20 Facts for 20 Years

20 Facts for 20 Years

In honor of officially entering my twenties recently (what???), I thought I would share twenty random facts about myself with you all – one for each year. I hope you all enjoy getting to know my strange self better. 😉

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  1. My favorite celebrity couples are Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson and Ryan Reynolds & Blake Lively.
  2. My favorite Taylor Swift song from each album of hers (in chronological order) is “Stay Beautiful,” “White Horse,” “Mine,” “All Too Well,” “Out of the Woods,” and “New Years Day.”
  3. I am somewhat of a quote collector and have a ton of favorites, but one that I always remember is: “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand
  4. I’ve been interested in politics for several years now, but I’ve become very passionate about several social issues within the past year.
  5. My dream job is writing about politics for The Washington Post while doing some political commentary for NBC.
  6. Sometimes I get freaked out watching Gilmore Girls because I literally am Rory Gilmore, so it feels a little bit like I’m watching a TV show about my life.
  7. I read. Every genre (especially fantasy). All the time.
  8. My favorite colors are pink, gold, and mauve.
  9. I might have a slight make-up buying problem. And I strongly believe that you should do your make-up the way that you want and not let anyone else’s thoughts bother you! Wear the bold lip color! (At least that’s what I do.)
  10. My favorite scripture is Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
  11. I’d rather write five English essays than do one science lab.
  12. Ronald Reagan is one of my heroes, and is absolutely one of the reasons I have come to love politics and conservatism so much.
  13. I am so grateful that I have such a close relationship with both of my parents, especially my mom (#besties).
  14. I was pretty much born in the wrong era. I love old music (Frank Sinatra is my favorite) and movies. Audrey Hepburn is flawless and I will never not love Sabrina.
  15. I love true crime shows, especially Dateline. Not to brag, but one of their correspondents, Josh Mankiewicz, has replied to my tweets multiple times. And I would like for one of their other correspondents, Keith Morrison, to follow me around and narrate my life.
  16. I was diagnosed with my first chronic illness when I was three years old.
  17. My all-time favorite albums are Rivers in the Wasteland by Needtobreathe, Where I Find You by Kari Jobe, and Red by Taylor Swift.
  18. I love going to concerts. Some of my favorites that I’ve been to are Needtobreathe, Luke Bryan, and Ben Rector. My concert bucketlist includes Rachel Platten, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, and U2 (you gotta aim high).
  19. The first job that I was seriously interested in was being a defense attorney. I think it’s because I used to watch way too many Matlock episodes. I also thought that this would be a very dangerous job, because of those same Matlock episodes.
  20. Although I love politics, I truly believe that art can change more than legislation ever could. We look to music, film, and books for inspiration, not Washington.
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My Chronic Illness Story

My Chronic Illness Story

I did not write this for pity. I don’t want anyone’s pity. The purpose of this post is two-fold. First, it explains why I’ve been MIA recently. Second, it explains things that I often briefly reference in other posts in full detail. I have written and re-written and struggled with this post, but it is important to me to share this story, my story, with you.

Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” My journey began when I was three. And, because it began with a swollen ankle, I suppose it did begin with one step.

Yes, it was at the tender age of three that the first of my chronic illnesses was discovered. It took seeing multiple doctors and undergoing multiple tests, but I was finally diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Since my initial diagnosis, the name has been changed to juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), “idiopathic” meaning that the cause is unknown. I was a toddler living with an illness commonly associated with the elderly. My ankles and knees would swell to huge sizes, feel painful and stiff, and sometimes require drainages and steroid injections. At the time, there was no pediatric rheumatologist anywhere near me, so my family had to travel nearly three hours, and later four hours, to see my physician. I don’t remember much from this time, and I’m glad.

During my childhood, I also dealt with asthma, though not on a very extreme scale. I did have some wheezing issues, and used an inhaler and a nebulizer, but I did not ever have severe attacks, nor was I ever really in danger of having one. It was more of a nuisance. A nuisance that got worse when the winter came and I got sick, which was fairly frequent considering the medication I took for my arthritis was immune-suppressing.

This might sound bad. It might make you frown and say, “Aw, poor Mary-Faith.” But to me it was not all that terrible. I was proud to tell my classmates that I was not afraid of needles because I got weekly shots and frequent blood tests. I went to school just like every other kid, and I was at the age and stage in school when if you missed a lot of time, you just made up your work and everybody missed you and got excited when you were back. It was normal for me, and it did not bother me. I was happy. I did not see myself as disabled or disadvantaged.

