Stuck Right Here

Six weeks later… here I am. I miss this space, and I think about it all the time. But currently I don’t feel like I have any thoughts worth sharing. Things are pretty negative around here. The best news I have for you is that I put my shoes on this morning without crying. Literal baby steps.

Last we talked I told you about the two part surgery that I was looking forward to. It was scheduled for mid October, and then cancelled. The insurance denied it. Multiple appeals later, still denied. I’m pretty devastated but holding on to the hope that my team will find a way around this roadblock. We have some options to look into, and other doctors offering to help. I’m frustrated, but my friends and family are pretty good at keeping hope alive for me. I probably won’t share any more about this surgery until the device is permanently in my body, just to keep you all out of the mess. In the meantime, I’m medicated and hiding from the world in my closet. It’s safe in there.

Like I told you before, I can’t make any promises of scheduling or content. But I want to be here. I have some ideas in mind- things I want to say/do/show you. In the next few days, I’ll be sharing a comprehensive review of the She Reads Truth Bible, and probably some cute pictures of my dog because we all know she’s the reason you’re here!It’ll happen as my life allows, and as I find the words and courage to keep this space alive. Until them, you know where to find me.

Tell me something good in the comments down below. Give me a reason to celebrate today.

With all the love,

A

A review: Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out

Recently, I had the opportunity to partner with Lifeway Christian books to review Alvin Reid’s new book “Sharing Jesus (Without Freaking Out): Evangelism The Way you Were Born to do it). Full disclosure: I was given this book for free in return for an honest review: so here it is.

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Lets start on the personal side: I grew up in a pretty traditional Presbyterian church. “Evangelism” was a word that most people ran from. It was intimidating and not something most people seemed willing to be a part of. As expected, that understanding of Evangelism was passed down to me.

It wasn’t until recently that I found a new understanding of evangelism in the perspective of sharing Jesus openly and honestly. I came to college and joined a student ministry for a few years. In a leadership role, it seemed my biggest responsibility was to share Jesus. While it’s something I love, it’s not necessarily easy or something that I am good at.

Choosing to read this book changed that. I’m no longer in ministry, but as a believer I’m always expected to share Jesus and I love to be ready for that conversation at the drop of a hat. This book is quite straightforward, and makes evangelism seem like something even the most quiet and introverted people could do. From understanding the basic truths of the Gospel and making them applicable to society as a whole, to approaching complete strangers with truth the same way you would a friend. Everything seems so much more attainable and easy to process.

If you’d like to read this book yourself, you can find it on the Lifeway website (It’s only $7 at 60% off right now!) or at your local book retailer. I’d give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars, especially if you’re looking for a quick read to boost your confidence.

With all the love,

A

 

A Month to Forget

Hey friends, here’s an unexpected Saturday post for you. This one’s coming from my lil bitty heart after a lot of conversation with friends (both personal and blogging friends) during the most unexpected month. We all came to the conclusion that raw and unedited honesty seems best for now.

I’m really frustrated, in a whole lot of ways. A month ago, I sat down and planned all of my blog posts for the month of September. I had all of the outlines written and even had the whole first week written and scheduled (which is why you got posts for a few days earlier this month). I even had a few brand deals in the works, and I was so excited.

And then I got sick. Like, really sick. Sicker than normal. It always starts as a sinus infection, and ends with much more extremes than that. Two hospital trips within 24 hours, my parents even had to come down here and stay with me for a while. I couldn’t do anything for myself. I have very few memories of that week, and I know that is probably for the best. I remember crying a lot. There were a lot of literal and figurative pills to swallow. A lot of phone calls to be made. A lot of things to figure out.

Less than a week after the first trip to the ER, I found myself in the office of a new pain management specialist. Meeting new doctors, filling out millions of forms, retelling my story dozens of times. I’ve gone through this stage of treatment a few times in my life, and it never gets easier. I hate telling my story, believe it or not. I can do it in bits and pieces, but when I have to look someone in the eyes and tell my 9 year long story in one breath – that takes more strength than I currently have.

