A Letter to Younger Me

Dear Younger Me,

I just want you to know that there’s more for you in the world than you think right now. Life does extend farther than middle- and high-school, and you will do big, exciting things in your life. In fact, in a few years, you’ll probably forget about half of the things you thought were important.

I want you to feel good about yourself. I know that your bad-bangs-haircut seems like the absolute worst disaster in the world, but really, you’re fine. And by fine I mean completely OK. Hair grows back. No one cares what your hair looks like – and you’ll even learn to use a straightener the right way. 😉 Acne doesn’t exactly go away by the time you’re 18, but it does get a lot better. I know you hate them, but those braces are so worth it; you’ll be thankful for them when you get them off. By the way, being short and kind-of tiny can actually be a good thing sometimes, so don’t be self-conscious about it.

The Lizzie McGuire era will end eventually (I’m so sorry). But don’t worry, you’ll find new TV shows, and Hilary Duff doesn’t end up crazy. To add to this small heartbreak, times of getting free posters with movie soundtracks will go away too, but you’ll get past it. Remember Taylor Swift, the country singer? Well, she’s going to be way more famous and way less country in a few years – and you’ll get to see her in concert. I know you saw the Jonas Brothers, too, but…prepare yourself…they’ll break up eventually.

Just some advice: you really should be as fun around other people as you think you are when you sing karaoke in your room and video yourself like you’re on a music video. You have more talent than you think, so don’t be embarrassed. I see pure joy, and joy is nothing to be embarrassed about. Keep that happiness alive and share it with others; make sure they can see it, too.

Speaking of happiness, please stop texting so much – you sure are missing things. Contrary to popular belief, your dying phone battery won’t kill you. It only kills the phone. Not having internet on your phone is actually a good thing, considering you use the phone enough as it is. Your friends will still be your friends if you talk to them later, and it’s more beneficial to talk in real time. You’ll see big things happening and beautiful people around you if you would only look up.

Don’t post on Facebook about everything you do and everywhere you go. There’s actually going to be an app (a what?) called Timehop that will show you what you said eight years ago. You’ll probably embarrass yourself a little. But thanks for posting so many pictures, because, although some (read: most) of them are silly, they make for some great memories. You’ll look at them and smile, laugh, and cry because only you understand just how exciting every snapshot was in the moment. You’ll remember just how much you love each and every person in those photos.

Remember that life is short, and you don’t have time to take it for granted. Take more time to be thankful for the people and things around you. More time to thank God because He has given you this life. More time to love your surroundings deeply. Breathe it all in with appreciation before it passes by because it will go faster than you think.

Remember all those times you compared yourself to other people based on their grades or their status in the class? Or when you thought that being bad at math was the end of the world? Don’t you worry – you really don’t need Algebra or Trigonometry because you’ll end up a writer. (But don’t forget to thank your brother for helping you pass all the math). You may not ever know how to do an equation again, but at least you got through it.

Most of these things won’t matter once you get to college anyway. High school GPA is no big deal, and college is a lot of work but it will be a little easier because you get to do what you like. Plus, those people you compare yourself to? They struggle in their own ways, just like you. We’re all unique, and that is beautiful. You know those times you thought you would never amount to much? Plot twist: you already do. Listen to your parents when they tell you that. You’re smart, and you’re perfectly imperfect. God created you for a reason, and if you keep on working for Him, you’ll understand that better. Just keep doing your thing. Everything will be fine.

You’ll lose friends, and you’ll gain some. You’ll get to keep the best ones around. You’ll go through rough patches and drama, but it’s not the worst thing that could happen. Be careful about what you say or think, and don’t stay bitter when someone decides they want to hang out with another friend this time. Don’t stay sad when people decide you’re not the type of friend they want; sometimes people leave our lives for a reason, and it’s better for everyone. It’s OK to miss people, but it’s not OK to dwell on it. It will make sense in time. You’ll make countless new friends, and they will all care about you more than you know. All of your people and experiences will shape who you are.

