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

I’m Not Ready

Tomorrow I get to marry my best friend. Tomorrow a new chapter will begin to unfold. Tomorrow I will get a new last name. Tomorrow everything changes.

This year-long engagement has been a a blessed one, a journey that the two of us will always look back on with nothing but smiles. The question we have been getting the most lately is “are you ready?”. We know that when they ask this they are asking about whether our favors are done, his tux is picked up, etc. We smile and nod and tell them everything they want to hear.

But you know what the truth is?
We aren’t ready. Not even close.

Marriage isn’t something that you just gear up for. Marriage isn’t about one day, it’s about a lifetime. You can do all the premarital counseling and read all the books in the world, but you still will never be ready. One moment you’re cutting cake and dancing with your friends and family, and the next you find yourselves alone in a new home asking yourself what you’re supposed to do now.

As strange as it sounds, that “what now” moment is probably what I’m most excited for. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. There will be ups and downs, good days and bad days. But the beauty of it is that you get to embark on this imperfect journey together. This man I’m marrying is God’s provision for me. How special is that? Probably one of the most wonderful gifts there is. Today’s society sets so many standards for the “perfect marriage” and tells us that if we aren’t happy we probably married the wrong person. Society tells us that divorce is an easy fix. Society is wrong.

There will be arguments and disappointment, but from that will come learning and growth. Of course I’m not ready to be married. How can I ever be ready for something I haven’t experienced? That being said, what I am ready for is to see God’s plan for us start to unfold one day at a time. Our prayer for our marriage is that we always remember to keep God at the center of it, and that others will be able to see His love in us.

I’m excited,nervous, anxious, and overjoyed all at once. The one thing I’m not is ready. The cool thing about that is that it means I still have so much to learn, and tomorrow I get to start learning with my best friend. Knowing that is what will make tomorrow the best day of my life.

I Matured Too Quickly

While growing up I often heard people say about me that I was in too much of a hurry to mature.  In some ways that statement is true, but the implications of it are certainly false. 

The first time I heard someone tell me that I was trying to grow up too fast I was pretty offended.  In my mind, they were implying that I was constantly unsatisfied with my current state and was in a rush to leave my childhood and everything that came with it behind me.  I would think of that “Thirteen Going on Thirty” movie and would be absolutely disgusted with the idea that someone might suggest I was behaving as the dreadful, ungrateful girl in that movie did.  Now – being nineteen years old, engaged, and already beginning my career – I can see how someone on the outside looking in might come to the conclusion that I’m rushing into adulthood much too quickly.  However, I would have to disagree.  I can act as silly, be as good at any video game, and can be as entertained by any Disney movie just as much as any eight-year-old child. To me there was never childhood and adulthood, there was no “real world”.  To me, there is just life and how we choose to live it. 

Growing up, I was placed in some situations that required me to mature a lot faster than most kids my age.  God took those not-so-great circumstances that I was placed in and used them to do amazing things in my life and to help me grow as a person, and I don’t regret a single thing that I have been through.  This doesn’t mean that at the age of eight or twelve I suddenly had the wisdom and sophistication of a forty-year old.  It just means that at an early age I learned that some things were more important than others.  To learn that lesson at the young age that I did in a world that thrives on superficial ideals did wonders for me, and I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today if God hadn’t placed the obstacles in my life that he did.  Another important aspect of my way of thinking is the way that my parents raised me.  I am blessed to have two amazing, strong, and hard-working parents who have always taught my siblings and I that the world doesn’t owe us anything.  If we want something, we have to work for it because nothing in life worth having comes easy.  This is something that I wish more parents emphasized, and if I ever have children years (and I mean YEARS) down the road, this is something that I certainly would want them to know.  I am a part of what some refer to as the “Selfie Generation”, a generation of individuals so caught up in themselves and much more interested in what the world has to offer to them as opposed to what they can offer to the world.  If my parents didn’t raise me the way they did, I would be a very different person.

Now, if you’re still with me you’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with my original point.  The easy answer is that age is just a number.  However, I’ve never been a fan of that phrase nor do I like to take the easy way out, so allow me to explain.  There are plenty of thirty-year-olds who have the maturity of a fifteen-year-old and the work ethic of a sloth, and there are plenty of teenagers who have maturity beyond their years and are some of the hardest workers you will ever meet.  I was never chasing adulthood.  I was never under any illusion that once I reached a certain age I would be satisfied.  I wasn’t drawn to the idea of any particular number, I was drawn to the idea of working hard to get the things I wanted.  I was longing after being the amazing people that my parents have turned out to be.  So in some ways those people that told me I wanted so badly to grow up were right.  But as I actually have grown, and continue to do so every day, I realize how instead of being offended by that statement, I should be proud of it.  Three days ago I was drawing pictures on the fogged up windshield of my car.  Today, I got my eighth badge in Pokémon Black.  Tomorrow, I’m going to get up early for work, and then go straight from there to school.  To me, childhood doesn’t end at a set age, and adulthood doesn’t pick up where childhood left off.  You don’t wake up one day and prance out of bed with the profound realization that you are now a part of the “real world” , as if to imply that everything you experienced until then wasn’t worth while.  There is just life and how we choose to live it.  I have always wanted to grow as a person.  No one truly ever is completely grown, we are all growing and maturing every day.  Some faster than others, and that’s okay.  There is no shame to be had in wanting to mature, and there is no shame to be had in still being able to dream the way a child does. 

The author M.J. Croan said it best when he said, “Maturity is when your world opens up and you realize that you are not the center of it.”  If that is the case then yes, I do wish to be mature.  I wish to be very mature indeed.