Life

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.

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

 

The World Needs More Love Letters

The 12 days of love letter writingHey y'all. One of my favorite bloggers, is this fabulous girl named Hannah Brencher (or HB for short).

A few years ago, HB started a super cool thing called More Love Letters (MLL). It's mission is simple: spread love to the world through love letters. I'm not talking about romantic love letters, though a little old fashioned romance is never a bad idea. What I'm talking about is leaving a letter for a stranger to find in your favorite book store or at a coffee show. The idea is to sprinkle the world with words of love.

In addition to encouraging people to send letters on their own, MLL takes requests of love letters to send.

This Christmas, I have the honor of telling you about a great lady you can send Christmas love to this season as a part of The 12 Days of Love Letter Writing.

Her name is Verna and she is an 83 year old widow. Verna is one of those older ladies who has chosen not to sit around and morn. When her husband died a few years ago, she learned how to take care of household finances. Verna went on living. She even went on a hot air balloon ride with her grandkids recently because it was on her bucket list.

But doing awesome things during the day won't keep you warm at night. Verna needs to be reminded of how much love is in the world.

This Christmas, add one more Christmas card to your list. Send a letter to Verna and cover her in words of love.

Verna's address is:

Verna’s bundle

℅ Jennifer K.

7660 Audubon Meadow Way

Alexandria, VA 22306

USA

 

For more information about this go to moreloveletters.com or hannahbrencher.com.

(P.S., Know someone who could use some cheering up in the form of letters? Check out the requests page for More Love Letters).

PhotoCredTiffanyFarley (12)

And I'm off to write my letter to Verna!

Love, Jackie

Disney Princesses Can Be Good Role Models

disney-princesses.png

I get tired of hearing people complain about Disney princesses being too thin or similar or not independent enough, etc. That very well may be true at times but when I watch a Disney princess movie, I am not expecting to watch a movie that will change the way I look at society or affirm important cultural values. I go watch it because I want to see a fairy tale. I want to see a girl in pretty dresses meet a handsome prince/beast/scoundrel.

It's like peanuts. Sometimes I really want peanuts. Sometimes I want almonds. They are both good and both have value. But it wouldn't be fair of me to be disappointed that a jar of peanuts doesn't have almonds in it.

I have another bone to pick with people who complain about the princesses not rescuing themselves or being independent.

First I would assert that all the characters are a product of their time. Back in the 50s, people thought the way Snow White sang was enjoyable. But in 2010, we had a pop singer as the princess in Tangled. Times change and the princess change with the times.

Second, every single one of the Disney princesses has something in common other than being pretty. They are FIERCE. They are TOUGH AS NAILS.

Snow White's step mom tries to get her assassinated but Snow White doesn't let that get her down. She cries for a little while and gets over it and starts living her new. Sure later on Prince Charming saves her but in the beginning the very first Disney Princess saves herself and set a great example for all for her successors.

Ahh. Cinderella. Good ole Cinderella. She was the first I remember watching and I think she sets a great example that Snow White would be proud of. She takes care of herself and she gets things done. Cinderella wanted to go to the ball so Cinderella found a way, despite incredible adversity, to go to the ball. She wasn't afraid of hard work, and even though her Step Mom was a bully, Cinderella never saw herself as a victim.

Next came Aurora from The Sleeping Beauty. I've only seen the movie all the way through once so I can't really defend Aurora. Honestly, she's the only one I'd say was too passive because it seems like all she does is walk around all la di da. I do love the scene with the fairies fighting over whether or the the dress should be pink or blue though.

And then in 1989 came one of my favorites and, in my opinion, one of the best Disney movies, The Little Mermaid. Ariel is a much different princess than Snow White. Ariel actually has a living, loving parents. But the generation that grew up with Ariel no longer thought "father knows best" or that parents were infallible. This generation tested boundaries - as did Ariel. She made some poor choices fueled by passion and infatuation for a fantasy and not logic. But you know how she responds to the consequences of those bad choices? She goes on living her life. She realizes the depth of her father's love for her.

Three years later, came my favorite Disney Princess, Belle! To be fair, I should explain that my mom always extolled the virtues of Beauty and The Beast because Belle fell in love with who he was and not what he looked like. But that's not the only good thing about Belle. Belle has substance. She's ok with being different. She won't marry the most handsome man in town just because he deigned to look twice at her. Then when danger comes and her dad is missing, she doesn't go ask anyone for help. She goes out and saves him. She sacrifices herself for father. Then later she saves her father from being thrown into an asylum by greedy people. Belle is TENACIOUS.

But she is also tender, and I think that's so important. She shows this unloved, terrifying creature that he is lovable and he is worthy and through that he's able to show his more vulnerable side. I think it's important that little girls and little boys see that treating someone with kindness and respect is the right thing to do, no matter who the person is.

Next come the ones that are more recognizably fierce and tough.

Jasmine stands up to and for her father. She refuses to be bullied by Jafar. Plus she has a pet tiger. Anyone with a pet tiger is fierce.

If you're questioning whether or not Mulan is tough... Just go rewatch the movie. And if you're still unsure, then I don't know what to say to you because Mulan joined an army to save her father. And yes, I realize she isn't a princess and doesn't marry a prince BUT Disney calls her a princess so she's included. Plus I love her and "reflection" totally resonated with me with a teenager.

I have pretty much the same thing to say about Pocahontas as I did about Mulan. She's got a little bit of Ariel in her too. Overprotective father, curiousity, the need to be free. But more important than all that is her need for the world to be just. She doesn't try to save John Smith because he's handsome, though it doesn't hurt. She tries to save him because killing him would be wrong and she's not afraid to stand up for what she believes in.

Tiana, Merida, Rapunzel and Anna and Elsa are obviously fierce and strong. I think there are important lessons to be learned from all of them.

Tiana might be the most impressive of the princesses. She gets things done. She doesn't whine and she doesn't quit. She makes life the way she wants it to be #goals

Rapunzel teaches the lesson of having and going after your dreams. Frozen is all about family and the importance of that love.

I haven't seen Brave but from what I hear it's about independence.

I do have one qualm about the pervasiveness of the Disney Princess movies in the last 25 years. From 1937-1988 we got 3 princess movies. From 1989-2015, we've gotten eight new princesses and one queen. I think that says more about society than the way the princesses dress or the way they act. Part of the reason for the increase may be due to technology advances or an increase in animators.

