callouses.

(I will warn you before I begin; this post is going to get real. You’ve been warned.)

I had no intention of writing this or even sharing this with most of you, I didn’t feel it right at the time and my heart needed some privacy to heal. But after some time devoted to introspection and reflection, I’ve decided that I will share this. While it might be embarrassing and hard for me to share… perhaps one day it will help someone wrestling with a similar situation.

If you’ve kept up with my writings or know me in person, you are probably aware that I was engaged. 

I know what you’re thinking… the “was” sticks out like a sore thumb or a neon sign against a black sky. I was engaged. (I’m not going to go into further detail, other than to tell you that we had dated for a few years and had been engaged for just over one year.)

I was the one who broke it off.

You’re probably thinking, “Are you crazy?” or “How could you do that?” or wondering how I could possibly be such a cold, cruel person. My reasonings for writing this are not to evoke any sympathy or pity from you, or to make you choose “my side” in the matter. To be frank, I could care less what you think about my decision. Whether you see me as a bad guy or the good guy in this narrative, I only ask you to read on.

The fallout of a breakup is always messy and difficult, your whole world changes in a blink of the eye. No matter which one you are, the one who ended it or not, it is painful. You start to not be able to recognize yourself in mirrors or reflective surfaces, your whole world begins to become unfamiliar. When you look down at your hands, they seemed stained. There are cracks in your heart that are spreading throughout your bones and eventually to your skin. Your pain, your hurt, your confusion seems to ooze from the cracks. When you think scars start to form, the wounds reopen. Your brokenness seems broadcasted across your forehead, flashing to alert everyone who may come your way.

These last few months have felt surreal. There are times that I feel like i’m walking through a fog, desperately pushing apart the gray to find just a brief second of clarity. My shoulders are sore from the weight I’m carrying, all the internal emotions and all the external opinions. I’ve seen friends turn their backs on me, and I’ve heard whispers of speculation behind me in classes and judgmental looks cast my way.

I will not lie to you, this is perhaps one of the most difficult times I’ve gone through. And I know that pales into comparison to what he’s going through.

With hurt in the past, I’ve learned how to become cold and unemotional, my tough exterior protecting my soft organs from the predictable pain. I developed a rhino-type skin that could deflect even the sharpest of arrows. I developed callouses on my heart.

But this…this tore those callouses off to reveal the soft, vulnerable skin underneath. My heart was exposed, naked without the cold shield I had spent so much time to forge. And for a minute… for a minute I rushed to put my armor back on. I hurried to reform the callouses.

But hearts were not designed to be locked behind towering walls, they were not made to be covered in inches of cold stone.

My sweet followers, I do not know the type of pain you are going through. Whether that be the hurt of a breakup or the searing pain of loss, I know that we are all fighting our own battles and keeping them away, hidden. But my point for writing this is to tell you that you are resilient enough to get through this, and you are strong enough to let others see your brokenness, to ask for help if you need it.

In this healing process and as I begin to sort my life out, I have been tempted to hide away this dark part of my life. I seek shadows and quiet corners to work through it and process things. While time alone isn’t inherently bad, it is absolutely impossible to get through this part of life on my own.

I have said it time and time again and I will continue to do so – we cannot get through life on our own.

During this time of such huge change and chaos, the only thing that has kept me sane are the supportive voices of those who love me. These voices are the ones that cut through the cluttered lies and harsh judgments. These voices are the ones that speak encouragement and love into my broken heart and put their hands against the wounds to stop the bleeding pain.

I am still sorting through things, I’m far from healed. But healing is a continuous journey, a constant process. It is a road that cannot be walked with a hardened heart. It is one that requires a softness and a willingness to stitch up your wounds, no matter how hard it hurts in the moment.

This part of my life will leave a scar, it may haunt me and follow me where I go. But it will not dictate who I am or how I view myself. I refuse to let it have power and control over my life.

I choose to look ahead, to hold tight to the hands of those fighting beside me. I choose to value myself. I choose to seek joy and seek the good.