Then things changed.

It was the beginning of the sixth grade, the start of middle school; I was already freaked out enough. But just a few weeks into the school year, I noticed that I had hives. I had had hives before when I had gotten sick, so it didn’t seem like an incredibly big deal at first, all things considered. But then the hives got worse. I was covered (literally covered) head-to-toe. (I actually had hives in my scalp. They were so bad that I had to put anti-itch cream in my hair.) Not long after the hives appeared, I noticed a startling new symptom: violent stomach pain. It soon became clear that this was no run-of-the-mill stomach virus. My diet was reduced to only the blandest food options, and even those would cause me pain. We stayed in touch with my pediatrician, and it became clear to all of us that something was wrong with me. We just didn’t know what, or how to treat it. So I suffered through my enigmatic stomach pain for a bit longer.

All that itching and gut-wrenching (literally) pain came to a head one day. I do not remember much. I just remember that I had gotten to the point that I could not stay home by myself. I was sitting in the recliner, my father next to me. I was nauseated and cramping and itching and basically falling apart. Through contorting my body to try to find some comfort and trying to ignore the pain, I remember my father giving me a priesthood blessing. That, and the fact that he was voluntarily watching Say Yes to the Dress with me, is how I knew he was very, very worried. Sometime after my mother got home from work that day, I tried to eat a piece of toast with nothing on it. That piece of toast caused some of the most brutal pain I have ever experienced in my life. That was when we knew I needed to be admitted to the hospital.

Thankfully, my pediatrician was on call and was able to set everything up so I wouldn’t have to go through the emergency room (which was full of H1N1-infected patients at the time). At first, the group of residents treating me didn’t believe me. In fact, the head resident thought I was trying to get attention and tried to bribe me with Chick-Fil-A. But after much testing, it was discovered that I had helicobacter pylori (h. pylori), a bacterial infection of the stomach. My allergist said that I was only the third case she had seen with both h. pylori and hives simultaneously.

During my h. pylori stint, I had to stop many of my medications, including what I took for JIA. This led to joint swelling like I had never seen. It took multiple joint drainages and injections to get things back to normal. But “normal” was a relative term for what I was about to experience.

On the heels of my hospital stay, I got a bad viral respiratory infection. During this infection, I got one of the worst headaches of my life (that I thankfully have no memory of). My doctor assured me that it was a result of the infection, and it would subside. But the headaches kept coming, over and over again, to the point that I had to see a neurologist. My dear pediatric neurologist (who I swear is one of the best in his field and I absolutely adore) treated me for my new migraines. But he noticed something else. My heart rate was abnormal. It would spike upon standing by over thirty beats per minute. This is when he introduced the idea of dysautonomia to me. This is when my life changed.

The autonomic nervous system is a pretty important part of your body, in the sense that it controls many of your organs and all of the functions that you don’t have to think about, like breathing. But sometimes it doesn’t work right. Sometimes it causes your blood to not flow quickly enough to your head when you stand. In other words, sometimes it causes you to pass out.

I took this whole dysautonomia thing in stride. It wasn’t really a problem for me, at least in my mind. I was more focused on my chronic migraines – that is, until I almost lost consciousness when I was a high school freshman. Thankfully, I was at home. My father was able to half-carry me to a chair. That was when things became real to me. I had a problem (well, another one).

My official form of dysautonomia is called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, or POTS. It’s not a common disease, and rarely diagnosed properly. It is characterized by a heart rate that jumps more than thirty beats per minute upon standing. It causes shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, and severe fatigue. It is treated in a multitude of ways, none of which are very effective. Today I am on two different medications for POTS. Without these two pills, I would probably be unable to remain upright for more than .02 seconds. I now also receive twice weekly IV infusions of sodium chloride, which I have found helpful. In addition to medical treatments, I also have to drink insane amounts of water to stay hydrated, as well as eat a high sodium diet to help with fluid retention. This is my life now. This is my normal. But it’s not normal. All of this keeps me from needing to go to the emergency room. But I still spend most of my time at home (or, more accurately, in bed), I still have low energy and high fatigue, I still have severe heat intolerance, and I still have chronic migraines.

