” There is no next semester where you get new teachers and classes and classmates. The problems continue. Rent comes every month regardless of whether your car broke down. The guy you like doesn’t ask you out. Or if he does, he doesn’t text you afterward.

There is every possibility that when I reread this when I’m 27 or 35 or 48, I will laugh at how naive I was. I will see the struggle in the big picture. I will know that x lead to b which was way better than y would have been.

But for now, I can only see now. I know that this season of life is just that– a season. And yet, at present, it feels like forever.

There is no end in sight. Every day goes on as the day before. The rent comes. I don’t go on dates. My apartment is not a replica of the library in the Beast’s Castle in Beauty and The Beast (I’m only slightly joking here).

Some days it is hard to see the good, but it is there. I don’t have a great way to wrap this up because I am still living it. I can only say I am blessed by the lessons these circumstances are teaching me. I am learning God provides. I am learning how to live with less. I am learning how to carve a place for myself in the world, little by little, person by person. I am learning to see ugly thrift store furniture as charming and unique. I am learning about the generosity and love people share when you are open and vulnerable about your struggles.

Some days I think things are never going to get better than they are now. I feel like my present is my forever. I worry that I made wrong choices and ended up somewhere I didn’t want to be. I am scared that something is wrong with me; that I am flawed in some way that keeps me from succeeding. Maybe it’s true. Maybe I will be stuck here forever and am flawed and messed up in an irrevocable way.

I hope not.

I hope in a few decades I can look back and see God’s goodness and grace. When that time comes, I will gladly accept my role of telling people two to four decades younger than me how it all works out in ways you can’t imagine. I will tell them even if they mentally roll their eyes at me.

Until then, I’m living in my mess and hoping I get things right.

I am following the advice of Solomon in Proverbs 3:5-6, “In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.,” and in Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

 

Things are hard and different than I expected but it’s ok. I know I serve a Lord who has overcome the world (John 16:33). And that’s so encouraging. Things don’t have to be picture perfect for me to serve the Lord. In fact, I think maybe we can serve him best in the nitty gritty real world.

Winter Lessons

winterlessons

A few things I learned this winter...

  1. Trader Joes frozen food section is as great as I had heard. Be still my beating heart, frozen cheese enchiladas that are ready in 15 minutes. Insert heart eyes emoji.

  2. You can freeze twice baked potatoes halfway through and basically make your own yummy-ready-in-15-minutes frozen meals.

  3. I’m kind of high strung. Well I guess I always knew this, but I’m just starting to fully understand it. It’s one of those things I knew in theory but I didn’t realize the full extent of it til recently. Actually realized it by going on a few dates with a guy who is probably fine deciding what he’s doing that day the day of. It was a good challenge for me to relax and cede a little control. I’m not sure if being high strung is one of those thing I can or need to change or if it’s just part of my personality.

  4. How to trust Jesus. It’s kind of embarrassing how long I’ve been a Christian compared to how long it took me to learn this lesson but I am so grateful to be learning it. Saying “Your will be done” and meaning it is incredibly powerful.

  5. In Australia, Rice Krispies are called Rice Bubbles… What… This is so weird. Hey Kellogg’s, why the need for the name change?

  6. I really like videoing myself for Instagram Stories. It's kind of fun to narrate my day. I feel pretty conceited when I do it though so I don’t know if I’ll keep doing it.

  7. I couldn’t be a hermit. I always joked about it growing up and still kind of dreamed about it. UNTIL. The roads were iced over in Birmingham, and I was stuck in my apartment by myself for 2-3 days. It took that little time for me to get cabin fever. That's crazy! I'm an introvert.

  8. The city of hamburg has more canals than Venice, Italy! Learned this during the Global Impact Celebration at my church. I help with 4th grade girls on Wednesday nights so I get the kid version of lessons and learn fun things like that.

What being Courageous in 2016 taught me and why I'm going to be Grounded in 2017

courage-word-of-the-year

So there's a relatively new thing that people are doing. At the beginning of each year, rather than creating a list of resolutions, they're picking a word theme to focus on. Some examples of the type of words people choose are peace, discipline, dwell, etc. 

Last year, I decided to join in on this. 2016 was my year of "Courage." When I chose courage to be my word, I had no clue how much I would need it. All I knew was that I wanted to stop living my life in fear of everything.

I am a veritable scaredy cat. I always have been. I don't walk over drain grates on the sidewalk. I avoid geese. I turn into a 5-year-old when there's bad weather. I miss out on things and experiences because I let fear rule my life way too much. But I got sick of that. I got sick of not trusting God and missing out on what life had to offer, because I couldn't look past the potential explosion scene in my brain.

So I wrote the word "courage" on my heart and did small acts of courage every day. The fear didn't go away, but I stopped letting it rule me. To paraphrase A Series of Unfortunate Events, I did the scary thing first and got scared after. Well, technically, I did the scary thing while giving myself a pep talk. My self-talk changed from "you can't do this. This is pointless. Just leave." to "Be brave. Courage. You. Can. Do. This. You're awesome." 

It made all the difference in the world, the growth I experienced by choosing to move forward with courage rather than being frozen in fear improved my life. 

I started a new job, moved to a new city, signed a 13 month lease by myself, started going to a humongous church by myself, went on a tinder date with a cute guy, went on an old fashioned blind date with a different cute guy, wrote and shared vulnerable things, made friends, moved in with a stranger, started living by myself. All this and more.

I lived life.

The crazy thing is in the past few months I've had three new acquaintances hear my story and comment on how brave I am. I think I laughed all three times. I do not feel brave. The fight to be courageous is daily, and sometimes I lose. But other times I win. It's such a huge, albeit unintentional, compliment to hear someone call me brave. It's also a huge testimony of what God has done in my life in the past 14 months. Jackie Giles was never going to be brave on her own accord.

But now it's 2017 which means it's time for a new word. I am so ready to take on 2017 with courage and my new word. This year is all about being "Grounded." In December, I  told a few people that my word was going to be "roots," but somehow that never felt quite right. Then one of my internet friends, Emma Bica, posted on Instagram that her word was "Embrace" and asked people what their words were. So I commented what I was thinking of, and my dilemma of how it just didn't have that sparkly perfect feeling yet. She replied with the suggestion "grounded," and it fit so well. 