Regardless of the reason why, let's quit criticizing the Disney princesses, even the ones from past who seemed passive. If you have a problem with the pervasiveness of princess memorabilia, encourage your child to watch Doc McStuffins or an educational show on PBS (that's totally what I grew up on and I think I turned out fine). Get your girls to read historical fiction like the American Girl doll series or the Girls of Many Lands books also by American girl. Laura Ingalls and her sisters make excellent role models in the Little House series. They are so many more options. Let them watch Cinderella and then follow it up with something more obviously empowering towards women.

Be on the lookout for a post about books all kids should read because I just got really excited revisiting my childhood!

Authenticity

Sometimes I don't like to blog because I know that not as many people will read it unless it's accompanied by the perfect graphic or if the layout of my blog doesn't scream "Jackie." I get so bogged down by the design aspects, of which I am good but not great at it nor do I have the right programs. I get so bogged down by my blog not being pretty enough that I forget that my words can be pretty. Because I am not a cutesy, artsy person who always chooses the right Instagram filter. I am not always wearing the latest designer or fashion trend because I like what I like whether it's popular or not. Wanting to dress in your own style and not just what's popular can be REALLY tough. But I do it. There are many fads that I never participated in simply because I didn't like it for myself. There were ones that I did participate in because I like it. I own and often wear a pair of Chacos. I like them, they're comfortable and they work well for my flat feet.I know it seems like I'm rambling but my rambling has a point. It is SO important to be authentic. To be genuine. People want to see the real you. They don't want to see the perfectly polished version you put forth on social media. There's a reason people like celebs like Zooey Deschanel, Jennifer Lawrence and Taylor Swift. When you see them in magazines, tv, social media, etc. you get the feeling that you could be friends with them. We feel that way about them and other celebrities, because they are genuine. They are real.

Wanna know something fun? Nobody likes it when you or I are disingenuous.

People want to see the real, raw, messy you. This is me giving you permission to share with others that you're not that great sometimes. This is me telling one of my favorite youth Sunday School teachers that the job search is really hard and it's really frustrating instead of my stock answer of "it's going good."

This is not me giving you permission to only complain though. Celebrate the wins when you have wins. Celebrate the little wins as well as the big ones. Yesterday, I texted my sister telling her how excited I was that I finally made it through a barre pilates class without starting to black out. That's a victory. That's progress. It's small but small things are important to you. Sometimes the highlight of your day is getting a good parking spot or getting in a short line at Walmart. And that's okay. That's more than okay. That's awesome. Celebrate it. Own it.

I'm learning lately to be okay with who I am, strengths AND weaknesses. They all make up who I am. They all offer me room for growth and ways to glorify God. A few months ago I wrote in my journal how I wanted to be like a couple of famous writers who are known for their words. I wanted to be big. And I just had this overwhelming assurance from God that he didn't need me to be big. He needed me to be small. He reminded me that my role models were small before they were big and that now was my time to be small. So here I am. Living in a small state, in a small town, in a small bedroom learning to be okay with being small.

I don't know if this makes much sense to anyone but myself but I think it's important to share what's on my heart sometimes and this is on my heart. In the spirit of authenticity, I am sharing this without a picture and I am letting you know that I had trouble spelling authenticity because I am a HORRIBLE speller. Seriously, I would have had a lot more trouble in English classes had I been born prior laptops and spellcheck becoming the standard practice.

Is anyone else going through a season of life that seems counter intuitive to culture? Let me know!

How to Succeed in College Without Really Trying

My college career has ended, and my little sister is preparing to leave for college, even though she's still a baby who can't be old enough for college. I've been reflecting on the things I've done during college. Some are things I am thankful for, while others are ones I wish I had been wise enough to avoid. So without further ado here are my tips to succeed in college.

1. Find your place and find yourself

High school can be hard and limiting, socially. College, on the other hand, has a place for everyone. I found my place in the Mississippi State University Ballroom Dance Club and with the Baptist Student Union (BSU). BSU allowed me to grow spiritually and gave me the opportunity to do missions in Orlando for ten weeks. The ballroom club helped me get in shape, develop better posture (my posture used to drive my mom crazy) and gave me something that makes me feel joy. I cannot imagine my life if I hadn't had an RA who was involved with the club. Thanks, Liz!

You don't have to do these things but you should do something. If you wanna join a sorority, go for it. If you wanna be a member of the Brony Club, I won't judge you. Well, maybe a little but that's the great thing about college. It's the time to do what you what to do and say, "I don't care what other people think. They can think I'm weird but I'm okay with that." One day, my freshman year I wore a frilly pink shirt and pants with low heels and a headband that looks like it belongs to a medieval noble lady. I shamelessly told people that today was princess day and didn't care if they thought I was weird, and it worked.

Both the BSU and dance club have given me opportunities to grow as a person and given me the opportunity to meet awesome people. In fact, I found my junior year roommates, Claire Cook and Krista Smith, through my family group at the BSU. Which leads me to my next point...

2. Choose your roommates wisely

You don't have to be best friends with the people you live with. You don't even have to like them. But you do need to be able to live with them. If you like things to be clean, don't live with your super fun but super messy friend, and, of course, vice versa. If you want a quiet home, live with your mellow friends. If you want home to always be exciting and fun, live with people who are lighthearted and fun. Basically, just figure out what you want home to feel like, and see who you know that fits in that. I don't like to talk in the morning so I need roommates who understand why I seem moody at 7 a.m. They have to know I don't hate them; I'm just not ready for the world yet. Quiet mornings with roommates also getting ready is one of my fondest memories of college.

However, I want to dispel a myth. It is totally possible to live with your best friend. I lived in a small dorm room with my best friend during my sophomore year. And you know what? She's still my best friend. We had to be mature enough to let things go sometimes. But the only recurring issue was that she is hot-natured, and I'm cold-natured. There were times when I froze and she burned up, but we lived to tell the tale.

3. Be a good roommate

It's not all on them to make you comfortable. Living with people requires give and take. You may know their worst qualities but that just means they know yours as well. Keep that in mind and try to be someone easy to live with. If you have a problem, don't be passive aggressive. Get it out in the open!

