coffee session | some things i’ve learned recently.

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(for le blog aesthetic / not mine)

You know the drill.  Grab a cup of coffee, listen to some music, and let’s have a chat.  (My side of the conversation is below; feel free to share yours in the comments!)

*sips coffee*

So my sister got some toffee nut syrup from Starbucks a few weeks ago and y ‘ a l l.  It’s so good.  Makes her mad when I “borrow” it, but it makes my coffee soooo yummyyyyyy.  (Why yes, I am drinking it right now – why do you ask?)

*sips coffee again*

I have a coaching call in literally one minute but I’m here writing out this post and if that doesn’t say something about my time management skills, I don’t know what will.

What’s a coaching call, you ask?  WELL.  CollegePlus – Lumerit, SORRY – is a distance-learning thing, and the thing the company does to keep you on track is give you a coach that calls you once every two weeks to chat about your life and your schooling and how it’s all going – and, most importantly, how you’re handling it all.

{musical interlude while I do my call}

Anyway, my coach is amazing and I love her to death.  She’s my fourth coach because I had three coaches in a year and let. me. tell. you. – that was not fun.  But she’s an angel and I think I love her best out of the three.  If I pass my last two courses (fingers crossed because they’re a little harder than I thought they’d be), I’ll be finished in March and that’s kinda sad because I’m going to miss talking to her every few weeks!  Plus she’s getting married, so that’s pretty dang exciting.

*sips coffee*

(it’s actually the next day and i’ve got coffee again and… yeah.  me in a nutshell)

So the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack came out the other night and oh my gosh.  It is all kinds of wonderful.  Seriously, I don’t know that I’ve related to a musical so much.  It’s so needed, too.  Such a beautiful, beautiful thing.  Listen to it.  If you’ve only got time for one song, listen to this one.  And really listen to it – turn it on, put headphones in, close your eyes, and just sit for a minute.  It’ll make you day a million times better.

I stayed up ’til after 1am listening to it when it came out, first laughing and dancing and dramatically lip-syncing in the bathroom and then sobbing while curled up in my bed with the blankets over my head.  Because that’s just the kind of musical that it is.

*sips coffee*

Like I mentioned before, college is hard.  I knew that going into it, and all the courses I’ve done have been different kinds of difficult, but… dang, these last two.  I’ve cried more over these than I have over any other course in my entire four years of college – which is kind of a lot because I don’t get stressed too easily.

I’ve always been super hard on myself, and have always had high expectations for myself, beating myself up inwardly if I didn’t meet those expectations.  I’ve always known that it’s probably not best for me to do that (LOL) but I’ve always let it slide because how else will I do anything well?

WELL.  All of the stress – courses, moving, trying to finish a freaking novel – came to a head over the last two-ish weeks (hence why I haven’t posted anything in a while – sorry, guys).  And it was bad.

Because I used to not get stressed too easily and then I was stressed literally all the time, I had to figure out how to take care of myself.  Definitely not by lowering my expectations for myself – because how stupid is that – but by not beating myself up in addition to everything else that’s putting pressure onto me.

SO.  While I certainly do. not. have. the. answers. (as evidenced by the fact that I still get stressed easily and will most likely cry over these courses again next week – looking forward to it), here are some things I’ve learned.

First and foremost, ask God for help.  Literally, this is the best thing you can do.  I think worrying is just being blinded by your own incompetence, so it’s a great idea to lean on the One who is good at everything, right?  Ask God for help and He’ll guard your heart with His peace that passes understanding.   Approach His throne with boldness and He’ll give you grace.

Second, figure out what’s giving you the most stress and see if you can relieve some of the stress.  Is your room a wreck but you don’t have time to clean it?  Do it in steps: Make your bed one day, take five minutes to pick up all the clothes the next day, spend ten minutes on it instead of on Facebook the day after that (which should be the first thing because we all need reasons to stay off Facebook these days).  Family member making you stressed?  Get out of the house, if only just to spend some time in the backyard or something; use headphones to shut it all out for a little while; or, better yet, encourage them to get out of the house.  (There’s almost nothing better than having an entire house to yourself.)  School giving you trouble?  Find someone who can help, work on it in spurts, set deadlines for yourself, reward yourself.

Which brings me to my third idea, the one I’ve been learning the most about recently:

SELF. CARE.

This is literally one of the best things you can do for yourself.  I’ve found that it’s mostly talked about in the realm of people who have depression, mental illnesses, self-harm issues, or other issues like that, which is kind of a shame because everybody could use it.

I’m so glad I started to learn about self-care personally, because it’s changed how I cope with things.  Instead of just bottling up the stress and pushing forward and never giving myself a break, I know how to deal with it in a better way now.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve learned how to reward myself when I’ve done my best by taking breaks after a long study session and curling up with a good book or guilty pleasure show.  (I’m halfway through the second season of said guilty pleasure show and halfway through the book I’ve been rewarding myself with.)  I set aside a day a week to work on my novel, which is a good idea because it needs to get done, it’s part of my massive final project, and it’s getting me into a good routine for when I’m done with college and can focus solely on my writing.

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t work hard anymore.  Far from it, actually.  I’ve found that making myself take breaks has made me work even harder – and better.  My writing has improved, my focus has improved, and my general attitude towards life has improved.

