🎉 Joie de Vivre – An Exuberant Enjoyment of Life ❤️

🎉 Joie de Vivre – An Exuberant Enjoyment of Life ❤️

Have you noticed that “the truths” of nutrition and health seem to change every day? Coffee’s good for you again. Eggs are in. No, wait, they’re out. Just kidding, we don’t know. And has anyone figured out coconut oil? It’s either magical, or it’s poison.

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Consider trends in lifestyle diets and weight-loss diets as well. High-protein, low-carb diets were quite popular in recent years (Atkins, South Beach, Zone, etc.); then high-fat, moderate protein, and even-lower-carb took the stage (Keto), and then high-carb (some forms of Vegan, Vegetarian) came into the spotlight again. People seem to have attained their best bodies or best lives on all of these types of diets, never to look back. None of these ways of eating are “bad” (though dietitians do generally advise a diet high in veggies and fruits, that provides a good balance of all 3 macronutrients, and you should definitely supplement correctly if you cut out any food groups) – but none of these are the only healthy way to eat, either. Scientists’ “unbiased research” and personal success stories surrounding certain restrictive diets can be so convincing – and so often it makes folks just wanna jump on the bandwagon real quick. I’ve been there.

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However… most dietitians will agree that one-size-fits-all diets shouldn’t be a thing, because we all legitimately have different needs. Nutritional genomics is really up-and-coming, and we’re just now discovering the magnitude of the impact that genetics has on the dietary patterns each body will thrive off of. Every single body functions a little bit differently – we may react differently to the same foods, and digest food at different speeds. We also have different goals, likes and dislikes, schedules, budgets, and lives. We can each find our healthy diet that works for us. It may even evolve and change over time, as our bodies and our lives do. So, it’s hard to pin ourselves to a diet named by one or two words, because there’s so much more to it than that.

We as humans love to have something to belong to and to follow – we were created that way. We also love to feel like we’re doing life right. Eating food that makes us feel good and good about ourselves can be a real positive – but we should certainly never feel that diet is a moral issue or something to take sides on, because according to my God, it’s not. As for Christians, diet should also never become a cause we champion more than Christ’s.

It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you, but what comes out – from your heart. (Mark 7:15)

Don’t worry about what you eat, drink, or wear, says the Lord, for he is your good Father who knows everything you need. (Matthew 6:31)

“I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15)

If you’ve ever struggled with feelings of inadequacy affected by what you eat or how you look, you might have trouble believing that these statements are as true for you as they are for others. I’m telling you firsthand that they’re absolutely as true, real, and powerful as every other word of the Lord. He cares less about what you eat, and more about how you act. It matters more how much Jesus you take in daily – how much we worship, look for Him in our daily lives and the Bible, and give our hearts to Him in prayer – than how many grams and what type of protein we ingest. Though nutrition has the power to affect us, spiritual things are infinitely more important.

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve discovered this timeless foundation of dietary advice that has been there for us in God’s word for centuries. Though the world’s thoughts may waver, and though the science of nutrition is always evolving, some things can remain the same. If we can nail these down, we’ll have a filter to use on any new ideas that come at us.

If you’re not into what you’ve read so far, you’re still gonna want to hang with me. I’m serious. These truths are reassuring and helpful, no matter what you believe. They have the power to change the way you view nourishment. I’ve experienced the benefits of this advice to such an extent that I’m sure I’ll never again rely on a restrictive dietary pattern.

