From a Bikini-wearing Girl.

I’m a 20-almost-21 year old college student, making her way through studies and work, paying her own rent, buying her own groceries, enjoying life, and trekking her way  through adulthood through much trial and error. 

I’m fairly independent, 100% my own person… and yet I’ve found one thing interesting; the older I get, the more opinionated people get on what I wear and how I present myself to the public.

Wait, what?

Ever since I turned 18, I’ve noticed that (mostly) well meaning people have took it upon themselves to tell me how I dress. And the even more interesting thing is that most of them aren’t even close to me nor know me well or at all.

There are a few phrases that I am guaranteed to hear when I step out my house or post a photo online:

“You don’t need to wear so much makeup!” 

“You should really cover up more… you’re too pretty to show that much skin.”

“Aren’t you worried that you’ll cause someone to struggle?”

“A Christian girl doesn’t need to dress that way.”

“Do you just dress that way to get attention or something?”

And believe it or not, my own parents have been asked questions about the way I dress/present myself from those who don’t want to confront me face to face.

Oh… I have so many thoughts on that, and many things I would like to share with you on why I don’t let these comments phase me, and why I choose to be who I am.

First, it frustrates me that those who dress one way are more judged than those who dress another way. While first impressions and the way we present ourselves is important, it’s unfair to me that my relationship with Jesus is judged by the things that I wear.

Doesn’t that seem unfair? Why should my relationship with Jesus be put under more scrutiny than a girl’s who dresses in a different way than I choose to? It shouldn’t. It’s all about the heart. 

Now, I grew up with a younger brother and a lot of my closest friends are young men. I know that men struggle and lust. I know that. But I also know that this idea that boys cannot control themselves around girls should not be accepted as the norm.



This idea that boys are mindless robots always thinking about sex should not be brushed off as a normality. We should instead focus on the idea that women are valuable for who they are as people. We should instead promote a healthy idea of women in society, and not as just an object that is “impossible for males not to lust over.” 

I do not dress for male attraction, and I do not dress for male protection. 

Let me say that again: I do not dress to gain male attraction or to get them to notice me. But I also do not dress to protect the male eye and further normalize idea that men cannot control their urges or their fleshly desires. 

What I wear doesn’t define who I am as a human being. The material things that I clothe myself with does not determine my ability to be or not be clothed in strength and dignity. 

Instead, I seek to be defined by the way that I love the Lord and others. I choose to find my own value in things that aren’t material or temporary. Rather, I put my time and my focus and my efforts in becoming someone who is earning for herself eternal riches.
And you know what I’d like to say to those who have commented negative things about me or who may judge me based solely on the outside? Yes, I do wear a bikini swimsuit. And you know what? I rock it. I rock it because just a few years ago I was absolutely crippled by the negative way I viewed my body and the obsessive relationship I had with food. 

Some people aren’t comfortable wearing two pieces, that’s okay. But I am, and I am proud to have a positive relationship with my body after fighting so hard to overcome a crippling eating disorder.

What my hope is in this post is for you to reconsider why you might judge someone based upon what they wear. I am not any better than the girl next to me who dresses in the way that makes HER comfortable. Because ultimately, she is dressing for herself and no other person. 

Christian ladies, why are we putting ourselves on platforms and condemning our sisters in Christ because they wear different clothes? Why are we so intimidated by girls who are comfortable with their God given bodies? Why are we so quick to judge rather than try to understand? Why do we focus so much on the outside that we too often forget about what’s within

I know there are many who might not agree with me, and that’s okay. But I am not afraid of any negative backlash because I think that these words will open up positive conversation and encourage others who might be searching.

At the end of the day, if you are in Christ, His love will pour out of you and your heart through your fruit.  And that it is what truly matters.

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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.

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

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 ❤

music monday flor – hold on music video

 

This is my favorite music video of the moment. From the incredible sounds that they produce in their music, to their use of visuals and fluorescent colours, Flor is definitely a band to watch this year. Their use of visuals often reminds me of the 1975, but their sound is a little softer and more ethereal.

I absolutely love the visuals used in this music video, and it kind of gives me Studio Ghibli meets Wes Anderson vibes. I really like the violet-y pink colour palette, and the nostalgic feeling that the storyline of the story gives. Plus the actress is super cute with her pixie cut and doe eyes.