I know you think your life is kind-of a mess at times (who doesn’t?), but you’ll get to go to Auburn University, and it’s going to be the best decision you’ve made in a long time. Just don’t forget to take care of yourself mentally and physically because a little TLC goes a long way.

You’ll meet people that you can open your heart to, people who want to do their best to follow God, people who love you for you and always will. You’ll date for a while, and then you’ll meet the love of your life. After you graduate in only four years you’ll marry him after three short months (seriously, it’s true). I know you thought that wouldn’t happen, but guess what? It absolutely will.

Don’t forget to pray often. It really can help the biggest of problems and the smallest of worries. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and confide in people – let them confide in you! Your friends and brothers and sisters in Christ are some of the greatest blessings God gave you. Don’t be too prideful to admit when you’re wrong; you don’t realize it now, but that’s actually a good thing to do. While you’re admitting your wrongs, don’t forget to give yourself grace and mercy. Before you can give it to anyone else, you have to learn to give it to yourself. Believe in yourself enough to take action when you need to – to help yourself and others, and to stand up for the cause of Christ. Everything is small in perspective to heaven.

Now I want to thank you.

Thank you for overcoming some of your small-but-big fears – like trying out for jazz band vocals a second time even though your cold messed up the first, and being section leader in band, even though you never thought you could be a leader; you really were a good influence. Like those two years you played tennis despite your insecurities and low ladder ranking – it was good for you. And when you went to Bible camp three states away so you could grow in the Lord. Never forget the time you decided to go to college four hours away from home because you just knew it would be good for you somehow.

Thank you for learning to come out of your shell a little bit by the time you graduated high school, and for being determined to keep letting go. Thank you for letting those college friends be close ones, for opening up to them and pouring out your heart over coffee or sushi or pizza, and letting them pour out theirs. Thank you for standing up to yourself and deciding when saying “no” was better than bringing yourself down – for understanding when enough was enough. Thank you getting over your stubbornness and pride and listening to God when you knew He was right all along.

Thank you for letting Him mold you in a way that only He can.

Believe it or not, life is going to work out beautifully. You won’t be perfect, but you’ll be enough. Just you wait.

With love,

Elizabeth Anne

 

 

 

 

 

I Got My Dream Job

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a marine biologist (what was I thinking? I’m not good at science). As I got a little older, I thought it would be cool to be a journalist in a big city, which morphed into just wanting to write.

By my transition from high school to college, I wanted to be wife and later a mom. I went through college, and eventually earned my Bachelor in English, but I didn’t feel like I fit anywhere; I was restless and thought what I was doing was pointless (deep down knowing it really wasn’t). There was never an academic niche I felt like I really fit in and had a passion for. I knew I could write, but I never thought I was getting anywhere with it. So I hoped and prayed I could have the “job” that I wanted. The one I didn’t always like admitting to people. The one I got funny looks for talking about.

I wanted to work from home. By that I mean be a homemaker and write in between, but it’s hard to do that if you’re a family of one, providing for yourself. So I continued school and my on-campus job, patiently waiting to see what opportunities would be opened to me. God has answered my prayers beautifully. He’s opened up doors for me that let me write, be what my husband needs, what my church needs, what my friends need, and what I need.

Two years ago I found a man that I fell in love with (actually, he found me). Here are our first photos together. 🙂

Thankfully, his job allows me to stay home and be his helper. To most people it’s an old-fashioned, unconventional job.  My husband goes to work Monday-Thursday, and I get to keep up our apartment, cook our dinners (or try to – still working on that one), and make time to help others when they need it. I get to be and feel useful.

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My husband is a forester. I have to share this precious picture of him before work Monday morning. I got to go with him part of the way to work because his work truck was in the shop.

God has allowed our relationship to grow in a beautiful way. It’s a way in which our lives aren’t rushed, and we can spend time growing together in Him. There’s not a better feeling than knowing I’m doing a job that God intended me to do (Genesis 2:18). I’m proud to have a job that can further His kingdom, one in which I get to respect, love, submit to, and work with my husband. Because I married such a loving man, it’s easy for me to submit to him. He doesn’t abuse his headship or leave me out of decisions. We’re equals in our relationship – equals with different and important jobs, and we both recognize this. We both recognize that we’re useful to each other equally. I’m thrilled to see this part of God’s plan working in my life.