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  • 1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whatever you eat, drink, or do – do it all to the Glory of God. Food can easily become an attention-thief if we give it too much importance. My best tips are to enjoy food, enjoy how it enhances fellowship with others, and do your best to eat amounts that fuel you well without holding you back. Let go a bit on worrying about types of foods, and eat with a thankful and positive spirit. Food or the lack of food shouldn’t be an excuse to be grumpy or upset – not at yourself, not at the waitress, not at life.
  • Romans 14:15 – Be considerate of others by not making diet a big issue. In the early church, they worried about whether or not to take food from others because they might not know if it had been offered to idol gods. This is rarely our problem today, however, the guidance Paul gives to those struggling with that issue is still helpful for us. Don’t let something as trivial as food choices negatively affect your relationships, or your witness. Whether this means relaxing your diet a bit on certain occasions and enjoying whatever’s offered at a restaurant or somebody’s home, or, on the flipside, not indulging in a drink if dining with someone who alcohol presents a struggle for, or simply skipping the complaints about feeling fat or full – our friends/family deserve more concern than our food. You never know what others are dealing with – disordered eating, insecurity, depression, addiction – or how your hesitancy toward or overvaluing of food might affect them. By all means, treat yourself well – but consider others, too. Nothing we do is done in a vacuum.
  • Luke 12:16-21 – Don’t spend your life storing up grain (in our terms, this might relate to building up the perfect diet or body). Don’t get me wrong, preparation is good. Bettering ourselves is good. We just need to keep in mind that we never know when our last day will come. We don’t wanna have wasted our life on storing up things that’ll be gone! Focus more on the eternal. 💪🏼
  • Genesis 3:6 – Don’t let the temptation of food or drink keep you from something better. Remember that apple? She couldn’t look past it. When we become fixated on one thing, and that thing’s not God, it can really hurt us.
  • Luke 22:19 – When we eat, remember Him. Jesus refers to bread and wine here, but honestly every meal is an opportunity to remember what he did for us and who he is in our lives. So, let’s eat with gratitude! Remember that God sanctifies all foods that are received with thanksgiving.
  • Philippians 4:12 – We can find contentment in Christ whether full or hungry. 🙌🏼
  • Matthew 4:4 – Man doesn’t live on bread alone, but on every word that God speaks. God nurtures our souls through his word, which contains an invisible sort of provision for us. When Jesus said that we don’t live on bread alone, he was 40 days fasted. Sort of makes it a little more believable, right?
  • In regard to food restrictions on moral terms – Honey, meat, cheese, fish, bread, and wine (in moderation) were all consumed and positively noted in the bible, in too many verses for me list – try Proverbs 24:13, 1 Kings, 17:6, and John 21:13 to start. If Jesus wasn’t too good for ’em… neither am I.

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And my personal favorite verses on this subject:

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. Ps. 18:16

He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. Ps. 18:19

If you have ever worried yourself to death about what you ate – because you couldn’t control it and felt guilty, or because you became obsessed about it and controlled it too much, God can set you free from that. It’s not for us to stress over. When we stress over it, our world gets small – and He wants it to be big! I can personally say that God has drawn me out of deep waters of anxiety and worry concerning many things, including what I eat. He continually brings me out into a spacious place where he reorders priorities in my mind – giving me freedom and the ability to make better choices for myself. He also reaches down from on high on the regular and takes hold of me when I need it. And it just so happens that I need it a lot, so I get a lot of love and “hugs.”

And you can too. All you have to do is ask.

xoxo 😘

Rae

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Completion.

Completion.

There’s how you think you’re going to feel when you finish your 4 years… and then there’s how you actually feel. I always thought I’d be so relieved after running at Troy was done, because as much as I love my team and the sport… it’s not easy.

I’m proud of everything that the Lord and my coaches and teachers helped me to accomplish, I’m proud of my big letter, and I’m proud of the braver person I have become! I know that I’m ready to move on to grad school, and to help others in areas that I am passionate about.

I thought I was ready to move on. Checking out of the dorm for the last time was SO liberating. But then, y’all, I cried all the way out of Troy city limits. I’m going to miss everything and everyone so much.

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My beautiful women’s team.
Don’t ever be mad at yourself for crying “good” tears. Sometimes, they come to remind us how invested we actually were in an experience. I love Troy, I loved my 4 years, and I wouldn’t trade any second for the world. My friends will always be my friends, and we’ll never be far apart in heart. Especially with the house party app 😉 Troy fam, if you haven’t yet… get the app. It’s gonna make our lives better!