Flor is set to release more new music this year, and I can’t wait. They’re also going on tour, where they will be performing some of their shows with GroupLove! I’ll be seeing them at the end of January in Cleveland and I can’t wait.

Check it more of Flor’s music on Spotify  and find more details on their upcoming shows on their website here.

when your heart is discouraged and your soul doubts

If I were to be honest, it’s been a rough kind of week. I have faced much disappointment and confusion, and hurt from certain situations and relationships. I’m left feeling a little betrayed and a little hurt, but mostly discouraged.

I’m tired. I’m tired of where I am right now, tired of the hurt and disappointment. I’m weary from fighting battle after battle, and trying to keep my head above the waves. I’m not where I want to be, my heart is straining for what’s ahead and what could be, but it’s stuck here. And my discontentment is breeding doubt. I’m doubting that this is where I’m supposed to be.

And I know I’m not the only one that’s feeling wounded from situations or relationships in their lives. I know that I’m not the only one who’s feeling so discouraged, so doubtful. I know I’m not the only one.

And I wish I had the words for those who feel the way I do, but I’m not full of wisdom or insight. I don’t know what the right things to say are.

But what I do know is that there are promises for us, ailments for our hurting hearts and sick souls in the Word.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. //
Psalm 34:18

I am an incredibly introspective person, who is perhaps a little too self-aware. I hid away inside myself when I am feeling a little too much, and I retreat to the back parts of my mind, as if I’ll find answers there to answer the “why”. I don’t like to leave questions unanswered, and I like to find those answers for myself. But sometimes (most times) I don’t have the answers to why things are the way they are. And I don’t know why things must hurt as much as they do.

But I serve a kind and just God who has a plan and a purpose for everything that I go through, all the little and big hurts I feel. I serve a God who doesn’t seek to bring pain to my life, but lets me walk through fires and storms so that I can better experience His sovereignty and faithfulness. I serve a God who promises to be a good Father, even in a world full of heartbreakingly bad situations.

The LORD is righteous in all His way and kind in all His deeds. // Psalm 145:17

Even though my heart is wrestling with discontentment and worry about what is to come, my future rests in the hands of a God who has been faithful in every season in my life, and will be faithful in every season to come. He has held me up when I was struck in my grief, and He has led me through the darkest hours of my life. When I look back at the valleys and storms and fires and mountains He’s led me through, how could I ever doubt that He will be faithful now and in the future?

In my deepest doubt and furthest wandering, still He chooses to rescue my heart and bring me home. When I didn’t want to seek Him, He sought me. When I didn’t want to love, He loved me. It amazes me how He still chooses to see me as His child, even when I’ve been more like a prodigal.

A thousand times I’ve failed, still Your mercy remains. And should I stumble again, still I’m caught in Your grace // hillsong

If your heart is filled with discouragement and you find yourself doubting, I want to encourage you to look back. Remember the difficult times that you’ve been through and the darkness that you’ve seen. Remember the storms. Remember the tragedies and the loss and the brokenness. But also remember that you are here right now. You made it. He saw you through some of the most difficult things in your life. He carried you through it all. He lead you through the darkness and through the valleys and through the storms before, and He will continue to do so. He has been faithful and He will continue to be.

I know it’s easy to settle into discouragement and doubt, because it seems (for a little while at least) comfortable. It is familiar. But you cannot stay there. We cannot stay there. We cannot let our hearts get weighed down by the hurt, we cannot let our souls start to forget His faithfulness. We cannot stay here. We must choose to remember His faithfulness and His sovereignty in our lives, for that is the only way our discouraged hearts and doubting souls can be healed.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. // Psalm 147:3

A Look Back: My Favorite Moments of 2016

With the craziness that December was for me (having final exams ten days before Christmas, having a parent have an unexpected hospital stay, having to plan my visit to Georgia, having to schedule my classes for the next semester, having work the days following up to Christmas…) I had little time to reminisce and look back at 2016.