Chronic illness has plagued my life since my early years, but nothing has compared to POTS. It is like a prison warden standing over me, watching my every move. It has taken away my life and given me a new one.

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{ Image via Pinterest }

Recently, my rheumatologist confirmed something I had suspected for some time now: I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). EDS is commonly seen in POTS patients. In my case, I have Type 3, which is the hypermobility type. This means that I am insanely flexible and can actually turn my arm three hundred sixty degrees. (Maybe I should go on America’s Got Talent with that.) My joints pop, and I feel strange twinges of pain that are different from what I feel from arthritis. I will be seeing a geneticist soon for further testing to ensure that my EDS is not more serious.

And in all of this I am grateful. I am grateful for the tender mercies of the Lord. I am grateful for the beautiful souls I have met on this journey. Above all, I am grateful that my Heavenly Father has allowed me to live with this long- (perhaps life-) lasting trial. I see Him teach me through it every day. I see Him lead me to greater compassion and understanding, for myself and for others. And I hear Him remind me of the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:  for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

My Fall Favorites

My Fall Favorites

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I’ll just tell you up front that this favorites list will be a shorter one. You can thank Mother Nature for that. She decided that I only needed about three weeks of fall here. (Fall is my favorite season, and I still haven’t gotten over the pain of not having it longer.) Although fall was short this year, I did have the chance to find a few things that I liked a lot. So, let’s begin.

Movies & TV //

Designated Survivor – If you haven’t seen this show, what are you doing with your life? A “designated survivor” is a person from the president’s cabinet chosen to stay in a separate, completely secure location during a big event, such as the State of the Union address, in which all members of the government are in one place. So, this show’s premise is that the unthinkable happens and the designated survivor does in fact become president. One of the major plot points was resolved last season, so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this season as much, but it is still as fantastic as ever. Can Tom Kirkman be real? And run for president in 2020? Please?

NCIS – This is an old favorite for me. I feel like I’ve been watching NCIS forever. I have to admit, there were a few seasons (mainly after Ziva left *sniffs*) when I wasn’t really enjoying it as much. All of that has changed with the past two seasons. The team that they have together now is absolutely perfect, and they’re fighting crime within the Navy and Marines better than ever.

The Middle – In my opinion, this is the best comedy on TV now. How can you not feel endeared to the Heck family when they keep a spare quilt in their oven, their son, Axl, is driving a school bus after recently graduating from college with a business degree, and their other son, Brick, is, well, Brick. I can’t believe this is the last season that I’ll be spending with one of my favorite TV families. (But don’t worry – it’s never too late to jump on the bandwagon.)

Beauty //

Bath & Body Works Peachy Keen Body Cream – This is one of those scents that I’ve liked for a while now, and I finally decided to pick it up with a coupon. (Pro tip: B&BW has the best coupons in the world. Sign up. Now.) It’s moisturization with a light, fruity scent that’s not overpowering at all. What more could you want?

Bath & Body Works Fresh Autumn Blooms Shower Gel – I got this shower gel right when the store was bringing out their winter products and trying to get rid of their fall products, meaning I got it for half price. I was a bit worried that this would feel a little more appropriate for spring, but somehow they managed to make floral smell like fall, which is basically my dream come true.

Philosophy Fresh Cream Hand Cream – I got this last Christmas in a gift set (it was three hand creams and called the “Handbook”…get it?). This one has become my favorite because it has the lightest, most neutral scent, so I find myself reaching for it the most. It really does help with my dry, eczema-prone hands during this chilly time of year.

e.l.f. Blending Brush – Historically, I’ve preferred to blend out my foundation and concealer with a blending sponge (a.k.a. a Beauty Blender knock-off, because ain’t nobody got $20 to spend on a sponge), but I recently gave this brush a try because I had it and why not? I don’t know if I necessarily like it more than using a sponge, but I definitely like it at least as much. This brush blends foundation/BB cream/your base of choice easily and quickly. Bonus: It’s only $3.

Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lip Color – Normally I’m not a big fan of Revlon products, but I was intrigued by this liquid lipstick and decided to give it a try. Of course, I used it once, liked it, and then forgot about it. I have recently rediscovered it, and it’s become a favorite in my collection. The formula is great, it’s easy to apply, and it’s staying power is pretty good. Definitely a win in my book.

