Well hey there, 2018

2018Yes. I’m finally writing my 2017 re-cap/2018 goal blog.

Around this time last year, I rec-capped 2016 for you guys. It was undoubtedly the hardest year of my life, thus far. It was filled with a lot of pain, uncertainty, and changes. I was happy to say goodbye to 2016 and expectant for 2017. You can read that piece here, if you wish.
2017 was very strange. There were moments where I so clearly felt the Lord’s presence, and others where I wondered where He was at. Moments of joy and moments pain. Now I know that ups and downs are part of life and ‘normal.’ So I’m not too surprised, but there were significant lessons and moments during this year for me.

bold

In 2018 I want to be bold. I listened to a sermon last year that was about praying boldly with the faith that the Lord can answer bold prayers. I want to pray boldly, live boldly, and believe boldly. I’m praying boldly that the Lord will give me the strength to find my worth in Him.

As a former beauty queen, people automatically assume that I exude self-confidence. While I do feel confident in interviews, answering difficult questions, and speaking in public (all traits thanks to pageants, holla), I struggle with insecurity when it comes to appearance and relationships, and in finding my worth.

Last year, I began seeing a man who helped me realize that my heart was capable of falling for a man again after my my last relationship. I fell for him, and his family, pretty hard. Unfortunately, I wasn’t what (or who) he wanted. It hurt, a lot. I didn’t think my heart could be broken again, but it did.

Last year, I lost 15 pounds to compete in a pageant in March. I looked & felt even better than I did at Miss SC, but I didn’t win the pageant. It was very hard to process. I then proceeded to gain that 15 pounds back, and then some. I hated swimsuit season last year and I’ve never felt that before. I know it’s something a lot of women struggle with, but it was new for me. It was hard.

Last year (and 2016), I struggled with anxiety and depression. I’m about to get real vulnerable with you here. There were days where it took every ounce of my energy to just get out of bed. Days where I was so overwhelmed I wondered how I would make it to the end of the day. Days where I was so caught up in “what if’s” that I felt suffocated.

I kept wondering “what’s wong with me?” and “what did I do wrong?”
The answer to those questions is nothing. Nothing was wrong with me and I did nothing wrong (except maybe eating one too many ice cream cones). I thought that if I could fall in love again, I’d feel complete. I thought if I was a beauty queen again, I would feel ‘myself’ again. I thought if I finally moved out and I started being a ‘real adult,’ that I would feel whole. I began making my own plans again. But there’s the problem: I was looking in the wrong places for completeness, for my worth, and for my identity. I was making my own plans, instead of asking the Lord what His plans were. As a Christian, my worth is found in Christ and His plans are far greater than mine.

I’m thankful for these moments where I feel lost. Because I know that the Lord was right there, guiding me back to Him. He gave me moments of joy in new family members, promotions at work (2 in one year!), a new adventure (I’m a Mary Kay consultant), and new friendships. Those little whispers of grace kept me moving along.

So, pray for me friends. Please pray that this year I will boldy seek Him, boldly put my worth in Him. I pray this on your lives as well. My favorite Christmas gift was my 2018 prayer journal from my parents. It’s challenging me in my prayer life and I’m writing down my fears and worries, making them ‘real.’ I challenge you to do the same this year.

 

Until next time,
S.

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5 Lessons for 25

Today I turned 25. Kind of scary, kind of exciting. I actually spent the weekend sick, and slept for most of it, but it doesn’t change how thankful I am to reach another birthday. I have a few expectations for this coming year and I’m praying that the Lord will bless me with some of them.

25 has felt like a milestone for me sort of. I’m not sure why but it has a little bit. I wanted to do a post about some things I’ve learned, so here are 5 lessons for 25.

 

1- Your past makes you who you are now, and those who truly care will accept it
I’ve dealt with this on multiple occasions. Either a guy would change their made about me, people would make assumptions about my character, or a man would make me feel guilty & less than because of my past. It’s something that I cannot change, something that is part of who I am and what has made me who I am today. The beautiful part is that the Lord loves me anyways, and the people who truly care about you will love you anyways. They will accept your past and be thankful for the lessons it taught you. The people who don’t aren’t worth it and will have to face one day that they are not in the place to offer judgement, and they need to love like Christ.