My friends, there may be situations in your lives that feel defining. There are things that continue to haunt you and follow you, no matter what you do. It is easy to fall into the temptation of letting these things, these difficulties to define you or to harden your heart. But I believe that each of us have a resiliency in us, we have the strength to overcome whatever it is life may send our way. And I urge you to keep fighting, even when it feels like you can’t. Fight alongside of those who love you, and fight for them in their battles as well.

Do not let your heart become calloused.

Advertisements

2018.

25659997_10214590131258000_2458989723984571231_n.jpg

There is something strange about the days in between December 25th and January 1st. Life moves fast around Christmas, full of holiday buzz and wrapping and unwrapping gifts and seeing faces you haven’t seen for the last 365 days and eating too much food and falling asleep on the couch from indulging in too many festivities. The next two days after Christmas leaves you in a strange holiday hangover (figuratively and literally sometimes), and then before you know it it is New Years Eve and the new year is just one day away.

These days in between provide a space for reflection and reminiscence on all that the year held for you. You think back to the good times and try your best to remember them as they were. But the bad times, the chaos and the change, they creep into your mind too. And you’re left wondering what exactly this year taught you, how exactly did you change? What will the next year bring?

I’ve been quiet for a quite a while, holding things in and away from your sight. I’ve been fighting battles very few have seen or know of. I’ve been chasing after inner peace and learning how to leave things behind me,

I will not lie to you. These last few months have been some of the most difficult ones I’ve had to bear. My heart has been torn and stitched together only to be torn again and pulled in two different directions. My voice is hoarse from screaming out in defeat. My eyes are heavy from tears and sleepless nights. There are days that I feel as though my body is going to collapse under the weight of it all.

And yet, I am still here. 

My life has done a complete 180. While the void of plans and security scared me at first, I now look at it as a white canvas, a blank page if you will.

There are so many places I could go, so many things that I could be. There are places I’ve yet to see and people I’ve yet to meet and things I’ve yet to do.

While there is a lot I’ve yet to wade through and a lot of resistance I’ve yet to fight, I’m slowly opening my eyes to see past the clouds and the smoke, to see the light that is beyond the darkness that I feel surrounded by. The light has always been there; never once has it burned out on me.

Who knows what 2018 has in store for me. I cannot control what the universe will throw at me in the following year, but I do know that I can decide who to be. I resolve to keep fighting after my dreams and to stay strong to who I am. I will spend day after day making myself better and searching for peace and contentment in life. I will give more than I take and love even when it hurts like hell.

2018 holds thousands and millions of news opportunities and fresh conversations and new faces and places. I’m choosing to welcome it with open arms and a hope-filled spirit. I pray that your new year is full of exciting possibilities and chances to grow. It may not be easy, 2017 was far from easy. But in the end, you’ll find that you grew more from the times of discomfort than the times you rested in your comfort zone. May you look forward to the new year with new eyes and a new spirit.

There is so much more out there for each of us, and I am bound and determined to find it.

 

4 out of 4

I officially moved in for my senior year yesterday.

It was strange, and somewhat foreign. I traveled the long, seemingly endless road to campus by myself, with a few boxes in the backseat and Chance playing through the speakers. I realized then that this was my first time moving in all by myself. It made this all feel so surreal… my four years here are slowly winding down.

It seems like just yesterday I was making this drive for the first time with my entire family, pulling into campus and being overwhelmed and amazed at everything – the people, the places, the possibilities that lay in front of me. I don’t feel like it’s been three years since I was moving into my barely-bigger-than-a-closet room with my best friend. I remember how excited and nervous I was about the whole experience. It felt like my life had just begun, that my eyes had finally been open thanks to the greatness of college life. (Obviously, I had a lot to learn.)

But yesterday, I drove past campus to get to my house that I’ll be living in for this year. As the university passed through my windows, I watched as freshmen roamed up and down the sidewalks with their newfound friends, and I passed by the concrete stairs that my two friends and I would sit on for hours at night our first week of freshman year. Of the three of us, I am the only one still attending school here. Strange.