4. Make friends with people in class and your major

My sophomore year I sat by a girl named Caroline Caver in Intro to Communication Theory, one of my favorite classes (Shout out to Dr. Nicholson). Eventually, we worked together at Chickfila and ended up in a handful of classes together. Even though we didn't hang out or anything, when I missed classes or couldn't remember due dates, she's someone I could rely on to help me out. There are a handful of other people that I always looked for on the first day of class or tried to pair up with during group projects. It's always comforting to know there's a classmate you can trust to proof your grammar.

5. Find someone a year or two ahead of you in your major

Seriously, this is one of the most important things that helped me. Through the BSU, I met Jamie Lott. Jamie was also getting a degree in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations, but Jamie was a year ahead of me. While we were both students at MSU, Jamie was constantly giving me advice about which teachers and classes to take. Even during my senior year, she was an invaluable help, always there to talk me off the ledge affectionately known as "PR Orgs."

6. Internships

Now, we come to the regrets. I was involved in a couple, low-key internships in college, but if I could start over now, I would definitely take off a summer and get an internship that gave me tons of experience even if it was unpaid. Looking for jobs is hard, and I wonder if I would have a better chance with more connections and more experience. Maybe things would be exactly the same for me, but who knows.

7. Work out

Take advantage of the gym membership included in your tuition. Chances are this is a much nicer gym than anything you've used. It's also a great stress reliever, and if you're in college, you need stress relief. But more than that, get in the habit of being healthy and working out while you still have a decent metabolism. You will gain weight in college unless you make a real effort not to stay in shape or have super awesome metabolism and most of us don't. Fun fact: you can't eat a #1 from Chickfila every night in the Union and not gain weight. It's just not possible.

8. Get Involved

Wait, Jackie, didn't you already cover this in point number one when you said "Find your place?"

Hold your horses! When I say get involved, I don't mean you should be associated with just one or two organizations. College campuses have such a vast array of people and opportunities. The more involved you are, the people you meet. During my first BSU meeting at MSU, the president of MSU, Mark Keenum, spoke and said,

"Five years from now you will be the same person except for the people you meet and the books you read."

So meet as many different people as you can. Meet and develop friendships with people that have opposing views or different backgrounds than you. It will make you a better person.

I loved BSU and ballroom dance club but if I could start over, being more involved is something else I would change. There were so many things I thought about doing but for whatever reason, some valid, some not, I didn't, and who knows what I could have gained from that experience.

So to all you soon to be college freshman, especially Mikayla, go out and enjoy and succeed in college! I am here for you and rooting for you.

P.S. It's ok if you change your major, and it's ok if it takes more than four years to graduate. Seriously, a big percentage of people have to go an extra semester or two. It's not the end of the world.

Hey people who've been there, done that, what advice did I leave out that would help someone else? Let me know in the comments!

Now, enjoy some of my favorite pictures from college including a lot of the people talked about in this post.

Mikayla and I as little girls. Can you say cute?

Mikayla and I as little girls. Can you say cute?

picture of me and both my sisters
picture of me and both my sisters
Hannah Peay, Kelsee McKim, Sarah Carpenter and Tessa Brennan were my amazing group members during Orgs class.
Hannah Peay, Kelsee McKim, Sarah Carpenter and Tessa Brennan were my amazing group members during Orgs class.
Roommate senior year:
Roommate senior year:
Jamie and me at a super cold football game. She was my college mentor and one of my favorite people!
Jamie and me at a super cold football game. She was my college mentor and one of my favorite people!
Nandita is just one of the great friends I met thru ballroom dance. She's gorgeous, talented and super smart
Nandita is just one of the great friends I met thru ballroom dance. She's gorgeous, talented and super smart
Carley was my kids club partner during summer missions.
Carley was my kids club partner during summer missions.
This little doll was one of the girls I bonded with during kids club. She's from Ireland, and I still miss her occasionally.
This little doll was one of the girls I bonded with during kids club. She's from Ireland, and I still miss her occasionally.
Emily Pogue, my college sophomore roommate and best friend with me at a football game.
Emily Pogue, my college sophomore roommate and best friend with me at a football game.
This was before a football game with some of the sweet friends I made thru BSU. Erin Bristol/soon to be Alford, Emily Pogue, Anna Matheny and Kimbo (Kimberly if you wanna be proper) Keel
This was before a football game with some of the sweet friends I made thru BSU. Erin Bristol/soon to be Alford, Emily Pogue, Anna Matheny and Kimbo (Kimberly if you wanna be proper) Keel
I was such an awesome student they named a hall after me. Strangely enough it was for architects but I didn't argue
I was such an awesome student they named a hall after me. Strangely enough it was for architects but I didn't argue
At orientation getting ID's with Chelsie Jackson. I always joke that I look as pale as a vampire here.
At orientation getting ID's with Chelsie Jackson. I always joke that I look as pale as a vampire here.
Dancing the tango with DJ
Dancing the tango with DJ
Claire, Melanie and Jamie showing me how well they can stretch
Claire, Melanie and Jamie showing me how well they can stretch
This is one of my roommates, Emily Akers, looking super cool with a light saber
This is one of my roommates, Emily Akers, looking super cool with a light saber
My rock ministries family! I miss y'all!
My rock ministries family! I miss y'all!
Performed with these girls 3 times a week for a summer. Lots of bonding happened.
Performed with these girls 3 times a week for a summer. Lots of bonding happened.
Picture of a sunset and the American flag on Mississippi State University's gorgeous Drill Field

Picture of a sunset and the American flag on Mississippi State University's gorgeous Drill Field

Updates and Changes

Hey Y'all, I have a few things to cover today.

For those of you who don't know, I graduated! Huzzah! On May 1, I completed my last assignment as an undergraduate student at Mississippi State University. Talk about bittersweet! Starkville and MSU will always hold a special place in my heart and I will forever look back at my time with a smile in my heart. I'll talk more about that soon. But for now here's a site update!

Because I am entering into a new stage of life, I have chosen to change my site from "thequotesdiary.wordpress.com" to "jackiegiles.wordpress.com." I've been considering doing this for a while for many reasons.

First and foremost, my focus on quotes as inspiration for posts has been waning. My love of quotes and it's influence on so many of my early posts no longer shapes the way I write. I will continue to incorporate quotes when I feel it is necessary to strengthen a point with others words. However, somewhere along the way my style of writing evolved from building off of others words to standing on its own to feet. With this in mind, I no longer felt comfortable writing under the name "The Quotes Diary" and not focusing on quotes in my writing. I stopped feeling free to write what I wanted.

