Vegging Out

The holidays are the perfect opportunity for a cheat day (week).  Luckily, I think there’s more to health than calorie intake, so by all means, forget about portion control and eat up!  If you are unaware of my model of health, it accounts for facets of well-being outside of our physical body, and you can read more about it hereUse the holidays as a time to recharge mentally while you veg out physically.

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Christmas Motto: hot cocoa, blanket, fire side, kisses… the great indoors

Being thankful is a state of mind, and the holidays are a great time to re-evaluate your blessings.  It’s so easy to get caught up in negative thinking.  Social media has really perpetuated this problem.  We see peoples’ social media lives and immediately make comparisons to our reality.  Comparisons are human, and it’s okay to make them.  However, you need to recognize the distorted realities that are being portrayed online, and you need to learn to be okay with your own reality.

Focusing on what’s good in your life is a great coping skill.  This doesn’t mean ignore the bad – trust me we all have mountains to climb.  But why think about the bad if you aren’t doing so constructively?  Rolling it around in your head until you feel ill helps no one.  So when you aren’t actively solving your life’s problems, turn your attention to your many blessings!

Recognize that being thankful starts with the small things.  It’s easy to be thankful for a promotion or the car you saved up to buy, but realize that waking up today was a gift in itself.  Seeing the festive decor, hearing your loved ones voices, and tasting the pie… just to be is magical, and to be well in life’s turbulence is nothing short of miraculous.

In our fast-paced world, what an incredible blessing it is to be able to gather around the table and share a meal.  Enjoy your time with family, friends, or even just yourself – I’m not telling you how to live your holiday; I’m just reminding you to live your best life!

From my family to yours, happy holidays!

#APerfectFit

A Thanksgiving Story

This week I took some old clothes to the Goodwill donation box and had a powerful reminder of how minute my “problems” really are. The weather hadn’t called for rain that afternoon, yet dark clouds formed and cold droplets were falling hard. I was grumpy, complaining to myself about how cold and damp I’d get in the 5 foot walk from my car to the dropbox. I was in a bad mood already because I’d had to stay in town for an exam and wouldn’t be able to leave for home until the day before Thanksgiving. I almost skipped my errand and went straight home, but then the rain slowed down.

I moved the first load from my trunk and shut the metal flap, still obsessing over how annoyed I was by the weather, this chore, and my to do list. I gathered the rest of my clothes and dropped them in, too. As my hand rested on the handle seconds from sending these away, I heard a man calling out, “Ma’am please, please wait! Could I look through those before you shut it?” Sadly, my first thought was for my safety, but when I turned, the man I saw was fragile and looked desperate but not unkind. He was running across the parking lot, followed by his wife who moved a little slower. She clutched a bag from the nearby fast food joint, and she wore several layers of torn clothes that were doing nothing to save her from the cold and damp.

“Thank you ma’am,” the guy was saying, bowing his head in front of me. “My wife needs clothes so bad.”

She just kept saying “thank you,” with a look of hope and happiness on her face.

“There are some old flannels,” I said, handing her the one on top, “I hope they’ll keep you warm.”

I got in my car, and now I was feeling sad. My heart felt like lead in my chest. And I did something many of us have done. I began to ask God why.

Why didn’t You call my attention to these people before I dropped the first load of clothes down the chute?

You see the second load had a few flannels, but it was mostly dresses. Completely useless for this woman. The first load had contained sweaters. And even better, it had contained an old coat – a puffy, warm coat that would have protected her from the elements this winter. All I wanted was for this woman to have that coat, but since there was nothing I could do, I gave my grief to God and tried to turn my attention elsewhere.

This isn’t a feel good story. Sure, she’s a little warmer, but she needed much more than she got. I’ve thought about her and her husband frequently since I saw them, praying for a change in their circumstances. This story is a reminder. We get grumpy when things aren’t going our way, and we forget about the bigger picture. If you’re reading this post, whether you’re on a cellphone or tablet or computer or even smartwatch, maybe this story will give you pause the next time you’re grumpy over something small. Because this couple was so far from grumpy. They were happy beyond measure to receive cast off clothes that I had whined about taking the time to give away.

I hope this post finds you recognizing what an immense blessing it is to wake up and have to decide what to wear, under the vents that keep you warm and the roof that keeps you dry. It reminded me that being thankful is easy when you realize nothing you’ve got in this life is a guarantee. Everything is a gift. I hope this post finds you gifted beyond measure, with a heart of gratitude to match.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.