I feel so far from the excited freshman or hopeful sophomore or “just trying to get by” junior that I was not too long ago. I know I’m a much different person now. Life has been a hurricane for me in these past few years, and I have changed with its waves and its forces. I’m far from the wide-eyed, eager 17 year old that I was when I moved into Printy. I’m far from the sophomore that resolved to redeem herself from how freshman year ended. I’m far from the worn down junior begging for the year to finish. Now I’m a senior who has experienced a lot between the ages of 17 to 21, perhaps more than most have experienced in their lifetime. And in light of everything that I’ve struggled through, I must admit that I’m a little amazed that I’ve made it this far. It’s been far from easy, but it’s been worth it. There are some hardships that I would have changed or even erased, but I know that I wouldn’t be who I am without them.

I don’t think I’ve decided what to feel about this final year, what to think of my time here. I’ve certainly had treasured moments that I hope to remember forever, and I’ve made lifelong friendships with students and professors alike. I’ve grown as a person, and I’ve certainly grown up through the changing seasons and circumstances and closed doors and open opportunities. But even with all that in mind, I still feel very small and unsure.

Perhaps I am too expectant for what lies ahead of me after I accept my diploma and pack up my boxes and leave here for the very final time. I’ve always had difficulty with enjoying the present and taking hold of what is around me. But what’s in store for me once these next two semesters are over seems much more exciting than what’s happening in this moment.

But… I still know that this year is going to teach me a lot. I already feel like I’ve grown years and years from who I was when I left for the summer. I’ve seen a lot, I’ve lost a lot, but I’ve also gained. I would really like to think that I am a little wiser, stronger, and kinder than I was when I finished out my junior year. This summer taught me how to love and value others and make relationships a priority, but it also taught me how to love and value myself and my own health and sense of self.

I’ve felt a little lost and disoriented in my own life lately, but I’m learning to accept that this is a normality of life. There are moments, even days and weeks, that have went by where it felt like I was watching my life through another person’s lenses. I began to clearly see the ghosts that I allow into my life, the things that make this life of mine so often feel haunted. But this perspective also let me see that I’m not lost, even though my heart tends to think so. I’m just a bit turned around, a little off the path. But I’m certainly not all lost. Perhaps I am just taking the less traveled route to where I am going. It might not be the most obvious or the most convenient or the most practical, but I know that I am getting somewhere.

So here I am, sitting in my living room away from all the ruckus of getting started weekend. I’m not sure what to feel in this moment, as classes start in a few days and I officially start my final year here. It’s been a long road to get here, there were times that I didn’t think I would make it this far. I’m sure there will be times that I will feel like I’ll never make it to graduation. But if there’s anything I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I will persist. I’m a lion-hearted type of girl, with roaring determination. And ultimately, this year is going to be what I make it. So i’m going to make it one that I can be proud of, one that I’ll look back at and be able to know that I lived it well.

Senior year, I might not be totally ready for you yet. But I’ve made it this far and I’m certain I can take whatever you throw my way.

she was purple

A response to the prompt of the day: purple.

Oceans of blue trapped in her eyes.

The passion in her heart burning red.

Colors bleed together to form a vivid purple,

she weaves the lavender through her hair.

There are some people that you meet that are absolutely extraordinary in every way. You look at them and for a second you are in awe, in awe that such a resilient, beautiful soul can exist in such a dark world.

That, to me, is my best friend.

The stories she could tell you, the tragedies she’s seen would break even the one with the strongest mind. She’s been given more in her twenty years than most have been given in forty. Battles seem to come her way more than victories, and the mountaintops are few and far between the valleys.

Yet through all of the challenges and hardships her heart has stayed kind. The average person might grow bitter and callous from the trials, but she remains soft and kind to those around her.

She has been an inspiration to me and so many others through the way that she loves others and perceives the world around her. You can find her in the woods with her eyes wide open, taking in the beauty of the world. Or in a busy coffee-shop, sharing her heart with another to encourage them in their own life.

