24 Things I’ve Learned in 24 Years

Almost three weeks ago now,  I turned 24! I celebrated with lunch with my friends at work, then leaving early to play my new guitar!

This was Brian’s birthday present to me. He’s a used Fender, and I love him. It’s like they say in Harry Potter – “The wand chooses the wizard,” but in this case, “The guitar choses the girl.” 

My birthday goal was to learn to play “Happy Birthday” before the end of the day, and I succeeded! But boy, I forgot how much it hurts to play until your fingers get calluses. 

Brian also took me out to dinner, and I received a host of birthday wishes and gifts from my family. 
Last year for my 23rd, I made a list of 23 things I’d learned in 23 years. Hopefully, now that I’m a year older, I’ve learned at least one more. 
1. You will never “arrive.” The dream job won’t always be dreamy, new experiences will get old, and when you achieve what you think will make you happy, you find that there’s something you missed. 
2. That’s why you have to choose contentment now.
3. You control you. 
4. You have a lot to learn.
5. Life is too short to not wear glitter shoes.
6. Most of the time, things are not as bad as they seem. 
7. You have to chill out. Seriously. 
8. Confidence is two-thirds of the battle. 
9. Vision will win. 
10. Lead by the force of good ideas. 
11. People will follow those who inspire them. No one wants to follow someone who only complains about the problem.
12. There’s no substitute for genuinely caring about people.
13. Growth and change are hard,  and painful. Especially in marriage, when sometimes it feels like you’re growing in different directions. You’re changing at different rates, and this is ok. 
14. You will make it.
15. If having a puppy prepares you for children, you have a long way to go. 
16. Doing the right thing can be really, really hard. And lonely.
17. God’s design for marriage and family is more beautiful and so much bigger than you ever understood before. 
18. Sometimes, every day is an act of courage. 
19. Keep fighting for what you believe in.
20. You care too much. Don’t stop. 
21. If you don’t time to enjoy right now, in a year or two, you’ll look back and wish you had. 
22. There is no 80’s movie montage, and suddenly you feel brave. You have to just do it in spite of the fear.
23. You are braver than you think. 
24. You are stronger than you know. 

What’s something you’ve learned over the last year? Share it with us in the comments!

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Nicknames and Being My True Self

For the first time ever, I have a nickname other than abbreviations of my name, like Em or Emi. My co-workers gave it to me. It’s Bossy Sauce. 

It’s completely ridiculous. Here’s how it happened: One of my female co-workers was telling about the Sheryl Sandburg initiative #banbossy, intended to empower girls by not calling them “bossy,” but instead “strong-willed,” “leaders,” etc. I pulled the website up on my computer, and at the same time, one of the IT guys remotely connected to it to fix an issue I’d been having. The #banbossy campaign had the opposite effect for me – because of it, people started calling me bossy. And “sauce,” well, I have no idea. You’d have to ask Kyle.

But the nickname has stuck. It stuck, because it fit. 

I feel like my job requires me to do impossible things on a regular basis. Not exactly “impossible,” but beyond my skill set and comfort level. In order to do what needs to be done, I’ve adopted a sort of confident persona. I don’t like taking charge, but things have to get done. Bossy Sauce makes things happen.

In May, we visited family in Iowa for a week, and while there, I realized how much I’d changed. I felt a tension between wanting to act and think like my high school self, quiet, being a wallflower in conversations, and in general, blending in. But I knew that wasn’t who I was any more. Or was I? 

Was the confident version of myself just a cover up, or was it always there, deep down?

Why is it that I can stand up for myself at work, but not in other contexts?

I really thought I finally knew myself well. And then I changed.

And that’s why I want to blog. Since I have a full time job, the pressure to grow a following and gain sponsors is off, and I can just blog for myself again. 

It’s just difficult, when you have a full time job, that lately has required working 70ish hours a week. 

Even though my work involves lots of writing, I need to blog here still. Because this is where my true voice is. Blogging here feels like being my true self.

It feels good to be back.

A Brave New Year

Buy it from Watersounds on Etsy

While riding in the car for 45 hours during our road trip to Iowa for Christmas, I had ample time to reflect on 2013 and make some goals for the new year. Honestly, 2013 was such a blur. From January to December, so much changed. 