2-Things will not always go to plan and that’s OK.
You  can read more about the plans I had dreamed for myself here, and how they didn’t go according to plan. But you know what? It’s okay, because the Lord is a beautiful writer. His stories and plans will exceed your expectations and better equip you for what He made you to do. So when things don’t go accordingly, take a breath and remember that it will all OK.

3- Set goals for yourself and don’t plan your goals around other people
There’s something wonderful about setting goals for yourself and accomplishing them on your own, especially as a woman. If I could go back and tell myself at 16 to never make plans or goals based on the boy I was dating, I would literally yell at me in my face to not do it. I dated a guy off and on for 5 years and when he joined the marines, I planned my future around that. At 17 years old, you guys! Like what is that? Needless to say, none of that ever worked out and the plans the Lord had for me were far better than the plans I had made. I made that same mistake with my last relationship and after it ended, I set a few goals for myself that only I could accomplish (with the help of the Lord, of course). So last year I bought a new car for my birthday gift to myself and my next goal is to buy a home on my own before my 26th birthday. I officially have a year to make it happen and its scary & exciting all at the same time. But I’m sure it will be a beautiful journey with the Lord in it.

4- Family is everything
I have always been a family person. I have the greatest family and my cousins are more like siblings. But I’ve learned over the last few years that it is literally everything. Almost losing my sister 10 years ago, my grandma’s stroke a year and a half ago, and my Mom’s heart attack nearly 6 years ago… it all effects you and reminds you that the Lord will call us home at any minute. Family is the place you can call home, be yourself, and who will still love you no matter what at the end of the day.

5- and even so, He is still good.
This one doesn’t need much explanation. The Lord is faithful, He is a miracle maker, and a promise keeper. Even in the bad and the ugly, He is still good and will see you through.

Saying ‘no’ in November

Happy November, friends!! A month of thankfulness, turkey & dressing, mac & cheese, and, the best of all, my birthday. 🙂 Just kidding!

I love November because it reminds everyone of all there is to be thankful for. Facebook is flooded with #30daysofthankfulness posts and picture collages of family photos. While I have an endless list of people and things I’m thankful for, I want to do something a little different this November.

This November, I’m going to say ‘no’ to a few things.

I’ve been in a place of self-doubt, feeling less-than-worthy, struggling with anxiety and depression, and drowning in the land of comparison for a while now. In 11 days, I turn 25. My life at 25 is not exactly what I dreamed of ten years ago when people would ask where I saw myself at 25 and I’ve struggled with being OK with that.

I had dreamed of being married, trying to begin a family, living in a cute little house, and being in a marketing career that I loved. I suppose that .75  out of 4 isn’t too bad, is it?

But the Lord’s plans are always better than our own, even if we don’t quite see it at the time. I believe that, though sometimes I do ask Him to speed it up a bit.

While my friends landed their dream jobs before college graduation, as they got married, and as they started having children, I sat and watched. All while entering the world of ‘dating’ again (which sucks, btw). Naturally, I was thrilled for them. I love seeing the people I love happy, it truly does bring me joy. But at the same time, it caused me to have self-doubt and the dating world didn’t help either. Dating is another story for a different time though.

So this month I’m saying no to allowing self-doubt to creep in, I’m saying no to feeling less-than, and I’m saying no to being negative. While celebrating thankfulness this month, I am choosing to say no to the things that take my thankfulness down a few notches and I invite you to join me.

What will you say ‘no’ to this month?

blog verse nov 1

be bold

Hi, friends. I’m back. I hope you’ll join me back in this place of vulnerability and sharing.

 

It always seems as though with the changes of fall, there are changes in life with it and a sense in the air to be a little bolder. I last wrote at the beginning of summer (and lemme tell ya, summer was crazy!), and a lot has happened since then.

To recap this past summer- I got to be a leader on our church youth group’s trip to Summer Camp, helped direct our church Vacation Bible School, took a mini-vacation to the beach, and learned that I can open my heart to another man again. See: told ya it was a litte crazy .