Plus, it’s always nice to have unexpected blessings, like spending the day with a good friend or your mom surprising you with gluten-free cupcakes.

All in all, my life has been pretty crazy lately, but mostly in good ways.  I’ll probably be here less, but I’ll come back when I can.

Have some laughing babies.

“give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.”

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this will forever be one of my favorite pictures of all time. my siblings and i helped my grandma set up her tree last thanksgiving and we had such a blast.

I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. – Ps. 9:1

As I think about how far I’ve come since last Thanksgiving, I’m amazed and in total awe of God’s goodness and grace.  Some of you may remember my totally angsty thanksgiving post from last year.  (*facepalm*)

In all honesty, I still have days like that, but they’ve been fewer as of late.  Mostly because I’m constantly realizing how incredibly blessed my life is.

Just how blessed am I?  WELL, I’M GLAD YOU ASKED.

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I have the best siblings ever.  Seriously, they’re amazing.

They never cease to make me laugh, stretch me, and teach me – everything from random facts about music and TV shows to anger management (*wink*).  I’d be so lost without these kiddos.

(And we totally won Halloween, especially considering we had about two hours’ notice for costumes.)

I love my parents to DEATH, too, but I don’t have any recent pictures of them.  So I’ll just say this instead: my parents are the best.  They teach me so many life lessons, they love me even when I’m hard to love, and they support me constantly.  I’m forever grateful.

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I also have the literal best friends.

Friends who will Gilmore-bound to coffee shops with me, play weddings with me, and then invite me and my siblings to come watch Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life with them…

 

 

 

 

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Friends who will invite me to Charleston for my very first girls-only weekend and get dressed up for a fancy-schmancy dinner in the car in a parking garage and talk to random guys about protesting and make totally inappropriate jokes with…

 

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And friends who will let me stay at their house for a week and then take me and my siblings to Universal.  And sing Moana songs 24/7.   ALL THE HEART EYES FOR YOU GUYS.  (And what a good looking group of people, if I do say so myself.)  (“AND THANK YOU!”)

 

 

 

 

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I’m grateful for books and the pretty places I can read them.  This particular spot is my hidden sanctuary.  I come here once or twice a week and read, drink coffee, or just sit.

 

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And, finally, I’m thankful for coffee, especially on a rainy Sunday morning in Charleston with two of my best friends beside me.

(And more pictures from my Charleston trip are coming.  Because I’m obsessed.)

 

What are you thankful for?

 

what courtship-advocating parents don’t understand.

Disclaimer: I love my parents.  I love my friends’ parents.  This isn’t about anybody’s parents in particular.  This is just something I’ve been thinking about, with no particular set of parents in mind.  AND this isn’t meant to offend anyone.  This is for you, my readers – to encourage you and to let you know that you’re not alone.  Anyways.  Onward.

(Disclaimer #2, or In Which I Realize I Should’ve Talked To My Parents Before Posting This…. See the end of this post.)

Courtship.

Depending on how you grew up and what you were taught, that word can either send shoots of awkward pain through your body or make you feel all warm and tingly.  The same can be said for the word…

Dating.

(Half of you just hissed and scurried back to the shadows, I just know it.  XD)

I’ve talked about how I grew up before a little (especially my thoughts on purity rings), but if you don’t know, I was raised with the courtship mindset.  (And, before you freak out and unfollow, I’m still holding to some of those beliefs, though not all of them.)

To twelve-year-old me, courtship meant finding That Special Someone (or, rather, him finding me), getting to know him and his family better, him asking my dad for approval of our relationship, and us moving forward with a deeper relationship.  To be honest, that’s still basically what I’m hoping for, but some aspects look a little different.

As I’ve grown up, though, I’ve realized that it isn’t that easy – not by a long shot.

Although never explicitly said, it feels like our parents and the books we read and the Bible studies we did implied that if we courted (and saved ourselves and all that), then a great guy would find us and we’d be happily married and ride off into the sunset.

As some of my friends and I have discovered, the courtship mindset isn’t a formula.  It’s not waiting + courtship = relationship + marriage before 22.  Agreeing to save ourselves and wait and court and all that jazz does not guarantee marriage.

In fact, it seems far from it.

Growing up with a courtship mindset kind of skewed my mind a little… and it did the same for my sisters, too.  I realized the other day that I’d always assumed I’d have to court a few guys before I “got it right” – essentially that I’d make a ton of mistakes before finally meeting “the one.”  For my sisters, one grew up so scared of making mistakes, and the other was at the verge of throwing caution to the wind.

(I’m feeling a pull to go off into a “Since when did pursuing more than one guy before landing on the right one become a bad thing???” tangent, but I’d better not.  That’s another blog post for another time.  XD)

One of the worst parts about growing up with this mindset, though, is being a girl in this sub-society where girls have to wait for the guy to approach them – or, in extreme situations, to approach her dad before she even hears of his interest.

What’s even worse (and here we finally come to the reason for this post) is that sometimes – sometimes – our parents don’t understand.

Obviously, if your parents courted, they know how you feel, and this post isn’t really for you.  But if you’re a first-generationer like I was (and still am – gosh, I’ve got to get that figured out)… it’s hard.