Second, I want it to be something people can remember and understand. I do not write for notoriety; however, I want people to easily recognize who is behind the words. If something I write resonates with people, I want them to be able to return to the site and not have to remember both my name and the site's name. Now they are one and the same.

I have also changed the site layout to something a little more sleek and sophisticated. It's a simple and clean payout that, in my opinion, allows the reader to focus on the words rather than the layout.

I hope you'll continue to keep reading. I am going to attempt to write more consistently. I hear from all the greats that writing is a job and you have to sit down at the keyboard and write whether you are inspired or not. Soon I'll update you on my post grad life and maybe even create a book list for those of you looking for recommendations.

Love, Jackie

Value.

Have you ever noticed how when you're closer to God, you literally see the world thru a different lens? It's one of those things you forget both when haven't been close to God in a while and when you've been faithful for a while. You're only aware of the lenses in that twilight space. I am in that twilight space and it's kind of astounding me.

One of my favorite TV shows is called Community. It's this quirky TV show that's occasionally self aware and is constantly talking about other movies and TV shows. It takes place at a community college that somehow gives out four year degrees... Don't question it! It's perfect for someone like me who enjoys consuming media. However, it's not the cleanest show. In fact, it can be offensive and irreverent, though, always in a clever way.

I started rewatching it this week because it felt like a good ending to college.

In the first scene of the show, the main character Jeff Winger is having a conversation with Abed Nadir. It ends like this: Jeff: "Now I see your value, Abed." Abed, as Jeff walks out of hearing distance: "That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me."

And it hit me. At our core, that's what we're all looking for. We look for it in every interaction and every relationship. We're secretly, subconsciously waiting for someone, anyone, everyone to say: "I see your value. You have value and I have noticed it."

But the thing is others aren't here to give us value. If they were, we'd be in a sad state. Think about it. You're more concerned with others affirming you than you are about affirming others. With a few exceptions, everyone else is doing the same thing. We get so wrapped up in our heads that we quit worrying about others.

As a Christian, you should seek to find your value affirmed in Jesus, the one who said "I value you, you so much I am going to subject myself to torment so that you can avoid it."

Your value is in Christ and nothing else. You are valuable because he loves you and saved you and gives you value.

Your value doesn't rely on your talents or how smart or how pretty or how strong you are. Your value doesn't lie in your ability to make friends or your relationship status. Those things are good but they do not give you value. And when we choose to find value in these things, we cheapen Christ's sacrifice and give away some of our real value.

You have value. It is given to you by Christ. Acknowledge it. Revel in it.

And while I don't think we should find value from others, maybe we should start acknowledging the value we see in others.

Tell her she is clever. Tell him he is passionate. Point out the good things you see in people. People are often blind to their own strengths and weaknesses, be their mirror. See value in people. See value in everyone.

March is my mother's month

Did you know that March is colon cancer awareness month? Probably not. It's not exactly common knowledge even though it kills more than 50,000 people every year, which makes it the second leading cause of cancer related death, behind only lung cancer.  In fact, it's almost the end of March, too late to be writing a colon cancer awareness month post. But I forget. Nobody reminded me. I didn't see blue (colon cancer awareness color) everywhere. There weren't commercials on the tv or radio. 

But there should be. It's the second most prevalent type of cancer. I should hear so much about it, I'm sick by the end of March. 

Ok, so what? Why do you care? 

Valid question. I have a good answer. 10 years ago, my 41 year old mother was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. 

For those who don't know, Cancer has 4 stages. Stage 4 is the worst. There is no best when the word "cancer" is involved, but you have a pretty good chance with stage 1 and not much if it's stage 4. Still, you never know if cancer is gonna be a tornado -tearing down things down it's unpredictable but narrow path - or a tsunami -devastating everything, quickly and unexpectedly. 

Actually I don't know if that's true. I'm not an oncologist but it seems to me that, regardless of the diagnosis, cancer is unpredictable. 

I'm going around the world to tell a simple but emotional story. 

10 years ago, with irony befitting a book or movie, my mother was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in the middle of colon cancer awareness month. She's been in remission for I guess 9 years now which is amazing. My mother is a fighter. She's strong. Maybe because she's strong or because she had so much to live for or because that's what you do when you're attacked. I don't know. To be truthful, I don't remember it well. I remember staying with a family friend the day my mom had half of her colon removed. I remember all the food people sent to help take care of us. I remember the metallic smell of her breath most vividly of all. I still hate the smell of my hands after holding change. The smell envelopes me in overwhelming fear and sadness. But I don't really remember how I felt or what I thought or even understood. 

It's also national women's history month. I've been wanting to honor the ladies that impacted me and shown me what true strength is. No one has impacted and has more strength than my mom. She showed that the most when she had no strength and fought anyway. 

To all the cancer patients: keep fighting. No matter the odds. Don't go down without a fight. 

To all the family members: life is hard. What you're doing is one of the hardest things to face in life. You will make it. No matter what happens you'll get past it. 

To my mom: thank you. Thank you so much for beating the odds. Thank you for teaching me how to deal with illness, attending my high school graduation, giving wisdom during my first heartbreak, dealing with meltdowns, and everything else you've done in the past ten years since cancer tried to kill you. I love you.

So go get colonoscopies and honor the women who've made a positive impact on you. 

Happy women's history and colon cancer awareness month. 

How to Survive Valentine's Day with Grace

Valentine's day. Probably the most controversial and divided holiday. For couples, it's a wonderful chance to just dwell in each other's love and be adored. For singles, it can be a sad reminder of the fact that no one special person constantly cherishes and adores them. Or it can be a day engage in love - no matter the type of relationship. There is no special guy who cherishes me right now and there may never be. But that's okay. Because I have a loving group of friends who care for me and show me love anyway they can. I have a mom who is my biggest fan and manages to have high hopes for me without pressuring me to be or do anything I don't want. I am so grateful I have a father who showed me how a man should love a woman and support her no matter the circumstances. He has told me he loves and that I am beautiful for as long as I can remember. I have two sisters who are my best friends in the whole world and get me better than anyone else.

So yes, Valentine's day is about love, but it doesn't have to be strictly about romantic love.