 

For as far back as I can remember, Fall has been my favorite season. Fall brought cheerleading competitions, Friday night football, my birthday, crisp mornings and the leaves changing colors. My happy place has always been Fall. Now that I no longer experience cheerleading competitions, Friday night football, and birthdays just mean I’m getting closer and closer to 30… I’ve struggled to find my happy place in Fall again.

The Lord threw me some curveballs this Fall though.

October just so happens to also be Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I find it no coincidence that what I’m about to explain happened this month, the month where every year I honor my Grandmother and her fight against breast cancer.

Several weeks ago, I noticed a BB-gun pellet sized ‘lump.’ I’m educated in breast cancer so I knew the possibilities and I knew that my chances of developing breast cancer in my was lifetime higher than normal. Sometimes, though, knowledge doesn’t always help because I was freaking out. A few people knew, along with my Mom, but last night I finally called and told my person: my best friend of 21 years, Morgan.

Telling her kind of made it real, because she’s the person that has always been by my side in everything I’ve done. I called and told her, “I’ve found something. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m going to ask my doctor about it tomorrow.” I think the Lord was waiting on me to tell her, to be bold enough to tell my best friend that the biggest fear I have, might be coming true. He spoke through her and told me to not worry until we know something and that we’ll make an action plan based on whatever happens at the doctor’s office. And as always, she reminded me that she would be there, along for the ride, no matter what.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in NC with my best friend from college and we went to her church on Sunday morning. The pastor challenged us to pray bold prayers, believing that the Lord is powerful enough to answer those bold prayers. Let me tell you: the Lord is still in the miracle-making business, y’all.

My doctor’s appointment was at 9AM. I told her at the beginning that I had a place to check out. Welp. I looked crazy because you know what: I couldn’t find the lump. It really was not there. 12 hours earlier, I laid in bed and felt it and prayed a bold prayer that He would give me strength no matter what happened, no matter the next steps and final results. Because honestly, I wasn’t sure how I would handle it. And then it wasn’t there. I still can’t find it, still don’t feel it. It’s gone.

The wave of emotion when you realize that the Lord answers your bold prayer in a bold way, it washes over you like a flood. I never expected a miracle like this in my life. Like a lot of people, I’ve never felt worthy enough of the Lord’s power. I committed a ‘bad’ sin too many times, or I ran away from Him one time too many, and just a feeling of unworthiness. But then, He is Lord and His perfect love doesn’t change from one of His children to the next.

Ephesians 4:7 says “but to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” This verse is a reminder that the grace He gives us will always be according the measure of His gift: being crucified and defeating death to offer us salvation. I mean, when you think about that, and the fact that He did that for every person ever created, making a tiny lump disappear is just a whisper of His grace.

 

What’s your whisper of grace? Or ‘scream’ of grace? Share your story in the comments, lets celebrate the boldness of prayer and the power of the Lord.

how He loves us

how He loves us

My cousins and I have filled in at our church with the Youth Group for the last four months. Our Youth ministers resigned on New Years’ Day of this year and we stepped in, a little blindly.

We had all three volunteered and served with our students previously. Jared taught Sunday School, Jamie is the Pastoral intern, and I served often to help Chris and Carrie. But we had no idea what it meant, especially me, to really step into that role.

I’ve told everyone who has asked about it the last few months, that it’s been one of the greatest blessings. I’ve been stressed and pulled in different ways. I’ve been busier than normal. I’ve cried. I’ve felt unworthy of this task. But seeing these students enjoy church? Building relationships with these kids? Seeing them grow in their walk with the Lord? It’s priceless. I never knew I could feel such joy, such pride, such thankfulness for them. I wouldn’t trade any of it for any thing.

Tonight in our youth service, Tyler, Anna, and Jared led us in the song “How He Loves.” I’ve heard this song a lot: in college, on the radio, and at church. Tonight, as our time stepping in gets closer to an end, it was special. The love that I’ve developed for these kids, for these students, is nothing compared to the love that the Lord has for me, for them, for everyone.