“Wow, you’re really bashing my parents, aren’t you?” you say.

No, I’m not.  (At least, I’m trying not to.)

I’m just trying to say that these parents who strongly encourage their kids to court all their lives really don’t understand how hard it is.

How hard it is to be in your twenties and never been on a date.

How hard it is to be this age and never know that a guy has ever been interested in you.

How hard it is to look on the past twenty-plus years and wonder if that’s what the next twenty will be like – with an absence of romance and a multitude of worrying.

I once tried to explain this feeling to my mom.  My sister got it, but my mom didn’t. “You’re saving yourself!” Mom said.  “You’re going to have the best marriage.”

It took everything in me to not say, “Yes, I know – you keep telling me that.  But you started dating at fifteen, and I’m almost twenty-two and I’ve never been on a date, so it’s looking pretty bleak!”

I’ve since gotten a lot more content in my state of singleness, but it’s still hard sometimes.  (Especially now, when families are starting to get together for the holidays and everybody’s asking about your love life cAN I GET AN AMEN?!)

HOWEVER.  I’m not going to throw away the last ten years of waiting just because it’s getting hard.  Because that would be stupid and negate all the time I’ve waited.

I’m not telling you to rage against your parents and renounce everything they’ve ever taught you.  I’m just telling you… I get it.   If you feel this way, you’re not alone.  Your thoughts are valid.  Just because some people don’t get it doesn’t mean that nobody does.

Our parents are wonderful people, and they may understand more about the world than we ever will.  But if they dated and you’re not planning on it… this is one thing they don’t really get. And that’s okay.

“I get it,” you’re saying (hopefully).  “I’m not mad at my parents for not understanding this, but I’m still confused about what I do from here.”

I’m confused, too.  The only thing I’d recommend doing is the only thing I’ve found that works – to just accept it and wait.  Pray for understanding for them and peace for yourself. You’re not a terrible person for thinking that they don’t get it (and you’re definitely not unlovable just because you’ve chosen to wait).

I’m not going to say that you’ll find love, because I can’t guarantee that.  I’m also not going to say that your parents will understand in time, because I can’t guarantee that either.

However, I will say that we’re blessed with a God who does understand and that, as His children, we’re given the freedom to approach Him with confidence, knowing that He cares for us.

Therefore, since we have such a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  (I Peter 5:7)

What are your thoughts?  Have you decided to court or date?  Where do your parents stand? Let me know in the comments!

ADDENDUM: Waiting is hard.  I’m not trying to blame my parents for how hard waiting is, and I’m not trying to blame the courtship system.  And just because it’s hard does not mean that I’m going to throw away the last ten years of protecting my heart.  I’m not going to go get pregnant just because I’m tired of waiting.  There are some days where I’m done with waiting, but that’s not the majority.  I went to Charleston two weekends ago with two single friends, and we had a blast.  We even talked about how great it was that we were all single and didn’t have to clear it with our significant others.

I know that waiting is hard, guys.  But I think it’ll be worth it.  And waiting is a decision I made when I was like eleven, and I’m sticking to it, no matter how hard it gets.

(Also, if you don’t think your parents understand what you’re going through, talk to them.  It’s something I should’ve done before I posted this, and I’m sorry for representing them poorly by posting this without talking to them about it first.  I love them very much.)

don’t you worry, child.

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Flashback to May of this past year.  I was obsessing over something to the point of exhaustion.  I wanted something to happen so badly that I didn’t know what I would do if it didn’t happen.

I spent hours thinking and overthinking about this thing, texting friends and coming up with multiple scenarios in my head.

To be completely honest with you guys, I didn’t handle it well.  The only thing that got me out of this abyss of overanalyzing and obsessing was the knowledge that what I was doing was INCREDIBLY STUPID and that no amount of worrying would make it happen.

By the time The Thing came around, I wasn’t worried about it any more.  I’d given it to God (daily, y’all – d a i l y), and I’d forced myself to stop thinking about it and trust that God had my best interests at heart.

And guess what?  Nothing happened, and I was okay with that.

I’m not perfect, guys.  Far from it.  I just wanted to share this small thing I learned – that sometimes it’s okay to stop thinking, stop obsessing, stop placing your entire happiness on one small event that may or may not even happen.  Give it to God, trust Him, and (if you can) forget about it.

God wants your best, guys.  Even if you can’t see it, even if you don’t believe it.  His ways are best and you’ve just gotta trust that.  Ask Him for strength and then wait on Him.

I’ll be back later with some ranty posts I’ve been thinking about for a while (look forward to it *smirky emoji*), but I just wanted to share that with you guys.  What has God been teaching you lately?

how to be a christian instagram girl.

Here you go, ladies.  Be a blessing to our fellow Christians by posting pictures of your superior-in-every-way devotional time!  (Except Katie forgot the insanely detailed notes that everyone is supposed to do.  Shame on her, not having drawing skills like this.)

Follow me on Instagram.  Job 19:17.