2016 was a rollercoaster for me, with so the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I walked through the grieving process, as I lost my best friend in November of 2015. I got an incredible summer internship. I performed in a super fun concert. I got engaged. I got to see two of my close friends get married. I got to see my best friend get engaged… it’s been a rush.

There are so many memorable moments that happened this year, but I decided to pick out a few of them to share with you.


Concerts, concerts, concerts!

This year I got to see SO MANY of my favorite bands, including Ben Rector, Colony House, Mat Kearney, needtobreathe, and Passion Pit. Seeing these bands perform wasn’t the only highlight, but getting to experience it with such good friends made it so much better. I got to see Ben Rector with my boyfriend, Mat Kearney and needtobreathe with a couple close friends from college, and I got to see Passion Pit (for free!!) with my best friend because we volunteered at Fashion Meets Music Festival in Columbus.

Elliv: The Experience

My university puts on this incredible performance every year called Elliv. It’s totally student planned and student led, and a way of “de-stressing” before the craziness of finals week. We audition to be put on different music teams then spend the whole spring semester practicing and getting ready for the big performance. My team was the “rock” group, and we played songs by Muse, Paramore, Kelly Clarkson, and Young The Giant. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced, and performing in front of 3000+ was absolutely energizing. Not only did we have fun, but my team grew close and became good friends through the hours and hours of practicing. Plus I got to wear killer costumes and great hair + makeup.

You can check out part of our performance here.

Choir Tour + Chicago

The choir that I am in, Jubilate, goes on tour every spring semester. In 2016, we got the chance to go to Chicago and Wisconsin to perform at a couple different churches and schools. This was my first time in Chicago, and I was SO pumped to see such a cool city. Honestly, all I can remember from tour is the few hours we spent in Chicago. It was so cold and windy, but it was so much fun popping into coffee shops and record stores and experiencing a new place with friends.

THE BEST SUMMER INTERNSHIP EVER

Oh, I’m getting emotional typing this… This summer, i had the blessing of interning at Jersey Students, a ministry at Jersey Baptist Church. I was one of two interns for the summer, and my specialty was anything creative. I led worship on a weekly basis and shot photographs for various events, as well as shooting and editing video for a week long missions event and a week long camp. It was hard work and exhausting, as I was also working a part-time job at a local cafe. But God blessed me big time by letting me intern at such an incredible ministry. I met so many wonderful people and got to be a part of so many Christ-centered conversations and share my heart with some pretty amazing students. It was honestly a dream internship, since I got to do creative things while also working in youth ministry (a huge passion of mine!). I miss it so very much.

Got Ink

I got my first tattoo during the summer of 2015, but I got two more in 2016. These two tattoos mean so much to me, and are little reminders of what I have survived this year.

I got twenty tree rings on my shoulder in memorial of the 20 years of Gregory Long. Greg was my best friend for nearly 7 years. In November of 2015, just a couple weeks after his 20th birthday, he and his girlfriend Haley passed away in a car accident. It absolutely rocked my world. I had lost before, but never someone who I was so close to. These twenty rings are a celebration of the life that he lived and the impact that he had during his short life. Greg was truly an incredible person, and I wish that everyone had the blessing of calling him their best friend.

My close friend Abby wanted to get tattoos over our fall break while we were in St. Louis. I decided to get a simple one and settled on “it is well” across my neck. This phrase has been an anthem for me lately, as 2016 was a year full of challenges and struggles. It’s a reminder that through it all, I have the ability to say that “it is well” because of the goodness and grace of God.

Fall Break in STL

For fall break last year, my friend Evan and his sister Emily invited us back to their home in Illinois. (they live just thirty minutes from STL) Over our five day break, we got to explore downtown STL, taste authentic STL bbq, explore an incredible interactive museum in a huge, old warehouse, and enjoy time spent with friends. STL is easily one of my favorite cities I’ve had the chance to travel to, and I hope to come back soon. Plus I’m glad I got to spend some time exploring with my best friends.

I GOT ENGAGED!!!

