Happy Summer from MVY!

Happy Summer everyone!!

I am officially a Vineyard girl this summer and loving every minute of every day! I wanted to place this post on my home page to answer any common questions you might have about my summer.

If you are in the New England area this summer, I would love to show you around Martha’s Vineyard!!

Since the beginning of May, I have been doing everything possible to explore Martha’s Vineyard. The weather here on a sunny day is at maximum 75 degrees for now, which makes for a perfect, refreshing day outside.

I am working full time at Soft As A Grape - Edgartown, a New England apparel wholesaler with 13 retail stores across New England, stretching from Rhode Island to all along Cape Cod to Martha’s Vineyard, with one store in Celebration, Florida.

I am a Retail Intern for Soft As A Grape, and learning so much to benefit my education and my resume back at school, where I am working towards a degree in Apparel and Textiles with a concentration in Fashion Merchandising with two minors in General Business and News Media. I am figuring out ALL the things for next year, as I will finish classes at school next May (2020) and then take another internship throughout next summer, and another next fall to graduate next December (2020) and officially enter the fashion retailing industry! I can definitely say that this time is absolutely flying by, but I have some VERY exciting plans for the next year and a half of my life!

I am loving life on MVY and figuring out all the "adulting” things in such a wonderful place. Martha’s Vineyard has 6 towns, and I am living in Oak Bluffs and working in Edgartown (so I get to drive along an amazing beach road twice a day!)

Some of my “off-day hobbies” on the island are biking, photography of anything & everything MVY, reading, laying on the beach, and shopping along all the fantastic stores. I’m loving trying out new restaurants and doing new things throughout every single week.

I have attended some amazing Vineyard events so far, such as Edgartown Pink and Green Weekend, and am excited to attend many more events this summer such as Martha’s Vineyard’s first music festival, (Beach Road Weekend), Oak Bluffs Harborfest, the Oak Bluffs Fireworks, the West Tisbury Agricultural Fair, and many more, and am especially excited for my favorite holiday, the Fourth of July! I love local events and the planning that goes into them, and I’m excited to be working directly with one exciting event in Edgartown in July! Stay tuned!

I am looking forward to doing brief Cape Cod traveling before going back home to school, specifically Newport, RI and Nantucket! On the way to MVY, I got to visit Stamford, CT for the first time as well as NYC once again, and now I’m learning so much about all the amazing places along the Cape.

If you’ve visited MVY or Cape Cod before, or just anywhere in New England, I would love to hear about your experience and any recommendations you may have.

I would love for you to keep up with my blog posts throughout this summer on the Vineyard, and be sure to follow my Instagram, @mcrowstyle, for daily photos of MVY!

Love,
Maggie

IMG_9261.jpeg

My Life in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Welcome to my life in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts!! This is the longest I’ve ever been away from home, or from my family, but I am nothing short of amazed at what was right around the corner for me in my life and I had no idea!

Moving 20+ hours away is of course not for everybody, but I am here to tell you that there is SO much power and room for growth and opportunities in just doing anything that switches up your life from the norm, whatever it may be!

On May 3rd, a little over a month ago now, I said goodbye to Alabama and traveled for three days and finally arrived on the Vineyard! I could go on and on for hours and tell you all of the unique and beautiful things about Martha’s Vineyard, but I won’t, because some of the best things about the island are worth keeping secretive for now – that’s what Martha’s Vineyard is about, truly – and, I’ll wait til the end of summer before I create the absolutely complete Martha’s Vineyard travel guide that the world needs!

 I wanted to write this blog post because in one simple month I know that I have learned more about myself than I ever have in my whole life and become more confident and more adventurous, curious, and eager to know than ever just by taking a chance, and a year ago would have loved to read a post like this for that time in my life!

IMG_9221.jpeg

 If you’re anything like me, or at the point in your life that you feel as if you know there is more out there, you want to seek out what more is out there, and you’re ready to start living out your dreams, I can wholeheartedly encourage you that taking the opportunities you have is the best gift you will ever give yourself.

 I never would’ve thought that an internship search that began for New York City would’ve led me to Martha’s Vineyard, and I really wouldn’t have ever thought taking the internship would’ve been so powerful to my life. When you hear about moving away for an internship it’s common to think about being the office slave with a few good Instagram posts along the way, but I can promise you that the right internships are so far from that. My internship consists of learning anything and everything there is to know about running a retail business, whether that be my own or someone else’s. My internship pathway is set out to teach me enough so that at the end of my internship, I could run the business I am working for completely on my own (I’m old enough for that?!?) because of one amazing boss and an incredible Harvard-grad founded company, Soft As A Grape, Inc. Soft As A Grape is a New England based wholesale apparel company with 13 retail stores along Cape Cod such as Falmouth, MA, Woods Hole, MA, Chatham, MA, Mashpee, MA, Newport, RI, Plymouth, MA, Hyannis, MA, Pt. Judith, MA, and three on MVY in Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown, and one in Celebration, FL. I work at the Edgartown store, right next to the ferry to Chappaquiddick! If you’ve ever bought a travel destination apparel item that has block letters spelling out the name of the place, or fun MLB apparel, you’ve probably bought Soft As A Grape!

 Since being on the Vineyard, and being truly on my own for the first time, I have entered completely new phase of life that has been so, so rewarding more than I could have ever deserved or dreamed of.

 Within the first week of living on MVY, I met some incredibly influential people that will forever impact my life that I will be surrounded by for the duration of the summer, which was so helpful in the transition to living in a new place.

 These people have constantly reminded me that this will be the best summer of my life. If you’ve never visited MVY or aren’t familiar with MVY, having the best summer ever is a little different than what you would imagine just a summer at the beach to be. MVY is completely uncommercial, meaning there’s no fast food, no chain restaurants, no beach chair rentals on the beach, no chain hotels, no billboards, no Publix, no Target, no Home Depot or Lowes, no ANYTHING that I’ve always been familiar with my entire life in Alabama. More than just spending money, this makes the biggest difference in your life more than you realize at first. The speed limit is no higher than 40 on the entire island, I’ve been under maybe 1 (?) red light, and the best part: life is extremely stress free.

 I don’t think until you’re without it that you would normally realize how much noise consumes your life, and on MVY, life is so quiet. Of course, there’s summer visitors EVERYWHERE, no parking spaces to be had, lines out of doors, wait times at restaurants etc., but there’s just something about life on MVY that’s so stress-free that you don’t even realize what day it is because Mondays can be just as good as Fridays.

3899C6D6-383C-4A60-8C78-01FE73374AAA.JPG

 One of my favorite things that some important people to me on this island have preached to me that I can now understand and live my life by is that every single day will be the best day of my life.

 I will have an amazing day every single day and nothing or nobody will take that away from me. This is my life and I will live with zero regrets and always be as happy as I can be. I will do exactly what makes me happy and I will live to the standard of my own happiness and forget about the things that try to take that down! Why wouldn’t I?

 What the islanders have taught me is that they are people who are always looking out for you, as I should be for other people. This can be seen in so many different big and small ways along this island, even such as that when I am pulling onto a road with traffic, within 3 cars passing by someone will always let you out in front of them. People that come into the clothing store that I work in are always engaging in ways to better me and help me make connections. The community of MVY is always working together and helping everyone they can along the way.

 While new things and places can be awkward and hard, I’ve always remembered that it’s truly not where you are, but who you’re with that makes the impact. Luckily, I am in an amazing destination, but the people here are what makes this island Martha’s Vineyard.

 Some of my favorite things so far that I love about MVY are the many peaceful beaches, the sunsets, the seafood (lobster + shrimp), the natural beauty of the entire historic structure, watching the boats, the local shops, and the uniqueness of living in a world that’s not-so up to date, tech savvy, trend savvy, or out there for the world to see. MVY is quaint and hidden off of the northeastern coast, and the mix of countryside, beach, and small-town USA make this island such a gem to the United States.