Special thanks to my mom for showing me this video and to Naomi for directing me back to her channel with Katie’s courtship vs. dating video (which is fantastic and you guys should totally watch it).  Brownies for both of you.

love is a risk {a follow-up post}

Surprise!  I’m back for another love post!  (Actually, a kind of follow-up post to my ‘actively waiting’ post, now that I think about it.)

I wasn’t going to do any more posts about love, but I started reading this blog post about it, and I was just like, “I have got to reblog this.

But first, my unsolicited opinion!  (Because it’s my blog and I do what I want.)

I’ve been talking to so many people about love lately – my sister, my best friend, some other friends – and it’s just been really interesting to hear so many different opinions from my friends in different stages of life.  One girl is in a complicated friend relationship that may turn into something more (which she’s slightly afraid of), one is swearing off guys for the moment, one is reaching that age when she feels like she’ll never be married, one is swearing not to date a guy unless he’s marriage material, and one is afraid of guys.  (You know who you are!  Hugs and kisses. *wink*)

Confession time: I’ve been in all of those places.  (And right now, honestly, I’m constantly swinging between trying to be satisfied in Christ {and I’ve been trying to learn how to be satisfied over the past like five years} and wanting to just scream “DATE ME!” at a guy I like.)

My views of marriage and guy/girl relationships have changed so radically over the past five years that I wish I could go back in time and give my sixteen-year-old self a firm shake, a hug, and a promise that it’ll all be a little more clear in the future.

Relationships aren’t complicated, guys.  That’s my revelation from the past few years.  Guy/girl relationships can be a little complicated at times… but only if you make them so.  If you’re constantly worrying if you’ll ever get married or if a certain dude is THE ONE, congratulations, you’ve set yourself up for a few weeks/months/years of worry.

(Tangent: And hey, guess what?  The only way to know if a guy likes you is to ask.  Plain and simple.  I thought asking the dude was stupid… when I was twelve.  And it is stupid… when you’re twelve.  At eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-five… DO IT.  There’s no use pining over some guy you have no chance with.  Ask his sister, ask his mom, ask him… but don’t think about him sporadically {or constantly} and worry if he likes you or not.  Ask and move on – either with him or away from him.  And if you’ve done that, WELL DONE – you’ve saved yourself loads of time!  Trust me; it’ll be far better in the long run when you’ve moved on instead thinking you’ve moved on and being reminded of your feelings towards him when you’re invited to his future bride’s bridal shower.  Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything… *cough*)

As Phylicia says in her post, Dear Girl, It’s Just a Date, we as Christians have made guy/girl relationships too complicated by insisting that they be destined for marriage.  When I was younger, I swore I’d never date – and I’d only court someone (whatever that means) when I was absolutely, positively, one hundred percent SURE that I’d marry him.

Golly Pete, was I naive or what?!

Over the last year or so, I’ve realized that it isn’t that simple.  Courtship does not equal marriage.  Dating does not equal divorce.  Yes, if your definitions of the two are wrong (especially excessive, serial dating, or even excessive, serial courting), you’re setting yourself up for failure.  I’m not saying that dating is wrong and courtship is right (or the opposite), but we need to reevaluate our views on the two.  Is a failed courtship a failed relationship?  Nope, not if God taught you something through it.  Is going out on a date with a guy sinful?  Nope, not if boundaries are set and God is the focus.

I’ve seen both dating relationships and courtship relationships end in disaster.  Dating where neither is fully committed and boundaries get crossed and, hello, babies get made.  Courting where the couple is never left alone to figure out if they’re comfortable with just the two of them and then marrying and finding out that – heck, no – they’re not comfortable at all.  Both are wrong and both have lifetime consequences.

The way I see it, a guy/girl relationship (be it courtship or dating) is only a failure if, when it ends, it scars you for life and radically negatively alters your perspective.  If you’ve been in a courtship and it failed, that is okay.  We need to stop pressuring people into thinking that you can only “get to know someone on a deeper level” if you want to marry them.  Can you imagine how much pressure that must make the guy feel if he does ANYTHING wrong?!  Not to mention how much pressure is put on the girl!  “Getting to know someone on a deeper level” only means that – getting to know them.  How can you know if a person is compatible for life if you don’t get to know them first?

Don’t make relationships more complicated than they already are.  I’ve seen relationships falter and die a tragic death because of too much talking, too much bad counsel, too much worrying, and way too much analyzing.  Yes, relationships are a risk (especially guy/girl relationships), but that’s faith – trusting in God and moving forward even when you can’t see (II Corinthians 5:7).

Okay, enough rambling – to my original intent for this post!

As the following isn’t my post, I’m just going to put some of it here and encourage you guys to go read the rest.  ‘Cause it’s amazing.

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Dear girl,

We the Church – we’ve made relationships heavy.

Relationships are a serious thing – serious because they involve real hearts and raw emotions. We have to walk wisely and think clearly. But not all relationships are meant for marriage.

Maybe you already grasp that concept in your head. But I want you to grasp it in your heart – and on your next date.

Don’t try out his last name.

Don’t picture the Facebook status.

Don’t go there.

It’s just a date.

I’m not saying to lose the romance and I’m not saying to abandon all common sense. I’m not suggesting you settle for less or that you approach relationships carelessly. I’m saying that your truest self – the self you want a man to know and see and love – isn’t revealed when you’re knee-deep in the Christian-relationship mating ritual. There, we must bear the weight of a potential future, and bear in mind that marriage – marriage could be on the line.