Here's my hope for 2017 and what being grounded looks like to me. I want to plug in and lean in to my circumstances and everything around me. I want to stop looking for the next best thing. I want to plant my feet firmly in the ground and say, "Here I am. Use me here, Lord." I want to live out "wherever you are, be all there" and "be where your feet are." 

2016 was the year of stepping out in courage. 2017 will be the year of staying put when I want to run.

Being grounded is something I've been grappling with for a while and talked about it recently. I want to see everything and do everything and meet everyone, but as an introvert, I also want to sit in my apartment and get "me" time. But I am trying to show up and go to the same places. I am working on being proactive and asking friends to get coffee or lunch. It's gonna be a challenge but I think it's gonna be good.

Here's to people in 2018 remarking on how involved, plugged in and grounded I am. 

P.S... Do you have a word for 2017? What is it? Why'd you pick it? I'd love to know!

If we were on a coffee date...

If we were on a coffee date I’d tell you how I become a coffee drinker a year and a half ago, but it only took me a couple months to go from forcing it down to a snob who only uses a little bit of creamer and is picky about where to get it from. Then I might explain how that’s a metaphor for me: I seek out excellence and I want things that are straightforward, transparent, unrefined and raw. Then I would laugh and tell you how I see the world in metaphors a little too much as I sipped on my cafe au lait with no sugar.

If we were on a coffee date I’d ask you how you are… no really how are you, not how do you tell the world you are? I’d ask about your job and your love life. I’d want to know the real details not the pretty painted picture. But I’d also want to know what you’re watching and reading too.

If we were on a coffee date I’d tell you that Spotify is my new best friend. I don’t know why I took forever to really get on board with Spotify but the weekly discover knows my tastes better than anyone else in the world could. I mean why take the time to find new artists you might not like when Spotify can effortlessly predict it.

If we were on a coffee date I’d go on and on about how I am falling in love the group of 10 year old girls I lead at church on Wednesdays. I’d tell you how my deepest desire lately hasn’t been for a job or to write or even to fall in love but it’s to be a mother. I’d tell you how it’s hard to live with a desire you can’t see the potential fulfilment of yet. I’d ask you what deep desire are you wrestling with, what’s your heart on fire for currently.

If we were on a coffee date I would enjoy your company.

Hope you enjoyed this virtual coffee date inspired by Erin Salmon at erinsalmonwrites.com. It's monthly thing she's hosting. You should check her out and her writing in general.

Love,

Jackie

How Getting Hurt at 13 Helped Me

So you know how when you’re a kid, you can’t wait to move onto the next stage? Specifically if you grew up in church, do you remember being in 6th grade just completely stoked to leave the kids department and go into the youth department?

Yeah.

I didn’t want to do that. I dreaded joining the youth department. I loved Girls in Action (G.A.s) on Wednesday nights where we learned about missionaries. I had wonderful Sunday school teachers. I just loved everything about the Children’s Department and did not want to leave. I can’t really remember why I dreaded leaving except that I was comfortable where I was and was shy and insecure. But time marches on. “Ready or not, here I come,” said the youth group. And so I went.

In spite of my fears, I had a pretty great Sunday school class. I still missed G.A.s but I adjusted. Things weren’t great but I made do. Still, I never felt like I quite fit in because I was homeschooled and unathletic in a group where the majority went to the same school and several were passionate about sports. My talents were (and are) more private and less showy. I was a voracious reader and often knew more about the Bible than adults I was around. I loved being creative and using words. I was into theater and music not being athletic. Subsequently, I often felt overlooked, but I was close to a few other quiet, unathletic girls.

Then sometime when I was in the 7th or 8th grade, my church youth group ran a contest to name our youth group. If your idea was picked, you won a free trip to a theme park for you and a friend during the next youth trip.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a contest at any other time in my life. I was on fire to create a name for the youth group. Not because I cared about the prize but because it gave me the chance to use my talent to stand out and be seen and noticed and accepted the way the athletic, outgoing students were every week. Finally, this was my chance to shine and use my love of words and puns and my extensive knowledge of the Bible. Unlike playing put out in the gym after church, this was something I was good at. It was my domain.

So create I did. I think I came up with 42 names. I don’t remember for sure but I know I made a folder of ideas, and the names were divided into categories. I came up with silly ones, serious ones, biblical ones, song inspired ones and acronyms.

I only have vague memories of them but I’m pretty sure there were some solid choices in there. But since it was approximately 10 years ago, I asked my mom if she remembered if they were good or not. Her immediate response, “Yes. Impressive even.” Take it with a grain of salt since she gave birth to me, but my mom has never been one to sugarcoat the truth or think I’m flawless. She’s told me where I need to work on things. I’ve done things where she’s told me not to get my hopes up because I’m not going to win. So chances are some of the entries were decent—good even.

I was so excited to turn my entries in, sure that one of them would win. There were somewhere around 70 entries which gave me around a 1 in 2 shot. Then came the big reveal, and it wasn’t me; I wasn’t chosen.

I didn’t even get second place.

The creator of the winning entry was anonymous and the second runner-up was an older, more popular youth group member.

I was devastated. The grief I felt over this as a 13-year-old seems to need a bigger word than “devastated.” I was wrecked by a chasm of darkness. I was forlorn and hopeless and in retrospect, I felt worthless by comparison. As a writer, every word I form is infused with a bit of my soul. It’s a hard but manageable amount of vulnerability at 23. It was unspeakably traumatizing at 13. It crushed my soul a little bit. I believed the lies my hurt said:

“Your creativity is not valuable.

It is not needed here.

Stop. Hide.

Quit trying to be seen.

To be more.

You are only worthy if you are loud or good at things other people value.

Your words aren’t worthwhile.”

And now I spend time every week with 10-15 ten-year-old girls. They are full of life and sweet and kind. Their personalities are wildly different and unique and all so worthwhile. I see them look to me for approval, to be noticed, to be loved. And I hope that they all feel noticed and loved by me because they all have special places in my heart.

But I worry for them. I worry for what is coming. I do not want these girls to experience the heartbreak of puberty I went through. I want church to be a safe place where they are polished into gems, not a place where they let their souls get crushed even a little bit.

