Tastefully Trendy

A life and fashion blog by Sarah Beth

Category: Inspiration

The Authenticity Project

I recently finished reading the Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley. 5 stars, really. I sped through it, finding it perfectly delightful and just everything I want a novel to be (shout out to my friend Denise – your book recommendations are top notch).

The basic premise of the book is of a man, nearing the end of his life, who writes about his loneliness and regrets in a notebook. He leaves the book in a café, with a charge to the finder to tell their story and then pass it on. The world is full of inauthenticity, he says. What if you told the truth? What if the people around you really knew who you were (and vice versa) – how would things change?

And so, the finder writes her story and leaves it somewhere else, and the subsequent finders’ lives becomes intertwined in an improbable but charming and hopeful way.

I guess I liked the book so much because, I, too, am lonely.

No one really wants to hear that, and I don’t blame them. I go to social media (less and less these days…) and entertainment to make me feel better, not worse. I have enough of my own misery that I don’t particularly want to read or see someone else’s.

But, if the truth is what sets us free; or if our stories can help other people find hope in their own; or if there is community in being authentic – well, I guess it’s worth a shot.

DC has been tough on me, y’all. As some of you may know, I moved to the city for work – but, I also knew a man here who I was convinced was The One. I was certain that as soon as I arrived, we were going to begin our journey into the sunset together.

Only, that did not happen. In fact, 3 days before I moved, he told me he was dating someone who he thought was probably going to be his wife (the timing of all of this is quite suspicious, but that’s a story for another post). Fast forward a year and three months and she was, in fact, his wife.

In addition, my job – the reason I’d moved here – was not at all what I was expecting, and I spent much of those first two months crying and/or drinking wine.

Then – a global pandemic hit. Actually, quarantine was initially a blessing for me, as it allowed me to work from home and reduced my load enough to actually catch up on the mountain of things that had been left for me. I had a group of friends who stuck together throughout most of the year; I think we all really needed each other. I could walk to restaurants and grocery stores. I was grateful to be in this area during the height of the pandemic.

But as 2021 started, things changed. My friends dispersed due to new relationships, changes in Covid restrictions, and just life. We didn’t really need the group as much anymore. Or they didn’t.

My workload decreased further, mostly because, well, I’m efficient. That guy got engaged. I was bored most of the time and tired of my own company, and my reading selections were books about midlife crises and how to be happy.

Then, I went on my trip which was so amazing. And I met a man in Montana, who was also really great. For 3 months after my trip, I wasn’t lonely. I had something to look forward to each day – something that promised to make me smile and someone to talk to, even if he was 2,000 miles away. Everything (and I do mean everything) else in my life was stressful, but at least I had him.

But, as I’m sure you can tell from the direction of this post, that did not work out. It was almost Virgin River (for those of you who watch the show – this guy owned a small town bar I visited along my way), but we just didn’t quite make it to the Hallmark ending.

When that relationship ended, I was so sad. Sad because I liked him, of course, but also sad because with him went my hope for getting out of my rut and out of this city. Now I was back to not knowing where to go and not having much of anything to look forward to except my morning walks and my visits with my chiropractor (for long-time readers, it’s not what you think. First of all, she’s a she. And second of all, everyone is just super nice there. They call me by name and ask what I’m doing over the weekend).

I recently read something about how important human touch is to our emotional well-being, and I started thinking about it. Depending on the week, I might hug or pat two or three people – in the Southern, polite way. I don’t know if that counts. But, aside from that, there just isn’t anyone around to touch. (Another reason I like my chiropractor – she may just be cracking my back, but I’ll take what I can get (and I always cross my fingers for the days when she “prescribes” me a short massage).)

I absolutely abhor dating here. Abhor is a strong word, but it’s the most fitting one. Maybe I’m just getting old, and this would have inevitably happened to me anywhere. Maybe the pool in this area really is as bad as it seems. But, I used to try to fill lonely times by going on dates – hope always springing eternal. Now, I can’t even muster the energy to swipe on an app.

I’ve started going to a new church, and everyone is friendly there, which is nice. But, I’m having trouble finding the motivation to make new friends here since I’ve mentally given up on the city. Does that make me a failure, I wonder? Did I let DC eat me alive? Should I stick it out longer, in hopes that when it’s back to “normal” (whenever that is), maybe it’ll be better?

I’ve been pondering the phrase “the dark night of the soul.” I thought it was something my dad just said, but apparently, it’s a quite common phrase originating in a 16th century Catholic poem. It refers to a period of depression, specifically spiritual – a time of significant doubts and/or fears that God has abandoned you, etc. It reminds me of Jesus’ time on the cross, right before He died – “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani.” My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

From the limited research I’ve done it appears that in Catholicism a dark night of the soul is not a trial to endure, but rather a gift to bring you closer to God. Without weathering the storm of doubts and fears, a person’s faith would be shallow. The dark night brings depth and with it, a more authentic and valuable intimacy with God.

I am in a dark night of the soul. I don’t really know when it will end, or how. I hope that eventually it does.

But, I guess I just wanted to share because that’s what the book said to do. And while it was fiction, of course, really good things came out of people sharing.

I recently watched the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on Netflix (again, highly recommend). In it, the characters in a small town form deep bonds of friendship over a shared trial (the German occupation). While it was an unlikely group to be sure, their friendships are sincere and profound. As in the Authenticity Project, the community that formed – one that was there for each other regularly and, to use a phrase I particularly hate, in a “life-giving” way – is what I think we all really want, deep down. Friends who not only have us over for the holidays, but also hang out with us on Friday nights. And at Tuesday book clubs. Who know our secrets and would defend us (or challenge us, as the situation deemed necessary). Friends who would know if we were alive or not – and would really care.

I don’t have a neat and tidy way to wrap this up, honestly. There is no moral to my story – at least not yet. And I don’t know if I even have a challenge for you, my readers. Perhaps you have a story that you would like to share in this authenticity effort. You can leave it in the comments or email it to me – or post it wherever you’d like and just tag me if you’re comfortable; I’d love to read it.

Maybe, instead, you have somehow found something in what I’ve said that has made you feel less alone. I’d be very encouraged to hear that, too.

Perhaps, you’ve come through your own dark night of the soul. If so, that story would likely benefit so many, and I encourage you to share it.

I would ask, though, respectfully, for no pity or platitudes. I’m not sharing this story for pity – really, unless you can move to DC and hang out with me regularly, that won’t do me much good, anyway. And platitudes have never done anyone much good.

But, personal sharing is welcome and encouraged. I hope you will.

Thank you for reading this epistle. May your nights of the soul burn brightly.

<3,

SB

EPL, FAQ

Yesterday, I told y’all about the Eat, Pray, Love trip I’m taking in a few weeks, but I thought there might be some questions. Here are a few that people have already asked (or that I’ve asked myself).

