Tastefully Trendy

A life and fashion blog by Sarah Beth

Category: Inspiration

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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