Think about it: the same God that created every thing in the world, created you. The all powerful, all knowing, all present Lord created you, loves you, and wants to know you. The love He has for us is bigger than the sky, more than we could imagine, and is our saving grace!

The song goes “He is jealous for me; loves like a hurricane, I am a tree. Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.” His love is powerful. We are weightless compared to this great love that He offers us. I was reminded tonight that the love I have for these students and the prayer I have for them to know Jesus and to live for Him, is so minute compared to the love and prayer that Jesus has for all of us to know Him. It’s incredible and so humbling to think about. How faithful is the Lord to give me this reminder tonight! He knows exactly what His children need and when they need it. I needed His whisper of grace tonight.

Friends- the Lord loves you. His prayer is that we know Him and accept His gift of salvation. Think of who or what you love most in this world. The Lord’s love for us is incomparable to that, infinitely greater. Jesus has paid it all. All we have to do is accept His love and gift of salvation. Let His love be apparent in your life.

 

Until next time,
S

April 17th – One year ago

You’ll notice that I write a lot about my family. It’s because for my entire life, we have been weirdly close. I mean that in a way that I’ve met few people who is as close to their extended families as we are.

As a kid, instead of going to daycare, my Granny and Papa watched my sister, cousins Jared & Jamie, and myself. Every day. We also went to the same church so we saw each other six days a week. We spent 40+ hours together a week, if you wanna throw some math in there.

For every birthday, anniversary, holiday, we were at my Granny & Papa’s house. She would fix dinner, all by herself, for 13 people. As the grandkids got older and started dating, the 13 turned into 14, 15, 16. Then our oldest cousin had 3 kids and it upped the number even more. What I’m getting at here is this: my family is number one, behind God, and my Granny & Poppy the backbone of it.group family

One year ago, today, my parents & I were getting ready for church. It was a Sunday morning, Granny had been home from the rehab center for a couple of weeks and doing very well on the road to recovery for her femur break. Pop had called my Mom around 7AM, Granny wasn’t feeling well and needed help to get to the bathroom. So Mom and Dad went and helped (we live literally right next door), Granny was nauseated so she went back to sleep. As we were walking out the door for church at 9:45, Pop called. He said their nurse told him to call an ambulance and go to the hospital. So we immediately went over, called my aunts, and got ready to go to the hospital. I had never seen my Granny like that, her speech was slurred and something just felt wrong. It was scary.

We get to the hospital and after tests they determined she had suffered a stroke.

granny stroke

What? No. Not possible. I wanted to tell the doctor that he was wrong; that my Granny was strong, healthy, that this couldn’t have happened to her.

They still don’t know what caused her stroke. She didn’t have a blood clot somewhere. Her brain was fine. She just had a stroke.

But I tell ya, the Lord is faithful. He is good, all the time. He whispers grace to me when I need them most. He whispered grace in my ear when the doctor told us that the stroke hasn’t taken her mind or her speech; that she would need therapy but that she would still, essentially, be the same.

Today, one year later, I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for a God who never leaves nor forsakes us, who heals, who is a promise maker & promise keeper, and who whispered grace by letting me keep my Granny, with a few new, sweet quirks to her. And I’m thankful for how this stroke has changed her.

granny blog 2

She now spoils herself. For 62 years, she’s put her husband, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren before herself. She’s never asked for anything. Now she has bought herself a Michael Kors pocketbook, has (fake) Jack Rogers sandals, convinced Pop to buy her a new diamond ring for her 80th birthday, goes shopping more than I do, and she deserves all of it. I’m thankful that she’s living life.

She’s snarkier, she’s sassier, and I’ve gotten even closer to her. We have guy talks and she always wants every detail after each date I go on: what I wore, where we went, what we did, all of it. She giggles with me, gives me advice, and has become one of my best friends. I’m thankful for that. She’s teaching me a lot, telling me a lot, and I’m soaking it all in.

