Life Update and Latest Projects

I have been absent from the blogging world the past few months, and I apologize for that.  With two jobs, being a full time student, and figuring out life as a newlywed it’s easy to forget to make time for the things you love to do.  However, my semester has come to a close and I am looking forward to a summer that is going to be packed with some fun trips and a couple new projects I am working on.

First things first, I promise to blog more often this summer.  However, I am probably going to start focusing in more on living a happy, healthy lifestyle.  It’s been done a number of times, I know.  The thing is thought that I am not a certified trainer, fitness model, pro chef, or anything else you might picture when you think of someone who runs a health blog.  I am someone who has lost 20 pounds since the new year entirely on their own without any fad diets or intense workout schedules.  So my blog would focus primarily on helping others who have busy lives similar to mine and showing them how to stay healthy and happy in spite of the madness.

Second, I am VERY excited to announce that I have been asked to be part of a new, local nonprofit called W.E.L.L., which stands for Women’s Education Leadership League.  I will be running their social media, and am looking forward to watching them grow.  When I say we are a new nonprofit, I mean we just started this past Monday.  So please check out our webpage at well4women.org.  You can also find us on Facebook, twitter, and instagram @well4women.  I will be re-blogging their recent post explaining who they are and what their mission is, so please give that a read and let me know what you think!

I’m excited for all of these changes and hope that you all are gearing up for an incredible summer as well!

-SM

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These Four Things

My name is Stephanie Maria Martin.

I was born on June 11, 1994.

I have brown eyes and brown hair.

These are facts.  These are the things that I have always known to be true about myself and that will never change.  But beyond this, there is so much I have left to discover about who I am.

I don’t know what I will have for dinner next Tuesday.

I don’t know what my strengths are.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I don’t know what my purpose in life is.

I don’t know when I’ll take my last breath.

There have been many days that I have found myself in tears over some of these facts.  I have a love-hate relationship with surprises, and uncertainty drains me.  One day I will think I have it all figured out, and then a split second later I realize how wrong I am.

It hasn’t taken me long to learn that I can do all the planning and worrying  that I want, but none of it will matter.  I can plan for the worst and hope for the best, but what good does that really do?  Realizing how little is under my control has been one of the hardest things for me to swallow.  I like to think that I live in present, yet sleepless nights and constant doubts prove otherwise.

There is indeed so much I don’t know about myself, and about the future. But there are some really important truths that, after a lot of time, I now know.

I am unique.

I have a purpose.

I am not a mistake.

I am so, so loved.

It took me far too long to realize these four things, and I’m not so sure that I always believe them to be true.  However, I know that while there is very little I can control, I can always choose to be happy.  I can choose to believe these things.  And that’s exactly what I will do.

I will repeat these truths to myself every day for as long as it takes for me to believe them, even if that means I will be doing it until the day I die.

And I hope that if you read this, you will do the same.

Because in a world that is constantly telling us who we should be, and as we constantly struggle to put the pieces together to figure out who we actually are, these four things will remain the same.

You are so loved.

-SM

Falling For Myself

I have never been the type to be fully comfortable in my own skin.  There has always been a laundry list of things that I would love to change about my appearance tucked away in the back of my mind.  Whenever I’m having a rough day I can recite the things I dislike about myself as readily as if I were being asked to recite the alphabet.  My almost non-existent shoulders, my lazy eye, my nose, my not-so-white teeth, my round face, my thick and often unmanageable hair….

The list goes on and on.

I have also never been the type to like to admit that I have insecurities.  But then I guess no one is.  I hide my insecurities under a smile and makeup, hoping that if I do it just right it will somehow imitate the confidence I seem to have lost so long ago.  It’s gone on this way for a few years now, and it could probably go on for a few years longer.  But what way is that to live?  Who wants to live in fear of mirrors and transparency their entire life?  I make money telling young adults that they cannot live this way, yet I have made it a habit myself.  I have become a hypocrite, and coming to that realization was so incredibly hard to swallow.