 And, of course, never be fooled by believing someone’s life who you read about on the internet is always put together and perfect, because trust me, it’s not always sunny and definitely not always warm here (I’m behind on some beach days), and I’d give absolutely anything to have a Chick Fil A and pay Alabama prices for food and gas again (funny, but true), but what I have learned throughout this journey so far is that your life does not always have to be either picture perfect or a sad story. The most important thing you will ever, ever learn is that your best life is lived when you are one thing: the essential, authentic, real, raw, and true you.

 Your life is your own and your life is what you make it to be, in every situation. On this island, I’ve met some of the most highly blessed and highly tragic struck people, but each carry themselves to life the happiest life they can live day by day. The people of this island are all here to enjoy the simplest parts of what makes life so great, and I’m forever thankful that I have seen this lesson before my eyes.

 Overall, what I love about MVY and what I’ll carry with me forever, is that I can see a movie star, CEO, Kennedy family friend, movie producer, President, you name it on this island (yes, I’ve sold a sweatshirt to a few roles I listed), and they won’t look any different than anybody else. I think everyone should live in a place where you’d never guess who people are or what they have, because they value and enjoy life by measure of quality and nature more than materials and things. MVY is a dream, simply because there is so much to take away from everything around you.

 If I can inspire you with anything that I’ve learned or experienced so far, it’s that your life is 100% what you make it to be. Life is full of opportunities and doors, and it’s up to you to take them!

IMG_9217.jpeg

Alabama baseball hosts "Bark at the Park"

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama baseball stadium hosted the event, “Bark at the Park,” last Saturday, March 23rd, 2019. Alabama took on the University of Arkansas and invited fans to bring their dogs to the game for a special event. The event was a success, as many dogs and their owners enjoyed a 75 degree and sunny Saturday at Joe Sewell Stadium, as Alabama swept Arkansas, ending the game with the score of 10-0.

 

Keith Long, local Tuscaloosa resident and owner of 2-year-old male red fox Labrador retriever, Captain, said his family looked forward to the event for weeks after seeing it advertised by Alabama Athletics on Facebook.

 

“Captain is always an easy-going and extremely friendly dog. He loves to make friends of all kinds, human and animal. His favorite game is fetch, so our family knew taking him to the Alabama baseball game would be a fun event for all.”

 

His daughter, Sarah Crow, said that Captain was well behaved and enjoyed a day of meeting lots of new friends in a new atmosphere.

 

“The hospitality of the Alabama baseball program was incredible. As we entered the entry gate to the dog section, we were given free dog treats and a free Alabama baseball bandana for Captain to wear. There was a bathroom grass area, as well as plenty of bowls filled with cold water for the dogs.”

 

The Alabama baseball game was full of excitement on and off of the field, as fans, photographers, and children were happy to greet all breeds and sizes of dogs who attended the game. Afterward, several dogs, including Captain, were featured on Alabama Athletics social media pages, to market the event for next time.

*this post was done for University of Alabama coursework*

2 year old red fox Labrador retriever, “Captain”

2 year old red fox Labrador retriever, “Captain”

2A004C4C-F16F-4816-B71F-59B3CDAEC376.JPG
IMG_4056.jpeg
635BC545-E65E-47B4-AF2D-CA3C3F8E0C97.JPG

21 Days of Prayer + Fasting

Happy Sunday!

 

I began the day by going to church, happy to indulge in the process that is called “21 Days of Prayer + Fasting!” I’ve heard this term several times and been to church several times during the times of the year this process takes place, but I’ve never put myself up for the test of it! I think most times I’ve either given up soft drinks, chocolate, etc., which has been beneficial, of course, but obviously has not changed me as a person.

 

For weeks, I feel like I’ve had a sense of still waters in my life, like, the term “same ole, same ole.” And, the same ole, same ole, isn’t always fun, good, or developing. I want to live my life in a way that I’m never at still waters. I want to always be moving forward in some way. Either progressing in my relationships, progressing in hobbies such as blogging, exercising, whatever it may be. And the one that I feel like I always list but is the slowest moving one of them all, is progressing in my relationship with God. It’s easy for me to say, “I want to get closer to God this year,” but, what actions am I putting with that phrase? What am I going to physically DO that allows God to show me new life? What changes can I make to give God the room to take over my life to the fullest? In today’s busy world, it’s so easy to WANT to do something, but not have the time, motivation, or energy to actually DO it. But, you can do anything the moment you make your mind up to do it.

 

My choice for now is simple: 21 days of no social media. Apps deleted. Signing off!

 

While having a blog comes with of course a social media side, that isn’t the side that I feel like God called me to excel in when I pursued blogging. Without social media for 21 days, sure, I may lose a follower or two, but my goal for my blogging social media is not for people to follow me, but for people to be inspired to follow their dreams + God. As far as blogging, I want to pursue more writing and less Instagram, so I’ll keep writing on my website!

 

If you read my “New Year New Goals” post, I mentioned that one of the newest, biggest, and most important things I wanted to change in my life this year is being more in the moment. Being less in the screens and more in person. God didn’t create my life for me to be drowned in screens and screens and for the most part, media I’m not getting anything out of. I believe that it is so clear that the Lord is showing me that my way of being more in the moment is simply logging off. I’m not saying that social media is altogether “bad” in any way, because I do love to share all the fun, exciting, and inspirational things, but social media is so very consuming if you let it be.

 

It’s amazing to me how one simple decision in your life can affect not only one big area, but lots of others. Recently, I feel like so much of social media affects me in ways I wish it wouldn’t. It’s that feeling of seeing a photo or Snapchat or Instagram story of something you weren’t invited to, or reading words you didn’t want to read, or negativity, or promotions of lifestyles other than God. I think this goes hand in hand with the feeling I wrote about in my new year post of feeling like you have to be perfect. That CONSTANT comparison to others is directly from social media. Social media gives so many people the feeling that they have to constantly be doing SOMETHING, no matter what it is, and in my life, I feel like I get so much more out of days and experiences when I’m not doing anything I’m jumping to post. Reading a book, lunch with a friend, going on a run/walk, etc., all those things that you end up doing for 2+ hours and don’t even realize it. The things you forget to post because you were so in the moment. I’m itching for so many more of those times!

 

I believe that social media has become such a habit for me, and probably many other people, that when you think about it, sometimes it’s like you know you’re reading and seeing things you get zero joy out of, or like it even ruined your mood when you saw/read it. Yes, there’s so many good and happy and positive posts on social media, but what about books? What about the most simple and detailed things around us that we don’t pay attention to because we are always on our phones? Those moments you read about on Facebook where someone leads a stranger to God in a coffee shop, or pays it forward in the grocery store to help out someone in need? Being constantly engaged in an iPhone causes us to miss out on these moments. We don’t see them and we don’t see who’s around us and the many opportunities God gives us to be a servant of Him. It’s all one big habit, but it’s a habit I want to leave in the old year.

 

My life is so much more than social media, and now’s the time for me to spend more time in my relationships and the happening world around me than in my phone. In the next three weeks, I want God to show me life on the outside. Life off of the screen. How can I change my life and become a person of intention, a person who pays more attention to the actual people and things around me, and how can He use me in these moments?

 

In my worship notes from today’s service, here’s what I left with:

            “Time to Make a Change”

1.     It’s time to get closer to God.

2.     It’s time to get honest with others and be held accountable. (hello, transparency)

3.     It’s time to get in tune with my purpose and passions.

4.     It’s time to get on doing something greater than myself. (showing others how to follow God, not follow me on Instagram)

5.     I can’t go back and change the beginning, but I can start where I am and change the ending.

 

The truth comes from the phrase, “if you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” If I want God to change my life for the more intentional, meaningful, better, I’ve got to give up the social media and earthly distractions I am constantly fulfilled by. I cannot be the “king of my own kingdom” and I have to live for something bigger than myself every day. And lastly, from the message, joy does not come from money, sunny days, or good neighbors, but instead, joy comes from when you do something that matters. These next three weeks and further on into this year, I want to spend less time fixing my eyes on the social media posts that do not matter, and more time fixing my eyes on God and those around me. Again, from the church message, “I can’t start the next chapter of my life if I keep re-reading the last one,” so I’m ready to do something different. I believe that making changes such as this in my life will not only bring me closer to the Lord and show me a new way to walk in his path for my life, but make me a happier, more refreshed, more joyful, more intentional, and more in the moment person, because the moments on Earth matter more in my life than anything I could ever see or post on a screen.