A couple weeks before it happened, my good friend and fellow photographer India asked me and Kevin to be models for a Wes Anderson themed shoot. Wes Anderson is my all time favorite director, and I absolutely adore his style in his films and photographs. What I didn’t know is that this was all part of Kevin’s elaborate plan. We spent the day walking around taking pictures in downtown Columbus, and at the end of the shoot India handed me a prop – a notebook. When I opened it, it was actually a hand-bound scrapbook of memories that Kevin and I had made over the last year and a half. The last photo had the caption “how about we do a real engagement shoot?” and when I turned around, he was on one knee. Oh my heart. It was absolutely perfect, and I had no idea. I’m so excited to spend the rest of my life with my best friend!

And all the little moments in between…

2016 gave me so many memories to keep in this little heart of mine. I got to experience so many new things and new places and meet new people. I grew closer to friends and learned new things about myself. I got to see the Lord work in my life and the lives of others. I got to see the other side of my grief. I got to come back to a great university to continue my education. i got to share my heart and passion with others. I got to take a lot of pictures, sing a lot of songs, and laugh a lot of belly laughs. 2016 was a testament to God’s goodness and grace, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2017.

What were your favorite memories of 2016? Let me know in the comments!

With love,
Erin ❤

instagram.com/erin.esther

 

My Most Anticipated Albums of 2017

2016 brought some amazing music into my life. From needtobreathe’s album HARD LOVE to the 1975’s i like it when you sleep to The Lumineer’s Cleopatra, it certainly was a good year for music.

But 2017 isn’t going to disappoint in music either, and there are already so much music that’s going to be released this year that I am so excited for. So I thought I’d share the top albums that I’m excited for this year.

  1. Colony House – Only The Lonely
    colony-house-at-rocking-gods-house
    Colony House is an up and coming three-piece band from Nashville that has taken the alt-rock scene by storm these last couple years. Two of the three members are sons of famous Christian singer-songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman. They’re incredibly gifted musicians and songwriters who not only have the experience as musicians, but also as performers. I’m seeing them in February for the fourth time, and I can’t wait to hear the new album as well.
  2. FLOR
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    While they haven’t officially released a statement about a new album, they posted a series of photos on their instagram with the caption “1.6” that certainly hints to a new album or single. Flor is a small band from AZ that I first saw when they were on tour with COIN and Colony House in 2015. Their unique, heavy-synth sound instantly had me hooked. They haven’t released much music, so I hope that their Instagram is hinting to a new album.
  3. Lorde
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    Lorde has been teasing her fans since mid 2016 about a new album, but she’s keeping things pretty secret so far. The 20 year old music icon hasn’t released a new album since 2013, so I am more than excited to hear some new music from her. She released an emotional statement on facebook about the new music:

    “I want nothing more than to spill my guts RIGHT NOW about the whole thing – I want you to see the album cover, pore over the lyrics (the best I’ve written in my life), touch the merch, experience the live show. I can hardly stop myself from typing out the name. I just need to keep working a while longer to make it as good as it can be. You’ll have to hold on. The big day is not tomorrow, or even next month realistically, but soon. I know you understand.” Lorde (via her facebook in November of last year)

  4. Bleachers
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    Another album that has yet to be confirmed, but is much anticipated. Bleachers hasn’t released any new music since their first album Strange Desire, which was released in 2014. Their song I Wanna Get Better was a summer anthem for me in 2015, and I am excited to see what they have in store.
  5. Ed Sheeran
    ed_sheeran
    It’s about damn time! Ed Sheeran released a video on twitter that teased new music and explained why the singer/songwriter has been laying low for a while. He implied that the new album would be coming in Fall’17, and that until then, he would be pretty quiet on his social media.
  6. Phoenix
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    Though it hasn’t been officially confirmed, Phoenix is expected to drop a new album sometime this year. Their most recent album, Bankrupt!, was released in 2013. I personally hope that they release the album before summer’17, because I need some new summer car ride jams.
  7. Mumford & Sons – Live From South Africa: Dust and Thunder (february 3rd!)dt_header_web
    While this isn’t necessarily new music, Mumford & Sons is releasing a film and live album both entitled Dust and Thunder. This film will include footage from the recording of the mini-album “Johannesburg” that Mumford and other bands wrote in a short period of time in South Africa. I’m personally excited to see their creativity in a new way, and can’t wait to hear the live album as well!
  8. COIN
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    Another up-and-coming band Nashville, COIN hinted at a new album by posting a picture on facebook with the caption “2017”. COIN gained popularity by touring with Colony House in 2015-2016, and has established a strong presence in the indie-rock music genre. They’re going to be on tour in the spring of 2017, and I’m super excited to see them on their Cleveland date.
  9. last but not least…Taylor Swift
    swift
    There is no official statement or even a hint that there will be new TSwift this year…but we can only hope. Her last album, 1989, came out three years ago, so it would only make sense that she would have some new music out this year. But Taylor is full of surprises, so I guess we can only see what she will do this year. (Hopefully her beef with Kanye won’t effect anything…)