Garnier Moisture Bomb Antioxidant Super Moisturizer – I got a sample size of this in an Ulta skincare kit, and I love it. (I actually just used it up, and I’m heartbroken.) It has an almost gel-like consistency, but is on the thicker side, which is perfect for the dry weather that comes with the cooler months. I definitely think I’ll be purchasing this in the future.

Miscellaneous //

Bath & Body Works Sweater Weather Candle – I have a lot of candles. It’s a bit of an obsession for me. So, even though I wanted to pick up about twelve for fall, I reigned myself in and kept it down to one. I bought this online, and actually had no clue if I had ever smelled it in-store before. I had heard good things, so I went for it, and I’m so glad I did. This candle is the definition of fall. It’s crisp and a little outdoors-y, but still cozy. I almost used all of it up in one season.

Booties – Last year, I bought my first pair of booties. I know that seems super late, but I was a regular boot fan, and didn’t think I wanted to mess with those half-boot things. But, as they became more popular, I decided to give them a try. I picked up a pair on Black Friday (obviously), and I don’t think I wore other shoes again until spring. I have since expanded my collection, and I now complain about wearing regular boots – it’s such a first-world struggle to have to maneuver jeans into them and make them look right. Booties are easy and cute. End of story.

Yoga – Yes you guys, I started doing yoga. Between my POTS and my chronic migraines, I was struggling to keep up with exercising regularly (even though it’s supposed to help those two conditions). Cardio was rough, even when gentle and low-impact. So, knowing it would keep me active and possibly reduce my stress level, I decided to give some yoga videos a try. I swear by Yoga with Adrienne’s videos on YouTube. She is such a cool yogi, but also very aware that everyone is at a different place in their journey. So, yoga is my new thing. And, yes, it is hard work. I promise.

Books //

The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer – This fall, I decided to give my second all-time favorite series a re-read (second behind Harry Potter, of course). This is a five-book series of fairytale retellings with a twist – they take place thousands of years into the future. There are great fantasy and sci-fi elements to these books, and they take you on a super fun adventure. I absolutely adore them, and I cannot recommend them enough.

Quotes & Scriptures //

“Your brokenness is welcome here.” – Jordan Lee Dooley

“We keep offering God our successes; all He’s asking for is our hearts.” – Bob Goff

“If you don’t know the guy on the other side of the world, love him anyway because he’s just like you. He has the same dreams, the same hopes and fears. It’s one world pal. We’re all neighbors.” – Frank Sinatra

“Now behold, my brethren, I would ask if ye have read the scriptures? If ye have, how can ye disbelieve on the Son of God?” – Alma 33:14

Songs //

“Female” by Keith Urban

“In Between” by Kelsea Ballerini

“Call it What You Want” by Taylor Swift

“Dare Ya” by Carly Pearce

“So Will I (100 Billion X)” by Hillsong United

“Thunder” by Imagine Dragons

“Perfect for You” by Rachel Platten

“Unforgettable” by Thomas Rhett

“Havana” by Camila Cabello

“Liability” by Lorde

“The Rest of Our Life” by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

“Dear Hate” by Maren Morris and Vince Gill

The Ultimate Christmas Playlist

The Ultimate Christmas Playlist

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Fall may be my favorite season, but Christmas is definitely my favorite holiday. I love celebrating Jesus’ birth, spending time with family, and everything else that comes with this beautiful season…including the music. I mean, who doesn’t love Christmas music?

Listening to Christmas music is one of my favorite ways to get into the spirit of the season. After all, in the words of Buddy the Elf, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!” (And Buddy the Elf is the ultimate authority on all things Christmas.) I have multiple Christmas playlists (yes, more than one is necessary) and albums that I’m always listening to during this time of year.

So, because of my love for Christmas music, I thought I would share the songs that I feel make the ultimate Christmas playlist. I’ve got old classics, new favorites, songs to remind you of the reason for the season, and songs to just make you happy. It’s all right here.