DSC_7778

How grateful I am for this purple haired, purple hearted friend of mine.

stay small, lift strong.

Today I competed in my first ever competitive lifting event. If you knew me in high school, you’re probably thinking, “Wait…what?” I wasn’t necessarily the strongest person in high school, and I weighed a whopping eighty-eight pounds. I wasn’t exactly athletic either, with competitive dance being my sport of choice.

So the thought of little Erin Mathews competing in my University’s Mini Arnold was pretty crazy.

I know I’ve written a bit in the past about my diagnosis with fibromyalgia and how that effects my life. It’s an extremely debilitating disease that effects me on a daily basis, with chronic exhaustion and extraordinary pain being just a couple of the things I have to deal with. It’s been a tough fight with fibromyalgia, but I’ve managed to treat it with medicine, muscle relaxers, and weightlifting.

I started lifting around September of last semester, at first just looking to strengthen my body to help with the chronic pain and fatigue. But I fell in love with weightlifting and this semester I began to power lift. And that led me to register for the Mini Arnold.

This morning, I was all sorts of excited and nervous and felt as though I was going to throw up a couple times. I didn’t come to win, but I did come to show myself that I am capable and strong.

At the end of the day, I didn’t place. In fact, I failed at the lift that I was most confident in and didn’t come close to the numbers that some of the other girls were able to reach. And at first, I was mad at myself and frustrated that my body wasn’t cooperating with me and that I wasn’t performing my best.

17264722_10212187780720738_1522805895588835852_n

But my friend reminded me of why I was there. I was there to show myself how far I’ve come, to beat fibromyalgia, to prove that I am capable and I am strong, and to prove to everyone else that a small 104 pound girl can lift big things.

And although I failed in some respects, I am not a failure.

I beat the girl that I was a year ago, who nearly had to drop out of school because of fibromyalgia. I beat the girl that i was six months ago, who never had touched a barbell before. I beat the girl that I was three months ago, by reaching higher numbers and improving my form. I beat the girl that i was a month ago, who laughed at the idea of herself competing.

And I’ve got a long ways to go. I still have PRs to hit and numbers to crush. I might not have placed this year, or even come close to it. But we’ll see what next year has for me.

My hopes for writing this is that you would be encouraged to try something new, to take on something extremely challenging to you. While there will always be someone who is better than you, you always have the opportunity to be better than the person you were yesterday. So get out there and kick some butt. I believe in you.

And for me? I’m going to, in the words of my good friend Josh, stay small and lift big.

17458112_10212189657967668_4803122324174764339_n

(shoutout to my homies at Fit University for the swag!)

a life update: semester progress + summer plans

Hello!

It feels like forever since I’ve sat done and written something about my life and what’s going on in my world. Admittedly, it’s been a crazy couple of months, with a heavy class load, a busy work schedule, and countless extra activities that I’m involved in. The semester is FLYING by, which has its pros and cons. Soon I’ll be finishing my second to last year here at Cedarville, and I am both terrified and excited.

I don’t really have much else to say about this semester, because it’s all very routine right now. My days are spent in class, at the gym, at work, and then doing homework with the occasional rehearsal thrown in there. I filled out my graduation placeholder card the other day, and it struck me how fast these last three years have gone by. Sometimes I still feel like little old freshman me, but other times I’m astounded at how far I’ve grown.

Gone are the days of staying up until 2 AM hanging out with the girls in my unit, or the nights my roommate and I would stay out until curfew. Gone are the days chasing boys and stressing about whether or not I was dating someone my freshman year. Gone are the days of playing campus golf more than studying or doing homework. Gone are the days of getting lost around campus or being intimidated by the library. Gone are the days of being a scared little freshman with no idea who she wanted to be.

I still am not entirely sure who exactly want to be, but I know that I am getting there.

Senior year will be here before I know it… but first I have an internship to finish!