When I think of who I want to be & what I want to be when I grow up, it’s always her; always my Granny. She’s the kind of wife I want to be, the kind of mom and grandma I want to be, and the kind of friend & person I want to be. Just ask around, she’s kind of a big deal ’round these parts.

grannygranny birthdaygranny blog

Last week, my Granny walked to the bathroom with my Poppy. She is celebrating one year with Cracker Barrel for breakfast tomorrow. She went to the nail salon for a pedicure last month. She is healing, she is living, and she is the snarkiest, funniest woman I know. One year down, my sweet Granny, and you’ve come so far. I just know that next year on April 17th, we’ll be able to say you come even farther.

Thank you friends, for letting me share my heart with you. This past year a lot has happened for me, and I’m sure you’ll get tired of hearing about it, but it was a defining year for me. Stick around though, there will be more to talk about because God’s work is never done.

granny group

 

Until next time,
S.

Accountability and its importance

encourage one another

Through college and into my adult years, I’ve learned a few of things about life. My Granny has taught me how to cook sweet potato soufflé, I learned how to do my taxes, and I’ve learned that you truly don’t find out who you are until later in life.

I’ve grown a lot as a person and as a Christian since I graduated high school. My sophomore year of college I lived with 7 girls who were weird, loud, crazy, and froze me to death in our dorm. They made me laugh until I cried, they encouraged me, and they gave me some of my favorite college memz. These girls showed me what it was like and how important it was to have people and a community that hold you accountable. Take a look at this gem from college below (a couple girls are missing):

 sobs

My junior year, Caitlyn’s sweet mama led us all in a Bible study. The other girls were about to graduate and I was going to be entering college without them. There was a lot of changes coming up and we were seeking His truth and encouragement in it all.

I can’t express how precious those sessions were to me. How precious it was that Lou-Lyn took the time to drive an hour to Anderson, cook us a whole meal, and then drive another hour home every week, just to pour into us. I began to see how important community and accountability really was in the maturity of a Christian’s relationship with the Lord. It encouraged me to join a women’s small group through my church once I graduated college.

I’m fortunate enough to have two groups of women that I look up to, that encourage me, that pray over me. They listen to my struggles, my fear, my frustrations, and they don’t judge me. They don’t mock me. They remind me of my worth, of my strength, and of my Heavenly Father that loves me unconditionally.

When it gets tough, when you want to give in to something that feels good but you know is wrong, when you feel like no one is in your corner.. Community and accountability partners are there to lift you up and encourage you. They remind you that the Lord is always good and that He always has His children’s best interest in the forefront of His will for our lives.

Overall, friends, accountability is important. The Bible tells us that as iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). Who we associate ourselves with, who encourages us, and who we seek counsel from helps shape us into who we are. Find your community, find your people, and make sure that they are worthy of the honor of sharpening you and who you are.

So- who holds you accountable? Who are you holding accountable?

Being broken and put back together

Last year broke me.

 

I was completely broken. My future plans, my life as I knew it, it all changed. I’ve always been the type to fear change. I mean, I would cry when my parents would sell cars when I was a kid because it was what I knew and the change scared me. I’ve always been the one in my family to stick to my guns about our traditions. I like to have constants in my life.

When two big constants in my life changed, it broke me. I battled depression, anger, confusion, and fear. But what I didn’t know at the time, was that God had allowed me to be broken so that He could put me back together.

My goal for 2017 is to find God’s truth in my life. To find God’s truth in what I’ve been through, in what my family’s been through. The first couple of months of the year so far have revealed to me a lot of things and one of those is why God needed to put me back together.

My entire life I’ve known that I wanted to be a wife, be a Mom, to have my own family. My friends have found their soul mates. They’ve gotten married, are having babies. It seemed every day there was a new engagement or baby announcement on my social media feed. Well, I thought I was ready for that. I thought I had found that. I had the best examples of a wife, a mom, and a marriage in my parents and my grandparents so I thought I was ready for it all. But I wasn’t, I hadn’t found it, and I wasn’t ready. God allowed for me to be broken to show me that. He allowed me to be broken to show me that He still had work to do in me before He gives me His best for me. He’s putting me back together for the man, the family, the future He has for me.

So for now I will seek His truth in these questions: who is God putting me back together for and what is He putting me back together for? One day, I’ll hear His whisper of grace when He says “that’s him” or “this is it.”