 

I’m praying over the next three weeks for God to open my eyes to the things about Him, myself, and other people that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. My prayers are full of hope and trust in God that He will show me the difference for the better. I’m planning to read as many books as I can, spend the first three weeks of a new school semester with no social media study distractions, get more rest by not being on social media before bed, and enjoying life centered around how I can be the best version of myself and serving others!

 

I won’t be posting Instagram updates from when I post new blogs on my site, but you can always find my newest one on the home screen of my site :)

January Bucket List

Hello, January, hello, 2019!!!

I always feel so refreshed at the start of a new year. A blank book. A blank chapter of my life that I want to live to the fullest! Though January can be rather low-key, dull, and dreary in Alabama, it’s a great time to become more in-tune with yourself and what you hope to accomplish in your life. January is a great month to clean out your spaces, get rid of old or pointless things, and start new and fresh. I encourage you to spend time this month evaluating your life- the things that are working, the things that are not, good habits, bad habits, prospective habits, and changes that need to be made. Don’t bring your dreadful habits into a new year, and try picking up stress-free new habits, such as keeping a prayer journal or walking/running a mile a day!

Here’s my January Bucket List (more like “to-do list”)

-       Make a new friend

-       Buy a new planner

-       Clean out my closet

-       Become more organized

-       Set exercise goals

-       Drink mostly water

-       Read my “Jesus Calling” daily devotional every night

-       Start a prayer journal

-       Cook more at home

-       Try new recipes

-       Buy new school supplies

-       Think about yearly goals

-       Attend church more

-       Take better care of my skin

(product recommendations accepted!)

-       Read more books (!!!!!!!)

-       Nap less

-       Eat healthier

-       Put words into action

I found a “January Purge Checklist” on Pinterest that I really liked, so I’m sharing it now.

Bedroom:

  • outgrow clothing

  • outdated shoes

  • torn clothing

  • old hats

  • shoe boxes

  • old blankets

  • clutter in drawers

Bathroom:

  • empty bottles

  • old brushes

  • trash

  • ripped towels

  • old bath mats (replace)

  • expired medicine

  • old hair ties

  • expired sunscreen

Kitchen:

  • no lid tupperware

  • cracked plates

  • chipped glasses

  • mismatched sets

  • expired canned foods

  • stale pantry food

  • expired fridge foods

  • combine cleaning liquids

  • unused appliances

  • broken/scratched dishware

  • bottles without lids

  • unneeded cookbooks

Office:

  • shred documents

  • old keys

  • dried out pens

  • old cords/adapters

  • old business cards

I also found January Journal Prompts, which could also just be some beneficial and important things to think about this month.

  • what 3 things would you like to accomplish this year?

  • how can you keep yourself accountable for achieving your goals?

  • are there goals from last year you didn’t accomplish? why weren’t you successful?

  • what are you most proud of from last year?

  • one word to describe the upcoming year.

  • what are you ready to let go of?

  • write a goodbye letter to last year

  • tomorrow I will…

  • what makes you sad? angry? fearful?

  • what makes you happy? content? feel alive?

  • a new skill you’d like to learn.

Happy January, everyone!

IMG_4389.JPG

New Year New Goals

My first blog post of 2019! Yay!

           

            I have been thinking about my New Years post for about a week now, and of course, I’m writing it at 11:00 p.m. on January 2nd. But, I think that fact alone sums up my perspective of 2019. Imperfection. Embracing imperfection.

            Looking back on 2018, I can’t say it is a year I’d do again. No, not just because of back surgery, but all in all, 2018 was a year of personal growth, not always in the easiest of ways. In 2018, I learned who I am, who the people around me are, and the image of the person I aspire to be. 2018 was a year for me to learn to expect the unexpected. If you know me, you know I’m a planner, academically organized, life-planning freak, and in 2018, I learned that planning out your life and ACTUALLY expecting it to go that way is a complete and total joke. We can plan out goals, events, and practical things, but planning out to have a “perfect semester” or be a “perfect significant other” or “perfect friend, blogger, Instagrammer, etc.” is, in reality, the last way God planned out your life to be. Thinking about it, I concluded with the thought that if God planned our lives to be perfect on Earth, we would never look forward to Heaven. We would not need to pray, or go to church, or think upon Godly thoughts, or look forward to Heaven, I mean, why would we, if life were perfect on Earth?

             The truth is, Earth is imperfect. I’m imperfect, you’re imperfect. You are destined to live an imperfect life and believing otherwise only sets you up for a life of constant, literally constant, disappointment.

            You might be thinking, what more is there to it? I get it, my life will have problems, it already has/had/does. But, it’s not that simple. I’m here to admit that for the last several months, “embracing imperfection” has been my enemy. This is where the devil really gets to me and tricks me over and over again. It’s easy to state, “I’m embracing imperfection,” but I wrote this entire post three days ago and deleted it. Why? I didn’t feel like it was good enough, worded well enough, or made enough sense. Thoughts like, “people are going to think I’m an extremely negative person,” or “I really don’t think other people struggle with this,” or “this sounds so dramatic” wrapped my brain and I thought, what new road can I take to a post about 2018 and 2019? No matter how many times I tried to think of new ideas or read other bloggers’ posts about the New Year, this “embracing imperfection” idea wouldn’t leave my heart.

             So, after lots of thinking, I felt like the best way to write this post was through honesty. My #1 New Years Resolution is to be more honest with myself. I’ll explain what that means later in this post. Now, you’re probably thinking, what does that mean, what’s the honest truth about embracing imperfection?

            Embracing imperfection means self-honesty and honesty with others. NOT to be confused with going around complaining and radiating negativity everywhere. Aka, “how’s your day?” “so terrible. I didn’t want to get out of bed and go to work. I hate rainy days.” This is not the type of honestly I’m referring to in any way. But, the honest as in, I didn’t feel like it was honest of me to post about how great 2018 was and how I’m so excited to see what 2019 holds, because I’m glad to see 2018 go. Honest as in it is dishonest for me to share a month-by-month highlight of my year because one day cannot honestly sum up months of pain, confusion, and learning things the hard way.

             As I was thinking about the correct words to say in this post, I came across Lysa TerKeurst’s Facebook post that read,
                        “The pursuit of perfection leads to pretending.

                        Pretending encourages others to chase perfection.

                        And it’s all just so very exhausting.

Let’s give each other the gift of transparency and grace as we pursue Jesus.   Because perfection doesn’t exist on this side of eternity.”

            As I read this post, I knew literally could not have said it better myself. Embracing imperfection doesn’t mean spreading negativity, but rather, being real with ourselves and those around us. Sure, nobody’s going to post pictures of them crying, fighting with others, sick, etc. on Instagram, but it’s important to me not to portray an image that Instagram is my reality. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. will never match up to my day to day life. In 2019, I’m pledging to myself to be more in the moment and less in the highlight reels. Not even because I want to be off my phone more at dinner, but because I want to be more honest with myself. I’ve never felt BETTER by scrolling through Instagram than I have when I had a real conversation with someone.

All in all, it’s exhausting. It’s draining. It leads to disappointment and feelings of failure. On days when I have had a migraine all day, or didn’t sleep at all, it’s exhausting to sit at work on a rainy day and scroll through countless photos of people I follow traveling in New York City, or laying out on tropical islands, or shopping with friends. It makes you feel like, “I wish I was in New York. I wish I was that skinny and tan. I wish I had more money. I wish I had teeth that white. I wish I.... etc.” and those thoughts are simply not of the Lord. When your life is so consumed with the thought that your life should be perfect, you’re not even paying attention to the positivity, people, beauty of the photos you’re scrolling through, but instead, the enemy speaks to you through each and every one. This is when you have to use self-honesty and walk away from the places the enemy targets you most. This is when you have to leave those things and those thoughts behind.