Flow Through the Seasons

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Thanks to: Christine Scott Photography

As much as I love to be warm, there’s something about the leaves changing colors in the fall that does my soul some good.  It’s been my favorite thing about the Carolinas since I moved “north” in 2012.  In Georgia, we never really had four seasons, and I’ve decided it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

Today I have a very simple message, but it’s one that I believe needs to be said.  It’s one that I’ve needed to hear at points of change in my own life.

Be gentle when judging yourself.  Accept changes you make in your life.  Recognize that how you got to this point was an important part of your journey, but it is by no means the last chapter in your book.

We all have a construct of our personal identity.  We know who we think we are, and it’s based on so very many things.  Who our parents are.  Where we grew up.  The sports teams we cheer for.  The clothes we wear.  We look for people with similar identities, who don’t threaten this carefully constructed image we have in our minds.  And sometimes we forget a very important truth: we don’t have to be that person.

The beauty of being human is in the ability to change.  It’s easier said than done, but we don’t have to repeat our mistakes or even the mistakes of our parents.  We can change our minds about who we are when we recognize a flaw, and with effort and patience, we can change our being.

Encourage positive change.  We all go through seasons of highs and lows, peace and strain, certainty and confusion.  Each season is preparing you for the next, teaching you how to adapt.  If we were all born the same way we were going to die, life would be pretty bland.  How lucky are we that there is always something to learn?

P.S. I can’t wait to start a new season in my life and have an exciting announcement about post-grad plans coming to you soon!

#APerfectFit

“What’s Your End Goal?”

Up until about a year ago, I thought I’d have an “Ah-hah!” moment when I became an adult and knew what I was doing with my life.  Then, I realized that becoming an adult is accepting that nobody knows what they’re doing, and becoming a responsible adult is just doing the best you can.  Fake it until you become it, as they say!

I have a simple short-term goal: receiving my MBA and finding a job to pay the bills.  My long-term goals are a little less quantifiable, though.  I want to find a fulfilling job; one that provides a two-way street allowing me to impact the world while developing me as a person.  I also want to inspire women to find love for themselves, which I believe starts with finding love for Jesus.  This blog is my meager attempt at building the foundations towards that goal.

But in all truth, there is no end goal for me.  I will die with goals I haven’t yet met, because as I reach one milestone, I set the next one.  That’s the burden of being a goal-oriented person.  Goals are always evolving, adapting to fit my capabilities and emotions.

If you aren’t sure what your purpose is and feel surrounded by people who seem to have it all together, you are not alone.  Just know that even when you feel purposeless, God has a reason you’re here.  He just doesn’t always make His reasons known.

So well-meaning people of the world, please stop inquiring as to my end goal.  There is no end goal.  There is a series of goals that will continue to evolve as I continue to grow.  We aren’t meant to know our end purpose, and it’s high time we stop trying.

#APerfectFit

Cheers T(w)o More Student Football Seasons!

Just when you thought I was really going to graduate, I found another way to stay in Clemson!  I like to think the administration regretted that I had reached the end of my time as a student tiger, but whatever the reason, a spot magically opened up in Clemson’s MBA program.  One week before accepting my diploma, I accepted a spot to begin my masters studies at Clemson starting in January 2017.

The day before I received the call about the opening, I made an important decision: I chose faith instead of fear.  I decided to fully let go of the worry over my uncertain future, to trust instead that God truly does have a plan.  I recognized worrying was doing nothing to help me.

This is an uphill battle for me – I’m from a family of ruminaters.  I have to actively choose faith over fear every single day, usually many times a day.  I have to remind myself constantly not to fear the future’s many unknowns or even the present’s uncertainties.  Anxiety is the root causes of the tension in so many peoples’ lives.  Fear has never solved a problem, and it certainly isn’t good for your health.

So here I am, trying to laugh without fear of the future as they say, and I get a call about an opening in Clemson’s MBA program.  It’s an opening that would allow me to start January 9th, less than a month after my graduation.  If I can get my application and references by the end of the week, they are willing to consider me for this spot.  Luckily for me, I had incredible mentors throughout my undergraduate experience.  One had her reference letter ready before I even asked, and another hustled to get hers done in time.  I turned it in and crossed my fingers, thinking this had to be meant to be if they were willing to make so many exceptions on my behalf.

I guess it was.  I got into the program and accepted my spot a week before I crossed the stage to receive my undergraduate diploma.