This new team immediately scheduled my first surgery. They said it would be my first of at least 3 (but more likely 6) before Christmas. I drove home running through all the memories I have of being in the OR – none of them worthy of reliving. The procedures I am currently having done were done on  12 year old Ally too. They didn’t work back then. The “doctor” I had at the time told me it was my fault. He ruined a lot of potential healing for me.

One week later: I’m in the OR. They took my dog away from me, even threatening to kick her out of the building for not having “papers” (remember: theres no such thing as SD papers). They had drugged me enough to make me forget why I was scared. I don’t remember going to sleep, but I remember waking up. I remember the gold fish crackers that the nurse fed me.

I remember feeling warm. CRPS takes away my ability to regulate my body temperature. I have been about 3-4 degrees colder than a normal person for 9 years. I was warm.

For a minute, the surgery worked.

That night came the fever. The headache.  The infection. The pain in my back that prohibited me from even feeding my own dog. Friend’s were in and out – feeding me, walking my dog, holding my hand. It sucked. A lot.

The pain in my back is still not gone. My legs are no longer warm. But my doctors see some hope for me.

So I’m having the same surgery repeated in 5 days. We’re hoping for the same warmth, and maybe even some pain relief. We’re just hoping. Or rather, everyone else is hoping for me because I’m currently still frustrated and hurting.

A few weeks later will be the big surgeries. A “pace maker for my nervous system” (aka a spinal cord stimulator) is being implanted to replace the pain in my legs with a more tolerable and less painful sensation. It’s a two part procedure that is meant to last 8 years. This is my big hope. This is my biggest chance.

Enough of my month long sob story, I guess what I’m trying to get at is this: I don’t know what to do with this space now. Some days I’m just too tired (or drugged) to write and edit. Some days there’s nothing to say. I can’t commit to a schedule, and I definitely can’t commit to content. I have no idea what is about to happen with these upcoming surgeries, but what I do know is this:

Writing is often my only outlet, and even the only way I can form words at all. I’ve been encourage to share this journey, and to be honest. I’ve been reminded that there may be one other person out there, or millions, who need to hear my story. Why not tell it as it’s happening, rather than wait for an outcome that may or may not occur?

So here I am. I don’t know how often I’ll be here, or what I’ll have to offer. But I’m here now, and ready for whatever is next.

I hope you’ll stay here with me.

With all the love,

A

Friendship Friday: Friend Day Ideas

My best friends and I all love to have friendship dates and even entire friendship days. Here are some ideas of fun things you can do with your besties!

  1. Coffee Shop Hop. Y’all, this is my favorite thing to do. I have approximately 3940235 favorite coffee shops all within a 20 mile radius. I’ve spent entire days with my friends just going from one coffee shop to the next, getting our favorite pastries, sharing our favorite drinks, and making tons of memories. And of course, the carpool karaoke that happens in the car between coffee shops is priceless.
  2. Nature days. One of my most memorable friendship days was when my very best friend and I went from one nature adventure to another. We spent time at the river, hiked a couple of different trails. We left our phones in the car and just existed in nature together for as long as our pale skin would let us. We ended the day at our favorite pond in the middle of our favorite trail with our bibles in our lap and a whole sea of stars above us. Best part: we never even had to leave our own town!
  3. Cleaning Dance Parties. Ok, hear me out. If you have a ton to do and not enough time to see your best friend, do your chores together! If you need to clean up the apartment, blast the music and tackle it together. This is truly a time that most of my favorite friendship memories have been made. Running errands? Pick up your friends along the way and sing in the car and see how loud you can sing in the store without getting kicked out. No one said adulthood had to be lonely and boring.
  4. Family Dinner. My friends and I love to eat, that’s for sure. When we all have busy schedules and places to be, we make it a priority to share a meal together as often as we can. Rotate playing hostess, and invite everyone to bring something to contribute to the meal. Cook up some tacos or stir fry or spaghetti, clean up, and then go out for dessert! It’s a fun way to get everyone together in a quiet setting, hear about each others lives, and forget about the chaos of the world.
  5. Craft Night. What girl doesn’t love crafts? Even if you aren’t artistic, you can still slap paint on a canvas or use a hot glue gun. Bring everyone together to make friendship paintings or flower crowns or bookmarks. Everyone gets to go home with something cute and personal, and so many memories are made in the process!

