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

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

Rotisserie Chicken Salad Recipe

So, a few months ago I was looking for a quick and relatively healthy dinner recipe when I came across a recipe for the greatest salad I have ever had. Fast forward to this morning. As I sat on my couch trying to plan out dinners for the next couple weeks, this particular salad came to mine. I knew I had found it on Pinterest, but apparently I didn’t have the sense to “pin” or “like” it. My husband and I both remembered most of the ingredients and were able to recreate it. I’m not going to take credit for this recipe, but I am going to post it. Mostly so that I don’t lose it again, and also so that any fellow salad lovers have something new to try.

Anyone that reads my blog regularly knows that it is far from a cooking blog. I have never written out a recipe before, and while making this salad tonight we eyed the ingredients as opposed to taking exact measurements. So I apologize ahead of time if my estimates are off, but chances are that as long as you know how many people you are trying to feed you’ll be able to judge how much of each ingredient to put in.

Ingredients:
3 romaine lettuce hearts
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 rotisserie chicken
6 strips turkey bacon
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic (or to taste)
crushed black pepper to taste
Croutons

Prep:
Wash, dry, and tear lettuce hearts into smaller pieces.
Wash both grape tomatoes and sliced mushrooms and cut into halves to make bite sized pieces.
Cook bacon and then cut the strips into small bits.
For the rotisserie chicken, pull the chicken off of the bone, and then tear the meat apart until you reach a desired size.
Combine the lettuce, chicken, bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms in a large bowl. Add in the garlic, pepper, and croutons. (It’s up to you what kind of croutons you use, or if you use them at all. I personally prefer the butter & garlic flavored ones. )
Toss salad until it is thoroughly mixed. Add dressing if you would like to, although I personally prefer this particular salad without dressing.
Serve with garlic bread, sourdough, or whatever you like!

These are the approximate measurements we used for our dinner tonight (keep in mind it was just the two of us) and we ended up with plenty of leftovers. Like I said, I’m new to all of this cooking and recipe business, so I apologize if this recipe and it’s instructions don’t make much sense. But mostly, I just wanted to make sure I had it written down somewhere that I could be sure not to lose it again.
If you do end up trying this recipe, and I really hope you do, let me know what you think or if there is anything you did differently!

Cheers!
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.

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?

A Letter to You

I’ve been thinking about you lately.

To be honest, I’m always thinking about you. You may be tucked away in the back of my mind, but there are always things that show up in every day life that act as if their sole to remind me that you are there.

I don’t believe in death the way it is defined. It took me a while to realize what it means to truly die. Just because your body is gone, doesn’t mean that you have to be. As long as people continue to remember you, then your spirit is still alive.

I know that you are still here with me. You are the ray of light emerging from the clouds for just a moment on a cloudy day. You are the smile from a stranger, the breeze that whispers around me.

The day that God took you home I didn’t cry. We were coming to see you one last time, but we were too late. You knew we were there though. I know you did.

I didn’t cry the next day, or the day after that. I felt silly crying, I was only twelve and there were so many people there that knew you longer. They were the ones that earned the right to cry. I didn’t cry until five years later. You see, I was trying to move on, and in doing so I was also trying to forget you.

I finally realized that I was starting to lose you for good. I forgot what your hand writing looked like, I forgot what your laugh sounded like. You were becoming dead to me. You were such a remarkable person, you deserved better than that. I locked myself in the bathroom, turned on the faucet so I wouldn’t be heard, and I cried.

You told me once that when bad things happen to us, we can have one long good cry about it, but then we have to pick ourselves up and carry on. So that’s what I did.

I miss you everyday. I wish you could see us now. So much has changed. But in some ways, so many things are still the same. It’s hard not to imagine what it would be like if you were here.

I had never really felt hate until the day cancer took you away from us. For the longest time I was so angry about it and couldn’t comprehend why it had to claim the life of someone like you.

As I’ve grown closer to The Lord, I know that everything happens for a reason, and you knew that too. Through all of it, you demonstrated such admirable faith and peace that still inspires me to this day.

I rode a Ferris wheel this weekend, and it immediately brought me back to when I was just nine years old sitting next to you. We sat there high above everyone else and talked about everything there was to talk about. Up there with you I was invincible. I never wanted to come down.

It’s memories like that one that are proof that you’re still here with me. I can’t see you, but I can feel you. And I know that you’re safe now.I want you to know that I love you. We all do, and even though we might not admit it, we are thinking of you.

I love you, and I’ll be seeing you.

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.

 

Making Time for What Matters

When I was living in Fresno for my first year of college, I found myself not being as close to the Lord as I wanted to be.  I wasn’t doing my daily devotionals and I was not attending church.  When I decided to take a semester off of school (with the exception of one online class) to focus on work and figuring out exactly who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, I was making sure that I spent some time in the Lord’s word daily and made an effort to attend church regularly.  This past week I began my first semester at Modesto Junior College as a full time student, and right away I caught myself slipping on my time with God.  I caught myself using the excuse “I just don’t have time today” on days I didn’t do my Bible study, and this weekend I was so burnt out and exhausted from the long and busy week I had that I decided I was too physically exhausted to make it to church.

Then today this thought struck me: how lucky are we that God never decides that He doesn’t have time for us?  Could you imagine going to Him in a time of need only to have Him respond with, “Sorry, I’ve been really busy this week and am pretty worn out so I’m going to have to get back to you later.”  How blessed are we that no matter what, God will always be there for us?  I have been so immensely blessed in so many ways.  Every day I find a new reason to be thankful, so the least I could do is take time out of my day just to be alone with the Lord.  I’m not saying that not going to church makes you a bad Christian or even a bad person, and obviously God is still going to love me regardless of if I memorize all His scripture or not.  But if I can make time to watch football on Sunday, yet can’t make time to just sit and be with the Lord and give him thanks, isn’t there something wrong with that picture?

We live in such a fast-paced society, one where everyone is constantly on the go and so caught up in what they think needs to be done and what they want to do.  While obviously my education and work are important, the bottom line is that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the grace and love of God.   Yesterday my Niners suffered a devastating loss against Seattle for the NFC Championship.  I’m a very competitive person, and typically I tend to overreact about these things to the point where if someone were to walk into my house with no idea of what was going on, they would probably think I was in actual physical pain.  However, last night when it was clear what the outcome of the game was going to be I removed myself from the room and spent some time alone and really put thought into the situation.  Was it upsetting? Yes, of course.  Did it affect my well being?  I could probably get creative and find some way to make the argument that it does, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t.  I still have my family, my health, a roof over my head, and so much more.  Football didn’t give me those things, my loving Heavenly Father did.  And yet, I made time to put off my homework and studying to sit in front of my TV and be frustrated, but I was too tired to make the five minute drive down the street to church and give thanks.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?

As I’ve stated before, I’m not one for “New Years Resolutions”, I prefer to make goals as I see fit.  And after this weekend, it’s pretty clear to me that I need to get better at making time for what really matters.  Whether that be time with the Lord, my family, etc.  It’s so easy to make excuses and put things off.  But the fact of the matter is that my daily devotional takes up about thirty minutes of my twenty-four hour day.  That’s less than 4% of my day.  So as the year is still young I urge you to figure out what really matters in your life and make an effort to make time for that every day.  Everyone is different, and I know that what I wrote today won’t apply to everyone, and that’s okay.  But the bottom line is that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so never put something off with the excuse that you will get to it later, because you never know what could happen today.