To the Couples If you're in a relationship, take the time to show your love for someone who's single. But promise me this: don't do it in a condescending, "I was worried about you because you don't have anyone to love you like I do" way. People in relationships, I love you but it is so easy for some of you to get wrapped up in a love bubble and forget that it's possible to live without romantic love. Take time for your single friends. Cherish them and thank them for being there when you weren't in the love bubble. Last, don't forget to spend some time adoring your creator as well.

To the Singles Dear one, don't dwell on the sad parts. You are beautiful and precious and unique. Don't ever tell yourself something is wrong with you because you're single. You are completely lovable and worthy of love. I can't make your day better but you can. Instead of saying, "woe is me," look for someone else to love on. Maybe it's a friend who's struggling more than you are and needs someone to remind them that they are wonderful. Maybe it's a stranger you know nothing about. But I challenge you to dig down deep in your heart and take a handful of you to bless someone with. Show love. Show love hard.

Last, love and adore your creator and savior. The one who loved you so much he endured excruciating mental and physical pain so that you might go free. Someone does cherish and adore you, thank him and love him back.

For Such a Time as This: 21st Century Edition

To preface, I wrote this aimed at bloggers. However at the end, I realized that these issues also apply to the people who sit in the pews, discontent with the state of the church and either do nothing or, worse, complain. It's time for the Church to be doers of the Word and not merely seers.

I have a bone to pick. I am so sick and tired of blogs about how the Church is doing this or that wrong and they need to change and step up their game.

To clarify, I am not saying that the Church is without fault or even that some of the issues brought aren't completely valid issues that need to be addressed. Additionally, it's completely possible that some of the bloggers are called by God to be catalysts by using their words. But I feel like words can also easily turn into a copout.

I have, at times, been distraught with the current state of the church and unable to reconcile this issue in my heart. My, albeit flawed, decision has been to not go as much because I felt hypocritical to go somewhere I saw flaws in. However, as I've grown up, matured, and become a bit wiser, I've realized the futility in avoiding church because I was not happy with some of its practices.

In my opinion, all these call to action type posts are doing the same thing. The authors of these posts are aware of an inadequacy in the church. Since the church is full of people, we are constantly facing mistakes and flaws and scandals. That's just how it is. However, I wonder if maybe God is showing these authors the inadequacy in the church for a different reason than writing about it. If you see an issue that needs addressing, don't address it to the internet. Go to the leadership at your church and say, "Hey, this isn't right. We need to change this." Pray about it. Find out if others agree with you. If they do, get them to help you change things.

THEN write about it. Tell the world how you were dissatisfied with the way certain things weren't glorifying God the way they should. Tell the world how things changed and whether you think it's an improvement. Tell the world even if it's a failure. God doesn't call you to be successful. He calls you to be faithful. And I know that's a cliché but it's a cliché I couldn't be a Christian without. A ruler who cares about your obedience more than your talents and lists of successes is so much more beautiful and accessible than one who requires you to get it right. Listen to James 1:22: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

This makes me think about what Mordecai says to Esther when the Jewish people are in mortal danger. I'm paraphrasing here... He says, "Don't think that if you stay silent you will escape. Deliverance will come from somewhere if not you. Maybe the reason you here at this moment is to save the Jews."

If God shows you an issue in the church, I fully believe it is for a reason. I also believe that we have a God of action not inaction. A few years ago, my former youth minister, Joseph Bird, made the comment that the church is spiritually obese. We eat and eat God's word but we don't go out and do.

The irony in my post calling out those who call out others is not lost on me. However, God laid it on my heart and I had to share. I apologize for any hypocrisy. I give my promise that from now on when I am discontent with issues in the church, I will try to change things rather than complaining. I challenge you to do the same.

The life of a sick person

Me with a hive (*technically angioedema). 06-16-14
Me with a hive (*technically angioedema). 06-16-14
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2014-06-26 22.16.28

 From June 2005 until August 2014, I have suffered from chronic urticaria and angioedema. For all you non-medical people reading this, chronic is considered anything that lasts more than six months, urticaria is hives and angioedema is a hive in the tissue of the first layer of the skin-like the lips.

After nine years of dealing with hives on any and every part of my body, I had given up all hope of ever getting better. When I say I had given up, I am not being overdramatic. I am not trying to give my writing more of a punch. In terms of hope, I literally had none. No faith in doctors or medicine or anything. I honestly believed I would struggle with one day waking up with my eyes like they are in the pictures above or with my foot being so swollen I couldn't put on shoes to walk to class to take a test. I honestly believed for the rest of my life I would deal with randomly being unable to do simple stuff like write or hold a fork with my dominate hand because my hand was swollen to five times its normal size. Once again, nothing I am saying is for dramatic effect; these are all real examples. Fall semester last year I missed a geography quiz because my foot was so swollen I couldn't put on shoes to walk across campus and no one was around to drive me. Countless times, I have struggled to eat with my left hand because I was unable to bend the enormously swollen fingers on my right hand. One time, I had to get my dad to cut my chicken for me. At the time I was 18 years old. I ask for no pity- only understanding.

On top of this, I was told by people close to me that if I prayed enough and if I trusted enough, God would heal me. So of course, when he didn't what those same messages conveyed to me was that I didn't believe enough, I didn't pray enough. I fully believe God works miracles. I also believe that sometimes God works through doctors. Let me tell you something: there is absolutely no shame in not being healed through a miracle. God does not fit in the palm of your hand. God does not fit in your box and he is not limited by you. While I encourage anyone with health problems to pray consistently and fervently, I want you to know this: if God doesn't heal you, it is not necessarily a reflection of your faith.

In Matthew 16:33, Jesus said in this world you WILL have trouble but take heart for I have overcome the world. He did. You can. Suffering is a part of this life. Sometimes you get better. Sometimes you don't. Never let anyone tell you that's indicative of your faith in Jesus Christ.

After nine years, I have been hive free for 82 days. 83 days ago I literally couldn't remember the last time I hadn't had at least one hive on my body because it had been literal years.