I have been my greatest enemy, constantly letting the whispers and expectations of society fill my ears until they get to my head and the lies dance around in my mind.  I let myself lose control over my self image, and in doing so I let the idea of confidence fade away until it was nothing but a nice yet unattainable concept.

It was time to go to war with myself.

When I look in the mirror and feel the urge to look away, I stare myself down instead.  I dare myself to think a negative thought so that I can shut it down and replace it with the truth I have been denying myself: that I am enough.  When I am afraid to look someone in the eye for the fear that they might see right through me, I instead silently dare them to look away first and make sure that I flash them a smile (after all, I’ve always had a brilliant smile).

It isn’t easy to reverse the negative, false image of myself that my mind has so generously created for me.  But it’s something I have to do, and something I will continue to strive to do every day of my life.  I owe it to myself.  If I choose to wear lipstick, it is for myself.  If I decide to wear no makeup and wear clothes that are dangerously on the border of not matching, I will smile because I know I’m doing it for me.  Maybe it’s selfish, and that’s okay.  Because if I can’t be happy with who I am, if I can’t look in the mirror and like what I see, then I’m doing something wrong.

If we as individuals cannot learn to be kind to ourselves and appreciate the things that make us unique, if we are unable to fall in love with ourselves all over again every day, then how could we ever ask or expect that of anyone else?  Or even more importantly, how can we give that kind of love and acceptance to someone else if we deny ourselves it?

Treat others the way you would want to be treated, but also remember to treat yourself the way you would want others to treat you.

-SM

Finding Your Tuesday

It started with the usual suspects: a few glances at the time only to roll back over for a few more minutes of sleep, the joy of knowing I did not have to work, and the inevitable surge of shame as I realized it was almost ten and I was still in bed.

Until today this has been my typical Tuesday morning routine, except usually I can be found sleeping in long past ten.  I’m the type of person who likes to think they can do everything until eventually the exhaustion catches up to me and I just want to go into hibernation  for the next few months.  After taking on two jobs, school, and various Bible study group it became clear to me that I needed more free time.  This realization resulted in me deciding to take Tuesday’s off (unless I get called in to one of my jobs) and spending those Tuesday’s sleeping well into the afternoon and then loafing around the apartment not doing much of anything.

This brings us to this morning, which started off the same was as the past weeks have.  Yet, as I prepared to snooze a little longer I couldn’t help but think that this was not what I should be doing.  Somewhere between my hectic schedule and weekly snoozefests I lost myself.  I was going through the motions of life without really doing anything unique.  In taking on everything I should be doing, I gave up ever doing any of the things I wanted to be doing.  Tuesdays are the one day out of the entire week that I have to myself  to do whatever I desire, and here I’ve been letting them slip by.  This morning as I lied among some dangerously comfortable pillows with the promise of a new, beautiful day hiding behind my curtains I knew that it was time for a change.  I lost myself somewhere between the craziness of everyday life, and I was determined to find myself again.

I decided that I wanted to spend today doing all of the things I always tell myself I don’t have time to do.  I put on an extremely cute outfit for no particular reason.  I gathered my belongings and headed to my local Barnes & Noble for a change of weekday scenery.  It was there with the help of Taylor Swift and a delicious, free nonfat pumpkin spice latte (thanks Brittany!) that I was able to finish a lot of homework that would have otherwise ended up getting done at the last possible minute.  I could have done more, but I was determined to make today about doing what  I wanted to, not what I needed to.

I went to Target and bought new leggings, for no occasion or reason other than the fact that I wanted leggings.  Well, that and they were only eight dollars.  I came home, changed, put on more Taylor Swift, and decided to bake pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies for no particular reason (they taste better than they look, I promise).photo(2)

You better believe that I was singing and dancing around my kitchen in the process.

I repainted my nails.  I did the dishes.  I did all of the things I wanted to do but often found myself convinced that it just wasn’t a good use of my time.  Somewhere in all of this I found myself.  I found the joy in simplicity that I used to pride myself on.  Needless to say, I’m going to make an effort to make sure this is not a one time thing.