I want to tell the loud one not to listen to the voices that tell her to be quiet and sit down. I want to tell her she is a force to be reckoned with and that she can use her voice for good in the world. She does not need to fit into the box society has prescribed for her.

I want to tell the quiet one that her sweet spirit is wonderful and a needed balm in our loud, over the top world. I want to tell her there’s nothing wrong with standing back and observing life at her own pace.

But most importantly, I want to tell each of them that life will be hard and try to break their spirit in unexpected ways, but they can look to Jesus and find their worth there. They can serve him with their creativity, loudness, quietness, quirkiness, normalness. They can serve him with whatever he has given them.

I am trying but it may not stick. Hormones, peer pressure and insecurities may outweigh my kind words, so this is for the 13-year-old in me and the 13-year-old in you.

Your differences are worth exploring. Do not try to fit into the box they give you if it’s not right for you. Use it as a table or a stepping stool or a chair. Paint it. Make it yours.

Tell yourself it’s okay to be emotional and get your feelings hurt as long as you learn from it and use it for good.

Quit chasing popularity. Just quit right now.

Go, do and be what sets your soul on fire.

Explore your individuality rather than trying to fit in.

I was always meant to be a writer for God. That incident couldn’t stop me any more than health problems could stop my sister from becoming a medical professional. It’s what we are called to do and God will make a way.
 

For a while, I let that experience and other things inhibit my creativity. But then one year for Christmas a boyfriend gave me a journal. I wrote letters to him in it. I journaled about my love and learned who I was through words. And when we broke up, I did the same thing. I wrote through my hurt. I wrote the words until the words became bigger than I was. I wrote until I became a writer again. And let me tell you, my dears, being who God created you to be is much better than fitting in the box society gives you.

What I learned from A Series of Unfortunate Events

When I was a child, I devoured Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Devoured is a word which here means "read as quickly as I could get my hands on the next copy from the library." 
Watching the new Netflix series, I've been blown away by how many things I learned from the series. The series is smart and clever. It manages to educate children without talking down to them. In my case, I didn't even realize I was being taught. I just enjoyed the fun quirky lessons like using the same page twice in a row to illustrate the feeling of deja vu.

I learned the difference between literal and figurative. I learned the difference between an optimist, a pessimist and a realist. I learned what dramatic irony is. I learned what deja vu means. I learned about mob mentality and crowd psychology. I learned that they are stiletto shoes and stiletto knives. I learned so many things that I didn't even realize I learned from those books until they popped back up in the episodes on Netflix. 

I learned something else very important that shaped my worldview. I learned that stories don't have to be happy or have good endings to be good stories or worthy of your time. Life is nuanced and good and bad and everything in between, and good literature should reflect that. In real life, Cinderella doesn't get to go to the ball. She has to stay home cleaning while the Prince falls in love with her Stepsister. Adults can't always be trusted. Bad things happen to good people and to bad people.

Essentially, that's what the new Netflix series captures that movie didn't. It is far more nuanced than the movie. Which only makes sense. The movie devoted 1.5 hours to three books while the show devotes at least an hour and a half to each book. 

As a "grown up," I am thankful for the chance to dwell in nostalgia and reminiscence on how much I delighted in these books as a child. If you have children, have them read these books.

If you need me, I'm trying to be a less useless adult than the ones in the Baudelaire's lives and following the advice of the Baudelaire's mother: Do the scary thing first and get scared after."

When it Rains, it Pours

***This is purely fiction.***

These are the things I no longer want to remember.

Petrichor.

The way the air smells when it rains. It used to be one of my favorite things. Until that day. The day that everything changed.

I woke up with a smile realizing it was pouring. Everyone would be out with rain boots and umbrella and raincoats. When it rains, the whole world adopts a dress code. The whole world, rich or poor, tall or short, smart or dumb, has to choose how to deal with rain. But, as they say,

when it rains, it pours

and that day wasn’t about me analyzing and observing the people around me.

It was about her.

My vivacious, energetic sister. She was my best friend. She knew me inside and out and loved me in a way only a sister can.

White Chocolate. Caramel. Coffee.

My favorite drink.

Coffee drinks are like magic.

You get this steaming hot cup of liquid and suddenly you’re energized. You’re awake. You can function. I went to my favorite coffee shop that morning. I ordered my favorite drink and sipped it in a leisurely way, knowing exactly what the day would hold. Or what I thought it would hold. Now I can never drink that again. I can never go back there.

Heat.

I can still feel the heat in my hands traveling up my arms and the heat in the liquid traveling down my throat into my belly,

telling me that today would be good.

But coffee can’t really talk. So I guess it’s my fault for believing a beverage.

Her voice shouting hello.

I remember looking up and being surprised. She wasn’t supposed to be here.

Her voice filled me with happiness.

To see my sister was a treat. Her voice always sounded like love to me. It sounded like companionship. I can’t explain it except that I knew she loved me no matter what. Her love was conveyed in every syllable she uttered to me. Even the angry ones.

Bright purple.

One of our favorite colors. Something about purple was invigorating. Like wearing the color of royalty conferred some power on us. Like it made us bigger and more confident. The color of her purple big umbrella hitting the pavement is forever seared in my mind. The umbrella bounces as I look on helplessly as my sister's broken body paints both the pavement and the umbrella red.

These are the things I no longer want to remember.

But will never forget.

Today, it is raining and the scent of petrichor fills the air but I don’t care about what color rain boots my neighbor will wear. I can’t comfort myself with a steaming hot cup of coffee. I can’t comfort myself with anything. I no longer feel empowered by the color purple. Because she is gone. I will never hear her voice again.

These are the things I no longer want to remember.

Roots

I've lived in Birmingham for nearly seven months now.

Seven months.

It's one of those measures of time that is teeny tiny in the scheme of things and yet large in the day to day sense. For the past seven months I have lived in a different state than the one I lived in the first 22 years of my life. I had my first birthday where my permanent address doesn't match my parents. It's bittersweet in the full sense of the word.