What is your itinerary?

While everything is subject to change, the current plan is DC to Asheville, NC. From there, I’ll head to Knoxville, then Nashville (obviously) for a few days. From Nashville, I’ll drive to Little Rock and then to Dallas/Fort Worth area. The next stop is Amarillo (by morning, of course), then Albuquerque/Santa Fe. From New Mexico, I’ll head up to Colorado, and probably bounce around between Pueblo/Colorado Springs/Denver/Fort Collins.

Then, the real adventure begins as I head off to Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota, although not necessarily in that order. I’m going to rely on locals’ advice for those states, and we’ll see where that gets me.

The route on the way back will be determined by Covid openings and how tired of being on the road I am. So, TBD…

How did you come up with that itinerary?

When I first got the idea for this trip, I mapped out the route between here and Denver (or Menver, as my friend who jokingly kicked off this trip calls it). Then, I made a list of friends I know who were loosely along the route and tried to see as many as possible along the way – a safer and more fun way to travel, in my opinion.

But, why the Dakotas?

I’ve always enjoyed the Fly-Over states, to be honest. But, I also really wanted to go to some places I’d never been. As a federal employee, I basically have to stay within the US if I’m teleworking, so that eliminated anywhere truly exotic. And the Plains States seemed to fit better with the Hallmarkian (I just created that word, I think, but I like it. Like, “Dickensian”, only way less sophisticated) vision I had for this trip.

This seems like a LOT of driving.

It is, and I don’t love driving. However, flying was cost prohibitive because I would have to rent a car for the whole time. Besides just getting from state to state, I doubt I will be in a lot of walkable areas, and I’m not sure how prevalent Uber is in Small Town, USA. So, for the sake of needing to eat, and for the sake of taking a lot more with me, I’m going to drive (more below on what I’m taking with me).

I have, though, divided the driving up into 4-5 hour segments, so it should be manageable. On days that I have to work and drive, I may drive an hour on my lunch break (so I have less distance to cover later), and work the rest of the afternoon at Starbucks. We’ll see. Either way, I see myself plowing through some audio books – recommendations are welcome.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait until the summer?

Probably. But, I picked this time frame intentionally for several reasons:

  1. Summer is fun around here, and I didn’t want to miss it. I won’t miss much in February or March.
  2. I like snow, and because my itinerary is so flexible, snow won’t derail my plans. If snow is predicted, I’ll just leave where I am sooner or stay longer. However, I am starting my journey by heading south in late February in the hopes that by the time I hit the snowiest regions, I’ll have missed the worst of it.
  3. I needed the trip to be soon enough after my disappointing news that I could actually be excited about planning it, even while I was sad. The more removed from my funk, the less helpful the trip would be in getting me out of it.
  4. Hallmarkian. Magical things happen in small towns in the winter.

Won’t this trip be expensive?

In a word – yes. While teleworking from different locations has become a trend over the past year, a lot of people who do it give UP their apartments and use that money towards Airbnbs. I’m not doing that, so it’ll add up. I’m trying not to do too much math, in all honesty. But, I got those stimulus checks, so here’s to doing my civic duty to stimulate the economy.

What are you going to DO while you’re out there?

Well, I will still be working, so I’m not just going to have 6 weeks of free time. However, I envision a lot of time spent in local coffee shops and restaurants, getting a flavor for the culture of each town. I’m going to see Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands. And, I want to do some outdoor things, but in areas where I have friends. I don’t think hiking the Blue Ridge or Rockies by myself seems like a good idea – due both to my inexperience and gender. But, with friends, I’m game. Maybe I’ll become outdoorsy after all this – who knows.

Where will you be staying?

It really depends on the area, I think, and how long I’ll be there. I really like Airbnbs, but they are not always the most cost-effective option, especially for short stays. So, I think I’ll probably do hotels if I’m only somewhere for a night or two, and Airbnbs with a kitchen (and washer and dryer!) if I’ll be somewhere a little longer. I can’t eat out EVERY meal, so I will need some groceries and a place to prepare them.

Of course, if you’re along my route and want to give me a place to stay for a night, I won’t say no! (See the question about expense above.)

Are you actually going to date while you’re gone?

I don’t really know how this will work out. I mean, I’ve joked about it being a Hallmark movie, but in reality, I need to be safe and smart. Using the apps when you’re not a local can send the wrong impression about your intentions, and I don’t know how many strangers I will actually meet at coffee shops. So, who knows. Either way, don’t worry about me – the same principles of safety apply wherever I am: pick a public place, scope out the restaurant first, share your iPhone location with a friend…

But, seriously – how are YOU going to live out of a suitcase for 6 weeks?!

I am a little concerned about this one, TBH, for several reasons. One, I’m a terrible packer in the best of scenarios, as I never know what I’m going to be in the mood to wear or exactly what I’ll be doing/what the occasion will call for. Plus, I seldom repeat outfits, so I don’t have “go-tos”. Two, I’m going to be in a few different climates along the way. Three – it’s winter. Winter clothes take up a lot more space.

But, I have a plan. I’m going to pack my largest suitcase with the stuff I will wear most often. This is the one I will always take in with me, no matter where I’m staying.

My other suitcase will have some “you never know” stuff in it – like a swimsuit (maybe there will be a hot tub somewhere?), a dressier outfit (for the Hallmarkian ending), and hiking gear (I probably will use this several times, but I don’t need it every where I go). That way, I can just get out what I need, when I need it, and minimize how much I’m lugging in and out of hotels.

I also plan to have some basic kitchen supplies/groceries in a separate bag – again, so I can take it in when I need it and leave it in my car when I don’t. Same with my workout equipment. My goal is to have everything I will absolutely NEED, but not look like I’m moving in anytime I arrive somewhere.

***

So, as you can see, I’ve put a lot of thought into this trip. While the idea itself was spontaneous, I never really do anything actually spontaneous. The lack of a strict routine is stretching enough. But, I am eager to get on the road and to see what adventures await. Now, to download those audio books…

<3,

SB

Eat, Pray, Love

It started with a broken heart, the way all finding yourself journeys begin.

A man I’d been in love with for four years got engaged to someone else, and although I suspected it was coming, the news of its reality hit me very hard.

I took the day off, friends sent cupcakes and flowers, and others called to check on me. It was all very dramatic, but I think that the dramatics are justified the older you get. I read an article once about a Japanese company who gave “heartache leave” for people after a breakup – the number of days increased the older you got. It just gets harder to bounce back from disappointment.

But, bounce back you must, even if, as more than one of my friends has suggested to me, it seems that “the One” for me might not be in DC. I’ve not had any luck here, after all. You may recall that in the entire city of the District of Columbia, there are only 1,000 men who meet my MOST BASIC requirements – and that number is likely to decrease now that there is a Democratic administration.