What do you do when you’ve achieved your goals? Naturally, celebrate and then set new ones. It’s important to set new goals for every stage in your life. Even if they’re big, or vague, we all just need to have direction. Whether you’ve reached a fitness goal, or a life goal, or a career goal, it’s important to continue your forward momentum. Of course, take rest for yourself. Then, think, what do I want the next phase of my life to look like? What can I do to make it better?

It could be staying active or encouraging others more. As for me, I definitely want to continue to pursue a positive mindset, encourage others, develop my cooking skills (goodbye, dining hall!), and put even more into my studies. I also want to explore some other areas of fitness besides running (though I’ll never be able to resist a good run). Right now, I’m also enjoying having time with my family, who I missed like crazy. That’s always important!

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Anna & I at her Honors Day. Always match your siblings, it’s fun.
Feeling like the world’s all in front of you is exactly how you should feel – because no matter what your situation, it is. There are always ways to make every single day better. Our lives will never be perfect – but there are always goals we can set and qualities we can aspire toward.

Never give up. Be innovative. And, be you.

This post wouldn’t be complete without me sharing today’s breakfast with y’all, because it was bomb.

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Double Berry Almond Butter Toast ^^

  • 2 pc. Sara Lee Delightful Multigrain Bread
  • 1 1/3 tbsp Publix creamy almond butter
  • 1 tsp Polaner Strawberry All-fruit spread
  • 1 handful fresh blueberries
  • Coconut oil spray

I just sprayed each piece of this awesome fluffy bread with some coconut oil spray (just enough to coat), and put it in the oven on broil with the oven light on. After a few minutes, it’s golden brown (gotta keep your eye on it!) and I pulled it out and spread almond butter on each piece. I added strawberry all-fruit to one, and some amazing fresh blueberries to the other. This was perfect with a glass full of ice and Stok cold-brew coffee.

Starting your day well helps you tackle those goals you’re setting! 😉

Be blessed,

Rae

10 Mind Hacks for Your Brightest Life 💡

10 Mind Hacks for Your Brightest Life 💡

Lately I’ve been accomplishing a lot. And by lately, I mean in the past few days. I tried to think about what I tweaked, and what has lead to this amazing thing I’d sum up as “me feeling extra confident, good about life, and being caught up on everything.” So, here’s the mindset changes that I’ve noticed, along with some other stuff that I feel is essential to success.

10 Mind Hacks for Your Brightest Life

10. Look for the good. And if you find none, make some.

Laugh when you want to cry. Make fun out of mundane tasks. Look for joy in unexpected places. And if there just is none, find it within at the thought that you are living, breathing, and doing. Manage to crack a smile as you finish a race, and you’ll understand the feeling I’m talking about.

9. Draw inspiration from others.

There’s something good you can learn from just about everyone. (There are also negative things you can learn from everyone, so try to pick out the positive.) Need somewhere easy to start? Try this guy, C.L. Shepherd. Former NFL player who shared his inspiring life story with our Troy Athletics family last night. His motto – well, he has many, but “good, better, best,” and “swim upstream” stuck with me.

8. Reach for what you want.

Don’t ever let anybody tell you what you can or can’t achieve. There is no shame in trying. And if you’re gonna try, give it your BEST! Only then will you know what you’re truly capable of. I ran a 75-second 400 at the end of my workout today! And you know what – I felt great! I encourage you to take a risk today. You know, the good kind.

7. Form good habits.

Ideas – wake up earlier. Eat a balanced breakfast full of carbs, protein, and healthy fat. Read a devotional in the morning. Take a full water bottle to class and drink it before you leave. Commit to going to to the gym at the same time each day, find a running buddy, or join an exercise group. Stretch for 10 minutes a day. Drink hot tea at night. Those things you “wish you had time to do?” Try doing them once, and see how it feels. I bet you can find ways to implement them as a regular part of your life. Boom, habit formed. Once something’s a part of your routine, it’s much easier to make it happen. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” (quote: Will Durant; concept: Aristotle).