In the middle of August, I began to get Xolair injections. Xolair is this wonderful new drug that combats chronic hives for people who don't know what causes it and nothing else works for- I was a perfect candidate. I vividly remember the day my mom called to tell me the doctors wanted me to try it. I cried in the parking lot. I sat there and bawled because I had hope and it overwhelmed me. In The Hunger Games, President Snow explains that the reasons for The Hunger Games is because the only thing stronger than hope is fear. I don't think I have ever felt an emotion more strongly and wholly than the hope I felt in that moment. I fully believe that Jesus gave me this. Just because it came from Christ through doctors doesn't make it any less sweet for me. If anything it makes it more so. I know what it is like to struggle with looking like something from a freak show on a weekly basis. I've gotten countless second glances and innumerable, "Oh my goodness, what is wrong with you?" I struggled to be ok with it. I don't know that I ever became content with it. Resignation doesn't equal contentment. But I can tell you one thing for sure. I am far more grateful now than I would have had I been healed seven years ago or even three years ago. And since God has chosen to heal me through modern medicine I have been blessed by more people. I have doctors and nurses who care about me on a personal level. They want to know how I'm doing in school. They want me to succeed on every level.

I am writing this for 10th grade little Jackie being told hives could last who knows how long: 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years and never believing it would actually be longer than 6 years. I am writing to every person who is in the middle of a seemingly endless tunnel. I am writing this to the person who goes to doctors and gets 13 tests that all come back negative but is still living with a broken body.

My love, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep fighting. Get out of bed and tell the world and the pain and the shame to go to hell. I use strong words because I have strong feelings and I refuse to sugarcoat it- even for naive little Jackie. She deserves the truth. It will suck. It will hurt mentally and physically. At one point in your life you'll take 11 pills a day and feel shameful but it's okay. Make it to October 23, 2014. Sit in the doctor's office and laugh as Jeanette Arnold and Richard DeShazo casually talk about weaning you off your medicine- something you thought would be a lifelong crutch. Fight til you get to August 17, 2014, and your hives are literally nothing more than a bad dream. Become the girl who can feel UGLY and still take a selfie smiling to document a painful hive. You get to be her one day. And I'm proud of her.

I've given you Jesus's words now here's something from Taylor Swift because TSwift knows angst AND how to be classy.

Hold on, baby, you're losing it// The water's high, you're jumping into it// And letting go... and no one knows// That you cry, but you don't tell anyone// That you might not be the golden one// And you're tied together with a smile// But you're coming undone.

People mock her but she knows her stuff. I just want you to know that there is hope. It will not come when you want it to. It may not come til heaven. But one day, everything will be fine and you will know the full value of a working body. You'll want to cry sweet tears of relief when you can do normal things without consequences. Until then, I'm here to chat with. I understand, at least to some extent, what you're going through. Talk to me. Tell me what makes you cry and jaded. Get it out if you need to. I'm without judgment: jackiegiles93@gmail.com Or do it your own. Cry. Journal. Blog about it to let someone else know they aren't alone. Let it teach you grace and patience. I wanna hear your story. Love, Jackie

P.S. Please share if you know anyone else who needs to grace and encouragement!

Star Gazers and Rainbow Seekers

Van Gogh once said, "For my part I know nothing with any certainty but the sight of the stars makes me dream."

Most people are rainbow seekers. They get so excited in the midst of a rainy day when they get to see the sky painted brilliantly in a one small, crescent-shaped area. I love rainbows. They are beautiful and wonderful and a statement of God's love and protection. But I am not a rainbow seeker. God does not put rainbows in the sky to woo me. Maybe that's weird. I mean, first it's not like the whole sky revolves around me. Second, who doesn't fall in love with rainbows? Jackie Giles. That's who. You know what does makes me swoon and weak in the knees thinking "God, you are so amazing!"? The night sky. A full moon. Pinholes of light sneaking through the so dark blue it's almost black of the night sky. I hate cold weather to the point that I nearly cry BUT you know what I love about winter? The sky and the stars at night are never more clear and beautiful. Do you remember how you felt when you first fell in love? Everything in the world makes sense and you find yourself sighing with happiness in the middle of the day? That's how a full moon makes me feel. I look up at the glorious light shining down and I know that God loves me and wants me to be wholly his. Last night, on what I had already deemed the first official day of my senior year (I'm back in Starkville- but school hasn't started yet), I saw two shooting stars. And maybe it's superstitious and conceited of me, but I felt like it was God's present to me. It was God saying, "Everything may not always be ok but I am here for you and I adore you." So here's to my senior year. Everything will not go as planned. I will struggle and potentially feel like a failure but through all the ups and downs, God will be there saying, "My child, look up and gaze at my glory. I made this and I am making you into something even more spectacular." Because that's the thing about God. His creation is GLORIOUS and we are his ultimate creations. Be you a rainbow seeker or a star gazer, Christ died on the cross to save you and wants you to be apart of his family. Know this: you are not perfect and that's ok. Christians aren't hypocrites when we mess up. We are real human beings, struggling to become more like Christ every day but we try. For weeks, I've been wanting to write something to preface my senior year or something that was "15 things to do or not do your first year of college." While that would have probably garnered a larger response, it wouldn't have been true to me. I had to wait til I saw the shooting stars to be able to write this. And really that feels like a metaphor for life. You can't skip steps. I have to do everything I will go through this upcoming year in order to be ready for my career or whatever I do afterward. Maybe life is like a Jenga tower. Take one stick out and the whole thing might topple over. I know this for sure: everything I have done and experienced has made me who I am.

I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night. Galileo

For me, the future is like the night sky. Dark, vast and unknown. But the moon and the stars will be the light to guide me safely home.

Are you a rainbow seeker or star gazer?

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Failure is the Pathway to Success