Apart from my home life, I still get to write. I get to use my gift to share my life with others in an effort to encourage and inspire. I no longer have to squeeze this kind of writing into my schedule like I did in college, feeling guilty that I never had time in between classes and homework. Writing is something I get to make time for during my day, and it’s something I can do while still carrying out my  stay-at-home wife responsibilities.

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Wedding photo courtesy of Elles Photography

I’m not a mom yet, but one day I hope to be, and like my marriage relationship, I hope to be a mom who glorifies God. Because it’s all going to be part of my exciting, God-given, life-fulfilling job. I know it takes patience, and my job will always come with its own challenges, but I also know that I can have joy through those challenges with God in my life and Christ in my heart.

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good for those that love God, for those who are the called according to His purpose.


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Current Favorite: Journible

My focus drastically improves when I’m taking notes as I study. This goes for anything – school, homework, Bible study, you name it.

Almost two years ago, my parents got me a Proverbs Journible for Christmas. I’ll admit, I’m still working on this one Journible that I’ve had for so long. I have a bad habit of starting books that I never finish. But with more time on my hands, I’m enjoying spending more time with it.

What is a Journible?

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A Journible is a book used to copy scripture on the right side and take notes or answer thought questions on the left side. As stated in the front of the Journible, it was created by the 17:18 series, based on Deuteronomy 17 in which the king was told to acquire a copy of the law and hand-write it (Deuteronomy 17:18). The purpose was so that he would read it, learn to fear God, obey God’s commands, stay humble, not turn from the law, and teach his sons to serve in the kingdom after him (vv. 19, 20). Because of new research, educators are “discovering that students that physically write out their notes by hand have a much greater retention rate than simply hearing or visually reading the information.” Thus, the whole purpose of the Journible. This is so true and so helpful!

My Journible has a summary of Proverbs on the first of the lined pages that makes you familiar with the book before you start copying. Continuing through the Journible, you’ll find lined pages with verse numbers down the side of the right page (with enough room to copy the whole verse) and simple questions on the left that refer to the verses you’ve just copied. It looks like this:

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Why Do I Like Journibles So Much?

It’s a great way to simply read and study the Bible by itself, and it helps to keep me focused on what’s being said. I’ve noticed points and phrases that I never thought about before because I can slow down and look at every word. Part of the armor of God is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). The only way I will be able to wield the sword of the Spirit is if I study it and know it. It’s always a good day when I find a tool that’s going to help me do this more diligently, regularly, and with more understanding. That’s why I love the Journible! It does all of these things, and I’m thankful to the creators for being willing to make a tool that will help people study the Bible.

Where Can You Get One?

Like I said in my last post, mine came from CEI Bookstore in my hometown, but I’m sure you can find it on Amazon or at another book store! I believe most of the books of the Bible are included in the 17:18 Series. They’re definitely worth a try if you’re interested in digging into the Bible and spending time with God’s word.

Why Do I Blog?

I’ll start with the “don’ts.” I don’t blog because it’s the “in” thing to do. Although that’s convenient, I’m not being a fad-follower. I don’t blog simply because I want more likes on social media.I don’t blog because I have to. I don’t blog because I was asked to. Sure, that’s how I was introduced, but it has become far more than that.