Overall, I am so excited for the new music that is set to be released this year. Do you have any albums you’re looking forward to in 2017?

Thanks for reading,

with love,
Erin<3
instagram.com/erin.esther

before the fireworks, before the ball drop.

So much can happen in 365 days. Your life can turn upside down in a matter of seconds. And you might find that the person that you woke up as on January 1st 2015 is not the same as the person who bids goodbye to another year on December 31st, 2015. I’m most certainly not the same as I was 12 months ago.

2015 brought heartbreak, but it also brought healing.

At the beginning of 2015, I was drowning in my insecurities. The semester wasn’t going the way I had wanted it to, I was very ill physically, my grades were slipping, relationships were going wrong, and I was very unhappy. I just wanted to get the spring semester over with, but I wasn’t looking forward to returning to a summer job in an office for the whole summer. I was defeated, and very broken. I had put so much of my hope and expectations in people, and I thrived on affirmation of others. I had turned away from finding my identity and purpose in Christ, and I filled it with relationships, business, and feeble attempts to define myself as the “artist” the “photographer” “the girl people would want to be friends with”. I returned home for the semester defeated and depressed.

I was angry for a while. I was angry at God for taking some things away. I was angry at a boy who shattered my self-esteem. I was angry at my circumstances.  But most of all, I was angry at myself for not doing better, for not being a better person. I recognized my weakness and I knew that there had to be a drastic change. And as i looked back at the relationships I had destroyed, the choices I had made, and how far I had wandered… I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I surrendered to His will for me. And that brought healing to my heart. He helped me pick up the pieces of a messy breakup, took away the stains and “ick” i had stored up, reminded me that my identity is found in Him alone, and guided me back home – to where I needed to be. And so the spring brought healing, it brought people from home back into my life, who walked with me through this process of healing. And through the healing process, I was able to enter the summer with a new sense of purpose, a healed heart, and a humbled mindset.

And I am learning that healing is a process that takes time. God is still healing my heart, and He will continue doing so in 2016.

2015 brought loss, but it also reminded me of love.

Towards the end of this year, I had to walk through something I never would have imagined I would have to. I lost my best friend in a car accident, and honestly? It still doesn’t feel real. I remember when I found out. It was 3 AM and I was sitting by my phone hoping someone would call and say, “He’s in critical but stable condition”. I was praying for a miracle. But instead, when the phone rang I heard, “he’s with Jesus.” And my whole world seemed to come to a screeching halt. I still can’t wrap my head around it right now. I understand that it will take time. It hurts a lot, as I look back at all of the previous years that Greg stood by my side in the good times and bad, and every other in between. It makes me nostalgic for the old days mostly, and a little anxious about the days to come. But even during this trial, I have learned so much.

The most significant thing I’ve learned is that I am loved by so many people, and I have so much love to give to a hurt world. During a time of pain and grief, my friends have come together and surrounded each other with support, prayers, encouragement, tissues, laughs, and most of all, love. I have never once been alone during this time. I have some of the greatest friends by my side, even when they are hurting and feeling this pain too. We were close in high school, all of us. But college slowly made us drift apart. In light of this tragedy, we have become closer than we were before. Over this last month, I have cried with these people until I couldn’t see straight and I have laughed with them until my stomach hurt. They have reminded me that I will never have to go through life alone, and that I am always loved.

The day after Greg and Haley passed away, I was absently leaving through a book written by my biggest inspiration, Jamie Tworkowski. His book, If You Feel Too Much (which you DEFINITELY should read if you haven’t), is filled with his thoughts and reflections on life and the hurt and pain in this world. I stumbled across something he wrote when he lost a good friend to cancer. And it resonated with me and brought me comfort. I don’t know how to end this section, so I will end with these words.