I think that it is so easy for us to get caught up in routine.  Don’t get me wrong, I love working and value my education, but I feel like when we let our schedules dictate our happiness we have forgotten what joy really is.  Especially for us ladies, there is so much preasure on us to be perfect.  Whether we strive to be the perfect wife, the perfect mom, or maybe just the perfect person, we are all facing expectations placed on us by the world and even by ourselves.  It’s imporatnt that we allow ourselves time to simply do the things we want to do.  Because of today, I do believe that I am starting fall for a new favorite day of the week.

I realize that not everyone can take a day out of their work week to dedicate to themselves, but that’s okay.  Maybe it could be during the weekend. Perhaps it could even be half of a day per week, or a few days a month.

Regardless, I challenge you to do something this week that you have been wanting to do but have been telling yourself you are too busy to do.  It doesn’t have to be something big.  It can be something as simple as sipping a latte with your favorite music playing in the background.  Whatever it is though, I hope you are able to do it with happiness and contentment, knowing there is nothing else you want to do.

I hope that in this crazy journey called life, you are able to find your Tuesday.

You Are Enough

Dear Son/Daughter,

You are enough.

Plain and simple.

We live in a world that wants you to feel worthless.  Our society will constantly tell you that if you reach a little bit further or try a little harder you might finally reach the illusion of perfection.

Please believe me when I tell you that perfection is not something that can be attained.  We are imperfect people living in an flawed world.  But also believe me when I tell you that life does not have to be flawless to be wonderful.

If you are female you are constantly being fed the lies that you are not pretty enough, not feminine enough, not thin enough, not tall enough.  If you are male you are being told that you are not masculine enough, not tough enough, not strong enough.  Regardless of who you are you will be told that you are not smart enough, not cool enough, not outgoing enough.

You will be told that you are not enough.

One of my biggest fears is that you will believe these vile, loathsome lies.  However, I know that everyone will feel that they are not enough at some point.  It’s inevitable, and it absolutely breaks my heart to know that there will come a time when you will start to believe that you are less than enough.

You are enough. You are more than enough.  I want to speak this truth into your veins so that it flows throughout your being and is as real to you as the air that you breathe.

You are so worth loving simply because you exist.  You are beautiful because you are you.  There is no one else like you, and there never will be.  You can spend your whole life chasing after a perfect image that you will never reach.  Some people waste their days away trying to be something that they are told they should be but they never will be.  That kind of life can drive you mad.

The truth is that there are days when I feel that I’m not enough.  And there will be days when you feel that way too.  On those days we have two options.   We can choose to give in to society’s demands and make ourselves miserable trying to be something we simply were not made to be, or we can choose joy.

I hope you remember that nothing is worth it if you are not happy.

I hope you choose joy.

I hope you know that you are enough.  Because you will always be enough for me.

-SM

A Voiceless Generation

Today as I was scrolling through Facebook while killing some time before class I came across an article that sparked my interest.  I won’t say who wrote this article or what site it can be found on, as my goal is not to call anyone out or start any controversy, but I will say that after getting less than half way through it I was pretty disappointed.  The objective of this article was to advise young adults of mistakes they shouldn’t make in their 20’s.  Turning twenty this year, I thought that maybe I could learn something from this article.  To say I was wrong would be an understatement. 

There were a number of little things I disagreed with, but the one thing that really shocked me was when the author of the article stated that you should avoid falling in love in your twenties.  Here’s a sample of what I read:

Not only does it make you complacent with where you are in life, but it makes you boring.  When your business is at stake and your future is resting on your shoulders, the last thing you need is to be bogged down by an insecure lover rushing you home.

The author goes on to write about testing limits and how just because some of your friends are doing it, you shouldn’t fall into the “trap of a relationship”.  So I naturally jumped to three possible conclusions: 1.) This guy has had a really bad relationship, 2.)This guy watches too many sitcoms, or 3.) This guy just isn’t ready for a serious relationship. 