The Ultimate, All You Will Ever Need, Christmas Playlist

  1. “Underneath the Tree” by Kelly Clarkson
  2. “You’re Here” by Francesca Batistelli
  3. “Jesus, Savior” by Chris August
  4. “Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande
  5. “The Christmas Song” by Bryan & Katie Torwalt
  6. “Glow” by Brett Eldredge
  7. “Carol of the Bells” by Pentatonix
  8. “We Three Kings” by Tenth Avenue ft. Britt Nicole
  9. “Just a Girl” by Brandon Heath
  10. “The Day that Love was Born” by Dara Maclean
  11. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Sam Smith
  12. “Santa Baby” by Michael Buble
  13. “Baby Boy” by For King & Country
  14. “It’s Christmas” by Mandisa
  15. “Go, Tell it on the Mountain” by Needtobreathe
  16. “Heaven Everywhere” by Francesca Batistelli
  17. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Lady Antebellum
  18. “Mistletoe” by Justin Bieber
  19. “Christmas in the Sand” by Colbie Caillat
  20. “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” by Brett Eldredge & Meghan Trainor
  21. “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey
  22. “Where are You Christmas?” by Faith Hill
  23. “One More Sleep” by Leona Lewis
  24. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” by Michael Buble
  25. “Silent Night” by Kelly Clarkson, Reba McEntire, and Trisha Yearwood

So, tell me, what’s your favorite Christmas song? Or album? And do you agree with Buddy the Elf?

My Summer Favorites

My Summer Favorites

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Ah, summer. Who doesn’t love the season of sun and warm temperatures? Now that we are about a month in to fall, I thought it would be a good time to finally write about my favorite things from the summer. Although, in my defense, I’m pretty sure Mother Nature got the memo that it was actually fall only about a week ago.

Movies & TV //

  • Wonder Woman – Do I even need to provide an explanation? I feel like I have been waiting for this movie my whole life. Diana (Wonder Woman) is an incredible role model who strikes the perfect balance of being strong, fierce, and independent, while still being compassionate, generous, and kind. A wonder woman, indeed.
  • The Shack – I had my doubts about this one. I just want to say up front that, despite what this movie’s creators and the author of the book it is based on might lead you to believe, much of this movie is not based in Biblical doctrine. That being said, I don’t know if I have ever been so inspired by a movie in my life. I laughed, I cried, and I came away with a greater sense of gratitude for God’s love.
  • Lion – Long version: Lion tells the true story of the life of Saroo Brierly. Saroo grew up in India, but, after being separated from his brother at a train station, he ends up riding a train that takes him hours away from his home. He is too young to identify where he is from, so he is eventually placed in foster care and adopted by an Australian couple. Later, when Saroo is in college, he begins to wonder about the family he lost. He uses the new (at the time) invention Google Earth to meticulously comb through India until he finds the small town where he grew up, leading to him being reunited with his long lost family. Short version: Prepare to sob.
  • Victoria – I absolutely love period dramas. And I also happen to love the Victorian era. And, ever since I watched The Young Victoria when I was barely old enough to understand anything beyond her being a pretty queen who got to wear fancy dresses, I have been fascinated by the story of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. This new series from Masterpiece (aka the people who brought me the love of my life, Downton Abbey) has captivated me so far, and I can’t wait for the second season.
  • America’s Got Talent – Watching AGT is my summer tradition, especially now that we have the perfect judging panel (Simon Cowell fan for life right here). I loved this season, and I feel like there truly were so many standout contestants, many of whom were sent home far too soon. But, thankfully, my top three, Preacher Lawson, Evie Clair, and Mandy Harvey, made it to the finale. Alas, the top prize ultimately went to the also very talented Darci Lynne.

Beauty //

  • Maybelline Super Stay Better Skin Foundation – If you’re like me, and you’re so pale that people should just start calling you Casper, then you need this foundation. I have the worst time finding a good foundation match for my skin tone; even the lightest shade in a particular range is often still just a bit too dark for me. But the lightest shade of this foundation is literally perfect for me. Bonus: The formula is also fantastic.
  • Catrice Liquid Camouflage Concealer – I picked this up at Ulta after hearing one of my favorite YouTubers, KathleenLights, rave about it. Since then, it’s become my favorite concealer. It has medium-to-full coverage, and never feels heavy or cakey (which is a beautiful thing).
  • L’oreal Lash Paradise Mascara – This. Mascara. Is. Amazing. I have tried almost every mascara at the drugstore, and this one is certainly a stand out. It gives a really nice voluminous look, without being too clumpy. It adds just enough oomph without being over-the-top.
  • Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk – When I bought this product (with a Target Cartwheel coupon, obviously), I thought I would probably use it as a detangler/leave-in-conditioner. But, as it turns out, this is actually an amazing styling product to use on slightly damp hair. I use the one specifically for curly hair, and it tames my kinks and frizz while still giving me the slightly messy look that I love.
  • Wet ‘n Wild Liquid Catsuit Lipstick – Okay, I have tried a lot of liquid lipsticks since they first became a thing, and let me tell you, nothing (not even high-end options) compare to this. And it’s only $4.99. It lasts through meals easily, and doesn’t start to fade for hours. My personal favorite shade is Rebel Rose.