6. Own what you do, and make it yours.

We own track and field. We’re proud of our team. No one brings the same element to practice, though – we each contribute uniquely to the team atmosphere. A lot of the girls are encouraging, but they each have their own special way. A lot of the guys are funny, but they each have their own variety of humor. Remember that you are special – own what you do, be proud of it, and be proud of your unique contribution. Never doubt your worth. Even if you feel small some days, you are always essential in the eyes of God. He chose to put you exactly where you are in this world with a unique combination of skills and traits and characteristics, for a purpose.

5. Don’t be afraid of spontaneity.

Make a beach trip! Try a new healthy food, or a new ice cream. Stay out past your bedtime (on occasion). Make new friends. Be bold. Some of the best times in life come from just stepping out of your normal routine. Like I said, routines are good – but they need shaking up sometimes.

4. Cultivate resilience.

So many things in life require just hanging on. Not giving up. I can’t begin to explain to you the benefits that participating in an endurance sport has brought to my life. It’s taught me that so much can be said for hanging in there – and hanging in there well. Don’t slow down – really keep running. When the semester gets long, and you’ve got spring fever, study harder! Be the one who people describe as a hard worker. The one who never gives up. It’s one of the best traits you can have, and the best part is that anyone can cultivate it. You don’t even have to run (it helps though).

3. Look outward.

If you’re having self-esteem problems, one of the quickest fixes I’ve found is to take your focus off of yourself. Self-pity is rooted in self-focus, so let’s kill it at the root. Somebody needs your encouragement today, and the devil would love to use self-focus to hold you back. You get to choose – reach out, and you’ll help yourself as well as others. Text a friend, call a family member, or give a compliment. Build an others-focused life, and your own happiness will increase.

2. Take time for you.

Yes, love others, but don’t be ruled by serving or pleasing them. Rest is healthy and necessary for us, even though we might not get any praise for it. I encourage you to spend time alone every day – let yourself have room to think, without anyone else’s input. Do the things you love – take time for a movie you love, or a bubble bath, or even just a 10-minute yoga session. Treat yourself well – like you would treat someone you love. When you allow yourself to rest, you’ll be in a better place to love others during the day!

–> 1. Jesus. Making Him more of a priority as of late has lead to a resurgence of all of these other 10 in my life.

Personally have found that I fail in every area without allowing the power of Christ to actively work in my life. We are powerless alone. Man may plot his course, but it is the Lord that makes him able to complete it. We are hard wired to need Him – that’s the point. That’s why you can never do it on your own – so that you will not forget that He is God.

Seeking God in prayer, reading His word, and worshipping Him daily are my best tips for a bright life. With Easter right around the corner, it’s a good time to remember the goodness of our Savior, who took the fall for our sins! Though we fail, get up again, fail, get up again (in life, much like in a fitness journey) – he lived a perfect life and died as the sacrifice for our shortcomings. He rose from the grave, and if we simply trust and accept His sacrifice, we rise up too! Not only do we gain eternal life in heaven, but we are able to pray to the Father and become more like Jesus every day we are on earth. He begins using us for His cause – spreading His message – and increases our joy immensely as well.

There’s so much you can do in life – so much you can improve, so many people you can touch – but it’s all irrelevant in light of what Jesus did for us. The ultimate sacrifice deserves the ultimate love, respect, and loyalty. Join me in meditating on that for just 5 minutes every night this week! Let’s fall asleep thinking not about the worries of tomorrow, but about the goodness of a Savior who died to give us eternal life in heaven with Him.

Much love,

Rae

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On Goals, and How They Change Everything.

Preface: ^^ The above salad was constructed by me from a couple of different stations at Troy’s dining hall. Proof you can eat yummy and healthy anywhere with a little effort!