If the author of this article is not in a place in his life where he wants to settle down and have a serious relationship that’s totally okay.  Good for him!  However, what’s not okay is saying that if you fall in love in your 20’s you’re falling into a trap.  Curious to see if I was the only one that was bothered by this I skipped the rest of the article and read the comments, and saw I was not the only one who was less than satisfied with what looked to be a promising post.  A lot of the comments complained about it being sexist, which I guess in a way it could be, but my reason behind writing this post is not fueled by any feminist angst.  It runs just a bit deeper than that.

My parents got married when my dad was 24.  My in-laws got married when they were in their twenties.  My fiancé and I know plenty of couples who are married and in their twenties.  In fact, every Saturday night I attend a group that is exclusively for couples who are engaged or have been married seven years or less, and believe it or not a good number of these couples were married in their twenties.  You know what’s even crazier?  I’m engaged and I’m only nineteen!  So obviously, all of these relationships I’ve listed are boring and restrictive to one or both spouses, right?

Wrong.  So, very wrong. 

Not everyone should get married in their twenties.  Not everyone wants to get married in their twenties.  So they shouldn’t, and that’s okay.  But what isn’t okay is to write an article that attempts to act as a guideline for twenty-something’s everywhere.  In fact, it’s not okay to write anything that attempts to speak on behalf of anyone.  My concern isn’t just with this article alone, my concern is with my generation letting others speak for them.  Every day on Facebook I see at least one link to an article or blog post with a title along the lines of “10 things short girls hate”  or “8 questions people of mixed ethnicity are tired of hearing”.  People my about my age and younger gobble these things up, they can’t get enough of them.  I’m just as guilty as anyone else, because obviously I was reading this article about twenty year olds for something. Every time I see a post like this that I think I might relate to, I read it. Yet, I’ve found that while these articles can sometimes be entertaining, and on occasion have something I can relate to in them, more often than not I find myself disagreeing with the author. 

So why do we read this stuff?  The bottom line is that people like knowing that they are not alone.  We as individuals like knowing that there are people we can relate to and that our way of thinking isn’t totally wrong.  We need some type of reassurance, and these articles give us exactly the sense of belonging we’re looking for.  At first this isn’t really a problem, it’s perfectly natural.  But what we don’t realize (what I didn’t realize until about two hours ago) is that what these types of posts and articles do is allow someone else to speak for us.  And when we do that, we start to lose are sense of individuality and with that we lose our voice.  We see a post that kinda-sorta relates to us and are so quick to click like, share, reblog, etc. that we don’t even realize that we are letting someone else speak for us.  And this really boggles my mind because my generation, “Generation Y”, claims to be all about individuality and being different. On top of that, we are blessed with so much technology that allows us to do just that: to put our thoughts out there, give our opinions, and speak for ourselves. So why let someone else speak for us?

The author of the article I mentioned at the beginning of this post is not a bad writer. I’m sure that a lot of people probably agree with the things he said. I’m not trying to say that he’s a bad person because he shared his opinion, I applaud him for that. What I want more than anything is for people to have the courage to speak for themselves. To open up and share their ideas and thoughts with the world in a way that is unique to them. Sure, it’s a lot more comfortable and way easier to sit back and let someone else do the talking for us. But do you want to be comfortable, or do you want to be heard?

Finding Real Confidence

At one point or another in our lives, we all develop some sort of insecurity.  When people hear the word “insecure”, they often associate it in their mind with someone being self-conscious of their appearance, whether that be their height, weight, facial features, hair, etc.  Because of this, I often thought that I somehow was invincible to the curse of insecurity.  I’ve been blessed enough that I’ve always been happy with my appearance.  I always figured that if I didn’t like my hair I could cut it, if I didn’t like my height I could wear heels, or if I didn’t like my weight I could exercise more and eat healthier.  However, insecurities run a whole lot deeper than physical appearance.