I know it has been awhile since I last posted, but life as been pretty crazy and I’ve been living it. I’ve reveled in the Lord’s faithfulness and His mercies. Thanks for reading and always remember to listen for those whispers of grace.

 

-S

Hello, 2017

2017

Happy New Year, y’all. It’s been a while since I last wrote but I haven’t really felt led to know what to write. I would think of topics, sit down, and the words would just jumble together and not make any sense. So today I’m going to try. I’m going to try because I want to write about 2016 and 2017. Bare with me, friends; I promise there will be a story in all of this.

2016 was a rollercoaster of a year. I experienced a lot of emotions, feelings, and different moments throughout the year. I experienced the ultimate heart break, emptiness, unknowingness, and fear. But, I also experienced joy, pride, and fulfillment. Unfortunately, it was one of those years when the bad overshadowed the good and I was more than ready to see the end of 2016.

I never make resolutions because I’ve never seen a point to them. For 2017 though, I’ve made two goals. The first is to be healthy again. Last year I didn’t work out, I ate unhealthy more times than not, and I was emotionally unhealthy. This year I made a goal for my physical health, my spiritual health and my emotional health. I want to be healthy, in shape, and feel good about myself, again.

The second goal is to fervently follow God’s plan and actively search for His truth. I’ve been blessed to have wonderful friends who do just that and they are such an encouragement to me. Today, two of my best friends displayed it by announcing that they will be leaving our church to accept God’s call to be student minister’s at another church. Sometimes having friends in the ministry can suck, if I’m going to be honest, because being in the ministry often means leaving. But, I am so encouraged by them and so excited for them to see what God has in store in this new chapter. I’m also really excited for future road trips to see them and sweet Addi that will join them in February.

So, shout out to God for already encouraging me in this year. I prayed for the ability to see His truth and ability to follow His plan. On the very first day, He encourages me through two of my best friends. He is a good, good Father, friends, and always wants the best for His children.

I’m hopeful for this year, and I’m excited to see what whispers of grace God shows me this year. There are a lot of exciting things to come. Two friends will welcome babies to their families, my Granny is going to continue to heal, and I’m chasing dreams. (I can’t wait to tell you those dreams, soon). It’s going to be a good year, friends. Make the most of it and always seek Him for guidance.

 

Until next time,
S♥

Whispers of Grace

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, and things have been quite crazy! My sweet Daddy had shoulder surgery, my best friend from college came to visit for my 24th birthday, and then my sister had surgery with nearly a week long hospital stay. Whew – it was a whirlwind.

During that time, I was able to think about what I wanted my next post to be about. Since my blog went live, I’ve had a few people ask me: “What are whispers of grace?” I love being able to answer this question so I thought it would be best to explain it to all of you on here.

dandelion

During my life, when things go bad, I’ve had the tendency to tune others out; to shut down. During my teenage years I had a bad habit of keeping everything in until one day it all blew up. Vulnerability is scary. Trusting others is scary. And I hate being scared so I always tried to avoid those things. I’ve worked on that over the last few years and while it’s still hard to open up to people, it’s getting easier.

I’ve been using the phrase “whispers of grace” because for me, when I tune others out, I also tune out God. I don’t actively listen for Him. I don’t actively seek His words or comfort. They’re like whispers. Whispers are often hard to hear or understand unless you’re actively listening for them. Sometimes you don’t even realize they’re there until after it’s said and done with. To me, that’s what whispers of grace are.

When my Granny had her stroke in April, I only focused during that time on the bad, imagined the worst, and wasn’t seeking His words. I prayed for understanding and hope, but I didn’t actively look for that. All the while, He was whispering in my ear “Daughter, I have kept your grandma safe, she is still with you just like I am always with you.”

So I’m thankful for those whispers of grace throughout my life. Those “aha” moments when I realize what God is saying and showing to me. Those moments where I can revel in the wonder that God is and His ability to always get His words to me, even if I’m not actively seeking them. His faithfulness is astounding and always prevails.

I hope you seek His words, but I also hope that in those moments where you’re down and pull away, that you’ll always hear those whispers of grace.

Until next time friends,
S♥