“Though the price will be the heartache of loss- for we can’t control when or how an ending comes – what a privilege that God allows us to connect with other people in this life, to be known, and to be loved so we do not walk alone. Perhaps friendship – the deep kind, the best kind – perhaps it is a miracle.” – jamie tworkowski

2015 brought disappointment, but it also brought a deep sense of hope.

My first year in college wasn’t exactly how I planned. And I’m halfway through the second one and it’s still not exactly going how I planned. By the halfway mark of 2015, I was stressing about how I was going to keep my scholarships and stay in school, diagnosed with a chronic illness, about to start a job I wasn’t sure I would enjoy, and stuck in licking county for the whole summer.

But by God’s grace, I managed to keep my scholarships and return to Cedarville this fall and get the chance to room with my beautiful and wonderful best friend. I have began treatment for my illness, and I am doing better than I was. I ended up absolutely loving my summer job, even though it wasn’t the one I had planned on getting. And being stuck in licking county brought some incredible things into my life; one being a group of wonderful 8th grade girls that I got to minister to and mentor over the summer. and another being my boyfriend, who I wouldn’t have began to get to know had I worked at a summer camp like I planned.

All of that taught me that sometimes (well… sometimes it feels like most of the time) life doesn’t exactly work out how we want it to. And that’s because God’s plan is so much bigger and more incredible than we could even imagine! I’m learning that I have to remind myself often that God is in control, not me. So often, I decide what my life is going to look like and tell God that’s how things are going to be. But by His grace, He doesn’t allow all of my plans to work out…instead, He replaces them with something much better. This has brought me such a deep sense of hope for 2016. I have an idea of how I want things to go, but who knows what can happen in a year! All I know is that God will lead me to where He wants me to be, when He wants me to be there.

2015 brought pain, but it also brought purpose.

I watched two sweet women girls in my life lose their fathers, one to a heart attack, and one to cancer. I saw the eyes of the hurting and broken in downtown Columbus, void of hope. I felt the pain and burdens that the young girls i mentored carry, I felt it deeply. I felt the loneliness and longing in the eyes of the underprivileged kids I worked with. I walked through the nightmare of losing my closest friend.

I questioned the purpose for all of these things. I cried and screamed at God to fix it, because it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair at all. But in the midst of the pain, i was reminded that there is purpose even if we can’t see it at first. And more importantly, we have a purpose to love. My eyes were opened to the pain that surrounds me every day, and I realized that I am called to live a life that brings hope and joy to people’s lives. Our greatest commandment is to love. Our greatest purpose is to love, even (maybe especially) those we find it hardest to love. This realization brought change to my life and it brought a passionate feeling of purpose. I used to hate the fact that I felt things so deeply, so much. But now I realize it is a gift to feel things so clearly. It may be painful, but it reminds me of my purpose.

2016, I don’t know what you will bring. But…

All I know is that I am ready for you. I am grateful for everything I have learned in 2015, the opportunities I’ve been given, the friendships I have been blessed with, the memories I have gathered. But I am anxious to see what a new year brings me. I am anxious to see what God will do in my life and in the lives of those I love. I am anxious and expectant.

But perhaps most of all, i am ready for the memories I will make and the time I have been given. If 2015 taught me one thing, it taught me to never take the time we’ve been given for granted. It taught me to hold those I love close, to chase after my passions and ambitions, to love without stopping to deem the person worthy of it or not, to make memories I will treasure, to make this world a better place day by day.

2015, you taught me how to live. And for that, I am forever grateful for this year i’ve lived through, these 12 months I’ve grown, and these 365 days of learning and becoming the person I am today – the person that enters 2016 without fear. Thank you for that.

January, February, March
The days are marching forward
April, May, June and July
They fly like a hummingbird

August, September, October
The year is almost over
November, December arrive
Now the year is gone

Time is illusion
Time is a curse
Time is all these things and worse
But our time is now
Our time is now
Our time is now
Let us sing before our time runs out.

– before our time by Jon Foreman