Growing up, I don't think you ever fully understand what it means to be on your own. When you imagine the future, it's always vague but glamorous. There are so many little things I didn't know I would miss about Meridian. I never imagined how bad rush hour traffic could be. I don't think I could handle moving anywhere bigger than Birmingham because traffic is not a fun part of my day. I miss going to the same pharmacy and having the people know who I am and get my medicine before I say my name. I love Birmingham for so many reasons but it turns out it takes longer than 7 months to put down roots in a town.

A few weeks ago I was back in Meridian for the weekend and went to a Christmas marketplace with my grandmother. I saw and talked to so many people I knew. My grandmother saw and talked to even more people she knew. The song "Everybody dies famous in a small town" by Miranda Lambert popped into my head.

I didn't know how known I was in Meridian until I moved to a town where I am not known. A place where I don't exchange pleasantries with the same three cashiers that have been at the same grocery store for years. I think that's the hardest part about being in a new place. I have to work to be known and put down roots. Every time I run into someone I know at a random place it feels like a victory here.

My natural inclination is to be a butterfly and flit from flower to flower admiring all the beauty rather than to be a seed and put roots in one place. In some ways, I could get away with it in Meridian. Meridian was small enough for me to be noncommittal to certain places and still be wholly known. In Meridian, my family is known and established. When your family has been a part of the community since before indoor plumbing and personal telephone lines were standard, you tend to know people. 

And that's what's been the hardest of being in a new place: not being known. 

I'm learning to how to define "home" differently. I'm learning home can be two places. It can be the place with new friends, church and new experiences, and it can be the place with family, old friends and places with a treasure trove of fond memories. 

I don't remember when I decided I didn't want to stay in the small town I grew up. By the time I was 18 and planning my future with my first boyfriend, it wasn't a question of "if," it was "where" and when."

But five years later, I have a new appreciation for my first home. Now I don't know if new and bigger is better than cozy and familiar. I see the charm in running into local acquaintances at the local Piggly Wiggly as much as I see the draw of living within 2 miles of four grocery stores. I see the draw of living in a town where you are known and loved by many, and I see the charm of living in a city where the possibilities are limited only by who I chose to be.

In the new city, I am never reduced to being referred to only as the granddaughter of a beloved, local pastor. And yet, here I do not get the blessing and privilege of meeting people who light up upon hearing my last name, and immediately tell me how my grandfather prayed for their sick, loved one. I could go further and use this dichotomy to describe my father, an outdoors writer who's a bit of a local celebrity; my mother, an elementary teacher, former piano teacher and oboe player for local orchestras when needed; my other grandfather, a longstanding staple in the local horse community; and even my sisters who use their natural exuberance and joyful natures to leave lasting positive impressions on those they meet. To be funny and over the top, it is both a blessing and a curse to be so well known and connected. I am pulled by the comfort of familiarity and the excitement of anonymity. I am torn between unknown potential and being known.

The rub is neither choice is right and neither choice is wrong. Both the familiar and the unknown have their advantages and disadvantages ; one only has to decide which wins. When asked where I see myself in five years, I answer with complete certainty, "I don't know." 

I'm learning to see that as freeing instead of frightening.  I'm learning to see the beauty in trusting in God with the unknown.

Love Letter to My Emotional Side from My Logical Side

Dear Emotional Side,

          First things first, you are not expected to have everything together by age 23 or 24 or 25. You don’t even have to have everything together by 37 or 48. Quit telling yourself that lie. Quit believing that lie. As far as I’m concerned you don’t have to have everything together by age 78. What matters more is whether you are following Jesus and have joy in your heart. Jesus and joy are way more important things to chase after than living the life 18-year-old us imagined. She had no clue what was coming or how good it would be.

          By now you’ve noticed that there is no sugar coating or word softening going on here. That’s because that’s your job, Emotion, not mine. Sometimes it’s ok to let me take over. You do not have to justify every phrase you say. Also, quit apologizing so much. You’re intelligent with a generous helping of common sense- own it and have a backbone. Stand behind your ideas and your intelligence.

          Stop feeling unloved based on the texts you receive, Instagram likes and blog views. Numbers will never define the love you receive. That’s the thing about love, my dear, it’s qualitative and can’t be quantified. Stop letting the fact that you aren’t married or in a serious relationship make you feel alone. Yes, having one person committed to being there sounds wonderful, and we will enjoy it when it comes, Emotion; but for now revel in all the other places you have love. Revel in parents who support and encourage you, in sisters who get you in a way no friend or significant other ever will, in lifelong friendships and in new friendships, in finding a new church family, in the sweet girls you teach at church and in the coworkers who see you on a daily basis and still greet you with a smile every day. Appreciate the abundance of love surrounding you right now because it’s great. Stop letting the lack of a specific kind of love taint all the other love surrounding you right now.

          Don’t let a boy not texting you or asking you on a date or anything like that put a damper on your mood. In fact as far as I, Logic, am concerned just quit talking to and thinking about boys in general. Life would be much easier if you stopped caring about this particular issue but I suspect, I’m not going to win this one so, whatever. Just listen to me a little more when a guy is in the picture, ok? Sometimes it’s like you put on noise canceling headphones and then gag me when a boy is in our head. It’s not wise. I’ve got some good stuff to contribute if you’ll just let me.

          Last, hear this. You are strong and capable and tenacious. Thank you for being a fighter, Emotion. Keep fighting. We can make it through 23. Between the two of us, I think we are going to make it.

 

          Love,

          Logic.

Monday Musings: Imperfection

Last week, I turned on the tv in the middle of an interview with Michael Phelps. I wasn't planning on keeping it on but it was in the background while I searched through the guide and nothing jumped out at me. Generally these interviews cover how awesome he is and all the records he's broken etc. This interview was no exception; but it got a little more nuanced than normal. Bob Costas made a comment type question about how Michael Phelps has said in the past he doesn't feel like he fits in with the rest of the swim team, how he's kind of the odd man out but that this year seems to be different. Phelps agreed and attributed the difference to being named captain. He made a comment that both shocked and resonated with me. He said, "I thought who's gonna vote for me for captain? Nobody's gonna vote for me." 

Y'all this man who wrecked all the former records and forever set new standards for the sport of swimming is insecure. This seemingly affable, easygoing man didn't think anyone would vote for him. I am so humbled by that. Sometimes it's easy to forget that the heroes of the world are insecure like us mere mortals. Sometimes it's easy to forget that our peers feel the same insecurities we do.