I’m standing on the doorstep of a grand new adventure, and I’m thrilled that this opportunity fell on me.  I no longer feel like I picked the “wrong” major in undergraduate school.  Though psychology was ultimately not what I wanted to do, my major opened doors for me through the people I met, the challenges I overcame, and the things I learned about myself along the way.  I think a business degree is a much better fit for the gifts and talents I’ve been given, but I don’t regret the path I’ve taken to get to where I am.

In summary, I have successfully put off becoming an adult for 2 more years, and I get the added bonus of 2 more tiger football seasons!  Although, this season might be unbeatable.  Clemson has a rematch with Bama on January 9, and it seems only fitting that my boys will be playing for the Natty on my first day of graduate school.  Go tigers!

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Hello Great Big World

Today, I walked out of my last class as an undergraduate student.  For a minute, I was elated, but all too quickly, I became panicked.  Then, as if out of nowhere, a soothing calm sank into my soul.  In 14 days, I will receive my diploma and graduate from Clemson University with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Communications.  Two weeks from today, I will turn the tassel and have to embrace “adulting” and its finery.  I have always been the girl with a plan.  For once in my life, I’m not.

I haven’t found a job, and I haven’t applied to a graduate program.  This is incredibly unlike the wide-eyed freshmen me that walked onto Clemson’s campus in 2012.  I came to Clemson prepared to graduate in 4 years with any major as long as my prerequisites for occupational therapy were in order.  Afterwards, I was going to receive my Doctorate in OT at Belmont University in Nashville, TN (class of 2019).  I was going to specialize in pediatrics and work at a children’s hospital, eventually running the therapy department.  It was a solid plan until I realized I hated OT.  It felt monotonous and dull, and I’d just been interning for a month.  I watched my plan spark and sputter and eventually burn out.  It wasn’t worth living the life I’d imaged if I was going to be living a life I hated.

So there I was, two and a half years into my master plan, with no idea what my next steps should be.  Thankfully, I have an amazing God, the best boyfriend, and a school with an impeccable career services center.  I became the first psychology major from Clemson to pursue a cooperative education program and landed an internship with BorgWarner, an automotive manufacturing plan in Seneca, SC.  I got to spend 9 months working in their Human Resources department, and they let me get my hands into everything.  I worked through the hiring process, coordinated wellness initiative, collaborated with our safety team, managed our KPI tracker, and so much more.  It turns out, I have a talent for people.

Armed with this knowledge, I came back to school this Fall to complete my degree.  It turns out I should have been a business major.  However, in their own way, psychology and communications have prepared me to pursue a career in this direction.  I’ve studied people for four (and a half #blessed) years.  I’m ready.

But for what?  That’s a question I can’t answer yet.  I’m still waiting on God to show me the rest of His plan for my future.  See the thing that’s changed about me during my undergraduate experience is not losing my sense of direction and purpose, but rather finding it from a much better source.  I guess in a way this is my testimony.  What I would like to share with you is something pretty simple that it seems to have taken me 22 years to learn: I am not in control, and thank God for that.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

So to those of you asking what’s next in my life, I no longer dread your question.  I have lots of thoughts and ideas about the future, but right now, I’m waiting for everything to unfold.  Your prayers and kind thoughts are appreciated as I embark on this exciting new phase!  And if you haven’t today, take a deep breath and rest easy knowing the best is yet to come.

Perfectly Imperfect 365 Days of the Year

An open letter to anyone who has ever felt like they were “not enough”:

My friend Courtney recently left for Swaziland to serve in the Peace Corps for 28 months.  It was a place I couldn’t locate on a map before April, but now I think of it often.  In the weeks before she left, we spoke about what would be different about this country from ours.  While we both believe that at the core people are people with similar desires and motives, an ability to be good and do good, we knew there would be cultural differences.  It was during one of these conversations that she asked if I’d ever heard of Perfect365.  I hadn’t, but I became immediately disgusted.

For those of you who don’t know, Perfect365 is an app that allows its user to enhance selfies to be, well, “perfect.”  You can slim your face, raise your cheek bones, and widen your eyes.  You can apply makeup – from foundation to eyeliner to mascara.  You can change your eye color.  You can create a new photo with startlingly white teeth and inappropriately smooth features that in no way resembles a human.

[Side note: I have done pageants, and I have professionally edited photographs of myself.  However, I love the face that looks back at me at 7am with bed head.  It’s ok to have professional photos and to look great in them.  It’s not ok to feel like every single photo you have ever posted needs to look like it was taken in a studio.]