             In 2018, I’m leaving behind the strive for self-perfection and focusing more on the strive for logical, reasonable success and self-care. Successful relationships, not perfect relationships. Beneficial, positive social media sharing, not perfect social media. A successful semester, not a perfect semester. A reasonable self-image goal, not a perfect self-image goal. A successful year of growth, love, health, and positivity, not a perfect year.

            When you set goals such as these, they’re more achievable, and you feel better achieving them. If I set a GPA goal of a 3.8 for a semester, I feel better achieving a 3.8 than setting a goal for a 4.0 and only getting a 3.8. If I set a goal to maintain beneficial body image and self-care, I feel better losing a couple of pounds by cutting out soft drinks and taking better care of my skin, than setting the goal to be _ lbs, skinny, tan, and hot by summer and not noticing much change at all. It’s all in training your soul and body to strive for success rather than perfection, because you will never achieve perfection. Sure, the gifts God gave us may allow us to achieve perfection in small ways by making a 100 on a test or… (it’s actually really hard to think of many more ways you can literally do something “perfectly”), but nobody in mere existence except Jesus Christ will ever be perfect. So, who says we should even try?

             The most difficult but most beneficial way for me to “embrace imperfection” is to remember that if my life isn’t perfect and isn’t as put together as social media may seem, then neither is anyone else’s. Yes, I can post that 2018 was an amazing year, but I gained 12 pounds in 3 months, have probably consumed more entire bottles of over-the-counter pain relief in 4 months than a healthy person does in a year, and sleep through the entire night without waking up maybe once every week or even two. I’m a control freak over my life and even after semesters of making the President’s and Dean’s list and accepting an internship still wonder, is this really what I want to do? Am I good enough, fun enough, cool enough? Are my posts and stories attractive enough? Am I thin enough, fit enough? I need to whiten my teeth, go to the gym, run miles, stop eating fast food, leave everything but water in 2018, be cuter, be more talkative when I tend to be more quiet natured, go on more dates, etc. etc. When you live life striving for perfection, thoughts like these never end. You wake up in the morning exhausted and go to bed exhausted. You’re constantly thinking you’re not enough, or not doing enough. With a mindset like this, you will never be enough.

            With a mindset that embraces imperfection and only wants to please God versus people, your thoughts lessen of ideas like the ones above. You become more alert, more present, more attentive to details and happiness. You become more invested in people than things. You realize that money doesn’t matter, feelings do. Time means more than money in so many different ways. You do more of the things you enjoy. You seek health and self-care versus unreachable attractiveness. You wake up in the morning feeling thankful and refreshed and you go to bed feeling hopeful. Your thoughts change to, “I’m following God’s path for me,” “I’m an authentic person and stay true to who I am and what my life really looks like,” “I’m thankful for what I have,” and prefer people over things. You realize that the only things going to Heaven with us are the people around us, not what we own or buy. You make more memories than posts. Because in this mindset, you live to be successful and happy on Earth, and know that you will live in perfection in Heaven. Make Heaven worth the wait and stop trying to make a sin-bound Earth even the slightest bit of the same.

             The key to embracing imperfection is remembering that you need God on your best days just as much as you need Him on your worst. The meaning of embracing imperfection is in the phrase, “the best is yet to come.” Even on our best. day., our very. best. day., the BEST days will be our days in Heaven. No earthly day will ever be our best day. If our best day on Earth is not even our soul’s best day, then our life on Earth will never compare to our life in Heaven.

            In 2019, I’m praying for my imperfect life to settle better with my soul. I’m praying to adopt a mindset that understands that perfection is of the devil. They say, “don’t set yourself up for failure,” but really, don’t set yourself up for perfection. Set yourself up for reachable success. Everyone’s level of reached success is different, as everyone’s goals are different, but set yourself up for things that are worth working for, and that your work is enough to accomplish.

            In 2019, I’m praying for God to show me how to be more in the moment and less in the screens, and how to love others more. I’m praying for God to show me how He wants me to use my skills and gifts to show others His love for them. I’m praying for new challenges and new skills, new opportunities and new glimpses of His plan for my life. I’m praying for the strength I need to watch my ideas of perfect life die, and see the ideas He has for my life. Even in the gray areas and the unclear moments, I’m praying for the strength to follow God. When I’m forced to take on the things that aren’t supposed to be this way, or don’t make sense at all, I’m praying for the ability to trust that these things are of His plan for me.

             When I compare my life to a perfect life, I’m left in a puddle of disappointment, confusion, and no strength in God. 2018 began with expectations of a perfect body that turned into a new, unwanted scar on my left side and my back being opened up for the third time. 2018 began with expectations of 4.0s that turned into 3.2s and 3.7s. 2018 began with expectations of all the right words to say and all the best relationships and all the best experiences that turned into being let down, letting others down, and being glad to see the year go. 2019 begins with expectations of academic improvement, personal growth, a healthy body that’s taken care of, a mind that’s thankful in the mornings and hopeful in the evenings, becoming more personable and meaningful, and a year of growth closer to the Lord.

             In 2019, I know that my life will be imperfect, and I am pledging to myself to be transparent and honest with myself and those around me in the times that I am let down, confused, and struggling, and setting goals that are achievable and beneficial towards my walk with the Lord.

             I’m praying that the Lord shows me a new perspective that leads me to be more refreshed, more rejuvenated, more peaceful and more joyed, and I’m praying for you, too!

IMG_4386.JPG
IMG_4387.JPG
IMG_4388.jpeg

December Bucket List

Hello, December! I am so excited for this December because it’s finally the month of Christmas! I’m sharing a few ideas I think are so much fun and are guaranteed to spruce up your holiday spirit! Xoxo

  • Attend “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” performed by The Alabama Ballet

    https://alabamaballet.org/the-nutcracker/

  • Go ice skating

    http://www.holidaysontheriver.com

  • Stock up on Bath and Body Works Christmas 3 Wick Candles

    https://www.bathandbodyworks.com/c/home-fragrance/3-wick-candles

  • Buy the Lush Christmas bath bombs

    https://www.lushusa.com/christmas/

  • Attend a Tacky Christmas party

  • Visit the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN to see the Christmas decorations

    https://www.marriott.com/gaylord-hotels/gaylord-opryland-nashville-a-country-christmas.mi

  • Bake homemade Christmas cookies

  • Watch Hallmark Christmas movies

    http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/schedule

  • Build a gingerbread house

  • Buy a personalized ornament from the mall to keep the tradition going

  • Make a Christmas music playlist

  • Attend a Christmas cocktail party

  • Attend or host a Christmas party with Dirty Santa gifts

  • Help out someone in need of holiday gifts

  • Attend Church of the Highlands Christmas church service

  • Drink hot chocolate

  • Go on a date to a holiday decorated restaurant

  • Drive around neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights

  • Get new Christmas pajamas

  • Buy and wrap presents for loved ones

  • Take Christmas photos

  • Play in snow

  • Travel somewhere new to explore holiday attractions

  • Help cook a Christmas dinner

  • Spend time with family and friends

  • Rewatch my favorite Christmas movies

  • Find time to relax and read a new book

  • Find the perfect cozy sweaters

  • Send my friends fun Christmas cards

  • Do something unexpected for someone you love

  • Try a new holiday recipe

IMG_3236.JPG

20 Things I Learned Before 20

20 Things I Have Learned Before 20

 

1.    It will always get better

-       No matter what the circumstance is, it will always get better. There are so many times I can look back on and remember how awful I felt, and now realize how much better it got. If nothing else helps, time always will.

 

2.    Don’t sweat the small things

-       There are so many times when I’ve gotten so needlessly upset over the smallest little thing, especially when I feel like someone is unhappy with me. But, the reality of it is, is that small things aren’t worth the sweat. I’ve learned to always do my best, and forget about the rest! You just can’t win them all.

 

3.    Never lose who you are

-       Whenever times may be bad or I’ve been in a strong disagreement with someone/something, I’ve learned it’s important to always stay true to who I am. Situations can get extremely messy from time to time, but it’s important to never lose your composure or make a fool of yourself. Swallowing your pride or taking the road less traveled is so much more important than losing who you are.