I blog because words are the page are often easier than speaking words into the air. If you asked me to explain all of this in the form of a speech, I probably wouldn’t be able to do it coherently, and I’d embarrass myself in the process. I like communication, but I don’t like peers’ eyes watching my every move as I wave my arms around trying to come up with a word on the spot. I don’t like being watched as I speak – or even as I type! (I love having a finished post, but I’ve never liked over-the-shoulder-readers. It’s a surprise!) I enjoy being able to communicate my thoughts, and I’m thankful that I’ve been given this alternative gift that I can use to do that. It gives me confidence knowing that I have this ability to reach out. I especially love being able to share the joy of my Lord in unimaginable places. Places I didn’t even know my thoughts could reach. (If you blog, you should watch your stats and see just how far your blog is reaching! It’s amazing!) I’m an introvert. Introverts usually have a lot to say, but are too, well, introverted to say it all out loud. We still have big personalities, you know. 😉 Blogging has opened up an avenue of expression for me. It’s an avenue for comfort, stress-relief, humor, and the occasional word-vomit. It gives me a way to be me.

I blog because it’s fun. I just like blogging! It’s fun to see that people enjoy what I write and want to see more of it. It’s fun coming up with topics. Usually when I write, I also learn. There’s always more to learn about your topic through the researching process. I find that I’m always learning from other bloggers based on their writing styles, organization, and the deep thoughts they put on the page. I even learn more about myself that I probably wouldn’t have if I held back. My eyes have been opened to the wonderful world of blogging and the community of communicators just like me, and it’s fun to watch it grow. There’s nothing more satisfying than being part of a community that works together and helps each other. Bloggers help bloggers.

I blog because I’m a writer. I’ve always been a writer. I can’t imagine my life without writing. I was the kid with journals. The kid who wrote mystery stories and loved getting AR points in school because I read so much. I was the kid who always said English was my favorite subject – after I got past my science phase, thankfully. One time I actually started a short story series about a talking shoe (because we were learning about personificaion). I can’t remember his name, but this tennis shoe had some really great adventures. I wrote about my family and my friends. I wrote letters to my family and friends. Writing was my hobby and my friend. On into high school, the only subject I really liked was English. I got out of doing a debate once by agreeing to write a report on the debate topic instead – and I loved it. I got some weird looks from my friends for that one, that’s for sure. When I reached college, I knew I had no other choice but to major in writing. So that’s exactly what I did. I learned just about every style of writing while I was there, and I liked them all. But when I was introduced to blogging, I fell in love. I looked forward to my blogging homework, and when the teacher said we could write “more, but no less” than a certain number of words, I almost always wrote more unless I ran out of time. In my last semester at school, my capstone class had a “what do you want to do when you grow up” discussion. Most people were saying they wanted to be authors or technical writers. My list was:

  1. Professional blogger
  2. Editor
  3. Technical writer

I didn’t know how to get to my number one favorite job, but I knew I would like to try. I knew it’s something I could be passionate about and really want to work at. I could go on, but you get the point. Being a writer is more than slapping an essay down on your required length of pages. It’s the part of a person that stems from creativity, passion, and a heart for language and communication. A heart for the written word.

Takeout Box of Kittens

I’m fairly new to creative nonfiction, but I love the freedom it gives me to write about experiences my family, friends, and I had without having a set structure. When I began exploring creative nonfiction, I thought it was only stories about life. But it goes deeper than that. Creative nonfiction can be a teacher, a friend, a comfort, or simply a good read. It goes beyond writing and into the realm of deep thinking.

This is an experimental creative nonfiction piece I originally wrote for school in April. It’s about an experience I had when I was young that I tried to connect to a bigger picture; it’s one of only a few creative nonfiction pieces I’ve written.


Takeout Box of Kittens

As my mom and I drove past my dad’s printing company, we saw a box. Just a small, red takeout box turned upside-down on the parking lot, under the big, familiar awning. We went there every day, but usually we didn’t see litter. My mom said she hoped it was nothing bad, and she decided that we should pull over and pick it up because it made the parking lot look trashy, in turn making my family’s business look trashy. “Who would have left something like this here?” she said. Her tone said “yuck” and her face said “I’m appalled.” So, we pulled into the lot. Leave it to my mom to leave a parking lot looking spotless.