This is what society has done to American adolescents, and even adults.  We have created such a desire for unachievable “beauty” that we need apps to photoshop our filtered Instagram selfies.  If that doesn’t make your heart ache for the 13 year old who sees her face in the mirror and can’t see her natural skin as beautiful, you might be part of the problem.

Just to put that in perspective, we are taking selfies with our smartphones, editing them into a stranger, and posting them on social media to be validated by our acquaintances double-tapping on the screen.  We are doing this while other people in our communities, our nations, our world are going hungry or cold or sick tonight without respite in their sights.

I am begging you to love yourself.  You should not rely on the likes you receive or the followers you have for validation.  You should not rely on makeup or photoshop to create a face you like.  You should not rely on the label of your clothes, the numbers on the scale, or even the grade on an exam to create a definition of you.  These things are superficial and fleeting, here today but maybe gone tomorrow.  They are part of the material world we live in, not part of what defines you.

God created you in His image, and He loves you for precisely who you are.  Physical faults you find looking at a mirror are irrelevant when you leave this world.  Your inner beauty is what God’s eyes see, and no mistake you have made is surprising or unforgivable to Him.  You are beautiful for the person that you are, so be a person you are proud of.

If nobody has every told you, let me be the first: you are beautiful.  There is nothing you need to do or say to be beautiful if you can find love for yourself that is not based on something material.  Do not let your hair, your weight, or your house be what makes you feel good.  Hair can fall out, pounds can add on, and that house can burn down.  If you define yourself in things of this world, your definition of self is fragile and so easily lost by a breeze of bad fate.

I have a sticky note that a (different) friend named Courtney placed on my bathroom mirror a year ago, and I read it every day to make sure I haven’t forgotten.

Sometimes people are beautiful not in looks, not in what they say, just in what they are.

If you are truly blessed, you will find someone on this earth who can celebrate you for exactly who you are, but more often than not, other people are going to tear you down.  They are going to find reasons you are not enough.  Some days you might even find reasons you are not enough.  For God, you will always be enough.

If Christianity is not your faith, this message should still resonate with you.  Build the foundations of your self-image and worth on solid ground.  For me, my faith is that rock, and it is what I turn to when I start to forget my worth.  For you, it can be something different, and that’s okay, too.  Just make sure it isn’t something you will lose when the tides in your life wax and wane.  I don’t think anybody gets to go through life without at least one high tide, and it’s hard to keep your head above water if you can’t love yourself.

We live in a world where, from a young age, we are competing to have followers.  We are counting the “likes” on our photos.  Thanks to Facebook, we can now count the “loves” “hahas” “wows” “sads” and “angrys” – as if we didn’t have enough to think about.  People clicking a button (approximately 0.05 seconds of their time) has become such an important source of validation that our own faces are no longer “enough” for our social media accounts.

It started with Photoshop.  I was probably in about 4th grade when I begged my parents for this software.  To what end did I need it?  Well, my friends had it, and they were able to crop themselves into photos with Hilary Duff.  This was important to me.  What I (and the many parents who relented to adding this software to the home computer) did not realize was that my friends were in training to slim their waist line, enhance their breast size, and spray tan themselves later in life.

Photoshop isn’t user-friendly, though.  At least, I have never been able to master it.  Know what’s super easy?  Perfect365 and other apps like it.  It identifies the face in any image uploaded to it and gives simple options for the user to pick from.  Having issues with your mouth?  There’s a mouth button.  Want to widen your smile?  Slide the bar to the right.  Want to whiten your teeth?  Slide that bar.

On the left, my face; on the right, Perfect365. Of course, you can use the app in less obvious ways, but for full effect, I used every enhancement option there was.

This is the reality of life in 2016, and it is nothing like the smiling faces of the Jetson family.  Society is pressuring us in so many ways and through so many outlets.  If you are struggling to feel good about yourself, there are a million places you can point fingers.  Peers, TV, magazine, Facebook, Instagram… Every advertisement wants you to buy a product so you can be more like the perfect actor in their ad.

Stop blaming others when you feel bad about yourself and look inward.  You are the only person responsible for making sure you know that you are enough just the way you are.  We can try to create more positivity for and about each other, but at the end of the day, you are in charge of how you feel.  If you can love yourself, you can take on anything this world can throw.  Just remember, the best is yet to come.

#APerfectFit

I challenged some friends to skip their makeup for a selfie and see their real skin’s beauty. Your turn!