All on the first date.

But despite the best efforts, we can never guarantee a first date will lead to marriage. No one can.

These days we move strategically, chess pieces navigating the game. We have to know if he’s ready to spiritually lead and financially take on a family. We have to know where it’s headed because otherwise, it’s a waste of time – right? Dating is supposed to lead to marriage – right?

Not always.

We the Church – we’ve made relationships complicated.

We meant well, really. We seek to protect purity and uphold marriage. We want to embrace God’s design. But we keep missing a consistent gospel theme: freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17). In relationships, that means if you’re walking by the Spirit of God you are free to go on a date without demanding a DTR. [Ashley’s note: Define The Relationship]

We want it all in order from the beginning. We want the promise of no broken hearts, no disappointment, no struggle through the just-friends-but-not stage. We want to guard our hearts from hurt by only dating people we could see ourselves marrying, but the pressure is too soon, too heavy. A Starbucks hour won’t tell you if this guy is marriage material. It takes time.

Girls wonder why the guys run scared. I would run scared. I don’t believe Christian men are afraid of commitment. I believe they are afraid of commitment expected on the first date. In a church culture where a date equals intention of marriage, the pressure is on. You can’t just ask a girl out and get to know her; you have to know your intentions first. But how can you know your intentions if you don’t even know the girl herself?

Read the rest of the post here, then leave a comment and let me know what you think!  Do you agree or disagree with what I and Phylicia said?

year in review: 2015

Well, it’s that time of year again.  That time of the year when I put off writing my big “Year In Review” post and then eventually do it and become overwhelmed by all of the amazing things that have happened during the year.  Which is probably going to happen again this time.  (EDIT: It did but now I’m just glad it’s all over.  HA.  I wouldn’t change anything that happened in 2015, though.  I have been changed for the better and for good.)

2015 was a big year for me.  Honestly, I think it was one of the most challenging and growing years I’ve ever gone through.  (And hopefully it won’t be the last because I know I need to grow in a lot of areas.)  My family had to go through a lot of hard things, and I had to go through a lot of hard things.  I’ve also done some pretty amazing things, too.  From seeing my book (slowly) sell copy after copy, to watching my relationships with certain people grow or change, to doing some of the most comfort-zone-stretching things I’ve ever done…  It’s been incredible.

I’m really glad a year only has 365 days (with the exception of leap years), because I don’t think I could handle 2015 if it had even one more day!  SO READY FOR 2016!!!

But before that, I’d like to look over some of the things I’ve done this year.  (And I don’t care if you read this or skim it – it’s mostly for me, anyway.  Lol.)

January

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me at the beginning of 2015.  wish i could go back and tell myself a few things, namely to brace myself and shut up.

I think January was a pretty chill month for me.  I rang in the new year with a sick Katie and Grace Unplugged.  (The rest of the family went to a friend’s house and I stayed home with Katie, which I didn’t mind because I’m lame and enjoy being home alone.)

I kept my head down and studied for a few different tests, babysat kids twice a week, and read a few really good books.  (Speaking of books, here’s my Goodreads Year In Books if you’re interested!)

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right before we left.  (also before we were almost late because i got a flat tire.  and no, i didn’t cry over it.  why would you think that. *facepalm*)

Most importantly, my younger sister and I went to see Newsies with a group and it was FANTASTIC.

Notable blog posts: ‘in this moment, life is good’ and ‘2k15 reading challenge’ (which I didn’t end up completing – LOL!).

February

February brought a lot of the same – studying, reading, and nannying.

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random adorable picture of jenna (almost 2)

Early in the month, we had a “Courtship Conversations” conference/Q&A thing at our house.  Three couples got to share their courtship story and then answered questions from the audience (we had about fifty people over!).

On Valentine’s Day, we had some friends over for pizza and a movie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, because duh).

Shortly after, my parents went on a two-night anniversary trip and left my siblings and I at home alone overnight for the very first time.  We ate junk food and stayed up way too late crying over Monk and it was beautiful.

We got hit with a snowstorm sometime in February and took in a family for a few days one week, then a few more days the next week.

Notable blog posts: ‘actively waiting.’

March

The most exciting thing that happened in March happened later in the month.  After taking an Ethics final, I officially became a Junior!  After like a day of celebrating, I started studying for my next test.  No rest for the weary.

We celebrated two birthdays as a family – my baby sister’s 2nd and my baby brother’s 15th.

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morgan and i before the event.

Oh, and I also went to an author event at a library with Morgan Huneke and sold a grand total of one book.  Yay!  😄

Notable blog posts: My official introduction to The Art of Letting Go (which I wrote because I had a lot of new followers or because I didn’t think I’d officially introduced it yet or because I wanted to divert attention from my newly-published novel… anyway, I was excited, so I wrote it).

April

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me, james, and hannah after the last performance.  so. much. fun.

April brought in a new experience for my brother and I – something we still think about a lot.  The college near us did Into the Woods and James and I (and my bff) were in the ten-piece orchestra.  We rehearsed with the cast a few times a week, and every night the week of the performances.