I learned a goal setting technique some time ago that radically changed the way I make New Years Resolutions. Instead of setting goals for the entire year in January, I make a list of ten goals for the year, but re-write it every week. If something happens that requires my priorities to change, there’s no guilt. I found that I accomplish much more than when I wasn’t able to take unforeseen circumstances into account. 
Last year, I …
  1. Actually made money from my blog
  2. Started a small business
  3. Reached my goal weight
  4. Got more involved with managing our finances
  5. Trained for and ran a 5k
  6. Was published in a magazine
  7. Finished my quilt
  8. Finished my wedding scrapbook
  9. Started an Etsy shop
  10. Redesigned Scribbles from Emily
  11. Made art
  12. Guest posted on 3 blogs
  13. Quit Target
  14. Curated my wardrobe to 100 items
  15. Paid off a school loan
  16. Guest posted on 2 more blogs
  17. Applied for 20ish jobs
  18. Traveled (California, Oregon, Iowa)
  19. Got better at driving
  20. Made two new friends
  21. Maintained goal weight all year
  22. Did an internship
  23. Got a full time job
This year, I hope to accomplish at least these, some of which carried over from last year: 
  1. Run a faster 5k (February). My first was 45 ish minutes, so I’d like to do better this time!
  2. Pay off school loans. With my full-time job, we could potentially be out of debt this year!
  3. Get a bigger bed, bedroom furniture. Much needed. Can’t handle sleeping in a full sized bed much longer.
  4. Read 12 books. Approximately one a month, so if I read the Harry Potter series again, that takes care of seven. 
  5.  Blog 52 posts on scribbles from Emily. Aiming for once a week.
  6.  Build a professional wardrobe. Also much needed! 
  7.  Re-decorate house. A goal from last year, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not very good at interior design. I’d like to learn some new skills in this area.
  8.  Finish embroidery pillows. I started these ages ago, and can’t wait to finish them.
  9.  Learn to golf. It looks like a fun sport, that I could actually get good at.
  10.  Take a writing class. Since I’m a writer now, I’d like to work on my technique and learn some things that can help my career. Plus, it’d just be fun.
Last year, my theme was Confidence. This year, my theme is Brave. 
It’s similar, but difference. Brave is doing the right thing, even when you don’t feel confident. It’s doing what you need to do, even when you’re still afraid. It’s saying what you need to say, knowing that not everyone will like it. Brave is pushing for what you believe in, standing up for the right, and being yourself instead of fitting in. Sometimes, being selfless is brave.
I think I was inspired by this song, that I’m kind of obsessed with right now. 

I like choosing songs for different seasons of my life, and this is mine right now. I was also a little influenced by reading Divergent. 

The verdict is still out on where I’d rank this book in comparison to the Hunger Games and other dystopian literature, or young adult literature.

Regardless, I plan to accomplish something brave this year.

What about you? What are you excited about for 2014? 

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Confidence Challenge: The Year So Far

It’s hard to believe that this year is now halfway over. I took a look back at my New Year’s Resolution, summed up with the word: Confidence.

I want confidence. Confidence that doesn’t come from what job I have or what I can produce, but in who God made me. Confidence that no matter what happens, He has a plan for me and is working all things for good, even the things that seem like mistakes or detours to others…and myself. 

I also wrote a list of ten goals for the year that I tried to revisit and re-write every week. It’s a tip I learned to help you accomplish more since they will probably go through changes from the first of the year to December. My goals for the year in January were:

  • Launch a business that I was working on at the time with two co-partners
  • Get published
  • Run a 5K
  • Get my closet down to 100 items
  • Pay off a school loan
  • Guest post on 3 blogs
  • Quit Target
  • Redesign Scribbles
  • Finish the church flyer and my quilt
  • Make art
So much has changed in six months. As of June,
While I’ve met many of those goals, and many more I’ve made throughout the last six months, I wonder how I’m doing on my overall resolution – growing in confidence. 
Dealing with failure and rejection has helped me grow in confidence. For example, when the business partnership didn’t work out, I went through a period of self-doubt, but I was also determined to try again on my own. Bleu Feather Paper Co. doesn’t have people breaking down the (virtual) door yet, but I have learned so much in the process of setting it up, creating the brand, marketing, and trying to find what works. For example, you’ll find out via the next newsletter that there’s been some important pricing adjustments.
I’ve been rejected for a several jobs that I thought I was a great fit for, without even an interview. That really struck a blow at my confidence at first. I wallowed a little, thinking I wasn’t good enough for anyone, but instead of letting that last for months, I decided to proactively work on getting more experience so that I could be a better contender. 
Interviews are a great way to work on your confidence, as it turns out! After all, you’re selling yourself, your skills, and the potential benefit to your employer. I’ve had two interviews this month, and while at first I felt a little like I was faking it, now I do feel more confident in my abilities. 
And I can tell more changes are on the way for the next six months. For one, I’m very excited to announce that I am now an intern for Sage Grayson! My first day is July 1st, and I will be helping her with social media, scheduling, and graphic design. I know I’m going to learn a lot from Sage, and I’m glad that I’ll be able to use my skills to free her up to focus on coaching and writing.
From right here, I can see the beginnings of many possible paths for the future. Who knows what the next six months will bring?!

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).”

I’m deeply grateful that God knows the plans He has for me, and it’s all under His control, not mine!

I’m also deeply grateful for all the love you guys show me through your faithful reading and sweet comments. Thank you so, so much for being here!

Did you make New Year’s Resolutions? How are you doing on keeping them? Share your progress in the comments!

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Confidence Challenge: Finding Purpose

I didn’t post this yesterday, because I didn’t want anyone to think it was an April Fools joke. I quit my job. You know, the one I actually get a regular paycheck from.

Suddenly, I knew, with every fiber of my being, that I was done. I wrote a resignation letter giving two weeks notice, and turned it in the next day. After three months of agonizing deliberation, it was done and over. April 13th is my last day.

I won’t go into detail, but a situation at work allowed me to realize that this job is not in anyway going to take me in the direction I want to go in life. I honestly don’t know what direction that is, but I am absolutely certain that it wasn’t the direction I was going – nowhere. Or backwards.

Stuck. That’s what I told Brian, through many tears. I feel stuck in life, stuck because I don’t know what sort of job I want. Do I really want to work from home and own my own business? Because sometimes I think it would be nice to actually go to work every day and know what’s expected of me. On the other hand, sometimes working in an also office also sounds like being stuck, just with nicer clothes and more money.

Finally it came down to this. The honest, ugly, painful truth:

I want a job so that I can point to what I accomplish and say “See, I did this. Therefore, my life has meaning, purpose and value.” 

I want to be defined by my work. I want to be above criticism and quips about selling myself short and wasting my four year degree and magna cum laude. I want my work to give me value.

And yet, I know better. I know that it never will. Even if I landed a job like some of the fourteen jobs I applied to last week, it would never fill the void.

But even ministry is tainted. When I serve, if the desire to help people is really wanting to give my life value, it’s all about me. Not God, not others.

So before I pour myself into finding a job or ministry, I have to find my meaning, purpose, and value. I think the first step is to stop thinking about myself so much. Stop fearing what other’s think of me, stop agonizing over what my life’s purpose is and what I’m supposed to be doing. Just stop it.

Instead, I need to put my brief life in perspective of God’s cosmic plan and vast greatness. And then in awe of His greatness, and then overwhelmed that He has chosen me, I simply say, “God, use me today. Let your love and grace shine through me today to a world that desperately needs it.”

And that will be enough, because if I am a vessel for God, then I will be also be filled.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

2 Corinthians 4:7 

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3: 14-21 

A Royal Daughter

Building Confidence Through Failure


Sometimes, the beauty of dark times in our lives is being able to clearly hear God’s voice.

Let me explain. For the past several days, I’ve been wallowing. You know, what you do after a break up. Sleep until noon every day, stay up until 4 am. watching youtube videos, and eat lots of ice cream. And cupcakes. A lot of cupcakes.

I feel like I’m going through a break up. Like my eight month engagement got called off at the rehearsal dinner.

That analogy isn’t my words, it’s how my former business partner described it. I planned to post an update on my confidence challenge today, about the confidence I’ve gained from starting a business. Not Scribbles Shoppe, this company started eight months ago and involved two other business partners. That’s what my second and final big announcement was all about. We were going to launch Saturday. Well…it just didn’t work out. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I’m not mad. We’re still friends. I totally agree with the decision. I’m just really, really, disappointed.