Teasing me, one of my friends suggested I might need to go somewhere where the ratio of men to women is higher and the population swings more conservative. South Dakota might be the right fit for me, we joked.

But, then I started to think about it. Maybe South Dakota wouldn’t be so bad for a change? Not to find a man necessarily. But, my top bucket list item is to visit all 50 states, and I’ve never been to those Plains States – they’re not really on the way to anything. Plus, I’m teleworking now, anyway, and have no reasons I have to stay in DC.

And so, an idea was born. At first, it was just something fun to distract me from feeling sad; I love a good trip plan. But, the more I thought about it, the more my idea grew, until I decided finally to take about 6 weeks this late winter/early spring and set out across the country.

The only firm itinerary I have is for the first 9 days or so, as I make my way from DC down to Dallas, visiting friends (and Arkansas…might as well get that state out of the way now, too) along the way. From there, I will work my way north, through New Mexico, Colorado, the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Montana. Order and length of stay in each area TBD.

In each stop, I’ll ask recommendations for the next place, looking for that hole-in-the-wall Hallmark town to make all of my lumberjack dreams come true (I’d be lying if I said this trip wasn’t slightly Hallmark/Virgin River induced). But, more pragmatically, locals will know the most unique – and safest – places for me to go much better than my ill-experienced googling.

While this trip is hardly hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a la Wild, not having a to-the-minute, strictly-planned itinerary; spending that much time alone and on the road; and not having a routine will definitely be a challenge for me and push me outside of my comfort zone. As will living out of suitcases for a month and a half…! I expect to have lots of time to think, pray, listen to audio books, and sing angsty Taylor Swift songs.

I also recently realized that my trip coincides neatly with Lent – starting a day after and culminating (probably) at Easter. I don’t always observe Lent, but that timing still seemed meaningful to me.

I don’t really have any expectations for what will come of this trip, beyond it just being an adventure to talk about later. Will I “find myself”? I don’t know really what that means. Will I work through the existential crises of faith, professional success, and our political world that I’m currently facing? Or the personal ones that seem to accompany recent birthdays when you’re not quite where you want to be in life?

Will I meet my Hallmark movie co-lead? Will I make interesting new friends? Will I live-blog what’s happening or post about it on social medias, or will I just savor all the experiences for myself – to tell, or not, at a later date?

I have no idea. All I know is that I’m going.

Eventually, I’m going to have a name for this trip that is uniquely mine. It might have to come after the fact, when I see what the trip really is. For now, I’m calling it my Eat, Pray, Love trip, because most people get that reference.

Tomorrow, I’ll address some frequently asked questions – like, why, for example, I’m doing this in winter. Today, though, let’s just celebrate that life is an adventure to be lived, and that’s what I’m going to do.

2020

Well, y’all – it’s been a year, hasn’t it? We’re not even half way through, and I think everyone is exhausted.

You may find this hard to believe, but I’ve already been in DC for over 5 months. It doesn’t seem like it, in large part because I moved here just in time for winter and quarantine. In many ways, the time has flown by; in others, it has seemed to drag. But, overall, I’m glad to be here.

I have some thoughts on current events that I want to share. Literally no one has asked for these, but that’s never stopped me before. So, brace yourselves for my opinions, and remember that they are just that – opinions.

Corona
From the beginning of this crisis, I thought we should protect the vulnerable populations in isolation and let the rest of us go about our lives. I’m no scientist (literally, I took Ornamental Horticulture for my science credit in college), but that path seemed to make the most sense to me. I also GROSSLY underestimated how long everything would be shut down. I had 6 rolls of toilet paper on March 13 and thought that would be adequate to ride this out.

Now, however, as more information comes out from the CDC/WHO (such as the virus does not live on surfaces after all; it may not actually be easily transmitted by asymptomatic carriers, etc.), it seems like I might have been right and we could have (should have) avoided the economic damage done to so many individuals.

But, hindsight is 20/20. I remember the memes in March that said if we do this right, it will look like an overreaction. So, maybe the overreaction was necessary, even though it doesn’t seem like it. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe we’ll never know.

I do not, however, think it was a giant conspiracy by our government. Could China have intentionally released the disease? I 100% would not put that past them. Could political leaders have used the crisis to their advantage – overselling it or underselling it as better suited their cause? Definitely. Is it a little startling how quickly we just laid down all of our rights because the government told us to? Yes. But, I don’t think the virus was fake. I want that to be very clear for posterity.

Joe Biden
Are we still believing women? That’s really my only question. I’m not saying that Biden should not be the Democratic candidate; I’m not a Democrat, so my opinion on that doesn’t really matter.

What I am saying is that women’s voices should hold equal weight, regardless of whether or not you side with the accused. If you believed the women accusing Trump, believe the women accusing Biden. If you didn’t believe the women accusing Trump, don’t believe the women accusing Biden. Or, at least look at each accusation as an individual case and decide what you believe. But to dismiss or accept someone’s story based on the political merits (or lack thereof) of who they are accusing is hypocritical.

With that said, if Democrats are choosing Biden despite his past because they believe him to be the lesser of two evils or the only candidate who can beat his opponent, I understand that – many Republicans made that very same choice in 2016. Let’s just be honest about it.

I think if more people were honest about candidates, recognizing the candidate’s flaws and articulating where they do or do not agree with the politician, the parties would not be so polarized and we’d have a lot less vitriol and division. I see this happen on a micro level in private conversations; let’s make it happen on a macro level.

Which brings me to my next point:

Racism
President Trump has handled the events since George Floyd’s death very poorly. One of the President’s responsibilities, in my opinion, is to be what I’ve termed a Conciliator-in-Chief. When FDR became President during the Great Depression, he took to the radio and hosted his Fireside Chats and CALMED EVERYONE DOWN. The chats did not end the Depression. Arguably, FDR didn’t even end it – World War II did.

But, FDR helped people to feel like someone was working on their behalf and things were under control. FDR brought comfort in a time of great fear. He helped to bring unity, rather than to increase division. I think everyone can acknowledge that this is not one of President Trump’s strengths.

I say all of that as a segue between my last point about acknowledging flaws. But, I’m not going to dwell on it as it is not the focus here.

Racism is alive and well in the United States. The first time I realized this, I was 18 and working at a Shoney’s in South Carolina. I worked on the breakfast bar and was restocking food from the kitchen when I overheard an old man call one of my coworkers, a black teenager, “Boy.” (This incident happened just a few years after the controversial removing of the Confederate flag from the top of the South Carolina State House).

Having read a lot of my friends’ social media posts over the past two weeks, I realize it is a luxury (I’m intentionally not using the word “privilege” as it has become so politically charged as to no longer carry its original weight) to not realize racism still exists until you are 18 years old – and even then for it not to be directed at you. Most of my black friends learned much, much younger than that.