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Prov. 29:18

Having a vision for what you want to do in the world, and seeing how the now affects reaching your goals, makes all the difference in the world. I remember when I first started the classes in my major field of study, exercise science and nutrition – it absolutely changed the way I studied because I wanted to learn the information. I had a passion for it, finally – I loved it. Even the hard stuff, I pushed through it because of an ultimate goal. I know that my God-given purpose involves influencing the lives of others through health and nutrition, so I have a deep drive to learn as much as I can in that field.

In sport, also, having a vision for what you want to accomplish, goals for the season, and a plan for each week will change the way you wake up. It’ll even affect the attitude you show up with each day. This week, I’m taking on my first race in a while after an injury and a long period of rebuilding. Being a senior, I have to approach this Friday aware that this could very well be my last race in college. As hard as it is mentally to not be afraid of failing, I have to go out there wanting to achieve my goal (being ultimately proud of the effort I put in).  My plan for achieving this is keeping my eyes on the girl in front of me, and not giving up, because I want to shine and make my team proud. I’m going to remember the workout I did today, and how I pushed myself, and just try to do that again the best I can for 1 mile!

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So ready.

Vision is a concept that I’ve learned in my time at Church of the Highlands. God has a plan for each of our lives, and He’s put us in specific circumstances with specific character traits and skills and talents, in order to accomplish good for His kingdom. (For more on this, check out churchofthehighlands.com!) In your daily life, having a vision changes the order in which you do things. If you have an ultimate end point you want to reach, you can change your priorities to get you there! You can say no to what won’t help you, and yes to what will. Without things you want to accomplish – small and large goals – it’s hard to get moving on anything. You’ll do what’s comfortable.

Being uncomfortable is definitely something that I, and most of us, struggle with. However, some of the greatest blessings of my life have come through suffering! What about the half-marathon I ran? What about the intense training I underwent to become a cheerleader? That changed me, but it was HARD (difficulty is personal – think about things that were hard for you, emotionally, mentally, or physically). But I don’t regret the hard work. Your biggest regrets are gonna come from the things you didn’t do. The laziness or fear or insecurity that held you back wins. And we’re so unkind and unfair to ourselves when we let those things win. Whether it’s lifting weights, pushing through a tough run or workout, or a race, the pain is usually worth it.

Let me relate this to diet, because this is one of the biggest areas in my life where I see the benefits of vision, goals, and a plan. When I’ve got a race coming up, it’s so much more crucial to make healthy diet choices, because I know how I want to feel, look, and perform on the line. I know my choices matter, so I’m watching them. I also know that I’ll probably have some almond milk ice cream (yummiest stuff on earth) the weekend after the race! When you reach goals, though, you have to regroup and set new ones, or else you’ll stay there with the ice cream… metaphorically speaking. That new goal for me becomes the next week of training, feeling my best, and looking my best when summer comes! Everybody loves swimsuit season 😉 But seriously, it can serve as a really good motivator to make healthy choices, because you know that those choices are going to show. What if we made choices we were proud of all the time? Just, for ourselves? I think that’d feel really good.

To reach goals, all we need is forward momentum. We don’t need perfection. One bathroom stop on a road trip doesn’t make you give up on reaching your destination, does it? Of course not. A wrong turn shouldn’t, either. No matter what your goals – bettering your health, feeling good day to day, high self-efficacy (feeling good about yourself your ability to make the choices you want), athletic performance, or a figure competition – you reach them one choice at a time. Treat yourself like you’d treat a close friend who messed up – with sympathy, love, and support.

My final tip is to find others who inspire you! I follow lots of fit ladies on youtube, and that really inspires me to make healthy choices and set higher goals for myself. My favorite Registered Dietitian/ WNBF Bikini Pro, Kara Corey, has recently started a challenge called DRIVE in which she’s helping her whole fan base to work as a community and encourage each other towards their fitness and health goals. Her recent videos served as a catalyst for this blog post. And though our goals are different, watching her talk about her goals and her drive really encouraged me to reach for mine.