My confidence in my ability to be an entrepreneur is pretty much shattered right now. But I know that wallowing isn’t accomplishing anything, other than adding back those recently shed pounds. Did I mention the cupcakes? Help.

I need to find the good in this situation. I need to know it wasn’t all for nothing. I need to learn something from this.

  • Good: it ended when it did, not after officially launching.
  • Good: I learned so much about the modern crafting community that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn about.
  • Good: I got to start drawing again, after a hiatus that was way too long. 
  • Good: I discovered that I really, really love drawing and painting, and I miss making art. 
  • Good: I rediscovered embroidery, and I’m actually tempted to get into quilting.
  • Good: I’m learning that it’s ok to fail. 
  • Good: I get to learn how to move forward after failure.
  • Good: I get to look for new opportunities. 
  • Good: I’m learning how to readjust my sails. 
  • Good: God is still faithful. 
The morning after this all went down, I sat at my desk and pulled out my Bible and prayer journal for my morning devotions. I started to unzip my Bible case, and then paused. I held it to my chest and closed my eyes. “God, I really, really need to hear from you today. Please.
I took a deep breath, and opened to my bookmark in Psalms. My reading for the day was Psalm 25. 

In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.

I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.

Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.

For the sake of your name, Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.

They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.

Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!

Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, Lord, is in you.
Deliver Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!

He reminded me that He is still good. He is still loving. And He is still faithful to me.

I don’t know what’s next. I’m really not sure what the future holds for this blog, my Etsy shop, or my job. I haven’t really figured out my options yet going forward. But, I can choose to still trust Him, and wait for his leading.

How can I build my confidence through this failure? By believing this:

For you, O Lord, are good.

Confidence Challenge: Saying No

I didn’t plan for this to be the confidence challenge for this month, but it kind of just happened. I found myself saying “No” a lot, and not only did I find that it got SO much easier, I discovered that people actually respect your limits when you state them.

I had a suspicion that saying no was a problem for me, but after I started working, my co-workers quickly confirmed it. I had a horrible time saying no when asked to come in early, stay late, or cover someone else’s shift. Even if I’d already made plans, or was already working my maximum number of hours, I still felt guilty, like I’d somehow let them down. The one and only time I called in sick (so far) I rehearsed what I’d say for fifteen minutes. I called, told the manager why I couldn’t come in, and all she said was, “Ok, thanks for letting me know.” And yet, I felt so guilty that I couldn’t stop myself from apologizing profusely. 
On another occasion, after I’d responded to the fifth call for back-up cashiers in fifteen minutes, one of my co-workers said, “You know, you can just tell them ‘no’!” And she was right. I wasn’t getting my work done because I kept going up front to help cashier. So the next time they asked for me to back-up cashier, I told them I’d come up the last several times, and it would be great if someone else could do it this time. And someone else did. After that, they were better about asking for specific people to make sure that one person wasn’t filling in all the time. 
When HR called me twice to fill a shift after I’d already told them I had my church small group to go to that night, I got better about saying “no” like I meant it. No excuses or unnecessary apologies, just “No, I have ______ planned for tonight and I won’t be able to.” 
I said no to doing special music next Sunday because something came up and I knew I’d be out of town. Then, I took that opportunity to say no to singing special music for the next couple months, since my schedule is already packed with church activities, traveling, and work through March, and I really didn’t want the added stress.
I’m glad that that’s one less thing I’ll have to worry about for the next few months, but it’s still really hard for me to say no to things like that, when I feel like people are counting on me. But, I recently read an article in Real Simple’s January issue that offered some helpful tips for turning people down.

1. “Crack a joke.” Using humor helps diffuse the tension and helps people not take the rejection too personally.

2. “Don’t over-estimate your importance.” This describes me exactly:”People who have a hard time declining others often exaggerate the impact their rejection will have on the other person. Then when they manage to say no, they divulge their guilty feelings or act like they’re intensely burdened by their own response – which succeeds only in making a spurned pal more uneasy.” It definitely helps take the pressure off to realize that it’s not that big of a deal to the other person, most of the time. 

3. “Offer praise.” The president of a casting company offered this tip, and gave the example of turning down people who’ve auditioned for parts by complimenting them on something from their performance. 