Since then, I studied racism at college from a (white) history professor who adamantly insisted that the Civil War was fought over slavery, and you’ll never be able to convince me otherwise. I did a summer study of the South and saw where Martin Luther King, Jr. marched – and was assassinated. I learned about racist symbolism such as blackface actors, stock black characters like Mammies and aggressively sexual black men, and even watermelon. My perspective was changed by that professor, and I’m grateful.

I’ve also lived in Georgia, where otherwise good people gave me directions using landmarks such as the “BBK” – the Black Burger King. Friends told me of a girl who was shacking up with some guy who had knocked her up and refused to work. The parents of the girl were very upset – because the guy was black. That was the part of this scenario that concerned everyone.

Several years ago, I read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and my eyes were opened even wider to how pervasive racism still is. I HIGHLY recommend that book to everyone; it is always at the top of my list of most influential books I’ve ever read. I also recommend The Sun Does Shines by Anthony Ray Hinton, one of Stevenson’s clients.

With all of that said, my heart has been heavy the past couple of weeks because I don’t know the answer. I have so many conflicting thoughts. Of course, violent riots and looting are not the answer – I think the majority of people on both sides of the issue agree with that. But it also should not be an “issue” at all. Being against racism should not be a political stance, and yet somehow, in our disunified state where everything has to have a left or a right side, it has become political.

I hear the points people have made that “we” don’t like riots, but “we” also didn’t like the peaceful protests of kneeling for the anthem. And, I was definitely one of those people uncomfortable with kneeling for the anthem – y’all know my patriotism and love for the military run deep. But, I hear the argument. There may be some hyperbole in it, but the point is well-taken and worth discussing – what is the “appropriate” way to protest?

Hopefully I am not the pot calling the kettle black here, but virtue signaling REALLY bugs me, and I’ve seen a lot of that from my white friends lately. If you have something unique to contribute, by all means go for it. But, I get annoyed at posting for the sake of posting.

However…without the thousands of social media posts over the past weeks, would any conversations be happening at all? Yes, the riots take away from the main focus here – America needs to deal with our racist attitudes. The national conversations are focusing on the wrong things. But, at the individual level, I’ve had lots of conversations about racism this past week. I’ve had even more reflection on it. So, while the virtue signaling bugs me, maybe it is an important part of facilitating discussions that would not otherwise be top of mind.

Stream of consciousness thoughts – that’s all I have to give. I’m troubled by the state of our country. I hate that we divide on EVERY. SINGLE. ISSUE. I don’t even know how to put a positive spin on it, other than to say we should pray. And yes, we definitely need to pray, but sometimes things are so overwhelming it’s hard to pray.

So, we’re back to where we started – my opinions. Thank you for indulging them. I thought about wrapping up with some personal anecdotes and a picture or two of my clothes to swing things back to a lighter note, but I’ll save that for another post.

Much love to everyone, and may God bless the United States of America.

<3,
SB

Major Announcement

If you’re familiar with the Enneagram (i.e., you are immersed in Christian culture and/or you live in Nashville), then my penchant for making big, dramatic announcements should not surprise you since I am a 3 wing 4. If you’re not familiar with the Enneagram but you’ve ever met me, then it probably shouldn’t surprise you, either. I enjoy making a splash.

So, with that as an introduction, allow me to make the biggest announcement I’ve made in about 4 years – since I announced I was moving to Nashville…

I am, once again, moving!

I’ve accepted a position with the Department of Education, Federal Student Aid office, and I’ll be heading to DC in a few weeks.

When I told my current boss about my new job, he said, “well, that sounds boring.” Which made me laugh. But, I agree – if I were packaging individual loans for students, it would be pretty boring (no offense to any student loan officers out there; you’ve got a tough job). But, I’ll be on more of the big picture side, working with the people who are trying to resolve the student loan crisis, provide the public with good information, and affect policy. It’s a really incredible opportunity, and I’m grateful for it.

Most people who I’ve told about my move have had similar reactions and asked the same questions, so I thought I’d go ahead and address them now to save us all some time.

Q: But, I thought you loved Nashville!

A: I do love Nashville. Nashville is the best city I’ve ever lived in, and I will miss it, my friends, my church (especially my church), the music, and so much more. Of all my many moves, this one is the most bittersweet. But, it is time, and this opportunity opens up a whole new avenue for my career. I couldn’t pass it up.

Q: But, I thought you hated DC!

A: Hate is such a strong word… DC has never been my favorite city, that is true. However, I’ve also always thought I’d end up there at some point. I’ve been interested in government work for most of my adult life, and when I first graduated with my master’s, I moved to Virginia Beach with the plan to use it as a launching pad to DC. And I guess I did – just with two states and a lot of years in between.

Q: Why do you move so much, anyway?

A: I’ve wrestled with this one myself. To be fair, the majority of my moves were as a child, and I think growing up that way gave me a bit of a free spirit. I enjoy change and new opportunities and adventures. However, I’m also in my 30s now so I think about change and all its ramifications more seriously. At the end of the day, though, while I sometimes feel old, I’m not actually and life is long. There is plenty of time left to try new things and if I don’t like them, I can try something else. On the other hand, time does go by quickly and I don’t want to waste a moment by being afraid to take risks and seize opportunities.

Q: Are they paying you enough to live there?

A: Yes, and I’m sensitive about this question because I feel like it implies that I’m naive and don’t know that DC is expensive, and/or that I wasn’t smart enough to consider cost of living in my decision. So, if you ask this, and I snap at you, I’m sorry; I know you are just trying to be helpful. But, at least now you know why I’m touchy about it. Also, thank you for paying your taxes so that I can pay my bills.

Q: Can you get my student loans forgiven?

A: No.

Q: Are you excited?

A: Yes, I am excited. Like I said earlier, it’s definitely bittersweet. But, I miss the East Coast. I spent almost all of my 20s along the coast, and many of my close friends are still scattered up and down the shoreline. I have a few friends from different points in my life in DC, too, including my middle school bestie and a friend who I have accidentally followed to college, Nashville, and now DC.

Plus, the beach is closer – a significant factor that can’t be ignored.

But, I realize that my life is about to be dramatically different. Nashville is the biggest city I’ve ever lived in, and DC is literally 4 times its size. I’ll be taking public transportation every day and walking a few blocks from my home to the metro stop and from the metro stop to work – in all kinds of weather. I have to get “walking” shoes. It snows in DC, and I haven’t lived in a place where it snowed regularly in over 12 years. I’m going to have to wear suits. Maybe not every day. But more than the average of two times a year that I currently wear them.