I also started reading The Ascendance Trilogy in April, and the first book, The False Prince, quickly became one of my favorite books of 2015.  (It was right in the middle of about three or four really stupidly lame books, so that made it even better.)

(I’m really glad I got a lot done in these first few months and no notable drama occurred (well, it did, but it happened slowly), because God knew the second half of 2015 would be really hard for me and my family.)

Notable blog posts: A fun interview with Hayden Wand after the release of her novel, Hidden Pearls.

May

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the kids i babysat (minus the one in the top right).  (and the shirt-matching was unintentional.  of course, my children will all match all the time.) (NOT.)

During the end of April and the beginning of May, I did one of my biggest babysitting jobs ever (rivaling the infamous Florida one in October).  I babysat four children under twelve for five days (overnight, too), while their parents were in Italy.  Seeing as I hadn’t stayed at home without my own parents until a few months before, I was justifiably nervous.  (And the parents were in ITALY.  AS IN PLANE-RIDE AWAY.)  We had fun, though, and I look back on those days with fondness.

I didn’t do a lot of school in May.  After my CollegePlus coach (who I still love dearly) quit early in the month (with no warning whatsoever), I wasn’t able to study almost at all.  LOL.  The school I did do, though, was the beginning of my first “official” college course – a fiction course from LSU (which I quit for a month and a half after I got a horrible grade on my first assignment, setting the pace for the rest of the course).

My dad was gone for about a week, so we did what we always do when he’s gone – watch a ton of girly chick flicks.  I watched Easy A and The Devil Wears Prada for the first time, cementing my love for Stanley Tucci.  (Gosh, I love that man.)

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ISN’T IT CUTE?!

I also wrote a lot during this month, mostly on The Art of Letting Go.

The most exciting thing that happened was that I cut my hair super-short for the first time since I was like ten.  It had gotten so long and I just started hating how long it was and how much of a hassle it was.  I wore it up all the time.  Finally, I was just like, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”  So I got it chopped off AND I IMMEDIATELY LOVED IT AND I STILL LOVE IT.

Notable blog posts: ‘5 things i learned while watching four kids for five days‘ and ‘just keepin’ it real.

June

June is when everything changed.  I got a new coach and started studying more, read more, wrote more, matured more, and stressed over church more.

My dad was one of the elders in our church, and everything regarding that started going downhill.  Without going into much detail, differences between the elders became harder to deal with and offenses occurred.  Nearly every Sunday, we came home and talked about the sermon.  Church consumed my family’s life – and not in a good way.  It became a drudgery and a drain, which isn’t what church should be.

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my sisters and i took my cousin on a girls-only shopping trip for the first time while we were together.  i think it’s going to have to be a tradition!

We spent a super-fun week early in June with my grandparents and cousins, and had a blast getting to know them better.  It was relaxing to be able to get away from all of the drama.  However, when it was over, we were sucked right back into it again.

With the announcement of gay marriage, I voiced my opinion and didn’t care what people said.  My opinion hasn’t really changed and I still believe that, yes, we live in a fallen world; but Who’s still on the throne?  (Recently, though, I’ve come to the realization that the Supreme Court really shouldn’t have had anything to do with people’s personal lives.  Why is it their business if two men or two women marry?  They need to be concerned with other things like the debt crisis and the shootings overseas and here in the States.  [end unintentional rant])

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still my favorite picture of me and hannah, even though my hair is defying gravity.  isn’t she pretty?!

During the last few weeks of June, my best friend left for two weeks, leaving me able to help plan a surprise party for her.  On the day of the party, we went out to eat and get dessert, then came back to “watch a movie.”  The surprise was nearly ruined by a friend we saw walking as we drove back to her house (long story), but she was totally surprised by the friends who were waiting back at her house.

Notable blog posts: The above post on gay marriage and my first book-related fangirly and ranty posts – my favorite and least favorite books of the first half of 2015.

July

I thought June was intense… and then July came.  Oh, boy.

More of the same happened – reading, writing, nannying.  I blogged more, too, which is something I’ve been wanting to do literally since I started blogging back in 2009.  I started sharing my opinion more, and writing about things that I couldn’t get out of my mind (see my Deep Thoughts tag).

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we sent this picture to my parents to let them know that we’d finally gotten there safely (albeit super late). (ISN’T MY BROTHER SUPER TALL?!)

My siblings and I took our first big trip by ourselves halfway through the month.  We drove all the way from our house in Georgia to Indianapolis, Indiana for WITAlive, a singles’ conference by Whatever It Takes Ministries.  (They did a marriage conference that radically changed my parents’ marriage – and our family’s lives – in 2014.)  We had such a good time, and learned so much.  I examined my relationship with God more closely than I had in a long time.

After going to WITAlive, I decided to become more real with people.  I didn’t want to hide behind a facade anymore.  I knew it never worked out – for myself or for people I observed around me.  I never insinuated that I was perfect (far from it), but I knew that I wasn’t being real with people, and that had to stop.  I’m pretty sure this became apparent on my blog, as well as in real life with my friends (especially with my church friends).

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basically what we did the entire weekend.  filter courtesy of instagram, which i got right after WITAlive.