What do you like to do with your friends? Any more ideas to throw into the mix? Let me know below!

With all the love,

A

Forgiveness

Hey friends, a little disclaimer here: I wrote this post two years ago and kept it hidden away until I found it last week. IT was incredibly heavy on my heart then, and super relevant now, so I think it’s time to share. Let me know what you think! 

 

Forgiveness is such a weird thing. If you’re in a position where you find yourself needing or wanting to forgive someone, that means that they’ve done something to hurt you. They’ve caused pain in your life, whether it is a small scratch on the surface of your heart, or a deep laceration straight into your soul. Pain is pain. None of us enjoy it. We all want it to go away. Some people believe the way to make that ache escape us is to cut the person who caused the ache out of our life. That might work for a hot minute, but I promise you that it won’t be the most fulfilling healing process. True, genuine, complete healing begins when we forgive.

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean the pain never happened. It doesn’t make the current moment any better than it is, but it’ll make your future so much lighter and brighter. When you take the opportunity to forgive someone who has done you wrong, you open the door to building stronger relationships and the chance to replace the negative memories with positive and lasting memories.

You see, we forgive because we are forgiven. We learn by example. Our Holy Father has taught us that forgiveness is such a blessing, and such an opportunity. Every day, constantly, he is forgiving us for our wrongdoings. No matter how many times we mess up, he continues to love us all the same. When we sin, his heart aches. Not because we have hurt him, but because he wants so badly for us to do better. He see’s so much potential in us. He knows that we are capable of so much more than whatever situation we are stuck in. He forgives us eagerly, every chance he gets. When we reach out to him and ask for forgiveness, his heart bursts with that forgiveness and love without a second thought.

Why can’t we be the same way? Instead of seeing the negative things people have done to us, why can we not believe that those people are worth so much more than their downfalls? Why can’t we see the potential in people to learn and grow from their mistakes, rather than wallow in the pain?

Forgiveness is hard. It’s so hard. I get that. But The Lord won’t cause us pain without allowing something beautiful to grow from that pain. We just have to take that first step towards becoming more like Jesus. Loving more like Jesus. Forgiving more like Jesus.

With all the love,

A

More Inexpensive Apartment Decorating

In keeping with last weeks post about apartment decorating, I thought I’d share with you a bit of my haul of inexpensive decorations! Everything I share below costs $5 or less before tax, and truly makes my space my home.

  1. Faux Fur Rug (Five Below: $5): I had my eye on this rug long before I moved into my new place. It was the perfect size for an accent in my small room, and I knew it would soften up my space a lot. What I didn’t know was that Malibu was going to claim it as her own! It’s just the right size for her to curl up on and nap her days away.2809499_24x36-animal-shape-rug_ecomm1717-2
  2. Bed Canopy (Five Below: $5): I was a little hesitant to hang my canopy when I moved in, thinking that maybe it would make my room feel childish. I couldn’t have been more wrong! It softens my room perfectly and makes my bed even more dreamy than I could ever imagine. With the fairy lights behind it, my bed quickly became my favorite place (let’s be real, it already was my favorite place!)IMG_5237
  3. Motivational Posters (Target: $1 for 3): I had been holding on to a pack of these for quite some time, and then I spotted another pack just as I was decorating my apartment. They fit perfectly over my desk below my shelves, and they encourage me daily as I’m getting work done. Disclaimer: These may no longer be available due to the change of seasons and Target merchandise. If you can’t find them, I’m sure it’d be simple to make your own! IMG_5267
  4. Fake Flowers and Vases (Dollar Tree: $1 a piece): You already know how much I love plants, and how important they are to me. Sometimes, the hassle of keeping flowers alive and watching them die so quickly is just too much for me. I bought a few stems of fake flowers and a couple of vases and filler rocks from the dollar tree and instantly had added life and color on my desk! This is a great trick if you don’t quite have a green thumb (Spoiler alert: I don’t, either).FullSizeRender
  5. Storage Baskets (Five Below: $5 a piece): I love these baskets. They match my light and airy aesthetic perfectly, and they fit on my top shelf so nicely. I’m using these to store things I don’t use daily, such as my pen pal stationary and envelopes. Five Below has a very large selection of baskets in different colors, sizes and materials, they’re sure to have exactly what you’re looking for! Baskets are great for keeping clutter to a minimum, which leaves your small space looking clean and organized.2773737_wire-10x13-bin_ecomm1717