So, yes, I am excited. But, I’m also nervous. I know I’ll adjust, and I think I’ll end up really liking it. I guess it would be a little ridiculous to do it if I didn’t expect to like it. But, I’m realistic enough to realize that the transition might be a little tough.

Q: This seems so sudden!

A: It’s really not. While I’d let my government ambitions subside for a while, a little over a year ago, I began to think about DC seriously. This was a big thing for me, because as we’ve already discussed, I’ve never loved DC and have actually been quite vocal about that in the past… But, the more I thought about it, the better the idea seemed, and it stuck with me, too. I get whims all the time, and most go away within a few days. It’s the ones that stick with me that I start to really pray about and pursue.

I applied for a few things last fall but took a little break when those didn’t pan out. Then, this summer, I started putting out feelers again and setting up alerts on USA Jobs. I went up for an interview with FSA in September, and I didn’t receive a final offer until November. So, really, none of it has been sudden at all. But, it all has been remarkably smooth and easy – something I also couldn’t ignore in my decision making process.

In fact, the process was so easy, I can’t help but think of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde getting into Harvard:

via GIPHY

I hesitate to even make that joke because I do know that the typical process of getting a federal job can be very difficult, and I’ve had several friends be incredibly frustrated in their search. So, I don’t want to make light of anyone’s disappointment. However, I can’t help but marvel at the way God has thrown open doors for me, and as Proverbs 3:6 says, “made my paths straight.”

Q: Can we come visit you like we did in Nashville?

A: Of course! The accommodations will likely be a little more snug…and you might have to sleep on an air mattress or the couch. But, I’m always happy to have guests!

And there you have it – the major announcement! I’ve already begun altering my wardrobe to include Ann Taylor, Tommy Hilfiger, and some sensible pumps. But, honestly, I think DC fashion is a little lacking, so even within the confines of my professional wardrobe, I’m excited to bring a little Tastefully Trendy flair to the big city.

And in the meantime, if you have any boxes or newspaper, I will gladly take all of it off of your hands.

To cap off this post, I don’t have any great outfit collages. I do, however, have a picture of me examining a closet at a potential DC apartment (I deemed the closet inadequate, as you might be able to guess from my face). And a couple of my favorite selfies from the magical mirror in my church bathroom. Dear Magic Mirror, I think I’ll miss you most of all.

Thank you for reading, and much love to you all.

<3,
SB

By Faith

Today’s post is part journal entry, part encouragement for anyone who thinks like me, and part “I feel like I need to say these things ‘out loud’ to really cement them”. But, I also have a cute outfit at the bottom of the page, along with a side-by-side with middle school me, so please join me for whichever part(s) are most beneficial to you. I hope it all will be.

Although I was raised in a Christian home and accepted Jesus at a very young age, there is one aspect of the Christian faith that has always been difficult for me – the actual faith part.

I don’t have trouble believing that God exists, that Jesus died and rose again for our salvation, that one day all who believe in Him will be in Heaven, or any of the other key elements of Christianity. I don’t even have trouble believing that God directs our steps and has a divine plan for each one of us. But, when you start getting into the specifics of what that divine plan might be, or how God relates to us on an individual level, that’s where I’ve struggled more.

But, it is an invaluable lesson, if we can get it, and the way God is teaching me about faith at the moment is by leading me to have faith for something VERY specific. I’ve literally never done this before. Sure, I’ve asked God whether or not I should take a certain job and had faith that He was directing me. Or, I’ve prayed for someone’s health or financial situation and believed that God would intervene. But, those all seemed very manageable and also generic enough that God could do a lot of different things, and I would still believe that He’d answered my prayer. These kinds of prayers did not “stretch” my faith or challenge my theology at all.

But this time is different. This time, there is no way for me to see God’s hand through a variety of solutions. I’m either right in what I believe God has spoken to my heart and He’ll do it, or I’m wrong and He won’t. And if He doesn’t, then I’ll have to wrestle with what that means. But there is no wiggle room. There is no way for a half-answered prayer here.

I’ve never been a “name it/claim it” person; it doesn’t fit with my theology. I don’t think God is a cosmic genie, up in the heavens ready at our beck and call to grant our wishes. However, I do believe that God is a good Father, I believe He answers prayer, and I believe He speaks to us in all kinds of different ways, if only we will listen. I also believe, as one of my mentors used to say, that He wants us to be in His will even more than we do.

So, when I felt that God laid something specific on my heart to pray in faith for/about, I didn’t feel that I was “naming” it and claiming it. Rather, I felt like He gave me the idea in the first place. Yes, it’s an idea that I’m super into, but I wasn’t just sitting around thinking of things I wanted and giving God His marching orders. Instead, I felt like God had invited me to join Him in working to accomplish His will by placing this particular situation on my heart. My responsibility in this task was to pray and to believe that He will do what He has said, which is both an honor and very humbling – but also a little terrifying.

I guess the reason praying for something specific scares me so much, besides the fact that I’ve never done it before, is that I could be wrong. And if I’m wrong, what does that say about my relationship with God – my ability to hear from Him, His willingness to speak to me, who He is in general…

Also, if I’m wrong, not only will I be disappointed, but I’ll feel foolish. I’m not talking to many people about this situation – you know, except all of you – so, there won’t be a lot of other people judging me if I misheard. But I’ll know.

But faith is risky by its very nature.

Everything good in life is: relationships, love, new ventures, investments. If we only made decisions based on very sure things, we’d have a limited pool of options available to us.

I was talking to a wise friend about this a month or two ago, and I expressed to her my fear about having misheard God and what the implications of that might be for my faith overall. She asked a simple question, “But, what is your alternative?”

That question put everything into perspective for me, because she’s right – I have no alternative. If God is not who He says He is, what hope do I have in life at all? A hopeless, godless life is a reality I can’t even fathom. So, then, if I believe God is who He says He is, how does that impact my daily life? Do I also believe that He speaks to me, and if so, what do I do about what He’s said?

As my friend and I were talking, I couldn’t help but think of several Biblical heroes who have faced very specific situations that were likely quite trying on their faith. I think we read these Bible stories as though the characters in them are just innately good, and they didn’t ever struggle to have the right response. But I bet it was just as difficult for them to exercise faith as it is for us. Thankfully, though, we have the benefit of their experiences to inspire us in our own.

For example, when faced with the very real possibility of losing her position – and her life – by going before the king uninvited, Queen Esther said, “If I perish, I perish” – and armed with the prayers of her people, she stepped out in faith and saved an entire nation from annihilation.

Abraham followed God’s word up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac, believing all the way that God would provide an alternative sacrifice. But if He didn’t, Abraham was still going to believe God and go through with what He had said. Fortunately, God did provide a ram in the thicket…just in the nick of time.

Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego stood at the edge of the fiery furnace, boldly proclaiming that God would rescue them. But even if He did not, they committed that they would not turn away from Him. In their case, their faith was so tested, they actually went INTO the fire before God saved them. But, save them He did and not even their clothes smelled of smoke.

What is even more encouraging about these stories is that not only did all of these people stand in faith in impossible circumstances, believing in God regardless of the consequences, but in each situation, God did come through and their faith was rewarded.

So, with all of these truths in mind, I’ve decided to press forward in the direction I believe that God has called me. It is a risk. I might be wrong. I might be disappointed. But, I also might grow in the Lord in a way I’ve never yet experienced.

Like Esther, I’m choosing to take a risk in faith, and if I perish, I perish (which, in this particular situation is unlikely to happen, but I can be dramatic, so the phrase seems fitting). And I’m excited to see what/how/when/why God will use my faith and work in my life.

A couple of years ago, I did a series on hope (parts 2 and 3 here and here). Faith is hope’s very close cousin. The other day, Sandi Patty, my childhood musical idol, posted something on Instagram from her husband, who commented that faith is the substance of things hoped for – a verse we all know. But, that means that faith is what allows us to have hope; it’s the basis of our hope. Faith in God’s goodness is what gives us the strength to hope.

First Corinthians says, these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. So, now that I’ve mastered the first two (jk about the mastering…), maybe you can expect a love series sometime in the future. I probably have an awful lot of lessons to learn on the “greatest of these”.

And now, as promised, here is my cute outfit – and a sudden transition.

I’ve wanted to get in on the overalls trend since they first rolled back into style a few years ago, but since I refuse to pay full (over)price for farm clothing, I had to wait until I could find a good deal. So, finally, at the end of summer, I’ve found my white shorts overalls, and I just hope they’ll still be in style next year.

I realize this picture is a little blurry, but I liked my face in it, so I’m embracing the blur.

This shirt was a vacation purchase, which is honestly the only reason I own it. It was more than I would normally have paid, but who can do math properly while you’re at the beach? So, I accidentally bought it and now I’m pretty happy that I did. In the close up, you can see more of the shirt detail – as well as the buttons on my overalls.

The last time overalls were in style, I was 12 and I was ALL ABOUT THEM.

So, in celebration of the style’s return, here is a side-by-side of 2019 me and 1997 me…who wore it better?

I am jealous of 6th grade me’s tan, though. I lived in Florida.

So, there you have it. What has God taught you about faith recently, or how have you seen him work in your life as you’ve stepped out in faith?

Or, if you’d rather, we can talk about overalls. What do you think of this trend?

As always, thank you all for reading. You’re all just the best.

<3,

SB

thank u, next

Happy New Year, everyone!

In the spirit of not making resolutions I won’t keep, I’m going to stop promising how often I’ll have a new blog post. I get embarrassed when I don’t live up to my own expectations, so the new rule is, I’ll write when I have something to say. Or a really great outfit to feature.

Also in the spirit of the new year, and of Ariana Grande, I thought it might be fun to take a trip down memory lane. Reflecting on the past can sometimes be a great way to head into the future.

Unless you’ve been trapped in a fallout shelter for the past month or two, you’ve probably heard Ariana’s new song, “thank u, next.” It has spawned countless memes and an epic music video that took the social media world by storm for a full 24-48 hours.

The basic premise of the song is Ariana looking back on all of her past relationships and reflecting on the good they brought her and the lessons she learned. She ends by talking about focusing on herself and being grateful for all the ways she’s grown, even through difficulties.

Of course, in true 2019 pop star fashion, the song is full of profanity and teenage slang (I honestly don’t see how it’s possible that she’s over the age of 15). However, I really like the sentiment – the idea of looking for the good in all of our life circumstances, including the painful ones.

Can I really say “I’m so [edited] grateful for my ex” about every guy I’ve dated? I’d have to think pretty hard about that. But, I can at least highlight a few:

Thank u, next:  To my grad school guy – thank you for being the reason I made a lifelong friend. There’s nothing like common relationship drama and young T. Swift music to bring two early-20s girls together and make them inseparable for life. Also, thank you for shoveling my snow.

Thank u, next: To the guy I went out with a few times when I was 23 – you prompted me (quite unknowingly on your part, I’m very sure) to refocus my life and reprioritize my relationship with God. My twenties may have looked a lot different had I not known you.

Thank u, next: To the guy I went out with a few times when I was 26 – thanks to you, I went on a 10 month Man Fast, and it was the single best spiritual undertaking in my life thus far.

Thank u, next: To Hot Trainer. We never actually dated at all, but you showed me what respect looked like at a time when I’d experienced very little of it. And you set an impossible standard for text response time with which no man has ever been able compete.

Thank u, next: To the guy from Ohio. I freaked out a little on you. Sorry about that. Thank you for being nice and letting me get it out of my system on you, so no one else need experience it.

Thank u, next: To my chiropractor. Whenever I want someone to think I’m funny, I tell our story, and they always do. Also, you fixed my back, so I appreciate that.

Thank u, next: To the lawyer. We’ll always have Whytheville.

Thank u, next: To the Navy SEAL I went out with that one time. Thank you for helping me realize that it was possible for a man of your caliber to be interested in a girl like me. I’m also glad I can someday tell my grandchildren that I dated a SEAL (you’ll forgive me if I embellish the story a little).

Thank u, next: To Bradley Cooper. You raised my standards permanently and helped me realize what I’m really looking for. And it snowed in Chattanooga in March, which was pretty magical, if you think about it.

Thank u, next: To all the military men I’ve ever dated – thank you for teaching me about your jobs and war zones and the insiders’ scoop on international relations, and for answering my questions about the 2nd Amendment and whether or not we should even be in said war zones. Also, thank you for serving and looking so good in that uniform (heart eyes emoji x 10).

Thank u, next: To everyone else – to the first dates who I genuinely enjoyed talking to, thank you for good conversation. To the first dates that were a little painful, thank you for taking the risk, anyway. To the ones who didn’t ghost me, thank you for being honest, even when it’s awkward. To the ones who did ghost me, thank you for helping me strengthen my own skills at having difficult conversations.

I don’t know what 2019 will bring me, but if I can keep looking for the good, perhaps it’ll all turn out just fine, no matter what.

I do know that 2019 will certainly bring me new clothes, even as I’ve been watching Tidying Up and throwing out tons of old ones (to be fair, I read the book a few months before the series came out and had already begun the process).

But here are a couple of 2018 outfits that will remain in my closet, as they definitely spark joy:
I’m not 100% sure that this dress wasn’t intended to be an “Ugly Christmas Dress” – it’s pretty loud and velvety… But, I love it and proudly wear it, unironically.