 

4.    When no one else is there, God is there

-       I can remember several instances when I’ve felt like there is just no one in the world who could help the situation I’ve been in. No matter how small the issue, it’s easy to feel alone. Whenever I feel alone, drowned in tears, I always resort to prayer. God will always be there.

 

5.    Always be true to you  

-       Never let anyone or anything make you do something you don’t want to do! If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Staying true to who you are, your beliefs, and morals, will always feel better than wishing you did.

 

6.    It costs zero dollars to be a nice human being

-       This quote is my favorite for so many reasons! No matter how much money you may have or spend, always remember being nice is free (and more important)!

 

7.    You are always a vital voice

-       I have learned that my voice always matters. No word of encouragement, vote, opinion, or knowledge is too small. I always love to do my part, or be a part!

 

8.    Always go for it

-       You never know unless you try! If you don’t get chosen/selected/etc., oh well, but at least you have the experience from trying. Going for it also makes you feel so much more confident in trying next time versus trying for the first time.

 

9.    Always be nicer than required

-       It’s nice to be nice, but it’s also nice to be the nicest. To me, there’s no way someone can be too nice, and it’s always better to be too nice than not nice enough. You never know what someone’s going through, who’s watching, or where an impression may lead.

 

10. Eat cake for breakfast

-       Not only do I love to literally eat cake for breakfast, but this quote goes even farther when you really think about it. Eating cake for breakfast symbolizes a tastier diet than a healthier one, but it also reminds me to do what you want/love. In the end, it won’t matter anyway, so eat cake for breakfast!

 

11. For others to love you, you must love yourself first

-       I have learned that loving yourself is so important!! To feel and accept love from others, you must love yourself. Loving yourself does not have to be selfish or conceited, but rather comfortable with who you are. You will never accept genuine love from others with an insecure mind, because you’ll question why they love you anyway. You always accept the love you think you deserve, so the more confident and comfortable you are in loving yourself, the better love you’ll accept.

 

12. You are your own worst enemy

-       The truth is, you’re the hardest person on your own self. The smallest things that eat you alive about yourself are more than likely things that others don’t even notice. It’s so important not to tear yourself apart to the core, because in reality, others probably don’t either notice, or care, because they love you anyway.

 

13. Self-care is so important!

-       Taking care of myself is probably the most important thing I can do each day to benefit my life. Not going out when I don’t feel like it, going for late night ice cream just because, hot baths after a night of studying, drinking extra water, going to bed early, etc. are just a few ways I truly get so much out of and that keep my spirits uplifted, mind clear, and self-esteem boosted!

 

14. We were made for Heaven, not earth

-       No amount of money, cozy sweaters, skinny jeans, Lush bath bombs, Louis Vuitton purses, fancy cars, good Instagrams, David Yurman rings, Gucci belts, or iPhone X’s will travel to heaven with us. It’s so important to remember that Heaven is our eternal home, not earth, and we will go before God as our souls alone, not with any material item we will ever own.

 

15. Mistakes are inevitable

-       This is one of the most important and most challenging things I have ever had to learn. Mistakes and sin are both inevitable. No matter how hard you try, you will never be perfect. It is purely human nature to mess up. Though being perfect is the ideal life goal, it’s also the most unachievable life goal. Thankfully, God loves our perfectly imperfect selves for who we are and not what we do, or don’t do.

 

16. Life goes on

-       At the end of the day, life goes on! No matter how embarrassed I am, tired I am, miserable I am, upset, disappointed, etc. life goes on! At times that I feel like I am not enough, didn’t add up, confused, hurt, or any negative feeling in the world, I have to remember that life goes on. Tomorrow is always a new day, and who’s to say tomorrow won’t be the best day of your life?

 

17. Experience means more

-       Experience is always better than “things!” I have learned, too, that professionally, experience also tends to mean more than a perfect GPA. It’s so much more worth it to spend money on experiences versus items, and easier to talk about work experience than just be good on paper. Always experience!

 

18. Be the friend you would want to have

-       Friends always come and go, and the older you get, the more obvious it is who your true friends are! All friendships have phases of close and far, but no matter what, it’s always important to be the friend you would want to have. Always treat others the way you would want to be treated!

 

19. Do things today your future self will thank you for

-       I have no idea how I would survive without organization! With organization, I have learned that it is so essential and so helpful to do things now that you will be glad you did in the future, even if it’s just getting ahead in schoolwork.

 

20. It’s better to be overdressed and overeducated

-       Two things I’ve never felt upset about in a moment were being overdressed or overeducated. It’s never fun to feel unprepared (underdressed) or like you can’t relate/understand (undereducated). In summary, being well prepared is never a bad thing!

 

 

FullSizeRender-6.jpeg
FullSizeRender-11.jpeg
FullSizeRender-10.jpeg
FullSizeRender-7.jpeg
FullSizeRender-9.jpeg
FullSizeRender-8.jpeg

Applying Self Care to Your Daily Life

As I have mentioned before, during the month of September, I really want to focus on Self Care. I gave a brief explanation of the meaning, and a few small ways to get started in your own life in my last post, titled, “Self Care.”

Since then, and if you follow @mcrowstyle on Instagram, you probably have seen my new Story Highlight, “self care.” Every day or two, I have posted a short list of ideas that I think are extremely easy and wonderful to include in your day to make it simply more enjoyable! Since starting this highlight, I have had so much positive feedback, as many of my friends and followers have told me they love to screenshot them, and save them for when they need a “pick-me-up!”

So, I decided to post the first five “self care” stories here, as well as add onto them just a bit, because I cannot fit to much on just a small screen!

Follow along!

Self Care #1: Movie Night Favorites for a Feel Good Mood

  • The Help

  • Marley and Me

  • Wonder

  • How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days

  • Mamma Mia

  • Bride Wars

  • Safe Haven

  • 27 Dresses

  • Endless Love

  • Bridesmaids

  • 13 Going on 30

  • Sweet Home Alabama

  • Steel Magnolias

  • Serendipity

  • New Years Eve

  • The Blind Side

  • Footloose

  • The Fault In Our Stars

  • Frozen

  • Freaky Friday

  • Mean Girls

  • The Last Song

  • Wedding Crashers

  • The Greatest Showman

  • We Bought a Zoo

  • The Best of Me

  • Me Before You

  • Soul Surfer

  • Dolphin Tale

  • The Bucket List

  • The Notebook

Self Care #2: Make A Monthly Bucket List (and hold yourself to it!)

My September Bucket List…

  • Clean Out Closet/Declutter

  • All A’s in every class on October 1st

  • Exercise daily

  • Go to a pumpkin patch

  • Spend less on fast food

  • Blog photoshoot at my apartment

  • Frame and hang pictures

  • Post at least 3 articles per week

  • Read at least 2 books and review them

  • Eat candy corn/marshmallow pumpkins

  • Try new restaurants

  • Have a bake day

  • Travel to at least one new place

  • Drink more water

  • Take more pictures

  • Have a spa day

  • Wake up earlier to get more done

  • Go on a fun date

  • Surprise someone

Self Care #3: A Spruce Up Your Monday Mood Playlist

  • This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) - Natalie Cole

  • Kiss Me - Sixpence None the Richer

  • Wonderland - Taylor Swift

  • Something Special - Colbie Calliat

  • I’m Scared - Duffy

  • Crash Into Me - Dave Matthews

  • Rock & Roll - Eric Hutchinson

  • Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae

  • Better Together - Jack Johnson

  • Hold Back The River - James Bay

  • Tongue Tied - Grouplove

  • Pumpin’ Blood - NoNoNo

  • Heart’s Content - Brandie Carlile

  • Bennie & The Jets - Elton John

  • Cough Syrup - Young the Giant

Self Care #4: 10 Things Under $10 To Brighten Your Day

  • A Steel City Pop - $3.00

  • The “Intergalactic” Lush Bath Bomb - $7.95

  • Sugarfina Champagne Bears - $8.50

  • An Evelyn Henson stationary card - $4.00

  • A Chic-Fil-A ice cream cone - $1.25

  • Mario Badescu Facial Spray with aloe, cucumber, and green tea - $7.00

  • A mixed assortment dozen Krispy Kreme donuts - $8.99

  • A pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream - $6.99

  • An OPI nail polish - $10.50 (my favorite is “Cajun Shrimp”)