4. “Act now.” The literary agent who gave this tip tries to respond quickly when writers pitch her an idea so that they can submit their idea to someone else. She suggests doing the same when responding to a friend, client, or even a date when you know you want to say no. For something that’s a bigger responsibility, she recommends taking some time to think about it, but then responding with “I’ve given your request a lot of thought and I’m honored that you asked, but I don’t think I’m the right person.” Short, sweet, and to the point. 
Do you struggle with saying no? How do you work through it? 

My Fitness Story

This is not an easy post to write, honestly. I’m not totally comfortable talking about my weight, but I’m reminding myself that you guys have always been encouraging and supportive readers, and I’m very grateful for that. Also, this topic ties in directly to my post last week about growing in confidence, which I’ll explain.

Last year, just like the year before, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to lose weight. But in the next couple months, I actually gained weight, reaching my all time high of 150 lbs. I should note here that 150 lbs may very well be your ideal weight, so don’t take the numbers out of context. I’m about 5’4″, and my “happy place,” the place where I’m active and eating well but not stressing out over it, is at 132 lbs. That’s right at my optimal BMI, 22.0. So, I started off my year at a discouraging 18 lbs. heavier than I wanted to be.

For the first seven months of the year, I did Jullian Michaels 31 Day Shred, joined a gym and participated in a circuit training exercise class three times a week. I lost 5 lbs.

After we moved last summer, I quit the gym and Jullian. During the last four months of the year, I lost 11.5 lbs.

In short, after quitting the gym and Jullian, I lost over twice as much.

How? I’ll tell you. But first, be warned: if you’re looking for a ground-breaking weight loss secret, you won’t find that here. If you’re looking for a magic pill or a quick fix trick, you won’t find that here. In a sentence: what works for me is a combination of small steps, perseverance, and lots of grace.

Before and During

I’m starting 2013 1.5 lbs away from my goal weight. A year ago, that remaining 1.5 lbs would have discouraged me, but with all I’ve learned over the last year, it doesn’t bother me. Because I’ve already lost 16.5 lbs., I know I’m capable of losing the rest and keeping it off. Here’s where this topic ties in directly with my confidence challenge. Scott Dinsmore said it best in his article, How to Find and Do What You Love (emphasis mine):

The best place I’ve found to start is with your physical body — with exercise and nutrition.
One, because it’s totally in your control. No matter what happens in a day, you can always decide to get out on that run or choose that salad over the fries — no one can take that from you.
And two, because overcoming our own perceived physical impossibilities gives us confidence that is directly transferrable to the rest of our life — be it business, relationships or whatever. If you got yourself to lose 50 pounds in six months, then who’s to say you couldn’t double your business’s sales next year?
Showing yourself you can do things you used to write off as impossible, has a confidence-compounding effect on our life like no other.

Once you truly believe “My fitness is in my control,” you’ll find the motivation to do hard things. And as you succeed in doing hard things, your confidence will grow. For example, saying “no” to overindulging in ice cream because I know I won’t feel good about it later has actually made it easier to say “no” to requests that will be a drain on my time and emotions and I also won’t feel good about.

With each small goal or milestone achieved, my confidence grows as I prove to myself that I can do it. I’m even contemplating possibly doing this program to run a 5K! That’s crazy talk from the girl who doesn’t like running and doesn’t stick with exercise programs for more than three weeks.

Without further ado, here’s seven things I did to lose weight in the last four months.

1. I Kept Track.

I used technology to my advantage, specifically the “Lose It” app. With it, I input all my food and exercise, and record my weight, set goals, and track my progress. One of the reasons I love this app is that it rewards you along the way to your goal with badges. Out of the blue, you’ll get an email or notification that you’ve earned the “Exercise Hound” badge for exercising three times a week for four weeks. Celebrating the small successes is so important!

Also, because I was tracking what I ate and my exercise, I began to notice trends. I noticed that on days when I ate yogurt or cereal for breakfast, I usually went over my calories allotted. However, when I ate an egg for breakfast, I usually stayed under or right at my calorie goal. Using that information, I made the deducting that starting the day with protein kept me feeling full, and helped me stay within my calorie range for the rest of the day. Now, I eat an egg for breakfast almost every day.

I also noticed how I felt after eating certain foods. Because I was keeping track of what I ate, I discovered that I’m very sensitive to dairy products. I’ve cut back on milk and cheese, and feel much better as a result.