Merriam-Webster defines the word “insecure” as the state of being “not confident or sure”.  In other words, being insecure means that you are uncertain of that area of your life.  After analyzing this word and trying to figure out how it applies to my life, the answer hit me square in the face via Facebook.  While I may be confident about my physical appearance, I have pretty much zero confidence when it comes to who I am inside.  Now, I know exactly who I am. I know my strengths and weaknesses, so that’s not what I am “uncertain” of.  My big insecurity is whether or not I belong, or whether or not people will accept or like me.  A lot of the time I meet people and they think that I’m really shy or quiet, but as time goes on and they spend more and more time with my they learn that I’m actually not quiet at all.  I’m perfectly okay with talking to strangers whether it be at school or somewhere like the store because chances are I’m not expecting to form some sort of long relationship with them, therefore it doesn’t matter to me what they think of my personality.  The big issue is when I’m trying to form meaningful, lasting relationships.  New friends, family friends, family members I don’t see too often, etc.  Those are usually the situations in which my anxiety really kicks in and I just want to hide in a corner and disappear.  Once I came to terms with the fact that this is in fact a form of insecurity, I have to admit that I felt pretty embarrassed.  I felt like a high school freshman who’s afraid of not fitting in with the cool kids.  But after thinking about it harder, I realized that it really is nothing to be ashamed of.  It’s not as though I want to fit in a worldly way, I’m simply afraid of not being able to form healthy relationships because of the fear that others will not find my personality as dazzling as I would like them to. 

Admittedly, I’m still pretty embarrassed to even be writing about this.  As a human, I’d much rather broadcast my strengths and positive aspects.  So, in an effort to make this a positive post, I did some thinking.  Following that thinking, I did some Biblical research (my favorite kind), and what I found really helped me.  First, I analyzed my issue and narrowed it down to one simple statement: I am afraid of feeling as though I don’t belong when it comes to _____.  I could finish that sentence with a couple different things (friends, family, etc.), so I left it open ended.  Then I did my oh-so-scholarly research by going to Bing and literally typing word for word “what does the Bible say about belonging”.  In the blink of an eye (what a time to be alive, am I right?) my computer was filled with various verses and explanations.  A lot of them had to do with how we shouldn’t desire to fit in with the world or to partake with worldly things, which while that is always excellent advice, I didn’t feel it was applicable to my current lack of self-esteem.  One verse that stood out was this one:

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

John 6:37

I felt some instant relief after reading this, because it serves as a reminder that Jesus has accepted me with all of my sins, flaws, and weird quirks, and that should be all that matters.  Then, it occurred to me that there was something I read in my Bible study this morning that went along with this.  At one in the afternoon, that seven o’clock Bible study seemed like forever ago, but after some searching I found what I was looking for, and the best part was that it was in a footnote that I myself had written this morning.  There at the bottom of my page in my first-grade like handwriting I saw, “God is greater than our self-condemnation.”  The verse I had written this in reference to was the following:

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” -1 John 3:20-21

To me, this verse was saying that no matter what I may not like about myself or what I have done or will do wrong, I have to remember that if God, who is much greater than us, can forgive, love, and accept me through it all, then I need to be able to see past my flaws.  Once I’m able to do that, that’s when I will be able to have true confidence.  I shouldn’t be so concerned about whether or not people accept me.  When I do this, I cause myself to become closed off and don’t allow others to see the light of God in me.  My main purpose in life should be to serve the Lord in everything that I do, and one of the ways I can do this is to open myself up and greet others with the love and grace that God has shown me. 

Whenever we open ourselves up to others we run the risk of being judged or disliked.  Not everyone is going to like us, and that’s okay.  That is to be expected.  Our goal in life shouldn’t be to win people over to satisfy our own selfish needs, it should be to allow other to see God work through us.  If we are allowing others to see Him at work in us, then we are doing his will, and that is all that matters.