  • A hand-painted and hand-glittered Verrier Fashion card - $9.00

Self Care #5: Things To Do Every Day for 5 Whole Minutes

  • Morning prayer

  • Clean up your space before you leave and before bed

  • Social media break at meal times

  • Take a walk

  • Call your mom, best friend, or grandmother

  • Make a to-do list for tomorrow

  • Organize your work space

  • Rest your eyes

  • Wash your face

  • Ask someone new how their day is going, then congratulate or comfort them

  • Do something you enjoy (draw, listen to music, bake)

  • Exercise

  • Write in planner/ cross off completed things

  • Talk to someone you love

  • Read a book/daily devotional

  • Be outside

  • Delete old emails/respond to new ones

  • Do something genuine for someone else

7D0A9851.jpg
7D0A9861.jpg
7D0A9909.jpg

Self Care

 

What is “self-care” and why does it matter so much? Obviously, the term “self-care” means to literally take care of yourself, but the idea is also so much more. Self-care can sound like a cliché, trendy, blogger term but in reality, choosing to allow self-care to be relevant in my life changed everything. Self-care is not really something you can just wake up and decide to do and let it follow you around effortlessly, instead, it’s something worth working on.

Learning to practice self-care and understand what this meant to me as a person is the one thing that has made my college experience as great as it’s been. It doesn’t have to necessarily be college, but any new wave of life, anything that takes adjusting to. When I began college a year ago, I was feeling so much pressure, confusion, and even dislike. Past high school or living with your parents, you quickly learn that most everything in life is a situation of “what you get out is what you put in.” Whether it be my job, my friendships, relationship, schoolwork, or even day-to-day happiness, self-care is a mindset that makes all of these areas have confidence and love wrapped throughout. This mindset is simply one that puts feelings over duties, and allows you to do more of what you love and less of routine false expectations. Self-care is celebrating the small things and not letting yourself get down over even the big things. Though routines can be healthy and productive, if you’re like me, they can be dreadful and tiring. Self-care is the idea of putting small inserts into your routine that make it not only more enjoyable, but make you care more about the things you’re doing. For example, though a school day can be long, hot, and exhausting, coming home to a hot shower, freshly washed sheets and “unplugging” for an afternoon nap before dinner with a few friends is more refreshing than coming home and binge eating pizza rolls and going to bed sweaty at 5 p.m.

To sum up the idea, I like the quote: “self-care isn’t always Lush bath bombs and $20 face masks, it’s going to bed at 8 p.m., or letting go of a bad friend. It’s forgiving yourself for not meeting your impossible standards and understanding you are worth it, nonetheless. Self-care isn’t always luxury, but a mean for survival.

It’s always important to take care of yourself first. Many times, I have found myself in phases or weeks where I wake up feeling bad too often, have break-outs that won’t go away, or feel like I repeat the same old thing every day (class, meals, exhaustion, bed.) The idea of self-care is what changed these negative feelings and has kept them away since. Also, self-care can deal with lots of personal guilt, and focusing more on what you actually want to do and what’s best for you, versus what you feel pressured or feel like you “should” do. For instance, if I know I’m dreading my 7 a.m. alarm anyway, why not make it 6:30 and grab some Chic-Fil-A chicken minis on my way? Or if I know I’ve got a busy week ahead, meal plan for each day or write a few encouraging Bible verses in my planner to stumble upon. Small ideas like these are what truly can change dreadful days to joyful days, and create a lifestyle habit that you’re so thankful for.

 

Here’s just a few of my favorite self-care things to do:

-      Make exciting plans 

-      Write in my favorite colorful pens 

-      Keep a prayer journal

-      Make someone's day for no reason

-      Picking out a new nail color

-      Doodling 

-      Rearranging 

-      Trying new skin care/hair care products

-      Take a late-night bath before bed

-      Set an alarm 20-30 minutes too early so that I can sleep in

-      Distance myself from social media/texts for a period of each day

-      Talk on the phone for hours to a best friend

-      Eat the snack/cake/candy and not worry about the calories

-      Buy the shoes/skirt/outfit instead of spending the $ on food

-      Take afternoon naps

-      Explore new music/playlists

-      Have an hour each morning to myself/silent

-      Go the extra mile for a friend/project/gift

-      Write a friend a letter/encouraging note

-      Look through new/old pictures

-      Open the blinds

-      Make to-do lists everyday of everything to be done

-      Plan/work ahead

-      Use my planner religiously

-      Make my bed daily

-      Sleep stress away

-      Get a fresh hair cut

-      Do things now I’ll thank myself for later

-      Distance from stressful people/situations

-      Always have something to look forward to

-      Keep a dry-erase running calendar to mark off each day

-      Get dressed to worship music

-      Buy the small happy things

-      Pinterest

-      Make a monthly bucket list

-      Watch my favorite movies

-      Read Bible verses for every situation

-      Not sweating the small things

-      Coloring books

-      Wake up early for an energetic breakfast

-      Declutter

-      Clean out my car

7D0A9955.jpg
7D0A0040.jpg
7D0A0054.jpg

For Everything There is A Season

Just to be honest, I have been working on this post for weeks and have not once completed it. (I'm not too sure this one is "complete," but I know I can write more along the way!) Why? Because my story is something that I have felt so called to share but have so, so badly wanted to push away, ignore, and hope that it just went away. I can truly not tell you how many times I have opened my laptop, typed, deleted, edited, shut the laptop, and walked away.

I’ve thought, why do I want to even share this? Is this too much? Why do I even care so much, I could just keep posting about fashion and good vacations? Nobody else seems to have all these big issues, so why can’t I just be the next girl on Instagram posting fun pictures and feel complete? What will people think of me? Will people think I’m exaggerating, or think I’m perfectly fine since I look like it on the outside? I have so obviously seen that shutting my laptop or questioning myself does not take the thoughts away, or make me forget about telling the story, and in a way it makes me feel even more behind. So, without any more doubt, worry, or questions, I am completing a piece of work that is long overdue.

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided to start routinely going to church together! We have been together several times, but finally made the choice to stick with it and see where this simple journey takes us! The first Sunday we started our weekly journey on, I knew was handpicked by God because it spoke volumes to me. The sermon was preached about “vantage points,” and at the beginning, I had no idea what this meant. I quickly learned that a vantage point is a perspective that you have given a circumstance that you’re in that others don’t understand, therefore you can use it to help them. Also, God has a vantage point about our lives that we do not see, and He wants us to draw near to Him so that we can see our lives from His perspective. So, I knew that I had a vantage point that not many people I know at all would have, so the Lord has called me to share it.

I am fully inspired and engaged in my story by the quote from the sermon, “it will not be to make your name known, it’ll be to make God’s name great, because He sees some things about your condition, your season, your situation, that no one else sees. He sees further, deeper, he sees beyond even your situation.” So, this is my vantage point about my season.

When I was 12 years old, I was a member of ACE Cheerleading company in Birmingham, traveling at least 4 hours a week to work at my absolute hardest ability in competition cheerleading, with countless hours spent in-between at a local gymnastics company. I knew my future was so clear, as I always dreamed of being an Alabama cheerleader for as long as I could remember! Towards the end of that year, I suddenly had a muscle literally push out of my back, creating what looked like almost a cucumber sticking out of my back. With as much tumbling as I was doing at the time, everyone just thought I had a terrible muscle spasm. I should have been fine after taking some quick time off and sitting on the side for a couple of practices, but the pain only got worse.

After becoming in intolerable pain one night at ACE, I ended up in the emergency room at Children’s Hospital of Alabama downtown Birmingham. After x-rays, I found out my spine was legitimately the shape of an “S.” In proper “scoliosis terms”, I was at a 42 -degree curve. Spinal fusion surgery is the only option when curvature reaches 45 degrees, because at this point the spine must be surgically fixed back to a straight position in order to live a normal, healthy life.