Encourage someone today! Life is sweeter when you do.

Rae

Let go.

Let go.

Life can easily become a battle for control. 

So many things, people, issues, addictions, and fears would love to rule your life. Don’t let ’em.

This is where you’d expect me to tell you to take control for yourself. I’m not, and here’s why – I’ve realized that we are unable to control life. We’d love to, but we simply aren’t capable. The harder I fight for control, the more life I’ll squeeze out of myself and those around me.

Solution? Surrender control to the only one who holds the universe. Trust that you cannot make your life anything without his help. Instead of taking control, take charge and choose your God. What you let rule is ultimately what you worship, so even letting yourself rule is a recipe for disaster. Take charge, not control.

This applies to all areas of life. When I run, I take charge of my legs, and I choose to push hard – but I cannot control my genetic potential or current ability, nor can I control fluke injuries. In school, I can choose how I prepare – but I cannot control the questions on the test. I cannot assure that nothing will be difficult for me, and I cannot build a shield big enough to protect me from all harm or discomfort.

I can choose how I treat others, but I cannot control how much others like me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come to terms with that? To stop worrying about what every move looks like through others’ eyes? To embrace the fact that it’s impossible to be everyone’s favorite? Some of you are there… please teach me your ways 😉

Bringing it back to the focus of this blog, you don’t really want control over your diet. Control feels good – but it quickly becomes consuming. What we eat seems like an easy thing to control, and on a deep level this appeals to us when we feel out of control in other areas. I had an unfortunate day recently, and I felt like I just couldn’t win – so I overate. Darn if I couldn’t control the happiness of my circumstances, I could control the happiness of my tummy. Guess what? It didn’t work. I ended up full and… still sad. It’s like how girls in movies break out the ice cream when a guy does them wrong – it might provide temporary pleasure, and that’s fine, but it never fixes the problem. On the flipside, control issues are a common contributor to eating disorders and disordered eating. This is why disorder commonly springs up around a life change – parents splitting up, a teenager entering high school or moving off to college, or coming out of a bad break-up. The individual thinks, “I know- my body and my food intake is something I can control. If it’s under my control, it’ll be perfect, and if my body/diet is perfect, life will be perfect.” From the outside we can see how skewed this thinking is, but from the inside it’s a blurry haze. Don’t let yourself get trapped in there.
What does taking charge, not control/ taking hold of choice in my diet mean for me? 

  • Thinking calmly and rationally about what different foods will do for my body, what I need at the particular moment, and whether/what food will do me good. 
  • Choosing to look at food as a blessing and as nourishment, not as something to manipulate and restrict, or idolize and abuse. Not giving it power over me, and not expecting myself to have power over it.
  • Giving it all to God, asking Him to help me make my choices, because I know he cares about even the smallest things in my life.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Matt. 6:25

“Live carefree with God; He is most careful with you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear, for you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Luke 12:17

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s perfect peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” Phil 4:6-7

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever should believe in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Always keep the big picture in mind. When your life gets small and laser-focused and you don’t want to loosen your grip, remember that God’s ready and waiting to take over – and he has a much bigger hand and a stronger grip and a better plan than any of us do.

Stay bright,

Rae

Be still.

Be still.

There are rough days when it seems impossible to stay on the wagon of life. Whatever it might be for you… School/work seems too hard. You feel dumb. Maybe you’re under a cloud of depression and you don’t know why. Maybe you feel unable to control your expressions of anger, fear, or insecurity. Maybe the world is getting you down.

Maybe it’s you that’s getting you down. It seems like that should be easy to fix, right? When we experience self-doubt, though, it can feel impossible to escape. We don’t believe in our own ability to help ourselves out. That’s the problem. This can be related to any area of life – sometimes it’s everything at the same time. Even the pursuit of a good diet, or kindness, or personal achievement can add stress to our lives and make us feel inadequate when we don’t live up to our own high standards.