I'm also comforted by it. There's something wonderful in finding out about someone's vulnerabilities. I mean nobody really likes the person who has it together all the time, do we? It's the same reason why we root for the underdog. Flawed heroes are easier to root for. Flawed villains are harder to hate. The beauty of the human story isn't in perfection; it's in striving for perfection and failing but trying again.

I don't have a lot to say this Monday evening but I did want to share that story and the truth I learned from it. Go do all the things and make mistakes. Maybe you will be voted captain and maybe you won't. Maybe you'll get success in the eyes of the world but have to wait til your fourth Olympics to be the Captain and become the Flag Bearer. That's okay. It's what makes your story interesting. Be beautiful in your flaws and insecurities.

The Basics of Instagram Stories

instagram post pic.jpg

I don't generally blog about social media on here but I genuinely love it. And not just because I love keeping up with old friends or that fact that my cousin is traveling the world and documenting her adventures on Instagram. Here's her account; worth checking out but warning you will get jealous. 

Whatever drew me to PR as a profession also created my love of social media. I find it fascinating. I love that at 23, I've seen just about countless iterations of Facebook from 2006-2016. I joined 2 years after it got started and it's not even remotely the same social media platform anymore. I love watching it adapt and change. I love seeing new platforms pop and then predicting which ones will make it and which ones won't. I'm also really interested in the analytics of it. Like how Facebook posts with pictures get seen more and get more likes. It's fascinating how Facebook curates our content and then conditions us to post the types of content it prefers. I like figuring out what percentage of likes most accounts get on Instagram. Or why tweets from unknown people's accounts go viral. I love it. 

And now there's something new to talk about. Instagram stories. In a nutshell, Instagram Stories allows users to post a picture that disappears after 24 hours. Sound familiar? That's because it is. It's the same basic set up as Snapchat stories. Some people are getting really upset because "Instagram is stealing snap chat's idea" and "really Instagram, come up with something original." 

To the first phrase, I would like to remind people of the fact that Instagram used to only be pictures but now it's pictures and videos. Do you happen to remember when videos came into the Instagram picture (pun fully intended)? Because I do. It was shortly after Vine blew up. Whoever runs Instagram realized, "oh, people like pictures and videos. We should give them space for videos here." So they did and people love that feature and use it regularly. Videos are used in a different way than people used Vine but it was still blatantly copying right down to the short video length. So this isn't the first time Instagram has copied someone else's idea. Even Instagram's direct messaging feature seemed like a copy of Snapchat originally. In fact, they aren't even the only social media platform to copy ideas. Facebook Live wasn't a thing until after Periscope got big. Hashtags were created for Twitter and now they're on every social media platform with a search option.  Why reinvent the wheel when it already rolls just fine?

So much of the products in our society are copycats of something else. My dad is always complaining about how all vehicles look pretty much the same and that there's no originality in car design. He's not wrong. Granted there are a few cars that don't look like every other car on the planet. But you know what, he hates them, thinks they're ugly. Which says something, doesn't it? If I'm the CEO of Instagram or Toyota, why would I risk time and development on a new idea that everyone very well could hate when I could just make my own adjustments to something I know people are comfortable with. It's a pretty easy decision. If I want to keep making money and insure my profits, I don't go for something new; I go for something tried and true. 

Here's my response to the second statement. Instagram Story is not original. It's not even pretending to be original, but then there's nothing new under the sun. It doesn't need to original to be worthwhile. I think it was a super savvy move by Instagram. It could fizzle out and in a few months I'll look dumb for applauding them but I don't think it will. It has a lot to offer even though people are initially resistant to change.

Here's what Instagram Stories has to offer that Snapchat doesn't and can't offer: it's on Instagram. It's that simple. You don't have to leave Instagram to watch your favorite artist paint or see the behind the scenes of a photographer. You watch right there. All you have to do is click follow once. You don't have to find the Snapchat username and type it in exactly right and click "add friend." It's all right there at the top of your screen when you get on. In addition to being convenient, it gives you the option to see little day to day snippets from accounts that you don't necessarily want to follow on Snapchat. Other ways it differs from Snapchat is by showing content from people you tend to engage with first and allowing you to go back or pause a story. I love the fact that you can pause a slide or jump back to the one before it. How useful is that!

However, with that being said, I don't think Instagram is going to kill Snapchat. I think people who don't use Snapchat will use IG Stories and maybe people who use Snapchat stories will use Instagram Stories in a slightly different way. Right now it seems like a straight rip off of Snapchat but in a few months it will evolve to be its own thing that we all love and have forgotten ever complaining about. 

Here are some ways you can use it in conjunction with what you already post on Instagram

  • Behind the scenes: My stories feed is showing people editing and working in the stages of creating stellar, curated content. I love seeing how everyone works or what they listen to
  • Promotion: Specifically promotion of something that is a work in progress. While working on this during my lunch break, I just posted a picture of my computer screen with the caption, "Working on a blog during my lunch break. I'm excited to share." People already knew something was coming before I could share the finished product.
  • Vlog style posts
  • Post less than perfect content that is still share worthy even if it's not feed worthy
  • Interact with followers by asking questions and allowing them to direct message back
  • Post small snippets of at the moment videos during big events, concerts, etc
  • Whatever fits your brand

So enjoy the challenge of learning a new social media platform and fondly think back to when your Facebook status option were "Jackie is... At home, at work, at school." Ahh the good ole days. 

Monday Musing No. 2: Waiting

I love control. I'm not a control freak exactly but I don't like to be left to the whims of others. In fact, I kind of hate it. I want to be in control of myself and know what's gonna happen. Good or bad, I'd rather know so I can face it and deal with it head on. I'd like to think of myself as a patient person and when it comes to the small things like waiting in line or waiting for some fun event next week, I am pretty good at it. But when it comes to the big life events, I'm horrible at it. I stress and over think and imagine exactly how it will be.

The last big event was getting my first full time job. God definitely tried to teach me patience and to trust in his timing with my year at home applying for jobs. Although I don't know how well I learned the lesson because now I find myself in a new stage of waiting, impatience and ready to jump ahead again.