I hope I’ve been able to show you that decorating your apartment doesn’t have to make you go bankrupt! Keep your eyes open for deals, and always always always check the dollar section or dollar store. You never know what you’ll find!

With all the love,

A

August Favorites

I never thought I’d be cool enough to have a favorites post but here we are. August was a whirlwind, but here are a couple of things that got me through:

  1. PerkUp coffee in San Marcos, Texas. I’m really fortunate to live in a college town that is full of cute and unique coffee shops. Since moving to my new apartment, one of my closest shops is PerkUp- a bright and clean little shop. I’m a huge fan of cold brew, and PerkUp currently has my vote for the best cold brew in town. If you’re in the area and looking for a place to spend an afternoon and get some good quality coffee and food, this is your place. Pay them a visit here.
  2. Kodiak Minute Blueberry Muffins. Y’all. These are the best, and I eat them every single morning. You buy them individually, stir in 1/4 cup of water, microwave for a minute and instantly you have a perfect blueberry muffin. They taste so good, and they even make your entire house smell like blueberry muffins! There is no way to lose in this situation. They even come in other flavors. Check them out HERE.
  3. Erin Condren Academic Planner. You’ve heard me rave about this planner before, but it’s been very important this month. It’s syllabus week, which means a lot of due dates and exam dates to write down, and I’m also working extra days this semester along with copious amounts of breakfast and coffee dates! I couldn’t live without my planner, and the EC academic one is definitely my favorite.
  4. Spotify Peace of Mind playlist by Alex G. Alex G is a singer/songwriter that I’ve loved for years, but I just recently discovered some of the playlists she’s put together on Spotify. This playlist is my go-to in pretty much every situation: stressful, overwhelming, sleepy. It’s mostly acoustic, and has the perfect vibes for any mood. (did I just say vibes in an actual sentence?) Listen to it here.
  5. Peter Pan (the book). This month I decided to read a classic fairytale, and picked up Peter Pan. Y’all. There is something so eye opening about reading words on a page, rather than watching the movie that we all grew up with. It makes it seem more tangible and grown up, in a way. I’m definitely a huge fan of revisiting old favorites in a new medium. Books will always be better than their movies. I’m not sorry.

What did you love this month? What are you reading/eating/buying that I need to know about? Let me know!

With all the love,

A

 

It’s Not a Race

Today is my first day of senior year. I’m supposed to graduate in May and start a real job and be an adult. It’s supposed to be almost over.

I won’t be graduating in May. Or August. Or even next December.

If all goes according to plan (fingers crossed) Malibu and I will walk the stage in May of 2019. A whole year late, because I dropped out one semester, cut down to part time in the middle of another semester, and will continue to be part time for 4 more semesters. It’s been frustrating and exhausting and disappointing. I’ve spent a lot of my school days feeling like a failure as I struggle to balance life with school. It’s been this way since I got sick in the seventh grade, and I’m assuming it’ll be like this for every season of life to come.

Instead of continuing to feel defeated and disappointed in myself, I’ve been trying hard lately to appreciate the progress that’s been made. I’ve come much farther than I ever anticipated. I can remember a time when I thought my illness would stop me completely. There was a point in time when I didn’t think college was even an option for me. My first semester I went from walking to wheelchair almost over night, and still managed to get a 4.0. I worked incredibly hard to get myself back to school after taking a semester long break for treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. I’ve shown up to school just hours after being discharged from the hospital, and battled symptoms and fatigue just to make it through an exam. In fact, this past Summer, I had class Monday through Friday for 10 weeks straight and was only absent once.