Books //

  • Portraits of Courage by George W. Bush – Okay, confession: I love George W. I mean, how can you not? During his presidency, President Bush made his love and respect for our military known, and has continued his dedication to them since leaving office, hosting events in Texas for veterans to get together and find healing through sports. Coincidentally, President Bush has also taken up painting as a post-administration activity. This book combines these two passions, telling the stories of veterans he has met, most of whom suffer from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, along with pictures he painted of them. The stories are beyond inspiring, and President Bush’s love for the book’s subjects practically jumps off of the pages.
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – This was my first ever Agatha Christie book. I read it in preparation for the film adaptation coming out in this month. It took me a little while to get into the story, but once I did, I was hooked. I honestly could not predict who the murderer was, and I was completely caught off guard by the ending. Not only was the book great, but I think it will translate very well to film.
  • The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson – This is the third book in Dickerson’s Haggenheim fairytale retelling series with a Christian twist. I have read several books in this series (you don’t have to read them in order), but this is by far my favorite. Based on Beauty and the Beast, it was inspiring, but also featured plenty of conflict and action to move the story along.

Quotes & Scriptures //

  • “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17
  • “You’re allowed to be broken and a total mess and love Jesus.” – Jordan Lee Dooley
  • “I am a woman. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a Mormon.”
  • “To the girl who reads by flashlight, who sees dragons in the clouds, who feels most alive in worlds that never were, who knows magic is real, who dreams…This is for you.” – Megan Spooner
  • “She’s the kind of queen that knows her crown isn’t on her head but in her soul.” – Adrian Michael
  • “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour….But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-8, 10

Songs //

  • “I’ll Find You” by Lecrae ft. Tori Kelly
  • “Yours” by Russell Dickerson
  • “Broken Things” by Matthew West
  • “God Bless This Mess” by Jillian Jacqueline
  • “Broken Glass” by Rachel Platten
  • “Glimpse” by Kim-Walker Smith
  • “Life Changes” by Thomas Rhett
  • “My Girl” by Dylan Scott
  • “Hills & Valleys” by Tauren Wells
  • “Even If” by MercyMe
  • “Legends” by Kelsea Ballerini
  • “The Long Way” by Brett Eldredge
  • “Can I Be Him” by James Arthur
  • “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift

 

{ Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Unsplash }

I’m Not Ashamed

I’m Not Ashamed

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

– Romans 1:16

Recently I watched a movie called I’m Not Ashamed. This is a faith-based film that tells the story of Rachel Joy Scott, one of the students that was killed in the Columbine High School shooting.

Rachel’s story is an interesting one. She was raised in a religious family, but turned away from this as she grew older. Once she reached high school, she was really struggling emotionally. It was during this time that she turned back to God and the faith she once had. In spite of this, she continued to attend parties where her friends drank alcohol and smoked, and started dating a boy who had no intention of being in a committed relationship.

One day, all of this came to a head, and Rachel realized how lost and broken she felt. She made a commitment to change the way she lived her life and truly follow God. She made this no secret, even basing a school project on her faith. She lost friends and her boyfriend, but she touched the lives of many. Compassion became her main focus. She truly was not worried about the opinions of others, only the opinion of God.

As Rachel’s life was changing in such a positive way, two boys from her school were headed in the exact opposite direction. Exasperated with bullies and the clique-ish atmosphere of their school, they turned to Nazism and Hitler’s ideas. They became indoctrinated with hate. And one day, they decided to take this hate out on their fellow students. They planted a bomb, but it did not go off, so they decided to use guns instead. Rachel and a friend were eating lunch outside the school, and they were the first to be shot. After shooting Rachel one of the boys asked her, “Where is your God now? Do you still believe in God?”

Rachel answered without doubt or hesitation. She knew she would die. And yet her response was, “You know I do.” One of the boys then fired the fatal shot.