Recently I wrote about my struggle with singleness and how God told me I wasn’t created to be single. Accepting that and making the mindset change was hard. However, now that I am preparing to being a Christ-like wife to my future husband and am no longer focusing on being content with my singleness, I'm just aching to find the man I'm supposed to live my life with. I want to have that person who is my person now.

Part of the reason I'm impatient is because moving to a new place is daunting and exciting all at the same time and in some ways, it would be easier to face this adventure with a partner by my side. I don't know why this season of singleness is harder than the last one. Maybe it's because of the anticipation now that God has told me to prepare myself for a husband; I'm ready to be done with the preparing. Let me skip the work stage and go straight to the payoff. Right? I mean who doesn't feel that way sometimes. Then it's hard because so many people my age are married or engaged or soon to be engaged. And let's be honest here, not comparing yourself to others in the day where people post about all the good things that happen to them is hard.

Let me be clear here and say I don't begrudge you your happy, celebratory posts. I want to know about how your life is turning out, and I am so thankful that I live in an era where I can keep up with the sweet friends from past stages of my life. All that being said, it doesn't make it easy to be ok with waiting for the right relationship.

Everyone tells me that 23 is so young and in the scheme of things, I'm sure it is. But right here and now, I am the oldest I have ever been. I don't know what it feels like to be 40 or 55. I only know how the years up to 23 feel, and it doesn’t feel all that young to me.

It's hard when a lot of your peers are "a stage ahead of you." It's hard when you were in a relationship that you thought was leading towards marriage but didn't. It’s hard when you hear songs like “Brand New” by Ben Rector or “I’m in the Mood for Love” by Ingrid Michaelson. It’s hard when you watch movies with sweet romance subplots. It’s hard when you’ve only dated one guy and that was four years ago. It’s hard to not get discouraged when guys just don’t seem to ask you out.

So yeah, I am young and I am mostly content with being single but it’s not easy. I don’t want to do the work to prepare myself for marriage. I don’t want to learn what it means to run to God 100% in my loneliness. I just want to skip the waiting and growing stage and be in the doing stage. But I’m not ready now and saying it out loud feels raw and vulnerable and more real than anything I’ve ever published before. And more likely than not, the man I’m going to marry isn’t ready for it yet either. Or maybe he is and he’s just waiting for the mess that is me to grow up and be ready. In which case, I am sorry for making you wait but it might be good practice for the future. If you're reading this, know that I'm going to make you wait for me to grow up a lot. 

I don’t know how God’s doing it but I hope there’s something in his life right now that’s mentally preparing my husband for what it will be like to date and be married to a woman who processes her feelings through writing and feels called to share the raw and vulnerable and messiness of her life with the world. Because I don’t know what it looks like to be in a relationship with someone else and go through struggles, and then write about it with a grace that honors the other person but still manages to tell the truth. It took me three years of blogging to feel comfortable writing about my first relationship, and even then I only wrote a paragraph when I have and had so many more words inside of me.

To the person who read through my emotional word vomit and feels the same way, check out these posts: http://www.delightedinhim.org/wait-for-the-man-who-preaches-you-the-gospel/ and http://thesoulscripts.com/blog/seeking-or-settling.

 

And know that the waiting is usually worth it. Anna waited all her life to meet Jesus, and it was worth it. One day, we will be ready and the right person will be ready and it will all come together. I will know how to find companionship in Christ before all others and hopefully I will have learned how to write about others in a way that gives them grace. Until then, here’s to waiting.

Thanks to Alanna Tedder for pointing my thoughts in the right direction and sending me the Soul Scripts post.

Monday Musings: No. 1

Sometime in November or December, I decided I was going to have a word to focus on this year and that word was going to be "Courage" because I was sick of letting fear hold me back.

I've always been a fearful, high strung person. I got it from my grandma, at least according to her. In some ways I took a little weird sense of pride in that. Maybe it was because I spent so much time with her and she was more of a grown up friend than a grandmother. So I loved being like her- even if it was in the unfortunate way I squealed at slugs. As I've gotten older my high strung fears have evolved. I no longer hide my head in the couch cushions during thunder storms (though I have considered it once or twice) and I don't get squeamish around many insects. Instead I worry and over analyze and sit back and watch others rather than doing. I hate making phone calls. I hate asking for favors. I'm horrible in situations with a lot of people. I mean on a surface level, I'm fine. I can small talk with the best of them. I just can't further the relationship easily. 

But I decided that I was going to stop letting fear rule my life. If I was afraid of something I would simply look it in the face and say, "yes, I am afraid but fear shouldn't stop me from doing this." As I'm writing this, I'm realizing that subconsciously I got a lot of my mindset from Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast Magic Lessons and book Big Magic and just made it my own. At the time I didn't realize and now I don't think she'd mind. In fact, I'd like to think she'd proud of me for choosing to tell fear I'm not gonna let it control me. 

And then I take it a step further. I give myself a pep talk before doing the scary thing-usually calling myself Jackie Giles because talking to myself in formal third person seems to be effective. And it's helped me do a lot of things-some things I have to do regardless but it makes them easier to-and others I wouldn't do. Like going to a complete stranger at my new church and, terrified, saying, "I'm new. Where should I go for Sunday school." And then the next day showing up to a complete strangers house for a Memorial Day cookout. Or showing up to a dance class alone and scared to walk in by myself. 

Back in the winter, I had no clue how much I needed my word to be "courage." I didn't know I'd move to a big city three hours away from home in a new state. I didn't know where I'd be six months in the future, and I still don't know exactly where I'll be six months from now. But I'm gonna focus on being brave and having courage and giving myself grace when I can't find the courage. Like right now. I lost my words and took an unexpected writing hiatus, but I'm coming back because I need to write the way my grandfather needs to ride horses and the way my father needs to be outside hunting or fishing. It makes me come alive even though every single time I share something that's real, my heart beats fast and I feel vulnerable for a long time afterwards.

Sometimes it's scary too, but scary doesn't mean bad. A lot of awesome things have happened because people decided not to let fear rule their lives.

So, dear friends, what are you letting fear keep you from doing?