I wish that I could say that all of this is going to allow me to open up and be myself 100% of the time without any speck of fear, but I know that wouldn’t be a realistic expectation.  The next time I’m thrust into one of those situations in which I tend to become withdrawn and quiet my anxiety will definitely kick in and the negative self talk telling me that I’m not good enough will be going on in my head.  However, the difference is that now I know how to handle it, and instead of letting those doubts and insecurities take away from who I am, I’m going to utilize the confidence I have in God’s love for me to overcome those insecurities.  It won’t be easy, it’s something that I’ll probably have to struggle with for the rest of my life, but the good news is that it’s not something I have to face alone.

Whatever your insecurity might be, whether it’s regarding who you are externally or internally, know that it doesn’t have to define who you are or how you go about your life.  Focus on those strengths and traits that you love about yourself and really work on embracing those, and once you do that those flaws that used to seem so huge to you will no longer have control over how you live your life.

 

Wake Up Call

I’ve always liked to think of myself as someone who sees the glass half full.  However, if I’m being honest I have yet to find the plus side of being stuck in traffic on my way to work or school, or the benefits of having to wait in a ridiculously long line at the store just to purchase one or two items.  It’s easy for me to say that I make the most out of every situation because I like to focus on the things that I know I’m good at being optimistic about.  Yet, there are so many tiny things in my every day life that truthfully don’t matter, but they still manage to annoy me beyond belief. 

One of the most annoying sounds to me is the sound of an alarm clock.  I had the idea that maybe if I switched from an obnoxious, beeping alarm clock to a song I like on my phone that it would make the waking up process easier.  After putting this theory to test I found that instead of growing fonder of being awoken, I actually started to dislike the tune I picked to wake me up.  Of course, it’s not actually the sounds of the alarm  that bothers me, but more accurately it’s what it stands for:  Another rude awakening to surely be followed by the monotony of my typical weekday routine.  Life is so hard.  Poor me.  

 A couple days ago my alarm went off, but I didn’t look at it the same way.  In that moment an idea struck me.  I heard a little voice in the back of my head telling me, “This sound is one of the most miraculous and beautiful sounds you could possibly be hearing right now.  That sound represents the fact that you have been blessed enough to wake up today.  That you have been blessed enough to live to see another day.”  Something I’ve never been very good at is listening to God, but in that moment I knew that he was speaking to me, and it was such a humbling experience.  I didn’t have to wake up that morning, or this morning, and tomorrow certainly isn’t guaranteed.  Yet, that alarm went off, signaling the start of another day. 

Life is such a beautiful gift, one that we often take for granted as we  forget how precious it is.  Suddenly, that alarm clock isn’t such a horrible sound.  I’m not saying that I’m going to wake up every morning and dance around my room as birds help me get ready, but I’m definitely going to look at it differently.  I know that come Monday I’m probably going to still be bothered by the traffic, the loads of work that have accumulated over the weekend, and many other annoyances that are sure to arise, but I’m also going to challenge myself to find the good in those situations.  Optimism is defined as seeing the good in every situation.  Not just the ones that are easy for us to deal with. 

What’s your alarm clock?  What is that one thing that always makes your heart sink even the slightest bit whenever you hear it, see it, etc.?  Sometimes things are hard, life happens and we find ourselves discouraged and exhausted by our daily routines.  But take comfort in the fact that things could always be worse. 

Monday morning our weekend will be over.  We will be thrust back into our daily routines of work, school, or whatever else we have going on in our individual lives.  Things might not go as smoothly as possible and your day might not go as planned.  Life is going to test you, but the cool thing is that no matter what situation you find yourself in, you always have the power to decide how you respond.