I’m excited to share that I accepting an internship with Never The Same Camp ministries as the photography intern. I will be working with the media group at the camp, shooting and editing photos to share on the NTS social media accounts and during the evening worship times. We’ll be traveling for around 10 weeks to different states and campuses, and I’m so dang excited about it! Photography + visual communication is my passion, as is youth ministry. So I am SO EXCITED about getting to do something that fuses those two passions of mine.

This internship was one that I was praying for, and God has been so faithful to me by giving me the opportunity to pursue it. I can’t wait to see how He uses me and my story to impact others this summer, and I’m so excited to share Jesus with hundreds of students throughout the internship.

That’s all I have to update you all on as of now. Thanks for keeping up with me and reading my posts, you all rock!

With love,

Erin

 

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Pinterest!

Madeline Shoes: Review and Try On!

I’m super excited to announce my most recent collaboration with the online shop Madeline Shoes! They offer super trendy, cute styles at affordable prices – which is exactly what a shoe hoarder like me likes.

In return for reviewing the brand on my blog and instagram, they sent me a cute pair of caged heels in black! These heels are called “winning” and they are the PERFECT transitional shoe as we go from cold winter days to spring!

I really love the modern chic look that these shoes give, and they can easily be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. For today’s look, I wore some black skinny jeans with a plain grey t-shirt and added a super cozy cardigan. This is midterms week, so I definitely wanted my outfit to be comfortable as I took a couple exams today.

My overall experience with Madeline Shoes was so wonderful! The ladies there were so helpful and kindhearted, and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to collaborate with them! I highly recommend the shoes, as they are super cute, super affordable, and quality!

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

Photo credit goes to my roommate Rachel! Follow her instagram here.

 

#FitFriday – 5 Things I Did To Start A Fit Lifestyle

Being healthy and fit is a huge part of my life today. But it wasn’t always like that. The beginning of 2016, I set out to make my life more about healthy living. It wasn’t easy, with diet changes and making working out a part of my daily routine. But here I am, at the start of 2017 and at the healthiest that I have been in a long time.

So how did I do it? These five things are what I did to motivate myself towards a healthy, active, and fit lifestyle.

  1. Find A Fitness Enthusiast Friend

    The thing that kept me from heading to the gym at first was the intimidation. I wanted to get more into weightlifting and working with free weights, but simply walking into the gym felt scary to me. Not knowing anything about anything made me terrified.
    But one of my close friends showed me the ropes and helped me figure out what workouts work best for me and how to target specific muscle groups. She was patient with me, and was super encouraging. Her encouragement and support helped me get past the fear and anxiety that I had about going to the gym. And once I got to a point where I was comfortable and felt as though I knew I was doing, I started to go on my own.
  2. Join A Fit Community

    Since I started my fit journey, I joined the Fit University community. Fit University is a community targeted for college students who are interested in maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Fit University’s website publishes all sorts of articles, from work out routines, to fit inspiration/motivation, to personal stories from the Fit University team, to healthy and yummy recipes. I’ve found a lot of support and encouragement through Fir University recently, and it helps push me towards keeping up with my fit and healthy lifestyle. Plus, it’s fun to have a community of people that you can celebrate PRs and goals being achieved with!
  3. Figure Out What You Love And Do It!
    I love weightlifting, so that’s what I look forward to the most when I work out. I like to challenge myself and see my body grow stronger. By learning more about weightlifting and how I could target different areas of my body through different exercises, I’ve developed routines and schedules that work best for me and that I can have fun with as well.

    I really love leg day. I was a dancer in high school and spent a lot of time in the studio, so I naturally have pretty muscular legs. I used to hate that my thighs were a bit bigger than most girls my height, but now that I’ve started lifting I am grateful for my legs and their strength.

  4. Figure Out What You Hate And Do it!

    I hate cardio. I’m not much of a runner, and while I know it’s good for me and necessary for my fit lifestyle… it doesn’t make it any easier. Running is hard for me physically, being someone who suffers rom fibromyalgia and chronic joint pain. But one of my specialists that I see for fibromyalgia told me that she once had a patient who started using running as treatment and now runs marathons. That to me seems like an impossible goal for me, but I know that if I worked hard enough for it, I could possibly do it.