When you come to that place – we’ll call it the storm – where your emotions are just falling apart, and you don’t know where to go… here’s a plan of action that will save your life. Courtesy of Herbert Cooper, message at churchofthehighlands.com.

  1. Stay on the Ship. Just keep going. Stay where you are. Breathe, trust, seek God.
  2. Be Still and Chill. Take a time out. Rest, and ditch worry and doubt. You know why?
  3. Praise God in the Storm. It’s not up to you to handle. He will get you there.

God can take you to your destination on broken pieces.

No matter what worries you. No matter how bad you’ve messed up. No matter how other people make you feel or how they insult you. No matter how little you believe in yourself. You can believe in Him.

When in doubt: Put on your fuzzy jacket, get some good lunch, and watch a sermon.

Response to The Daily Post: Prompt of the day for 3/2/17 – Doubt.

Best Dressed

Best Dressed

For the first few years of college, I really enjoyed the freedom of getting to wear whatever I wanted (that was athletic wear to class, all day, every day). I think it was actually good for me. We had a stricter dress code in high school, and I never really got to feel comfy at school. It wasn’t the dress code’s fault… but I just felt so much pressure to look “right” every day.

A lot of it, I put on myself, because I never felt like I measured up. I never, ever skipped mascara, and my outfit had to follow all the school rules but still make me look perfect. On a day when I didn’t feel super skinny, or my hair didn’t fall just right, you’d better believe it was even harder to get out of the house. You’d never be able to count all the mornings I spent stressing in front of the mirror, changing one more time, running to the car, and wondering “what will people think of me today?” all the way to school.

Enough re-living that. I really embraced RAE again in college, and I realized I can be proud of who I am without so much smoke and mirrors. I love not having to squeeze into stiff, tight jeans if its just not my best day. I love not having to worry about getting carded in the hall because my shirt is 5 fingers below my collarbone instead of 4. It’s amazing to be able to use my own judgement on what is and isn’t appropriate.

This year, I feel like I’ve realized something huge – Being proud of who I am allows me to take care in my appearance. It can actually be fun picking out a nice outfit and trying on new eyeshadow colors. Instead of trying to impress others, now I like dressing cute because it shows how I feel on the inside. It shows that I feel good about myself, and it makes me feel empowered to accomplish a lot and make other peoples lives better.

makeup

You know what else? Dressing cute doesn’t mean you have to dress “up” every day. I feel good when I wear things that make me smile! I read a book during Christmas break on the art of tidying – the author insists that you only need things in your closet that spark joy when you pick them up. You know what really sparks joy? My otter socks that my friend Naomi got me for our team sock-swap. The snowman sweatshirt my “might-as-well-be-family” friend Tiffany got me for Christmas this year, along with the matching fuzzy socks and my sweater leggings. I pick things I like no matter if anyone’s gonna see them or not, because now I’m dressing for me. When I honor my appearance, I make better choices (diet is better, more school work gets done… I even clean more).

There’s also this thing we have called the Trojan Way – It involves dressing appropriately for the occasion. Like you’re proud of yourself. Like you go to Troy University, and you love it. Like you’re happy and you’re going to go big places in life. Each occasion calls for something different – maybe a dress, maybe jeans, maybe tights – but you ultimately get to decide each day when you wake up what you want to look like. And… even if you don’t get to choose what you wear, you get to own it with a smile. It really is the most beautiful thing you can wear – and it took me a long time to actually believe that was true.

And you know what’s behind a really beautiful smile? An honest one, that lasts? Confidence in something greater than you. Because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll never be enough. But when you remember that you’re chosen, pursued, and loved by the God of the universe – worth dying for (thank you, Jesus!) – that’s when you have the ability to truly shine and sustain it for the rest of your life.

Much love,

Rae