Poinsettas are a Christmas flower, of course, but I may still wear this dress into January, as it doesn’t have any Santas or trees on it – I think I can get away with it. It’s just a shame to only wear something you like so much during one month of the year. The next dress was my New Year’s Eve dress. My expectations for NYE are always way too high, and I’m usually disappointed. But, I love the hope found in a fresh start – and the sparkles, of course.

Lest you think I skipped my sequins this year in favor of a more subtle sparkle, please look more closely at my shoes. Sequins will forever have my heart.
I hope you all enjoyed your holidays and are expectant about the new year. Perhaps you might also take a lesson from Ariana (words I would never have expected to come from my mouth) and reflect on some of the past seasons in your life – good and bad – to see how you’ve grown because of them. And, let’s pledge to ourselves to continue to look for that good in every situation we encounter in the new year.

<3,

SB

Self-Care: Part 3 – Weight Loss

Well, I’ve been putting this one off, but I guess the time has finally arrived to talk about what we all probably think about first when it comes to self-care: weight and nutrition.

If you didn’t know me in college or grad school, you might not know that I’ve lost about 30 pounds since I graduated in 2007. 30 pounds may not sound like a lot, but I’m only 5’3″ – a couple pounds difference on my frame is noticeable. 30 pounds at the time of my heaviest weight was 15-20% of my total body weight. Now, it’d obviously be an even larger percentage.

I’ve thought about talking about my weight loss for a long time, but I’ve always waited. I wanted to get to my “perfect weight” before I did a big dramatic reveal. But, perfect to me is Carrie Underwood, which will likely never be attainable, unless I suddenly have a job that literally pays me to look beautiful.

So, in the interest of being transparent, and with the hope that my experience can be encouraging or helpful or at least relatable to anyone, here we go. (Warning, this is long – I have a lot to say.)

In 2007, I looked like this:

I wasn’t morbidly obese, obviously. But, I was an unhealthy and uncomfortable weight for my frame. And, I wasn’t really happy with how I looked.

But, I was in school, and I was a good student and kid who did nothing but study and eat ice cream while watching the Bachelor with my best friend and her mom. There were no liquid calories for me all throughout school – it was very real, very permanent food calories.

Once I graduated, though, I had the time and interest to get a little more serious about being where I wanted to be, so I got to work.

Weight loss was not a new topic to me. I think I had my first Slim Fast shake in 8th grade. In high school, I packed my own lunch and took an apple, an orange, and carrots every day. That’s it. It was the early 2000s – I don’t think most of us knew a lot about nutrition then. Fruits and vegetables were healthy, so I thought I was doing great.

Part of my issues with weight at such a young age stemmed from a health class in 9th grade in which we learned about obesity, and the boys selected me to be the lucky girl they called an “obese fat cow.” I knew they were calling me that because I wasn’t fat – they weren’t quite mean enough to call the actual larger girls that. But, still – at 14, a nickname like that leaves a mark.

I can’t blame it all on them, though. Being worried about your body is an almost universal issue among American women, and as a girly girl who was way more into boys and shoes and school than I was running around the soccer field, I was no exception. I also come by it naturally. My grandmother – the mayor’s wife and the best dressed woman in Fort Thomas, Kentucky – was worried about her weight until the day she died, just shy of 92 years old.

Of course, none of my efforts had really been successful prior to this point. I did manage to avoid the Freshman 15 in college, but I made up for it with the Sophomore 20. I would try various fad diets now and then but was never very good at sticking to them. I’m still not.

But, at 22 years old with a master’s degree, I was ready.

The first thing I did when I moved to Virginia Beach was to join a gym. There, I had a few sessions with a personal trainer who helped me learn the importance of weight training, instead of just the cardio I had been doing. Apparently, lifting not only burns calories while you’re doing it, but muscles burn more calories than fat, even when at rest. That sounded very efficient to me.

She also helped me get on board with eating more frequently throughout the day. I’d always been afraid that eating 5 small meals would really end up being 5 large meals (portion control wasn’t one of my strengths), and I’d end up consuming even more calories. But once I started, I found that I actually wasn’t so hungry that I needed to eat that much in each setting.

I lost a few pounds over the next several months, and then I plateaued.

I wasn’t yet where I wanted to be, though, so I decided to change something up. This time, I joined a group training class. I didn’t have the money to continue personal training, but I also knew I didn’t know enough about weight lifting to really be effective on my own. Group training was a cheaper alternative.

I lost a few more pounds, and then I plateaued.

I was getting closer to where I wanted to be, and I was certainly much happier with how I looked and felt. But, every now and then I’d get a wave of motivation and decide to change up something else.

For a while, I was going to the gym two times a day, but that was mainly because I had a crush on a guy working there (shout out, Hot Trainer!), and I really just spent most of my time talking to him. The next weight loss came from me getting a little more serious about what I was eating.

They say abs are made in the kitchen, and while I doubt I will ever have abs…I do think what you eat is far more important than how much you workout, unless maybe you’re a professional athlete (or a “tactical athlete”, as the special ops guys call themselves (insert heart eyes emoji)).

So, I began shopping at Trader Joes and finding ways to incorporate more fresh foods into my diet, while still maintaining the convenience that I value most of all.

At this point, I was down about 20 pounds. It’d also been about 6 years.

I say that to emphasize that this was not an overnight thing for me. Sure, it would have been nice to lose the weight much quicker – to not have so many plateaus.

But, because my weight loss was so slow, I’ve never regained any of it. If I notice that a pound or two has crept back on (which I notice by how my clothes fit; I hardly ever actually weigh myself. It usually makes me feel worse.), I just readjust slightly and it’s gone again. I’ve never yo-yo’ed, which is something trendy diets usually can’t promise.

The next several pounds came off while I lived in Georgia. I had almost no friends, so I ate out a lot less, and worked out a lot more. I also was depressed, and while I can be an emotional eater, that emotion is usually happiness. I don’t advise living somewhere that makes you miserable for two years to lose a little weight, but at least that was one silver lining.

While in Georgia, I also really started focusing on eating more protein. My brother is a power-lifter and big on getting in your macros. I tried it for a while and hated tracking everything. But, it did give me a good idea of how to balance my meals better and the importance of enough protein when it comes to body composition.

And now we arrive to my current weight. The remaining couple of pounds I’ve lost have been since moving to Nashville. I had a personal trainer here for a while, who helped me immensely in working out more effectively. (I also was talking to Bradley Cooper during that time, who was in perfect shape. I was very motivated.)

I’ve become more aware of what my body likes to eat. I saw a naturopath for a while, and we discovered that I don’t do well with night shades (RIP, Chick Fil A waffle fries. I will forever miss you), or gluten. I can handle gluten – I don’t have celiac’s disease, so I don’t want to belittle the experience of those who really suffer. But, I feel MUCH better when I avoid it.