2. I Set Realistic Goals.

A quick look at the “Health and Fitness” category on Pinterest shows millions of pins like this:

With the caption: “13 Moves to Get Slim, Strong, and Sexy in Four Weeks!”

And this:

With the caption: “Eight serious LOWER ab moves from top Olympic trainers that will score you a rock-solid middle.”

I chose these examples since the photos are borderline appropriate. I won’t even get started on all the half covered butt cheek shots, or the “Victoria Secret” workouts. Newsflash: pinning photos of scantily clad women with enticing captions to your “Exercise Motivation” board doesn’t work. Here’s why:

First of all, you’re setting yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. Do you think that chic in the first photo really looks like that after working out for only four weeks? Doubtful. She’s been working out a whole lot longer than that, and besides exercise, she’s also watching what she eats. Plus, how do you know whether or not any of the photos above, or the others on Pinterest, are photoshopped? I can almost guarantee you that celulite gets smoothed out, and tummies get pulled in on almost all of those photos.

Secondly, pinning photos of women without taking into account body type and height isn’t doing you any favors. It’s unrealistic for me to think I could look like the second pin above, because I have a curvy figure, not a straight one. No amount of exercise will alter my body shape.

So, set realistic goals. Look for photos of celebrities or average people who are close to your height and have a similar body type. For example, I pinned Emma’s weight loss story from A Beautiful Mess because we’re the same height and have a similar shape. Plus, she lost weight in a safe, healthy, practical way that I can realistically replicate.

3. I Did What I Could, When I Could. 

Before, I set goals of working out three times a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But then, if something came up and I missed Monday, I’d tell myself to just wait until Wednesday to get back on track. But if something came up Wednesday, I’d just wait until Friday, and before I knew it, the week had gone by without any exercising. So, I had to change my thinking and get flexible.

Yes, it’s good to schedule working out. It’s good to commit to a class at a set time. It helps create a habit, and that’s great. But when I started working out whenever I could, for however long I could, I found that I worked out more often, and I enjoyed it more. If Monday was a crazy day, instead of waiting until Wednesday, I’d grab my weights and do arm curls, chest flies, and push ups for ten minutes while waiting for the water to heat up for my shower on Tuesday morning. I’d take the long way to get the mail, so instead of a two minute walk, it took ten.

So don’t wait until Monday to start eating healthier or to go for a walk. Start with your next meal, or your next five minutes of free time!

4. I Asked for Accountability. 

I can’t tell you the number of times I’d read about how important it is to have someone keep you accountable, and I’d always blown it off. Until last October. I gritted my teeth and asked two close friends and role models of mine to keep me accountable. It was hard. I was scared. I felt vulnerable. I didn’t like asking for help. But it worked. 

Knowing that I’m going to get a Facebook message every week, and not wanting to admit that I didn’t make any progress for the third week in row, is super motivating. And yes, there have been times I haven’t made progress for weeks at a time. My accountability partners are great at offering suggestions to help me break through my plateaus and stay motivated, and they’re extremely patient with me.

5. I Rewarded Myself.

This was THE game changer. This tip was new to me in the last four months, and of all the things I’m going to share with you, it has made the most difference.

I took every opportunity to reward myself for small successes. For example, I broke my weight loss goal of 18 lbs into three smaller chunks. In my notebook, next to each goal, I wrote down a reward for achieving that goal, and reviewed the list often. Each reward had to be non-food related. My reward for reaching 140 lbs. was Jergens Self Tanning Lotion. My reward for 136 lbs. was watching Harry Potter 7 Part 1. 134 lbs. was going to see The Hobbit in theaters. When I get to 132 lbs., I’d like to buy myself a Sevenly sweatshirt.

If I found myself getting discouraged because I was doing everything right but not reaching my next goal, I’d reward myself for working out 3x that week, or going on a walk every day for a week, or tracking my calories every day for a week. Each reward I achieved meant a boost of confidence in my ability to accomplish my goals, and motivated me to keep going. 

6. I Give Myself Grace.

I didn’t make my goal of losing 18 lbs. by Thanksgiving. I didn’t make it by Christmas, and I didn’t make it by January 1st. Oh well. I’ve lost 16.5 lbs! That’s something to celebrate. Along the way, I’ve beat myself up for not reaching goals, for going up instead of down, and not making any progress for weeks at a time. I’m learning to give myself grace, to be patient with myself, and not give up even when I fail. Instead of throwing in the towel, I’m learning to take a deep breath, and try again.