She pulled in and parked diagonally because no one was there, and we wouldn’t be long. It didn’t take her long to rush out of the car and over to the box, with me tagging along behind her like I always did. As we got closer to the box, we heard a small squeak coming from underneath it, and I think we even saw it move, but that could have been my imagination. We looked at each other skeptically. Surely there couldn’t be something alive under that disgusting box. I think my first thought was “Food is making a noise?” followed shortly by “probably a mouse or something.” Most of my memory of this moment is blurred except for getting out of the car and standing behind my mom, peeking around her because this felt like a big deal to me. It felt like we were doing something dangerous or even that there was something dangerous under the box, ready to jump out at any moment. It was kind of like an adventure to me. I think I had seen too many movies.

We walked a little closer to the box and I said, “That sounds like a cat.” When I said it, I didn’t think I’d be right. She hesitated. Then she picked up the box, still looking at it like a monster with three heads. But as she turned it over, sure enough, there were three kittens, probably only days old. One was black, one was spotted, and the other was gray. They were matted and scared, pawing helplessly, and their eyes weren’t even open yet.

Once mother cats have weaned their babies off of their own milk, they try to teach them to hunt for food or want them to start eating solid food instead of drinking milk. They want them to learn to be disciplined enough to live on their own after roughly ten weeks, according to The Nest. If they’re wild cats, the mother will teach them how to hunt outside. If they live inside, she might move them near the food bowl so they know what to expect and what to try to eat. She wants to put them near solid food to make their transition easier. Around ten weeks old, they can begin the transition to living on their own.

At this point I was thirteen and I needed to know how to start transitioning to making decisions on my own. I would also be more surrounded by things my mom couldn’t control, but I was still dependent on her for because I hadn’t fully grown up.

I still stood behind her with jumbled thoughts going through my mind. I took most things I did pretty seriously, and I was always worried about the next decision I’d have to make: school, friends, whether or not I should tell my mom I wanted to quit piano lessons, and now these kittens. I wasn’t really sure what how to feel about this, but I remember being angry at whoever abandoned them and sad because I thought it was inevitable that they would die. Is it really that hard to take them to a shelter instead of dumping them in parking lot like trash? Luckily, my mom made this next decision for me. She decided it would be a good idea for me to take care of them, probably as a learning experience or just something for me to play with because they didn’t look diseased, but mostly likely the first answer.

So, I took them home even though my dog Sammy wasn’t too happy about that, and my brother is allergic to cats. I took care of them anyway because I thought Sammy needed to learn to have visitors of all kinds. I snuck them past him quickly, even though I knew he caught their scent, and followed me, wagging his tail all the way to the back of the house. We told my dad and brother as soon as we got home, and they thought this was a random experience, but it was a great idea to take care of the kittens.

As much as I wanted to, I didn’t name them. “We can’t get attached,” my mom said. I still needed to find a place to keep them. The best place we could find for them was the little screened porch on the back of our house. We got a bigger, cardboard box, filled it with old blankets, and let them sleep in it. I think it was either spring or summer, so they wouldn’t have gotten to cold back there, plus it was the best place so that Sammy didn’t try to eat them before I could save them. I knew he would try because I saw him kill a baby squirrel once in the backyard.

For three weeks I took care of my new little friends, and I almost felt a motherly instinct come out even at age thirteen. I bottle-fed them warm milk in the mornings, after I got home from school, and then before I went to bed every night. It was no easy task making sure I gave them all just as much as they needed before leaving them alone. My mom made sure I took care of my new responsibilities along with my homework. Every morning I would go back out there, feed them, and rub their little heads before I left them alone for the day. What I didn’t know then was that my mom was teaching me responsibility, teaching me to be a mother, and I never even knew it, so I couldn’t even whine about it. This was a task I actually enjoyed.

By ten weeks old, kittens probably already know how to hunt and take care of themselves. At first, the mother might not know what to do, and some say she will even roam around the house looking for her babies. But once she realizes that they aren’t there, it isn’t too hard for her to let go and let them go off into the world on their own. Kittens, on the other hand may be more confused when they have to leave their mothers because they don’t yet know what to do since they have been more used to being dependent on another animal to show them how to live.