These are all things that I never thought possible. As disappointed as I was that I’ll be in college longer than what’s expected of a girl my age, I’m equally grateful now to know that I do have the ability to succeed.

Who said college had to take four years and not a semester longer? It’s not a race. I’m not losing, and I’ll cross the finish line eventually. Until then, cheers to senior year (and the senior years to come!)

With all the love,

A

Making an Apartment a Home

Last week I moved into a new apartment in preparation for the school year ahead. This is my second year living in an apartment, and I’m the type of girl who likes to make any place I live into a true home. Today I want to share with you 3 decorating tips that have made my college apartment feel more grown up and homey:

  1. Plants. Y’all know that I’m a plant girl. I try to keep my live plant collection to a minimum so that I have less of a chance of killing them, but adding some greenery to my home is important to me. Plants are an inexpensive and quick way to add some personality and livelihood into any space. FullSizeRender 2
  2. Twinkle lights. Admittedly, my theme for my apartment this year is “fairy garden at twilight” which naturally means an abundance of fairy twinkle lights. Adding your own lighting in an apartment is vital. The overhead lighting that comes in almost any unit is typically not the greatest. Lamps and twinkle lights will allow you to set the lighting at any level and in any location that you like. I got a strand of “curtain lights” from amazon that are typically used behind curtains or backdrops at events, and put it up behind my bed. I also got strands of battery powered twinkle lights for cheap from Target and WalmartIMG_5237.JPG
  3. Picture clip walls. In both of my apartments, I’ve hung up rows of twine to clip pictures on. In my old apartment, I displayed my postcard collection. In this apartment, I’m displaying my Love That Sticks haul. It’s easy to do in your own place: use tacks or nails to string up some twine or yarn, and clothes pins to clip up anything you’d like. I love doing this because it allows me to change out what I’m displaying and gives me the freedom to express myself in a lot of ways. FullSizeRender

How do you decorate your apartment or dorm room? Any tips that I should add to my list? Let me know in the comments below!

With all the love,

A

Tips & A Testimony (Guest Post: Cassie)

Hey y’all! I’m Cassie from Anchored in Amazing Grace & I’m so excited to be here! Today I will be sharing a bit of my testimony and how it affected my freshman year of college, as well as a few tips for all new and returning college students.

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So I’m gonna keep it somewhat vague, because detailing out 19 years would make for a quite lengthy read, but I’ll jump right into it. Now I’m gonna share a bit about who I am & what God has taught me in my short time on this earth.

I had a pretty “normal,” stereotypical, Christian childhood- I was a happy kid who attended church 2-3 times a week, and I was usually quite optimistic and cheerful. At the ripe age of 7, I decide to ask Jesus Christ to be my savior- because that’s what Christians do & my parents were proud. It was very exciting. As a 7 year old, though, I didn’t quite grasp the power of God’s love, or what being a Christian entailed. I hadn’t really gone through anything that tested my faith, so how could I not believe in and trust this wonderful creator I’d been learning about in Sunday school my whole life?

About a year later, God gave me the gift of dance- a sport that became a huge part of my life in the years to come, but it had rocky beginnings that I didn’t quite enjoy. In fact, I was absolutely awful. I’d never really been bad at anything before. I was considered quite smart for my age back in the day, as I did very well in school and took part in the Gifted & Talented program, drama clubs & other sports I participated in. But dance… yikes. Anyway, that’s a bit of a tangent, God gave me dance. I didn’t know it then, but this was working towards a grander plan for me! The next summer, I was about 9, my aunt lost her battle to cancer, and within 2 consecutive months I lost 3 other family members. This was my first experience with death & I was unsure how to handle it. I continued going to church- I didn’t really have a choice- but something changed inside me. I felt anger, confusion, and darkness fill me. I believed in God, but I was upset with him for taking the people I loved from me. How can this perfect, merciful creator I have been praising take the lives of his creation early? Why them?