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So this week I've been at LeakyCon in Orlando. For those of you who don't know, LeakyCon is a convention where people interested in nerdy stuff gather and revel in said nerdy stuff. I am here with Sara Creel and in addition to doing to Harry PotteR, LOTR, Doctor Who, etc. stuff, we are doing the lit track. This means we have access to all the stuff I listed before PLUS panels with famous authors like John Green, Scott Westerfeld, Maureen Johnson and many, many more. This morning I sat in on a panel called "I Was a Teenage Writer." In this panel, these super talented and successful authors read poems or stories they had written as teenagers that were supposedly horrid. The room filled with anticipation as the writers hesitantly brought out papers and shamefully read to us. But the major plots twist? None of them were altogether horrid. In every single one of them, you could see the potential. Some stories had symbolism that no 14-year-old should be able to understand. Others were rich in background story. Some showed the writers ability to turn a phrase, albeit not as well as the writer can now. At first, I left feeling almost discouraged. These people clearly had talent from a young age. That's not to say that they didn't have lots to learn, but talent nonetheless. And I want to be writer, yet I have no written short stories as a child that make me cringe. But don't ask me about the stories I made up in my head to go to sleep. Maybe I won't be a novelist in the future, maybe I will. One of the writers read from a high school newspaper column she wrote because she had no examples of fiction so I'm not completely out of hope. But that's not what stuck with me the most. Later in the day, I came to a greater realization about the panel. Life is about growing and changing and constantly evolving. So many times we look back at the dumb things we did and just cringe. We think, "How could I be that stupid?" The thing about life though is it's a process. You have to do the stupid things to work out your potential. One of my favorite quotes is: "Try and fail but don't fail to try."- Stephen Kaggwa. The greatest writer in the world once wrote did a middle school project that is cringeworthy now. The best cellist in the world started out playing scales. Picasso had to learn how to paint portraits perfectly before he could go crazy and do his own thing. When things are hard and you keep going, you improve. To be cliche, there is no shortcut to success. At the end of the day, I wanna be the person who tried hard not the person who played it safe. Another quote I love is: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Fail again. Fail better." - Samuel Beckett. You don't become the best or even good at something by giving up. So work hard. Be your biggest critic but also be your biggest fan. Keep going and keep working hard. I'll leave you with a Pablo Picasso quote.

Inspiration exists but it has to find you working.

Perfectly Imperfect

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Reading through my old blog posts, my heart began to hurt. My pride was hurt. My self-identity was embarrassed.

"Here is Jackie Giles!" shouted my blog. " She struggles with being content in Christ's love, living in the present and dealing with loneliness."

At first, I wanted to start over- get a clean break. Blog about my successes. Like when I got an "A" in a class I struggled in or when something good happened and I was genuinely thrilled which is something I don't get often and show even less often or that one time I had a spark of creativity and put pictures in the shape of a heart on my wall and it looked GOOD.

But then I remembered why I blog. I remembered what I am called to do.

I do not generally write for the masses. I do not write to present myself in the best possible light. I am egotistical and conceited enough in my current state (and isn't that what Instagram is for anyway?).

I am called to write about my weakness for in that, Christ's perfect strength is made known.

So yes, I have struggles. And yes, many are the same struggles that I think I have overcome. But if I could get over something that easy, it wouldn't be a struggle. It wouldn't be called "dying to self."

So yes, I have struggles. And I am unashamed.

My name is Jackie Giles. I do not have a 4.0 GPA. I am a little overweight. Sometimes, my inner voice curses. I am judgmental. I am discontent with my wonderful life. I sin. I neglect my savior. I have asthma, chronic hives, mastocytic colitis, migraines, and probably a connective tissue disorder.

But that's not all I am.

I am intelligent. I am witty and funny. I am strong. When a problem comes my way, I deal with it. I am, at times, wise. I have a great memory for people's names and random facts. I have wonderful friends and family. I am truthful about my faults and I am dealing with my issues openly. And in our modern society that encourages perfectly posed snapshots of life, choosing to reveal your weakness is incredibly brave.

Maybe I will start talking about successes more, but one thing is for sure. The minute I start hiding my faults on here is the minute I quit being true to myself and my purpose.

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I challenge you to live openly.

21 Things You Should Know How to Do by 21

21 Things you should know how to do by age 21. By a girl who is 21 years and 1 day old :)

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21
  1. Don't trim your own bangs UNLESS you happen to be a hairdresser or have exceptionally good hand eye coordination. I NEVER MADE THIS MISTAKE. Okay, maybe once, twice.
  2. Cook something AH-MAY-ZING from scratch all by yourself. My specialty is "So Good You Wanna Cry Lemon Pie" and fried eggs.
  3. Get along with someone you DESPISEwithout being fake. You're a grown up. It's called being polite.
  4. How to take care of your body. Time to stop eating horribly and never working out if you aren't already healthy active. Drink water. Run. Eat good food.
  5. Know when to ask for help and take advice. Don't be ashamed if you can't always do it all on your own.
  6. How to study effectively. Everyone has a style. Find yours.
  7. Do your own laundry. Time to stop bringing all your dirty clothes home to mama. Instead, do laundry for her when you go home!
  8. Know how to be spendthrift when times are tight.
  9. Handle getting your feelings hurt and move on with life. Be able to take a punch and keep going.
  10. Know how to bull crap a paper and still get a decent grade. Good, quick writing skills are crucial for a lot of things in life.
  11. Be ok with not always being close with friends from high school. Cherish those memories. Go back and catch up from time to time. BUT don't hold onto idealistic memories too much.
  12. Form your own opinion on political and social issues. Don't take the word of anyone as gospel without investigating yourself first.
  13. While this is something I can't do by any stretch of the imagination, at age 21, you should be able to fix a flat tire.
  14. Also something I can't do, balance a check book... in case the internet crashes and we can't use online banking anymore...? I don't know. Maybe you don't need that.
  15. You should be dreaming big. Whatever your big dream is, don't be scared... you have the rest of your life for that.
  16. Know how to say no to something just because you don't wanna do it. You do not have to please everyone you know.
  17. Spend time alone. As Oscar Wilde said, "You need to know how to be alone and not defined by another person." Learn how to entertain yourself.
  18. Put someone else's needs above your own. You are not the center of the universe. Treat others as important.
  19. Have your own unique interests in music, tv, books, etc.
  20. Handle a crisis without falling apart.
  21. Be yourself and don't be ashamed of it. People like confident people.

My Steadfast Hero- Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer. One word. Six letters. How can such a small word pack such a large punch? March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Here are some facts about it.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. (http://colon-cancer.emedtv.com/colon-cancer/colon-cancer-statistics.html).

It's the third most common cancer in men and in women. (http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/statistics/index.htm).

Of the thousands of people that get diagnosed every year, 4.4% are under 45 years old.

Nine years ago, my 41-year-old mother was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.

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(There's a chance she'll kill me for posting this picture but I think she's super pretty and really cute too).

If there's something scarier for a child than facing the death of a loved parent, then I was lucky enough to not experience it. In all honesty, a lot of that time period is hazy for me because I was so young. Only 11 years old. I can't even write this without tearing up. I do know without a doubt that one of the worst things in the world is looking into the face of someone you love and seeing them hurt and knowing you can't do anything about it. Even worse if you're 11 years old and don't really understand what's going on.

