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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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(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!

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

 

the post i never thought i would write

“Wait for the boy who brings you coffee after a long day…” “5 qualities you should look for in a guy…” “Why I kissed dating goodbye…” “Why I stopped pursuing guys and waited for the one to pursue me…”

Growing up in a youth group culture and ending up at a christian college, I saw posts with these titles (and many similar ones) on my facebook feed almost daily. Admittedly, I normally roll my eyes at these articles. I’ve always had a weird relationship with the culture of Christian dating, and I’ve seen many people get hurt through the pressures that dating (for Christians) often brings. I had many guy friends get lead on only to be dropped with the, “God told me I need to focus more on Him” line. (Admittedly, I heard that line once or twice too from boys in my youth group that I had been interested in.)

Once I got to my Christian campus, I only resented the Christian dating culture more. The pressures of finding your special someone while being on campus was crazy. The “ring by spring” mentality was realer than I ever thought it could, and even I fell into the pressure and started dating someone my Freshman year. It was the thing to do. And to be honest, I was clueless how to act in a relationship. For there’s so much emphasis on what a girl should look for in a Christian boy when it comes to dating, but I never heard what I should look for in a healthy relationship. No one ever told me how to identify whether or not I was ready for a relationship either – it was always reduced to a magical “you’ll know when it’s right” moment.

Needless to say, my freshman year relationship didn’t end well and I was even more confused about relationships than before. The pressure to figure out whether or not that particular boy was the one I wanted to end up marrying was absolutely suffocating. I felt awful that I didn’t know if I wanted to marry him or not 2 months into the relationship, and the pressure to decide that was unbearable.

After we broke up, I was pretty pessimistic about the whole relationship thing. I worried that I would never find a boy who would support me and my dreams and hopes and aspirations. I worried that any relationship would end in disaster like before. I worried that I would never find the guy that all the cheesy Christian blog posts talked about. I worried that it was all too good to be true.

But, as cheesy as it sounds, that all changed. 

I won’t bore you with details, but I ended up dating Kevin. And slowly I began to see the qualities that the blog posts I rolled my eyes at described. And I began to gain a little more faith in relationships, and I slowly began to feel that magical “i think this is really really right” feeling.

And now I’m engaged to my best friend, now I have a wedding dress hanging in my closet. Now I’m planning a wedding and a future with my best friend, my biggest supporter, my confidant, my favorite person in the whole entire world. I’m engaged to someone who wants nothing but the best for me and desires to lead our relationship in a godly way. Kevin reminds me every day of how loved I am and how grateful he is for me, and I get to do the same for him. We get to be a team and make decisions together and work together through the good things and the hard things. We get to dream together and make plans for our future together. We get to go to church together and seek to honor the Lord with our relationship together.

While we have our share of difficulties and hardships when it comes to our relationship, I can’t imagine being with any one else. Our relationship has been mostly long distance, but I would never trade it for a “more convenient relationship.”

And while I wish that I had been able to skip through all the bad relationships, all the heartache and pain, all the mistakes… I wouldn’t take it back. Because like it or not, the fact that I dated a few guys here and there led me to the relationship I’m in now. I might not have waited for the guy who would bring me coffee after a long day at work, but that guy did come into my life eventually. I might not have dated guys that always fulfilled the list of qualities I was told to look for, but now I’m with someone who is more amazing that I could imagined to be. 

And most of all, I’m really glad that I didn’t “kiss dating goodbye” or wait around for him to pursue me first…because if I had, I wouldn’t have went out on a limb and asked Kevin to get coffee that summer day. (and I honestly don’t know if Kevin would have been brave enough to ask me if I hadn’t asked :P)

Getting to date your best friend is one of the most wonderful things. It’s so cool to know that I GET TO DO LIFE WITH MY BEST FRIEND FOREVER. It’s so overwhelming to know that even through all of the bad luck and hurt, God was preparing my heart and my life for the relationship He had in store for me and Kevin.

I guess the reason I wrote this is because I want those who are frustrated with the “Christian dating culture” to know that it’s okay. It’s okay to feel like there’s too much pressure to find that special someone. It’s okay to ask the guy out first. It’s okay to go on a date even if you’re not sure if you want to marry them yet. It’s okay if you feel a little pessimistic towards relationships. It’s okay to take a break from dating if you need to. It really is okay. Because in the end, all of this will be worth it. When you’re standing across from your best friend on your wedding day, everything that led you to each other will be worth it, I promise.

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StyleWe: Dress Review + Try On!

I’m so excited to share this little collaboration I got to do with the brand StyleWe. Style We is an online website that delivers “Designers At Fingertips,” meaning that their designer quality dresses are just a click away on their online shop.

In exchange for two dresses from the site, Style We asked me to review them on my blog and Instagram account.

The first dress is a gorgeous red color, with the super trendy cold shoulder detail. It has a cute high low skirt, with a peplum around the waist. This one gives me major Taylor Swift vibes, and I can’t wait to find an event to wear it to!


(You can get the dress here!)

The second one they sent me is a trendy LBD. I love the scalloped, off the shoulder neckline. It really accentuates the waist, and would look great dressed up or down. I think it would be perfect for a modern Audrey Hepburn look!


Get it here!

Overall, I was absolutely blown away by the quality of these dresses. The fabric is thick and sturdy, and you can tell it’s quality. The workmanship of the dress is amazing too, and I have yet to find a lose thread or uneven stitching. The sizing was perfect for me (I am around 5 foot and muscular, and I got size smalls). They list measurements online, so it’s easy to find your size if you’re unsure what to order!

I definitely recommend Style We, and hope to collaborate more with them in the futures.

Thanks for reading! Make sure to give Style We a follow on Instagram: @stylewe and check out their shop online here.

With love,

Erin<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