 

For the next 8 or so years, the childhood illnesses I had progressed and caused me a lot of problems. I went to dance as my release, and advanced quite quickly because all of the pain I bottled up was only released while I danced (and I attribute that to keeping me alive- Thank you, God for giving me a creative outlet), but inside and outside of the studio, I faced severe insecurity, bullying, depression and anxiety. I carried around so much darkness & wore a sparkly, perky facade so that no one- not even my parents- would know how I felt on the inside. I knew all of the “Sunday school answers” at church & didn’t get into trouble. I didn’t rebel, at least not in the way other kids did, but I was crumbling.

Fast forward to high school. I was on the drill team when I suffered a hip injury that made me unable to dance for 6 months. That was an adventure. I struggled fitting in, as I was shy & very self conscious. At this time, every girl was dating & guys paid no attention to me- which only built on my insecurity (pro tip: don’t rely on guys to make you feel beautiful- you already are and God loves you SO much!!). I was still struggling with my health & anxiety, and the stress of school got to me- I’m a perfectionist and nothing I did ever felt like enough, including who I am. I was not confident in myself: a nerdy, passionate, artsy, caring & introverted individual. I focused a lot on being someone else and that was not okay. I continued walking my distorted and dark road that was disguised by a sparkling facade that I had created. I continued to let the devil convince me how horrible I was. I didn’t have any joy most of the time, and I didn’t care to be alive. I didn’t have suicidal thoughts, but I didn’t really care if I lived- if something happened to me. That’s such a dangerous place to be in & if you or someone you know is there, please get help! So summer rolled around & my father got very sick and was hospitalized. My dad is my best friend and this was a breaking point for me- but also my turning point. We weren’t sure if he was gonna make it and I didn’t know what else to do. My siblings had already moved out, so it was just my mom and I at home. I tried to be strong for her, I didn’t want her to see me cry. When I was alone, I bawled my eyes out. At dance, I released all my pain. One day, I was particularly stressed and turned on my pandora to hear a song I hadn’t heard in a while by one of my all time favorites, Relient K. The song was “For The Moments I Feel Faint,” (check it out, so beautiful!) and one line struck me: “never underestimate Jesus, they’re telling me that there’s no hope, I’m telling you you’re wrong, when the world around you crumbles, he will be strong.” I fell to my knees and cried out to God, and prayed for a few hours to help my dad, and to help me. An instant weight was lifted off of my shoulders & I rededicated my life to Christ. It hasn’t been an easy road since, but my perspective has changed. I’m genuinely optimistic and am a lot more secure with who I am. I found God and he brought me through my darkest points & I dove into the word. I began to believe I was beautiful, that I had worth, that I didn’t have to be perfect, that I deserve love and that I am not alone. This has made all the difference. My dad got better & is doing better than he’s ever been. We’ve been facing financial struggles & I’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness that is sometimes quite unbearable, but I am able to face it and fight it with optimism and hope. Hope to use it for his glory & hope to overcome. This hope comes from Christ. I am just a mere vessel that was constantly getting lost at sea, but Christ is the anchor that stabilizes me and keeps me from capsizing adrift.

This newfound hope has helped me so much with my journey of getting to college and actually living on my own in a new place. I just want to offer love, hope & encouragement up to all who are reading this. You’re not alone and through Christ, you can get through anything. Keep the hope, stay anchored.

Before I go, here a few must-haves/tips for all college students:

  • Emergen-C: y’all, I swear by this. Everyone gets sick in college, but this really helps boost your immune system!
  • a planner! It is so important to keep a routine and stay on top of your schedule/deadlines to help reduce stress
  • Okay not really a thing, but check your email daily! You never know when due dates change, classes are cancelled/rescheduled, or when extra credit opportunities come up!
  • Brita water filter: this comes in handy if you’re in a dorm and need a way to stay hydrated, because sink water isn’t ideal!
  • Go to office hours! I kid you not, this is so important when it comes to success in your class and final grades. It could be the difference between a B and an A!

Thank you for reading, and feel free to stop by sometime! I talk about God, school, missions, and the occasional nerd blurb!

“Sea” ya later,

Cassie

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure,”

 -Hebrews 6:19 NIV