So there we were. My formerly completely healthy young mother was diagnosed with a deadly disease that WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO EFFECT HER. But, if Kathy Giles is anything, she is steadfast. Looking back, I don't remember feeling neglected or sensing any fear from my mom. She has a quiet and gentle spirit that fully trusts and has faith in God's plan. She managed to continue homeschooling my little sister and me during her chemo treatments. She also still gave piano lessons.

My grandparents are two of the most stubborn people you will EVER meet. Though quiet, gentle and loving, my mother definitely inherited that stubbornness. She did not give up or quit living when she was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. She fought hard and made it through.

She is my hero, my best friend, my biggest fan, my harshest critic, my steadfast supporter and my inspiration. She knows pretty much everything about me and always encourages me. She is also probably the only person who reads every single blog I write. She cultivated my love of literature, the arts, Christ, old movies, musicals, and the list could go on and on. She has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and go after stuff instead of sitting back and letting life happen to you. She has the will to make a way in everything. She also married a good man who is a great father who I wrote about here

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Mama, (because I know you'll read this even if no one else does), you are my hero and I thank you for always encouraging me. Thank you for fighting through cancer and showing me an alternative way to handle stress. Thank you for being my best friend. i love you. 

OH! And did I mention she's basically my twin from another era?

Here's A Quote... Because I Like Quotes

In honor of being back at school and dancing again, here's one of my favorite dancing quotes.

"Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels."

At one point, I was gonna post at least once a week but we see how well that turned out. This is better than nothing and was inspired by guys being impressed that I dance in high heels. Now I'm off to teach tango!

Advice for high school seniors

Ok so this could also be titled "Things I wish I'd known/grasped at 17." But that's become so cliche and plebian that I feel the need to have a less generic title. 

  1. It's okay that if it's January and you don't what college you're going to. It's also okay if you've already graduated and it's May and you still haven't decided where you're going.

I stressed my ENTIRE high school career about where I was going to college. Neither Meridian Community College nor Mississippi State University were on my list of dream colleges. I sat through a graduation ceremony without having enrolled in a college or scheduling classes. I survived and even thrived. 

  1. Community college doesn't suck.

Okay, so maybe going to a community college sounds lame. I mean I want adventure in the great wide somewhere not to stay in this provincial town (GOOD MORNING BELLE!). Bonus points to anyone who got that BEFORE I added the parentheses. Back to the point, I understand not wanting to spend time at a 2-year institution. But you know what I understand more than that. Getting paid to go to college vs going in debt. You can go to community college and still enjoy yourself and make memories. Don't listen to the snooty people who go to a university straight off. Let them complain about student loans in four years while you can put that money in the bank. 

3. Don't take 8 a.m. classes

While we're on the subject classes at noon and night classes are pretty lame too. 8 a.m. WILL NOT BE as EASY in college as it was in high school. And I didn't even think it was easy in high school. 

  1. You are not a second class citizen because you're 17 and haven't dated.

You also aren't a second class citizen if you're 21 and still haven't gone on that first date. The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing. There are many reasons for why you aren't dating now. Most of them are cliche but true. But what's the big one? You just haven't met the right person at the right time yet. Simple as that. While we're on the subject, DON'T SETTLE. You deserve to be with someone you're crazy about. Conversely, The person you could settle for deserves someone who is crazy about him/her. 

5. Revel in your first love

Okay, so here's the deal. Your first boyfriend WILL NOT be the person you marry. And guess what? That is completely okay. But you really should revel in that first love, nothing can go wrong feeling while you can. Make memories worth the heartache of your first heartbreak. Spend fifteen minutes in the driveway saying goodbye. Laugh. Be silly. Make the perfect gift. Be the annoying couple while you can because later you'll know better than to shamelessly flirt with your significant other while others are around. 

6. Quit worrying.

Things will not go according to your perfect plan. Also, just so you know, your "perfect plan" isn't perfect. Believe it or not, everything will be okay. Quit stressing about the future. It doesn't need you to worry about it.

7. DO.

Do something new and adventurous. Learn to crochet. Or ballroom dance. Or speak another language. Start cooking for yourself- like real meals not ramen noodles all the time. Do crazy Pinterest projects. Now is the time to create and find yourself. Figure out what you like and do it. Now is also the time you can get experience for free or cheap. And saving the best for last...

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8. Realize that life is about relationships and experiences not material possessions

Daddy's little girl

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My dad is the best, y'all. He's always "Daddy" and never "Dad."  I have always loved him so much (and bangs evidently) and he loves me just as much. Sure we fight. We both have stubborn, fiery Irish tempers. He hurts my feelings, I hurt his too. But I know that he is always in my corner, rooting me on.

"Good parents give their children wings and roots."

Growing up, my father was adamant about the fact that my sisters and I would have all the same opportunities that a boy would have. Lots of men didn't, and some still don't, give their daughters the choice to go hunting and fishing and do all the outdoors stuff. Some of my earliest memories involve watching deer being cleaned late at night in the cold outside our cozy home. I don't shy away from the gross stuff the way most girls do. That's definitely thanks to my daddy. I'm pretty certain I would be the most girly-girl ever if my best friend growing up hadn't been Mike Giles, avid outdoorsman.

As it is, I can wear pink and purple and girly dresses but I can also catch a nice fish or two. I didn't turn out to be into hunting but not because my dad discouraged it because I was a girl. Both of my sisters have killed deer and one hunts fairly regularly.

I developed a strange habit from this friendship with my father, 35 years my senior. I got into politics at a really young age because I liked watching the news and talking about it with my dad. When I say really young, I mean it. I can remember caring about the elections when I was six years old.

Then, as I've gotten older our relationship has deepened and matured along with us.

I still remember the day I got my heart broken. I was crushed, devastated, feeling hopeless and alone on that Thursday in May as an 18-year-old. My dad came home with a devotion book by Max Lucado he had bought just for me with the sweetest inscription before he even knew anything was wrong. Of course, then the flood gates broke loose. One can be strong willed until one's father wraps his arms in the most comforting hug ever. It broke down all defenses I had. Then he just sat on the couch and watched Ground Hog Day with me while I alternated between crying and laughing all while resting my head on his chest.

Then, when I was dating the wrong guy again and he chose to eat with his grandparents and distant relatives over seeing me on Valentines Day, my dad told me he'd be my valentines date and take me out to eat when I got home.

It's nice to know there's always one man I can count on. I am so thankful for a father who passionately (and I do mean literally passionately) loves my mother and is always on my side, rooting for me.

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