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

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.

Because We Don’t Have Time

I haven’t written anything for a while, and to be honest, I had to try really hard to convince myself to write right now.  It’s easy to blame it on being too busy, because it’s definitely a hectic time of year for me.  However, I soon started to realize that being too busy was becoming less and less of a fact, and more of a convenient excuse.  It’s true, and it gives me a way out. Sounds like a win-win to me.

The truth of the matter is that I’m not too busy to write.  It’ll take me maybe fifteen minutes max to finish this post.  Yet, I tell myself that I don’t have the time to do it, or that there are more important things that need to be done.  I never really thought about why I find excuses to not do the things I love (partially because I never realized I was doing it), until I read the blog post of a friend of mine this morning.  Her post was about her passion, her absolute favorite thing to do, which is cooking.  As I was reading it I found myself thinking about how wonderful it was that she had something she was both extremely talented at and loved to do.  I caught myself thinking “I wish had something like that”.  Then I thought about this little blog I write on from time to time, and how I used to write nearly every day when I first started it, but now only submit a post every few months.  I love to write.  It’s one of the talents I know I have been blessed with. So, why do I never do it?  Sure, I’ve started a book or two and I run a couple blogs, but soon enough I start to pay less and less attention to them until they’re nothing more than unfinished pages and empty goals. 

Writing isn’t the only thing that I’ve quit on before I really got started.  My first love was music.  I played flute from the age of nine all the way through high school.  I taught myself how to play piano, and in high school I picked up three more instruments.  Yet, as soon as high school was over with it all came to a halt.  I stopped writing songs, the instruments in my house started to collect dust, and my music books were soon moved up to the attic.  I tell myself that the spark was gone.  That it was fun while it lasted, but that it’s not what I want to do anymore.  I tell myself that I just don’t have time.

It’s a cruel and vicious cycle that I have trapped myself in.  Whenever I get passionate about something that I might actually be good at, I run away from it.  I make excuses for myself and push it to the back of my mind.  I don’t think I’m the only person that does this.  Remember when we were little and people would ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up?  We didn’t limit ourselves to what we thought we would have time for or what seemed realistic, we set our goals high.  We were excited to grow up and be what we wanted to be.  How many of us are actually doing the things we said we would?  I bet not very many.  Now of course, we grow up and get a better feel for reality, and we do what we need to do to support ourselves and our families.  That’s okay.  What isn’t okay, is when we stop doing the things we love, the things that make us who we are, because we’re afraid of what will happen if we decide to make a commitment to it.  We become afraid of what will happen if we utilize our talents and try to make something come out of them.  Will people judge us for wasting our time?  Will we not be as good as it as we thought we were? Or even worse: what if we are even better at it than we thought?  What will we do then?  Surely we can’t dedicate any more time to a mere hobby.  After all, we have to work and run errands and do all of the important grown up things we’re supposed to do.  I’m the queen of making excuses to not do the things I love to do.  However, I think we’re not just letting ourselves down when we don’t utilize our talents.  We’re letting God down.  Every single person is blessed with their own unique abilities and qualities that make them who they are.  What if we’re given these talents because we need to learn how to make time for ourselves? Even scarier, what if we’re given these talents because they’re what we are meant to do? 

I’m not saying that I’m going to crank out a book within the next year and a blog post every day.  To be honest, I probably won’t ever write a book and there will definitely be days where I don’t write at all.  But, I’m going to make an effort to make time for myself.  To express myself in the best way I know how: through pen and paper (or, in this case, keyboard and screen).  I challenge you to do the same.  What makes you feel alive?  What’s something that you love to do, but maybe tell yourself you just don’t have time to?  I dare you to do it.  Time is only a barrier if we tell ourselves it is. 

 

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.

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.

 

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.

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.