 

Some Thoughts for the New Year

I have never really been a fan of making New Year’s resolutions.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that it is extremely important to set and achieve goals for yourself.  However, I don’t think that you should have to wait until the beginning of a New Year to do so.  I think that we should be setting new mini-goals for ourselves every day.  The key thing to remember though is that they must be practical.  One thing that I am really guilty of is setting these huge goals for myself (be healthier, be a better person, etc.), but having no plan in place to carry them out. I think this is part of the reason that I am against New Year’s resolutions. Every year on January 1st I’m up and at ’em with these grand ideas of success, change, and contentment. And then it’s January 2nd. And then it’s January 3rd. And then it’s December 31st and I find myself far from that change and success I was looking forward to. I’m sure many of you can relate. So what do we do to make sure that this New Year’s Eve we will be standing with our heads held high and genuine smiles on our faces? Here are some ideas:

1. Have a plan
I cannot emphasize this enough. You can have some of the greatest ideas in the world, but if you don’t have a plan in place then there is absolutely no way that you will succeed. I’m not saying that you need to have an elaborate blueprint of the year to come. What I’m suggesting is something along the lines of if you’re going to lose weight, how are you going to do it? If you’re going to spend more time with your family, what will that consist of? Being too vague with your goals can often cause them to seem too overwhelming or cause them to be very easily forgotten.

2. Take it day by day
This is somewhat along the lines of my previous suggestion, but it’s a little more specific than that. Choose a goal that you know you can work towards every day. You’ll be surprised how when you focus on the individual days instead of months, you start to see progress in ways you wouldn’t expect at first.

3. Be realistic
The thing about goals is that in order to be considered a goal, they have to be achievable. If you’re setting a goal for yourself that you know deep down inside is not going to happen then that is considered a fantasy. Instead of saying you are going to completely stop doing something, eating something, etc., maybe you could instead say that you are going to do it less. And on the flip side of that, instead of saying you’re going to do something everyday simply make an effort to do whatever it is you want to do more. You will be amazed at how much easier it is to gradually do something as opposed to trying to do it all at once. For example, part of my New Year’s resolution last year was to eat healthier. A smaller part of that was to eat less fast food. By the end of the year I hadn’t had fast food in months, and the idea of eating it did not sound appetizing at all. It never really crossed my mind that I was going to stop eating fast food, especially because for so long I ate way too much of it. But I consistently ate less and less and sure enough it happened on its own.

4. Be positive
Nobody is perfect. I’m not, you’re not, nobody is. So if one day things don’t go as well as you had hoped, or you find yourself doubting your goals it’s okay. There are 365 days in a year. You can mess up 180 of those days, and you will still have been successful a more than half of the year. That alone is something to celebrate. You have to be patient with yourself. Remember that you are setting these goals and making these resolutions for yourself, not for anyone else. So don’t let anyone discourage you, and especially don’t discourage yourself! Nothing is going to happen overnight. Never give up.

5.Reward yourself
This in my opinion is the most important part. It also happens to be my favorite. Have a big reward in mind for yourself at the end of the year or whenever you feel that you have finally met one of your big goals. But even more important than that is to reward yourself along the way. Celebrate the little victories. Five pounds gone may not be the thirty you were hoping for, but it is five pounds closer than you were before! Take the time to acknowledge the progress you have made and use it to motivate yourself to keep going.

Like I said at the beginning of this all, I don’t enjoy making resolutions specifically for the New Year. That being said, I really wanted to write this blog post and how hypocritical of me would it be to be giving advice on goals and resolutions when I don’t even have any of my own? So my big resolution is to be a better person. When I put it like that it probably sounds incredibly cliché. So more specifically, I just want to continue to mature both spiritually and mentally. I’m getting married this year, and as fun and swell as that sounds, marriage is not something to take lightly. It’s a lifelong commitment. I’ve always been mature for my age, but I definitely have a lot of work to do in terms of becoming a wife. My specific goals are to continue to grow closer to the Lord, be wiser financially, take better care of myself, and learn to cook something besides scrambled eggs. Of course there are so many more things I need to work on with all of the changes I have coming up this year, but those are more on the private side. More than anything, I guess my prayer for myself this year is to always try to think and act with the grace, patience, and love of a Godly woman. (Thankfully, I have a Godly woman or two to look up too and help me along the way!)

I really do believe that if you allow it to be, this year could be the new best year of your life. All you have to do is believe it too.