Over the end of July and the beginning of August, Katie and I went to our first vacation by ourselves.  We organized it with a friend from NC, bought food, and made reservations at a campsite in SC.  The weather was perfect, and we had an amazing time doing whatever we wanted.  (We even ordered pizza the first night simply BECAUSE WE COULD.)

Notable blog posts: So. Many. Blog. Posts.  I ranted about Christian fiction, I wrote a follow-up post because I wasn’t done ranting, I talked about cussing in books, I wrote about finishing The Art of Letting Go, I wrote about the WITAlive conference and what it means to be “Open, Broken, and Free,” and I ranted (again) about writing – this time about ten things people shouldn’t say to writers.  (I told you I started writing more.  This is one of my proudest blog months.)

August

Oh, August.  Golly Pete.

For one, my normal babysitting job changed slightly, which was a little bittersweet for me.  I was able to finish up a few more courses, but focused mainly on the fiction course (which I still have a love/hate relationship with).  I read a lot of really good books in August – mostly rereads – and I started editing my novel (really re-writing, though).

It’s also notable to mention that, sometime before or during this month, one of my regular babysitting jobs dropped because our schedules didn’t correlate anymore.  I’ve missed it ever since.  : (

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shortly after we left our church, i read a book at starbucks for the the first time and it was all i ever dreamed it would be. the fact that God could give me happiness in such a dark time is just astounding to me.

Halfway through August, we decided that the church situation wasn’t working anymore.  August 16th was our last Sunday, and although we knew pretty much as soon as church started that we were going to leave, we didn’t tell anyone until the next day.  Honestly, we were all so heartbroken that it felt like someone had died.  We were relieved to be rid of the stress, but we knew we’d miss it.

Right around the same time, I discovered Dan and Phil, and Sleeping at Last (mainly through his song ‘Saturn,’ which, coincidentally [or not], just came on in my Amazon Music Library).  (Then I discovered this Captain America fanvid, which I still cry over regularly.)  Coping with the church stuff meant (besides the obvious prayer and regular conversations with my family) binge-watching Dan and Phil, random movies (and TV shows like Monk), studying a ton, and listening to a lot of music.  And basically doing whatever I could to get my mind off it.

Notable blog posts: ‘the beauty of life.

September

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look i’m covering up my ugly beach hair!  (jk my fingers were unintentionally in the way.)  (meh.)

My family needed a break from all of the drama (or an official end of the church drama and the beginning of our family’s new life), so we bumped our beach trip to the beginning of the month, instead of later, when we usually did it.  And it was relaxing and fulfilling and amazing and we all had such a good time.  I read five books in that week and it was beautiful.

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9/1/15. half intended, half coincidental, FULLY AWESOME.

September was also notable for me and my siblings because it was the month my we started reading the Harry Potter books.  A lot came out of this (good things and bad things), and it’s interesting to note that this happened right after we left our church.  (Although it’s not related at ALL, it’s almost a symbol of everything we were going through at that time – being more free in Christ and dwelling less on the things we can’t do as Christians and more on the things we get to do as Christians.)

Also, a friend introduced James to Twenty One Pilots, who introduced it to my dad, who introduced it to me, who introduced it to Jenna.  And now the four of us are hooked.  😄

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feelin’ 22.

My best friend started a relationship with her boyfriend, which changed a few things in our relationship.  Not bad things… just different.

We planned an awesome 22nd birthday for my sister Katie with some of our new friends and old friends, and it was fantastic.

Probably the most exciting thing that happened that month was the fact that most of my family left to go to vacations and conferences, leaving my dad, me, and two of my siblings home alone for a week (and then my dad left, leaving me in charge of my siblings).  Needless to say, we had a blast.  What happens when Ashley’s in charge… will probably never happen again because starting a movie at 1am after watching a stupid movie sounds great but doesn’t end well for anyone involved.

Notable blog posts: ‘on convictions (and harry potter).‘ (More like an essay than a blog post… nevertheless, I am proud of it.)

October

October was a slightly more chill month than the last previous months.  We visited a few churches, did some school, and mainly just tried to lay low.  No more drama, if we could help it.

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me and the three children i babysat.  we had SO much fun together (even though my smile looks totally fake).

Later that month, I went with my mom and dad to Florida, where they were going to help out at the next WIT marriage conference and I was going to babysit some of the counselors’ children.  I dropped them off near the airport, met one of my “charges,” and drove three hours to a house to meet the other two children.  Four days later, I drove three hours back, met my parents, and drove the seven-hour drive back to my house.  It was pretty insane.  And very adult.

Notable blog posts: My first book review

November

November was a little more stressful, but that’s due to school and other stuff, such as Mom and Dad’s new ministry.  We jokingly say that they traded one ministry for another, but it’s the truth.  Almost as soon as we left our church, they had couples coming to them for help with their marriage.  Soon they were meeting with people they didn’t even know.  (I think we’ve counted seventeen couples total.)  We’re doing a marriage study at our house every Friday night and it’s been going well!

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my siblings and i got to put up my grandparents’ christmas tree on thanksgiving day, and this is still one of my favorite pictures i’ve taken this year.

We’ve also really enjoyed seeing what our community of believers is doing, and have visited a lot of neat churches.  We’re content to just keep visiting, though, and don’t really feel the need to join one.