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

Eleanor Roosevelt

101 things to do in 1001 days

101 things I'm going to do in 1001 days

 

A few years ago, Mackenzie Horan from Design Darling came up with the idea of creating 101 things to do in 1001 days. It's kind of a happy medium between a to do list and a bucket list and last about 2.75 years. Because I love making lists, I came up with one of my own. I'm super excited to work on this. I'm publishing it so I have to be held accountable by the internet. EEK! Anyway, if you can help out with any of my things to like teaching me how to sew or you have vintage hats you want to donate to my collection, feel free to let me know! 

Started March 19, 2016. Ends December 14, 2018

*things in italics are done already

Fun things to do

1.       Come up with 101 things

2.       Be in a play again

3.       Be on Ask Me Another or Jeopardy!

4.       Do an escape room

5.       Do something fun for my birthday

6.       Have a picnic

7.       Kiss a cute guy

8.       Play piano at church

9.       Complete new York times crossword puzzle without using google

10.    Take a luxurious bubble bath with my bath bomb

11.    Watch a meteor show with a friend

12.    Watch a sunrise

13.    Watch a symphony

14.    Watch the AFI 100 greatest films (20/100)

15.    Go to the ballet

16.    See a broadway musical

17.    Try 10-15 types of cupcake at Margie's and rank: turtle cheesecake, salted caramel, red velvet cheesecake, Champagne and Strawberries, Lemon Ice Box, Wedding Cake, Cookies N Cream, Peanut Butter Fudge, strawberry lemonade

18.    Try 10-15 flavors of cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory and rank them: Peanut Butter Fudge, red velvet cheesecake, 

19.    Eat at GianMarco’s in Homewood again

20.    Try four new kinds of tea

21.    Visit a state I've never been to

22.    Go scuba diving or snorkeling

23.    Visit where Grandma lived (San Marcos)

24.    Go to another country

25.    Visit a good museum

Good things to do for others

26.    Go on a trip with Mama and pay for it

27.    Scrapbook for Mama

28.    Help Mama start a flower garden

29.    Go fishing with Daddy

30.    Be a mentor

31.    Find a mentor

32.    Consistently go to Sunday School

33.    Teach a Bible study or Sunday School class

34.    Go to church every Sunday for 3 months even after I get the shot

35.    Do something for nurses at infusion center

36.    Find a place to volunteer

Fitness things to do

37.    Consistently go to sleep between 10 and 11

38.    Goal Weight

39.    Workout 3x a week for 3 months

40.    Cut down to one soft drink a week

41.    Learn how to meal plan

42.    Eat a green smoothie

43.    Get good at yoga

44.    Hold a plank for 1.5 minutes

45.    Learn enough about weight lifting to be able to do it without being intimidated

46.    Swim a mile

47.    Try spin

48.    Try Zumba

49.    Be able to do a chin up

50.    Benchpress at least 100 lbs

Blog/Online things to do

51.    Create a newsletter

52.    Create a passive income product

53.    Create physical product to sell

54.    Get blog/business cards

55.    Go to a conference or networking event

56.    Interview 10-20 people

57.    Make an action plan for how to complete multistep items on this list

58.    Meet a twitter or blog friend IRL

59.    Organize blog to be writing haven and expression of me

60.    Publish the list so others can hold you accountable

61.    Reach 1000 followers on IG

62.     Reach 1000 followers on Twitter

63.    Run with a crazy idea

Personal/Random things to do

64.    Make new friends

65.    Live on my own

66.    Organize bookshelf

67.    Decorate my home with a cohesive style

68.    Display hat collection

69.    Pay off student loans

70.    Purge stuff and donate or throw away

71.    Invest $1000

72.    Save $1000

73.    Get a full time salaried job

Purchases I need to make

74.    Buy more vintage hats

75.    Buy nice earrings that don’t hurt

76.    Buy tennis shoes

77.    Buy workout clothes

78.    Build up my wardrobe

Reading/Writing things

79.    Finish writing my book

80.    Read 90 books

81.    Track all books read on goodreads

82.    Re read the rest of Jane Austen Novels (already read Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park)

83.    Read 2 biographies

84.    Read 5 classics

85.    Read 5 nonfiction books

86.    Read entire bible

87.    Start on Mystery Series

88.    Write 5 short stories

Things to learn and do

89.    Brush up on my Spanish

90.    Finish crocheting blanket

91.    Learn Argentine Tango

92.    Learn brush calligraphy

93.    Learn how to make candles

94.    Learn more about flower arranging

95.    Learn to sew

96.    Take a painting class

97.    Take a photography class

98.    Take a self defense class

99.    Find some good work hairdos

100. Go on a mission trip

101. Create a good things jar

Alternates: 

Get 300 email subscribers

Buy new laptop

Read 20 poems

 

My Life as a Single Christian and God's Unexpected Curveball

My LIfe as1 Being single is a struggle sometimes. Of course being married is its own struggle. Just being a human being is hard and rife with unexpected circumstances no matter what your relationship status is on Facebook.

But because I haven't dealt with the struggle of being married, I can only talk about what it's like to be single.

I've written about a lot of personal things. But one of the things I haven't written about much is my first romantic relationship. Partially because for a while I was too emotional to be fair in writing about it and I respect the guy I dated too much to trash talk him on the Internet; in ten years when I'm a super famous author, I don't want people to troll him. I'm joking but the INTERNET IS FOREVER, PEOPLE. Also, I haven't told my story publicly because it wasn't just my story to tell, but if my story of being single is gonna make any sense, you're gonna need a little background info.

Aside from a guy I wouldn't even let drive me to prom my senior year, I didn't date anyone at all til I was a freshman in college. Then when I was 18, a sophomore began pursuing me hard. In my mind, the beginning of our relationship was chick flick level perfect. It was equal parts cheesy and sweet and I loved it. If you were at MCC between Fall 2011 and Spring 2012, you most likely saw us sitting on a swing multiple times. We were smitten. It wasn't long before we were talking marriage. I don't mean in the abstract "make sure you're both on the same page" way. I mean we had our lives planned out. We talked baby names and where we would live. I had the next 50-70 years mapped out and I loved it.

But we weren't ready for a serious commitment like that so things went south and the relationship ended. I was devastated. But life went on and I adjusted to being single again.