I always made sure to play with them and cuddle them because they didn’t have a mother to welcome them to the world. I thought they must have known they were left alone for who-knows-what to happen to them. So I had to love them. After a week or so, I saw got to see their eyes finally open, and this was amazing to me. I had taken care of these kitten to the point where they could even walk on their own. I took care of them so much that I forgot my cardboard, blanketed box isn’t where they were going to stay. Eventually I would have to take them somewhere else and trust a different family to take care of them if they stayed healthy. I realized why my mom said we couldn’t get attached – because we couldn’t keep them.

When the time came – when they were big enough, and their bellies were full enough, my mom and I went together to take two of them to the animal shelter. One of my friends had decided she wanted the little black one, so she took it home the day before. I gathered up the two that were left in their box with the blankets we gave them, loaded everything in the car, and went to shelter.

We walked into the big room full of animals in cages; I had my box of kittens in hand and a sinking feeling in my stomach. I looked around, taking in the horror and wished even more that I could keep the kittens. I wasn’t sure if they would be able to make it in this loud, unfriendly place. My mom explained the situation to the workers, her tranquil voice trying to reach above meowing, barking, and yelping. They agreed to take the kittens, and told us that the shelter would try to find them a home as soon as they could. They said that usually people would rather take the babies than the older animals, so they had a good chance. I doubtfully handed over the box of kittens I mothered back to health with tears welling up in my eyes. I was uncomfortable handing them over to a stranger after being their mother for three weeks. The rest of this story is blurry to me except for the drive down the hill, away from the building. After my mom and I made sure they would be taken care of and given to a good home, we left the shelter.

It seems like driving is always the worst part of a situation – a recurrent theme in my life, and a result of my sentimental nature. There’s either anticipation about where I’m going or the anticipation of the future once I leave.

As we got in the car, our eyes overflowed with tears. We didn’t speak as we drove away, and I think my crying made her cry, too. We seemed to both have a silent reflection, and we laughed in the middle of our tears, as we always do because we feel like we look silly. I’m not sure what she was thinking, but I realized later that I think she loved the kittens as much as I did.

Unlike the human mother, the cat mother won’t always recognize her baby after going long periods of time seeing it. Because they no longer have a similar nesting smell, it’s harder for them to recognize who each other is. They will treat each other as strangers. But if the mother and babies stay together, it’s said that their bond only grows stronger, much like my mom and me, and even other children and their parents. The cats may form social groups and work together to raise any new litters of kittens that come along, as I like to think my mom and I will do when I have kids. I already was feeling that maternal instinct to take care of the kittens.

I think my mom even loved seeing me grow up a little bit. Since then, when I’ve brought this up, she’s told me how great it was that I took care of them, even telling me, “You nursed them back to health! You were a good little mom.” I’ve realized how proud she is of me in everything I do, not just because of kittens.

My mom and I seem to have a similar relationship to cat families. There’s the recurrent theme of motherly nurturing and discipline together. When I was a kid, I was dependent just like kittens. I needed all the help I could get to learn how to properly function in the world. That’s what I think is so important about this event in my life. Like the cat relationship, if human mothers and children don’t have these kinds of moments, and don’t allow themselves to spend time around their mothers, they can lose touch and lose that familiar feeling they once had with their child.

If they’re sent away like strangers, they will come back acting like strangers, and they won’t be recognized as the children their parents are used to knowing. Once human babies grow up and have their own babies, they can work with their mothers as a team to raise the new additions. The relationship between human mothers and their babies, no matter how distant, isn’t meant to be breakable, especially if it’s allowed to nurture and grow. Universally, the maternal instinct between mothers and children is something that might not only have to be understood after you have a child for yourself; it’s something that starts forming long before then. Maternal instincts are almost built into us. We just have to train ourselves to know what to do with it.

The instinct women have to take care of their children is so similar to cat mothers, and it might even be universal. These weren’t human babies; they were cats, and I still felt the need to raise them myself. I didn’t know then that this moment would be something that I treasured or learned, but as soon as we left that shelter, something had changed.