I was put into a hard-shell back brace, required for 10 hours every night. The brace was extremely tight and uncomfortable, but my family was drowning in prayers that this brace would be the solution. After a few long weeks, it became obvious through x-rays that my curve was only getting worse, and I became very obviously leaned to one side, and my left ribs were being pushed forward very painfully from my lungs due to the curve so there were lots of health risks at stake. My legs and feet were suffering nerve pain with lots of tingling, falling asleep, numbness, and even turning blue at times. My shoulders and shoulder blades burned and ached, and my back throbbed. I felt twisted and there was no comfortable position to be in whatsoever.

On July 22, 2011 at Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, my spine was fused and I could stand up straight and breathe normally. I even “grew” around 2 inches because of how curved my spine was before. After a 5 day stay in the hospital and lots of walking, learning, and recovering, I went home to begin a new life and become stronger through each day.

I was doing great until November of 2011, when my back began hurting uncontrollably. After a long visit to Vandy, a broken (unfused) vertebrae was found. The stress and weight of the metal above the vertebrae that were left untouched was too much, causing a stress fracture. The lower vertebrae were not touched in the first surgery because it would have left me with less flexibility and range of movement, so it wasn’t anyone’s fault, it was normal practice. Back into another hard shell, except this time, 24 hours a day brace I went. I truly was forced to live life in a bubble, and pray endlessly that the bone would heal from the brace. Exactly as before, the brace was unsuccessful.

On February 1, 2012, my back was cut completely open symmetrically again, and 4 more vertebrae were added to the fusion, fixing the break with by replacing it with a cadaver bone. My scar became a little bit longer, and I went through basically the exact same few month recovery process at home. A few months later, a small fracture was found, but luckily after another (smaller) brace, it healed correctly. 

In the hospital, nurses always ask patients to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10. For the past 7 years, I have lived life so normally, just with a pain of about 0.5-1 every day in my lower back. However, it is so tolerable and simply my “new normal.” There have been little precautions I have taken for 7 years (because none have been required!) besides things that have direct impact or jarring. God has been so merciful and so gracious and my body has been so strong and so healthy.

This summer, though, I have felt a feeling I’ve tried so hard to ignore, a back pain that is not my normal. Throughout the past 7 years, I have had several 2-3 week bad phases where I’ve overdone it, had muscle spasms, trouble sleeping, pain from rain and especially cold weather, but nothing has gotten me down. I have learned so, so many ways to cope with my pain, from rounds of physical therapy, to a heated mattress topper, to weekly deep tissue massages, to heat-wraps from CVS to wear in the winter. Sadly, this summer, my back pain became something I could stand to tuck away any more, as it became significantly worse the first week of July.

I was waking up each morning in an unexplainable pain after simply sleeping, and even had a terrifying episode once by waking up at 4 am with the worst pain I have ever felt in my legs and feet, which is caused by a nerve pain rooting from my back. Then, extreme hip pain and shoulder blade pain came along, and a few more of my old symptoms, so I knew I had to go see my doctor at Vandy.

On July 5th, I spent all day at Vanderbilt consulting with my same surgeon, and after x-rays and a CT scan, the unexplainable news had to be told. I am feeling this pain because the vertebrae that were fused from the second surgery never healed correctly, like the ones from the first did. After a fusion, the bones eventually grow around and bond with the metal, resulting in one stable and strong spine. With these lower fusions, they have basically come loose due to the failed healing, and I will be having yet again another back surgery. This is so rare and did not happen because of really anything except the way my body reacted. I have not done something to make this occur, and the surgeons did not mess up in any way. So, just like the others, the surgeons put together a plan for fixing the issue in late August!

Even though physically, this journey has been painful and exhausting, it’s also a difficult mental journey. At a young age, it was never “cool” to be the girl who wore a back brace, or the girl who had a scar down her whole back. There have been so many times I just wanted to crawl into a hole after someone asks what happened to my back. To be completely honest, I usually just say, "I had surgery," and try to change the subject. It's not offensive or even out of place to ask me what happened, I'm an extremely curious person myself, but I have never felt accepting of my story. I never usually bring it up to anyone besides close family or friends, and generally just haven't enjoyed talking about it because I have looked at it as a flaw. It still isn’t "cool", but it’s much easier now that I’ve grown up to hold small conversations about scoliosis surgery (even though I never mention 2, now 3 surgeries and make myself out to be the model scoliosis patient). I so vaguely remember the endless elephant tears I cried because I could not be normal.

Why me, God? Why can I be so nice and so active in church, but nothing works out for me? Why do I have to watch my friends live so normally while I face a mountain sized struggle while I am a tiny girl? It was probably the hardest part of my entire journey to watch girls become junior high cheerleaders, because I so badly just wanted to be a school cheerleader, too. It was so hard to be the girl that had to have two sets of textbooks, one for home and one for school, because I wasn’t allowed to carry the weight of a backpack at all. I felt like every moment I received accommodation or special treatment that I stuck out like a sore thumb. I had to leave class 5-10 minutes early every day because I couldn’t take the risk of being bumped into or knocked down in the midst of hallway and locker madness. I could not do regular P.E., and even though now these things seem so simple or so small, at the time, they were the biggest stones I ever had thrown my way.

The seventh grade was so very hard for me because it is so hard for kids at this age to understand what was going on and how I felt. Luckily, my family and close friends helped me through every minute of it, from visiting the hospital, to sending cards and goodie baskets, and everything in between! As I recovered, life got much better and I did not have to go through that anymore. Looking back at such a chaotic time, I am thankful for every minute of it and I can so confidently say that I would not be the person I am today if I would have lived my life plans versus God’s. God knew what he was doing when he made me grow up a little faster and face challenges a little bigger, because now I am so confident in struggles and accept challenges with open arms.

I have learned so much and built so much character from my past, but I have always had the mindset of “I’m so glad I overcame that, but now I’m fine forever” kind of like a, “yeah God, we got through that together, but we’re good now, make sure I don’t have to face that challenge again.” I still struggle with easy embarrassment with my situation and especially my scar, but I’ve chosen to put it behind me and even more, ignore it, rather than using it to testify for God. The Lord probably tried to prepare me for this and I probably glanced right over it, but I wasn’t ready for this.

I thought I had finally become just the girl I had always dreamed of being. I’m an EXTREME planner, so I thought for a while my life was going perfectly by my plans. I’ve made good grades, become so close with amazing friends, figured out my career plans for the next little while, held a job that I love, basically had everything under my control, what more could I ask for? I did not realize, but I had almost taken advantage of the fact that I had everything I could hope for and not been so close in my relationship with God. Many nights I’ve forgotten to pray, or effortlessly missed out on church, because I’ve been living exactly how I’ve wanted to, with little to no issues or struggles at all.

It’s so easy to forget to live life with God when there are no struggles, but so unbearable to live without Him when there are. I saw a quote that hit me so hard not long ago that said, “pray to God even after he gives you what you were praying for.” Sure, I love to listen to the Highlands soundtrack in my car and save Bible verses and Christian quotes on social media, but I was not pushing in for God to use me or ask anything from me.

I firmly believe that God knew what he was doing when he allowed me to bear the news that I’m having back surgery again. Do I think that God all of the sudden spun my life plans and added in a surprise medical emergency? No, of course not, but I do believe my Earthly personality walked away from God’s pathway, and the timing of this came before I had gone too far. God so graciously stopped me in the middle of my “perfect” life and showed me that I can’t do it without Him. God put in front of me, at a time that is not ideal at all, an un-ignorable challenge, to show me that my life is so much more than MY plans, and that I need Him in my life so much more than I need anything else.

At this point, I thought I had it perfect, but God’s showing me that the best is yet to come. In God’s eyes, I know that I am in no way ready to settle and live easily and perfectly for the rest of my life. He will use me, I have not completed my job yet. I am here for a reason and I have not fulfilled my calling, yet. God knew this and I may not have, but now I know He will use me when it’s time, whether I’m ready or not. My “perfect” will never compare to how amazing His future plans are for me.

I find peace in the thought that God knows that what may have seemed perfect for me recently will be only a small glimpse of His true plan for me. So, He created a plan for me to not be able to have the choice to live without Him anymore, because without God I can definitely say that there is no way I would even have the courage to walk into the hospital. I know that for the few hours I have been on the operating table both times, my body was on that table but my spirit was being so graciously washed, comforted, and refreshed in God’s hands alone.