I often have to give my weight and appearance over to God. Honestly, my upper arm still waves back, my thighs still rub together, my belly still isn’t flat. I have to give myself grace and accept  my appearance, because it’s where I’m at. It’s the body God’s given me. When I start spiraling into self-disparaging thoughts or discouragement, I stop and thank God for this body, and for the prayers He’s already answered. It’s by His strength that I’ve made it this far!

7. I Found What Works For Me. 

Before and During

And you have to find what works for you. Find foods you like to eat. Find workouts or classes that you enjoy. Find books, magazines, blogs, or podcasts that speak to you. Find realistic inspiration. Find people who support you and keep you accountable.  Find small steps you can achieve, with rewards that motivate you.

Update: in the time it took to write this post, my weight has changed. I’m now 0.4 lbs. away from my goal, with a total of 17.6 lbs. lost!

I feel like there’s a lot more I could say about what books, tools, programs, foods, etc. have been helpful for me, but I don’t want to make this post any longer! If you have any questions for me, I’m happy to answer them in the comments below!

Going Confidently in 2013

“Is working at Target worth getting a college degree for?”
“So, you’re short-circuiting your writing career to work at Target?”
I’ve received these comments, and many similar ones, from a particular church member who feels called to change my misguided ways with unsolicited advice after church every Sunday.
Last Sunday, my blood began to boil as he went on about how becoming addicted to a regular paycheck would ruin my writing career, how I’d start telling myself, “I’ll write tomorrow,” and tomorrow would never come. I gritted my teeth and didn’t say a word.
But what bothers me more than this person’s comments is the fact that I let them get to me. They ruined my entire day. In fact, two days later, they’re still hovering over my head, a gray cloud of doubt and discouragement.
I want to scream: You don’t even know me! Do you think this is easy for me?! Do you think this is my ideal?! When I dreamed about what I would be when I grew up and finished college, it wasn’t about being a Target employee. This isn’t what I planned for. In fact, moving to Arizona wasn’t in my plan either. Or majoring in Technical Communication. Or getting married young. Or getting $20,000 of school debt from my spouse when I got married.
Do you think I don’t realize that I look like a failure? I get it. I know what people think. But this is where I’m at. I have to make the best of it. I’m working a part time job in retail to add a little padding to our budget while I start my own business and figure out what I want to do with my life.”
And you know, that’s really not so bad. I really don’t need to feel inferior about that. I certainly don’t need to listen to people who want to make me feel inferior about it.

So why do I consent? Why do I consent to letting a random person who really doesn’t know me at all speak into my life? 
Because deep down, I think he’s right. 
Warning, this is about to get real.
I do feel like a failure. I don’t believe I’m capable of achieving my dreams, or even, worthy. 

Yet a part of me fights back. Something in me whispers, you were made for more. 
I want confidence. Confidence that doesn’t come from what job I have or what I can produce, but in who God made me. Confidence that no matter what happens, He has a plan for me and is working all things for good, even the things that seem like mistakes or detours to others…and myself. 
Confidence that I am capable, and I have worth, because I’m His child and I am loved. 
I don’t have a set of formal resolutions this year. I have one word: Confidence. 
Meredith Crawford from One Sheepish Girl inspired me with her Blogging for Confidence series. With the encouragement from her blog readers, she undertook a series of challenges, like taking herself on a date, wearing red lipstick, and knitting in public, to grow her confidence. This year, I’m going to follow suit with challenges of my own!
I have a few ideas that I’ll share later. The areas I plan to focus on this year include:
  • Confidence in relationships: taking initiative, saying “No,” asking for what I need, not avoiding confrontation. 
  • Confidence in who God made me:  my gifts, skills, and passions, being myself, feeling good about my body and appearance, doing work I enjoy without apology, and doing hard things that scare me.

I think this year’s goals could take the rest of my life. But, I’m excited to see where I’ll be at the end of 2013. 

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I really can’t thank you enough for the encouragement and love you show me through your comments, and even just through your presence here. Thank you for reading! 
I’d love to know, what are your goals for this new year?