    Running might not be my most favorite thing, but knowing that there are people who have a lot more challenges than I do and who can run marathons pushes me to do it anyway. And you know, the more that I do it, the less I hate it.

  5. Have Fun With It!

    Seriously, have fun with it! For me, going to the gym is the high light of the day. But for others, it might not be as fun. So make it fun, by going with friends or trying new things, such as a spin class, yoga, zumba, rock climbing, or kickboxing. And don’t take yourself too seriously. I’m TERRIBLE at zumba, but I still have fun whenever I go. I may feel ridiculous, but it’s an entertaining and different way to get my cardio in.

    Living a fit lifestyle isn’t all about setting and achieving big goals or getting super muscular. It’s more about taking care of your body and pursuing healthiness. Our bodies work best when we are active and healthy, and those who live active lifestyles are proven to be happier and more content. Fitness has many benefits, not just physical ones. And I promise that you’ll start to see positive outcomes when you start to pursue a fit and active lifestyle.

    I’m cheering for you, and I’m always here for support and to answer any questions about my fitness routines that you might have.

    With love,
    Erin ❤

A Guide To Happy, Healthy Hair

My hair history is a bit crazy. In high school, I never had hair longer than shoulder length, and at one point I was rocking the pixie cut (or at least I thought I was..) Because I had short hair, I always had to style it. So using heat on my hair became a habit. Senior year I decided to grow my hair out, and right before beginning my freshman year of college I began to bleach the ends of my naturally dark hair.

Since then, my hair has been ombre-d, balayage-d, lightened all over, bleached, and toned countless times. (at one point it was a nice shade of gray) My hair is now a honey brown and actually pretty healthy, but it wasn’t always like that. In fact, I just cut off around 3 inches of ends that were totally damaged and dead from mistreatment and over-bleaching.

If you want to know how I maintain my color while keeping my locks happy and healthy, read on!

  • First things first.. don’t over do it with the bleaching and coloring. Your hair needs time to become strong again, and giving it time to “heal” between lightening sessions is very important. I’m no expert, but I would definitely ask your stylist how long you should wait before trying to go lighter again.
  • Since my hair is naturally black, the lightened parts of my hair tend to get “brassy” or orange-toned. I personally don’t like this, as I tend to like the more ashy brown/blonde tones on me. To avoid brassiness, I use a purple shampoo. The brand I use is Not Your Mother’s and it works wonderfully. I find that it doesn’t dry out my hair like many purple shampoos do, and it does a good job of keeping brassiness at bay. It’s important to use color-friendly shampoos and conditioners if you want your color to last longer. Try to look for sulfate free products, as they are more gentle on the hair.
  • I also don’t wash my hair every day. I know that sounds gross, but it keeps my hair from being dry and lifeless. The days that I don’t wash, I usually wear my hair “natural” (no straightening!) and put some dry shampoo in. But if it feels a little more greasy than normal, I’ll put it up in a messy bun.
  • A habit I broke to keep my hair healthy is using heat. I rarely straighten my hair anymore, and I only curl it from time to time. I shower at night, so I usually have time to let my hair air-dry mostly, and then blast it with the blow dryer for a couple minutes (after I spray some heat protectant all over my hair). But other than that, I try to stay away from using heat on my hair because it helps it stay healthy and looking shiny. Also, rinsing your hair with cool water is a good habit to form. Really hot water is not good for your hair!
  • My final tip is to use hair masks. I use L’Oreal’s Total Repair 5 Damage-Erasing Balm on my hair around 2-3 times a week. After shampooing and rinsing, I massage this into the roots of my hair and into the ends, then leave it on for around 5 minutes. Once I rinse with cool water, my hair is silky smoothy and tangle/knot free. I’ve been using this product for around two months now, and I can tell that my hair is already so much healthier and stronger than it was before.

 

I hope these tips have helped you and given you some pointers on how to get your hair back to where it’s happy and healthy. ❤

With love,
Erin ❤