At first, all I wanted was to go back to the first relationship. Then I wanted to be loved and adored by someone new. Thinking back, I was getting obsessed with the idea of being in a relationship. I still had standards, but I was no longer ok with being single. However, as time passed and I got used to being comfortable alone, I got so sick of hearing myself and others lament their lack of romantic partners. I was convinced that viewing being single as a curse was wrong and not biblical. So I took to heart Paul's message in 1 Corinthians 7 about how it's better to be unattached. I even read the passage multiple times a day when I was feeling especially discontent. And gradually I became content with being single. To further convince myself and others, I arrogantly preached to anyone who I thought needed to hear it how God didn't promise us spouses and being single isn't some curse.

Both of those statements are so true, and while I don't retract my statements, I do apologize for the spirit they were said and thought in. God didn't call me to be a beacon for single girls everywhere. That's someone else's job and may she fill her role with the grace, love and softness I abandoned.

Because strength doesn't lie in bravado or assurance. It lies in gentleness and quiet perseverance. It's the ability to keep going and stay compassionate and not let life make you hard.

No, Jesus didn't call me to singleness and he's recently revealed that to me. He very firmly told me "Jackie, you've preached singleness for so long but I made you for marriage. I made you for nurturing."

Which was kind of jarring to hear. My first thought was something along the lines of "What do you mean I'm made for marriage? Why have I worked so hard to be ok alone for the past few years if you didn't want me to be alone forever?" I don't really know the answer to that question except that I am alone now and I might still be alone during my life. Because I don't know whether I am made for marriage with a man on earth or to be a part of the Bride of Christ and lovingly serve through the church. Maybe I will nurture children of my own or maybe I will give my love and time to other people's kids. But as a Christian, I'm not called to be know everything; I am called to be faithful and that's what I'm trying to do.

For a while I needed to learn how to be independent and comfortable on my own but I've learned that lesson. Now it's time to work in cultivating the qualities of a biblical wife. I'm not discontent in my singleness but I am seeking the Lord daily and preparing to be a helpmeet and learning about submission and gentleness. I'm kind of excited about it. I've got this new challenge in my life and I'm learning more about the different ways to glorify God with my life. It's a struggle every step of the way and it's hard but I'm going to keep trying and relying on his strength and grace til He sends me the unexpected, life shaking challenge. Til then, y'all.

The Word of the Year: COURAGE

Happy 2016 to all you fine people!

I don't know about you but I love new beginnings. I love fresh starts and making goals and lists. One of the current trends is to focus on a word of the year rather than a making several resolutions. I haven't done it in the past but this year I decided to and I chose... 

courage.jpg

According to Merriam-webster.com, the definition of courage is: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

Why did I choose courage to be my word? Well, it doesn't mean that I plan on going sky diving and swimming with sharks all through 2016- although it's not beyond the realm of possibility.

What courage means to me is that I will do and I will try. 

I will have the mental strength to withstand fear. I have spent 22 years being afraid of rational things like cancer and irrational things like storm drains. When  I was little and it was storming, I'd put my head in the couch to hide. My mother describes it like what ostriches do when they bury their head in the sand. When the weather gets bad enough, I still have to fight the impulse to curl up in a ball under cushions. 

But burying my head in the sand will not get me ANYWHERE.

So this year, I am going to have courage. I will try to do things despite my fear. In fact, I've already done a couple of scary things... including creating and sharing this new website. I can't wait to see what other challenges I take on as the year goes by!

Tell me, do  you have a word for 2016?

I leave you with the words of C.S. Lewis

Courage, Dear Heart

The SMART way to set goals in 2016

The Smart way to set goals for 2016: jackiegiles.com

 

2015 just waved bye and 2016 is finally here. Let's get down to business to defeat these goals!  This post is for you if you haven't made goals yet OR your goals are vague.

I am a huge fan of acronyms like FOIL: first outer, inner last, or FYI: for your information . They make life easier! Imagine how much time we waste telling people that something needs to be done as soon as possible if we couldn't instead say, ASAP. I have a fun acronym that is perfect for helping you create great goals.The acronym, SMART, is probably my favorite acronym. I use it all the time. It helps me stay on track and get things done.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Sensitive. 

So when you set your New Year's make sure they are SMART by following this formula. 

Specific:

Don't set a goal that says: I will travel more in 2016. Instead choose a specific place. One example could be: I will travel to California and visit the childhood home of my grandmother. 

Once you've set a specific goal like that, it's much easier to research the logistics and set plans into motion. But California is a large state with several big cities. One trip isn't enough to see all of the state. So sculpt that goal down to be even more specific: I will visit San Leandro and Santa Rosa to see where my grandmother grew up.

Measurable: 

Maybe you want to be healthier in 2016. That's a great aspiration but if you leave it broad like that, how will you know when you've achieved your goal? You won't. You can always be more healthy. Simple solution to perfect this is to add a "by" at the end. I will be healthier in 2016 by working out  3 times a week

This is a great goal because it's so simple to measure. You either did it or you didn't. Making your goals measurable helps you achieve them. If you only worked out 2 times in a week, you'll know you'll falling behind and be able to evaluate your time to see what you need to change in order to attain your goals.

Attainable:

Attainable is so important for helping you meet your goals! You are a unique person so your goals need to be specific to you. While all the different parts of SMART are vitally important, attainable is probably the most important part of the acronym. You could make a very specific and measurable goal of becoming a fairy by June 2016 but it's not attainable so you won't meet it. By the way, sorry to crush your dreams. Mine are little crushed by my lack of fairy-ness too.

Relevant:

Relevant varies for every person. What's relevant for me might not be relevant for you. And that's great. Variety is the spice of life. Making all As in school isn't a relevant goal for me because I'm no longer in school. A relevant goal for me (and one of my goals) is to read 40 books. A relevant goal for my hairdresser would be to increase the amount of people who's hair she dyes by 30% but it doesn't make sense for a dentist to have that same goal. Keep that in mind while you make goals! Make it realistic and relevant to you!

Time Sensitive:

My goal to read 40 books is time sensitive by I want to do it by December 31st, 2016. This keeps me in check. If I want to read an equal amount per month, I know that I have to read 4 books a month. I could even make the goal, 20 books by June 30th, 2016 and then readjust for from there. 

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