This all probably sounds pretty gruesome. (And, of course, it was.) But what happens next is what is truly beautiful. Sometime after the shooting, Columbine students turned Rachel’s car, parked at the school, into a memorial. Students who barely knew her, friends who abandoned her, her former boyfriend, her brother, an autistic boy she befriended, and everyone in between left flowers and notes on and around the car. The notes told of what a difference she made in their lives. What an example she was. How missed she would be. How loved she was by those she showed unconditional love to. How she changed the world.

Rachel was talented in many forms of art. When she was a little girl, she even drew on her furniture. The very last scene of the movie shows her mother moving an old dresser of hers to pick up something that had fallen behind it. There, on the back of the piece of furniture, is a tracing of Rachel’s hand she made as a child. Written inside the hand is the simple but profound statement, “My name is Rachel Joy Scott, and one day these hands will touch many hearts.”

For the entirety of this movie, I was struck by Rachel and the way she chose to live. It caused me to examine my life. Yes, I’m a Christian. Yes, I love God and Jesus. But am I living my life for Them as fully as They want me to? Am I living a life filled with compassion? If I was ever in Rachel’s situation, would my response be more than just “yes?” Would it be “you know I do?”

Maybe. But maybe not.

“I am not ashamed, because You’ve given me life / I am not afraid, because You’ve opened up my eyes”

– “I’m Not Ashamed” by Abigail Duhon

As I said before, I am not living some terrible life. But I don’t know if I’m living Rachel’s life either. I don’t want to be half-way with my beliefs. I don’t want to talk about the gospel only when it feels comfortable. I don’t want to do things like pray and study the scriptures because they’re part of some checklist.

I don’t want to worry about what other people think. I don’t want likes and followers and numbers stop me from being 100% real. I don’t want the wickedness in this world to stop me from changing it.

I want to live like Rachel. I want to live unashamed.

You can’t touch lives and hearts when you are scared and holding back. You can’t change the world from inside of your comfort zone. I think “comfortable” is a bad word in the gospel. Living for Jesus and living like He did isn’t supposed to be comfortable.

We have to be okay with being uncomfortable. With talking to people when we don’t want to. With accepting ridicule from a tainted world. Because living unashamed is living for something greater than this world.

That’s how I want to live. What about you?

“I will sing about Your love / I will shout it to the sky / I will tell of what You’ve done / When the people ask me why I live my life this way I’ll say that I am unashamed of You”

– “Unashamed of You” by Chris August

“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on his behalf.”

– 1 Peter 4:16

 

{ Featured Image by Olivia Snow on Unsplash }

The Old Mary-Faith Can’t Come to the Phone Right Now

The Old Mary-Faith Can’t Come to the Phone Right Now

It’s been a month. Where have I been for a month?

I had a horrible flare with my chronic migraines. I did my first Botox treatment. My port acted up. I almost passed out. I barely left the house most of the time. I wrote things and abandoned them halfway through. I got bogged down by school work. I got behind in school work. My mom had surgery. I got hit by Tropical Storm Irma.

I hosted a bridal shower. I was a bridesmaid. I started journaling again. I discovered awesome new music. I got excited for fall. I bought some cute dresses. I went to Target whenever I went to the doctor. I read a lot of books. I started doing yoga. I started moving my room to the guest room. I felt the Spirit strongly.

It’s been a month, but I feel like it could’ve been a year. I have often looked at the time when I was around 13 when I was diagnosed with POTS as being some strange divider in my life. It was before and after. But now I am learning that there are points in everyone’s life that act as those dividers, those pivotal moments. Maybe something life-changing happened. Maybe you just had a special, or awful, day. But it happens all the time and then everything is different.

As you maybe (probably) know, Taylor Swift has released some new music recently. The first single from her forthcoming album, “Look What You Made Me Do,” addresses the media’s criticism of her (as well as some problems with Kim and Kanye). Towards the end of the song, she has what seems to be a phone conversation that perfectly sums up the entire point of the song.

“I’m sorry. The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, ’cause she’s dead.”

I’m not saying we die all the time (that would be creepy/impossible). But our old selves do. Seasons and stages and phases of life do. And before we know it, the old us can’t come to the phone right now, or ever again.

So I am back now. But maybe I’m not the old Mary-Faith. No. I don’t think she’ll be able to come to the phone.