Turns out, eliminating white potatoes and flour from my diet makes a big different in my waist line. Imagine that.

So, tl;dr:

The secret to my weight loss is…diet and exercise.

I wish there were a magic formula we could all apply and immediately be the size we wanted to be. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

I have friends who have found success with strict Paleo or keto or counting calories or macros or whatever. But, for me, it’s really been a process of figuring out how my body works, and tweaking what I’m doing accordingly – while still maintaining balance so I can actually enjoy my life.

Currently, I try to eat mostly clean. I sub sweet potato fries for french fries – I don’t like them as well, but they’re the better overall choice for me. But, I love a burger, and it’s not the same without the bun. So, I usually get the bun – gluten and all. I’m currently drinking a frappucino, but every morning, I eat hard boiled eggs for breakfast. I don’t love them, either, but they’re easy and a good source of protein.

I try to make sure I go to the gym 3-4 times a week. Sometimes it’s 1-2. But, it’s a priority for me, and I chose a gym I enjoy going to, to help motivate me.

I still eat several times throughout the day, but I only buy snacks that are good for me – almonds, La Croix, apples, etc. It’s hard to make healthy choices when I eat out, so I make it as easy for myself at home as possible. I can’t choose poorly there.

I eat a lot of REALLY dark chocolate. Like 85% dark, dark.

I intentionally have not used any specific numbers here, other than the 30 pounds that I lost, because I don’t think the numbers are that important. A girl I follow on Instagram lost 20 pounds, but her starting weight was my current weight, and it made me feel bad. I didn’t think I needed to lose 20 pounds, but after seeing her posts, I suddenly thought maybe I did. I don’t want to do that to anyone else.

What’s most important is being healthy and taking care of your body in a way that will sustain it and allow you to enjoy life to its fullest. It’s being comfortable in your clothes and your own skin. It’s not the number on a scale.

So, now, 11 years and 30 pounds later, I look like this:

I’ve never regained any of the weight, and I don’t expect to. I’ve learned so much about my body. Maybe another wave or two of motivation will hit me and I eventually will achieve Carrie Underwood status. But, if not, I’m happy to say that I’m just that – happy. And I hope you are, too.

Thank you for reading my most vulnerable post I’ve ever written. I love you all.

<3,
SB

Self-Care: Part 2 – Self-Love

Writing a blog only once a week makes me feel a lot of pressure to actually say something meaningful. Telling you about why I put a certain shirt with a certain pair of pants is fine when I’m producing content several times a week, but if I’m only saying something once every 7 days, shouldn’t it be something worth hearing? Aren’t all the other bloggers saying significant things on important topics, like faith and (successful) relationships and politics? Or even how to ship lap?

But, I suppose that’s the problem – bowing to pressure and comparison. I can only be me. I’ve always only been able to be me, and any attempt to do otherwise has failed miserably (cue awkward memories of high school and college). And you can only be you. Sure, we all want to be the best versions of ourselves, but I actually just read an article about how our culture’s obsession with self-improvement leads to even more depression and anxiety. We’ll never fully arrive – there will always be room to become an even better best, and it can be exhausting trying.

So, I guess that leads me to my second point on the topic of self-care. Self-love. I think you all know me well-enough to know that I’m not what you might call a hippy…. I have a pretty traditional view of Christianity that includes words like “sin” and “righteousness”. I think there are moral absolutes and definite rights and wrongs.

But, I also think there is a lot more room for grace than we give ourselves. I’m not just talking about faith matters – I mean, grace to eat a cupcake if we’ve had a really bad day and just need something to cheer us up. Or grace NOT to eat the cupcake, if we are in a season where prioritizing our health is important. Grace to say no to things that we genuinely don’t want to do, or to put ourselves (our families, our sleep, our health) first, instead of feeling obligated to do what we think society might expect of us.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on self-care, let’s be real. In fact, I’ve never been sick as often as I was the first year I moved to Nashville. I blamed the allergens, but honestly, part of it was learning how 30-something year old me needed to operate. And part of how I need to operate is just to say no. Sometimes, that means saying no to staying out just a little bit later, when I know I’ll be exhausted the next day and more susceptible to getting sick. Sometimes, it means saying no to eating fast food for the 4th time that week, because I know I’m not feeding my body well, for either the short or long-term. Sometimes, saying no is listening to that Still Small Voice who always knows what’s best for me – even when I can’t see what’s up ahead – and making my decisions accordingly.

Do I do this perfectly? Good lord, no. Do I do it well? Even that’s debatable. But I’m trying.

So, what’s the takeaway here? Well, there are a few practical things I regularly try to do to take care of myself. These include:

  • Getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. And sometimes taking a nap in my car at lunch if I need a little extra boost. No shame in my game.
  • Eating healthy foods. I’ve learned what my body likes and what it doesn’t, and in 2018, I don’t think any of us are really confused about what’s healthy. I try to keep this in mind at least 75% of the time.
  • Friendships. I’m such an extrovert, if I’m not around people at some point during a 24 hour period, I start to go crazy. But, even for those who are less extremely extroverted than me, fellowship, laughter, and companionship is always good for the soul.
  • Down time. Because of my extroverted nature, it’s really easy for me to just go, go, go. I’ve learned, though, that a little time to decompress – read, binge TV, do chores, or otherwise just exist – is good for me and gives me the opportunity to be still with my thoughts.
  • Daily devotional time. Spending time in prayer and reading the Bible (as well as other inspirational books) keeps me centered and focused on the things that truly matter, and it’s the most surefire way to find peace in stressful times. Non-Christians can also benefit from a daily reflective practice, but for those who adhere to a faith, I think this step is crucial.

Those are some of the ways I stay healthy – physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. Yours may be different. You may be someone who needs time in nature on a regular basis. Or maybe you’re an introvert who needs to protect your alone time. Maybe a relaxing bath and a glass of wine is all you need.

But whatever it is, be sure you make time for those things. Self-love isn’t selfishness. Even the Bible compares Christ’s love to how we as humans nourish and cherish our bodies (Ephesians 5:29). By being sure that we stay healthy, we’re then much more equipped to do the things that we need to do, and to be a blessing to other people.

Another way that I take care of myself is by fostering my creative side through clothes, so with no further ado…

It’s already that time, y’all. My first sweater of the season, although I paired it with white jeans to help ease the transition from summer to fall – never an easy task for me.

The sweater is actually a sweater dress, I think, and at some point in the season, I may wear it with leggings or tights. But, for now, I just did a half tuck in the front to make it seem like it’s a normal length.

I’m also trying to work on my poses, and this not-looking-directly-at-the-camera thing seems to be the way to go. How am I doing?

What are some of the ways you stay healthy by taking care of yourself first? Let me know in the comments – maybe we’ll all get some other good ideas!

<3,

SB

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