I also started becoming obsessed with Hamilton during this month, which was a good and a bad thing.  : P  No regrets!

Despite my best friend’s relationship status, I realized sometime this month (or during October or even earlier) that I didn’t feel the need to be in a relationship.  That was an incredible feeling for me because I’ve always struggled with that area of my life – feeling like I’m not complete without someone.  But I am!  At the WIT conference, I was reminded that I’m complete in Christ and I don’t need a boyfriend to fulfill me.  (This feeling drifted away a bit during the holidays, but it’s since returned even stronger and I’m so grateful that I’m finally satisfied in Christ.)

Notable blog posts: ‘currently,’ my thoughts on God’s Not Dead 2, my top five favorite Christian films (which is Important because I’ve been wanting to do this post for a while but have never been able to narrow down my list), and my thoughts on the Captain America: Civil War trailer (which is also Important, for obvious reasons).  (I also wrote about being thankful when it’s hard, and got a lot of very sweet encouraging comments, which made me even MORE thankful, so thank you!)

December

Ahh, yes.  Now we come to the end of the year.  From family drama to friend drama to normal holiday drama, this month has been insane.  My best friend broke up with her boyfriend (which eventually caused our first fight [which I totally started]), and a few other friendships are rocky.  (Speaking of, this is the first year I’ve ever had a fight with one of my friends, first time I ever felt genuine disgust over someone I know personally {nobody who reads this blog – don’t worry : )}, and one of the first times I’ve ever heard something awful said about me behind my back.  All within a few months.  So… yay for firsts and yay for this year and YAY FOR NEXT YEAR.)

Moving on to slightly happier things, earlier this month, I developed my first crush in a while, which was… interesting.  (And speaking of firsts, it was the first time I ever told anyone about who I was crushing on.)

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this is the picture i posted on instagram on my birthday.  because it was this baby’s birthday, too.

Also, I turned 21.  : )  Full disclosure (and for anyone who’s wondering), I tried champagne on my birthday (and disliked it), and my first drink at a bar (at my mom’s insistence) was sweet tea.  So… yeah.  Pretty good indication of how my “legal” life will go.  NO WORRIES THERE.  😄

I thought my friends had forgotten about my birthday or didn’t care because everybody was busy and couldn’t do anything with me, BUT LO AND BEHOLD, they had planned me a SURPRISE PARTY.  (I have the best friends ever, guys.)  It was book-themed, and all of the food were references to all of my fandoms, and everybody gave me books, and I had just THE BEST TIME.  I could write an entire post about it, but you probably don’t want to hear it.  : P

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ALL OF MY FRIENDS CAME AND IT WAS SO MUCH FUN.

 

(I did tell all of my friends that I couldn’t have imagined that at my 21st birthday I’d be wearing skinny jeans and eating food mentioned in books like the Hunger Games trilogy and Anne of Green Gables and Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series… which is still weird to me, but mostly because it shows how much I’ve changed in the past few years and how far I’ve come since being that annoyingly works-based Christian I was even three years ago.  Incredible.)  (And I could write an entire post about that, too, but you probably don’t want to hear it, either.)

And then Christmas happened and I got many lovely things (including books and clothes) and gave many lovely things (including books and clothes), and my siblings found out we’re GOING TO DISNEY IN FEBRUARY HUZZAH (MAGIC POWERS).  This is exciting for obvious reasons PLUS the fact that I haven’t been since I was six, so yeah.  WAHOO.

Notable blog posts: my Christmastime Is Here blog series, a post about my birthday and reviewing my ‘21 before 21‘ list, and hello oh look oops I’m a Star Wars fan now.

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So… now that it’s December 31st and the year is finally over, I’m left thinking about how INSANELY QUICKLY this year went by, but also how insanely slowly it did, too.  I spent so much of this year stressing out about stuff (friendships, church, school), and not enough time being content with just living in the moment and seeing the beauty of life.

This year, I’ve become a little more observant.  I’ve always tried to think the best of people, and since that slipped me up earlier this year, I’ve tried to look at people more realistically.  Maybe it’s made me more cynical, too, but I think it’s changed me for the better.  I know that there’s more to people than what meets the eye, and that there’s more to people than they’ll ever tell you.  Everyone has secrets (and everyone has regrets).

I think next year I’d like to learn how to love people more, how to love life more, and, most importantly, how to love God more.  My relationship with Him has been really rocky this year, and I’d like to go back to my first love, now that a lot of the distractions are gone.  I feel like the beginning of 2016 will be a lot of rebuilding for me, especially where my relationship with God is concerned.  I’ve changed a lot over the past year, and I don’t want to lose sight of Him in the midst of all of the changes.  (I saw something on Tumblr that said, “2015 was my character development year which means 2016 is strictly action and story progression and i don’t know about you but i’m excited” and I feel like I relate to that a lot.)

Because of this, my verse for the year is one that has always been one of my favorites.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORDand on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

I feel like, in the middle of everything that’s gone on in the past year, I’ve lost my love for Christ.  I want to regain it in the coming year.  : )

And that was my 2015.

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continuing the tradition of year-end bathroom selfies with pachelbel.  : )