One of the major things I have had to grow to learn in this journey is that other people have problems, too. I am the type of person that easily believes that there’s NO way the girls, bloggers, celebrities, people I follow on Instagram have to deal with the things that I do. It is SO true when people say comparison is the thief of joy, because I have struggled with this so much.

It takes extremely strong friendships, trustful people, and trusting God to learn that everyone has issues, everyone has problems, and nobody’s life is better than your own (no matter how untrue this may seem), because God, our God, did not create His children by rank or class. Not one person was blessed more than others (even those who are more sinful than others), and nobody’s throne in Heaven will be better than others. You are a child of the Almighty God, who loves you just as much as He loves the beautiful girl, or perfect family, or newlyweds, etc., that you just can’t seem to add up to. In God’s eyes, you are never the sum of your rights and wrongs, or your perfections and flaws.

Another thing I have learned is that there are so many times when God may seem not-so-gracious or confusing, but when you allow your mind to see a situation you have absolute zero control over, that there is no other explanation for the situation other than that God himself crafted the situation for your life with complete and utter purpose, He is so real and so alive. I have little fear, anxiety, regret, or worry about what is to come for me, and I am emotionally calm and happy that the Lord has touched my life in such a unique way, and this pours over to the times I do not feel calm or happy. I know that God is with me every single place that I go, and God will allow me to shine in a way that is unexplainable other than the explanation of His presence.

Am I perfectly fine? Absolutely not. But am I an emotional wreck? No, because I am not alone. By not being alone, don’t get confused with maybe my mom being with me, or loving friends, etc., because truly, there is no human or no material item that will ever satisfy us in times that are only made for the grace of God.

I have prayed so hard for months for God to show me my purpose, to show me my plans, and he has so miraculously answered my prayers. God is using me in such a way that I can only embrace; I have no other choice but to be strong and follow His lead. Though the pain is hard, God’s presence around me is so easy. I am no rookie to this process, but God is no rookie to planning beautiful and unique plans for each of His children.

Though this surgery will be no breeze at all, God knows me and knows that I grow and develop best in the midst of a challenge. He knew life was just too easy for me, and He knew I needed something to work for, something I could not do alone.

If you’re a life-planner like me, or just tend to be an organized and driven person, don’t let your own plans overshadow God’s. Sure, we can plan what our days, weeks, or months look like, but we cannot plan for the things we do not see, so we trust God to guide us through those things. Whether you may be like me and be living your ideal life, (or thought you were!) or you may be at rock bottom, don’t do it alone. God is so relevant and so needed in each and every wave of life. Let Him perform miracles at your worst, and draw even closer to Him at your best, in gratitude of His presence at all of your times. Embrace challenges and hold yourself accountable to never settle, allow God to uniquely use you to so willingly live out His plan versus your own. You are just not finished yet.

-

-

-

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under Heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 3: 1-5

 

“We are never so healed that we don’t need Jesus every single moment of every single day.”

 

“God works in surprising ways to make His love known and to accomplish His purposes- even during difficult times.”

 

“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I become the wounded person.”

 

“When you are browsing through images on Instagram, just remember that real life is in your heart. Pictures online will make you believe you are not enough, like you need to do something more. More exciting. More physically beautiful. Bigger than you are. It’s a lie. A net of fleeting fantasy. You are real. You are enough. Go be in the world and stop comparing yourself to the world’s selfies.”

 

“The most difficult time in your life may be the border to your promised land.”

 

“Please hear me, girl: the world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs more women who know how to do hard and holy things.”

7D0A9146.jpg

100 Things That Are Good For the Soul - Summer Edition

1.     Roadtrip sunsets

2.     A fresh pink manicure

3.     An empty beach in the afternoon

4.     A warm towel after a shower

5.     Clean sheets

6.     Warm brownies and milk

7.     A country song with the windows down

8.     Nicholas Sparks movies

9.     Picking wild flowers

10.  Fried squash

11.  Watching firework shows

12.  Fresh squeezed lemonade stands

13.  A live band

14.  Monogrammed beach towels

15.  A sunset colored drink

16.  All white bedding

17.  Palm trees

18.  A sunkissed face

19.  An old, faded oversized t-shirt

20.  Dinner outside

21.  A sunset boat ride

22.  A sunrise devotional

23.  Hip bone tanlines

24.  A month-old puppy

25.  A barbeque sandwich and lays chips

26.  A watercolor painting

27.  5:00 pm walks on the beach

28.  Falling asleep to the sound of rain

29.  A front porch afternoon to the sound of frogs

30.  Fishing in a pond

31.  Fried green tomatoes

32.  A rocking chair and wet hair

33.  Homemade sweet tea

34.  Sun-highlighted hair

35.  Fringed blue jean shorts

36.  An old family picture

37.  Sleeping with no alarm

38.  Snow-cone stands

39.  Sundresses

40.  An Old Navy American flag t-shirt

41.  An old golden retriever

42.  Natural hair

43.  A seersucker outfit on a toddler

44.  Fresh flower centerpieces

45.  Long driveways lined with oak trees

46.  Fried hushpuppies

47.  Homemade vanilla ice cream with Sunkist

48.  Bike rides

49.  A lighthouse

50.  An ice cream shop

51.  Not wearing make-up

52.  Bare feet

53.  Summer weddings

54.  Red, white, and blue

55.  Hot pink roses

56.  Rainbow sprinkles

57.  30A Florida

58.  Strawberry daiquiris

59.  Crystal clear waters

60.  Shades of blue

61.  Wind-blown hair

62.  Fresh sunflowers

63.  Shrimp boils

64.  Sandy toes

65.  The farmer’s market

66.  A glass of Rosé

67.  George’s at Alys Beach

68.  Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream

69.  Singing Amazing Grace on Sundays

70.  The Fourth of July

71.  Red and white checkered table cloths

72.  A family fish fry

73.  Walking around a marina

74.  The smell of tanning oil

75.  An old baseball cap

76.  Summer roadtrip playlists

77.  An oversized cover-up

78.  The smell of fresh grilled hamburgers

79.  The sound of the lake crashing against shore

80.  Long grocery store freeze-pops

81.  The sound of ocean waves

82.  Coca Cola floats

83.  Straw sun hats

84.  The Red Bar at Grayton Beach

85.  The smell of honeysuckle

86.  Flip flops every day

87.  Paddle boarding

88.  Fresh mimosas at brunch

89.  The Florida Keys

90.  An ice cream truck

91.  Sparklers

92.  A pizza picnic

93.  Flamingo pool floats

94.  Convertibles

95.  Straw beach bags

96.  Tassels and pom poms on everything

97.  Espadrille shoes

98.  Browsing Lilly Pulitzer stores

99.  Lake days with friends

100. Deep sea fishing

DSCN0346.JPG
DSCN0342.JPG
DSCN0343.JPG

Why I Blog...

7D0A9460.jpg

Thank you for stopping by my first lifestyle blog post! With this post, I just want to give you an idea of the foundation of the lifestyle portion of my blog! In this area, I want to post lots of personal stories and share my heart through the calling of God. I have always been extremely passionate about writing, but never felt like I had a place to share my writing. With my vision of a blog, I knew that the Lord was showing me after months and months of prayers where I was being led. I have prayed throughout the last year of school that God would assure me that I was headed in the right direction, and show me what He had planned for me. Choosing the fashion retailing pathway in college was difficult for me, because I knew it was where my happiness was, but I wanted to choose a path I knew I had a future in and could depend on to support a lifestyle. Even though I knew I wanted to work in the fashion industry, I felt like God had something more in mind. For several weeks, I have felt so close to the Lord in this journey and know that He is using me and even a bit of my love for fashion to lead me to a space where I can write all for the glory of His name. In between, I am so excited to write about self-care routines, emotional happiness and positivity. I’ve got so much to tell coming up that I know God has led me to do, so stay tuned!!! Xoxoxo!

7D0A9232.jpg
7D0A9444.jpg