Several Months Later

* Several Months Later *Several_Monthes_Later..._

I feel like I am living a Sponge Bob episode where time races forward and the next scene occurs months after the previous scene. AKA I have not written a blog post in several months and a lot has happened since my previous one.

A few months can change a lot of things. For example, my role as a student took its final bow and I received a college degree as proof. My role as job searcher ended, as well, and I accepted a post-grad job with great excitement. My role as Smurf-owner changed, because I bought a new {silver, not blue} car.

If you do not stop to take it all in, life goes by pretty fast. It feels like just yesterday I wrote a blog post about the anxiety I felt before entering college and here I am, * four years later * reflecting on the truth that I left it.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 2.18.16 PM

Life goes on after college. That is one fact I had a hard time grasping throughout the last semester or two. It was difficult to imagine a world without homework, exams, group projects, and presentations. To be honest, it has been challenging to get out of the mindset that I start school in the fall. I’m relieved, of course, and very excited — still, it is bizarre to embrace the idea that I’m actually done. Eighteen years of school and *snap* – it’s over.

Life goes on — a truth, a revelation, a promise.

An adult. A real one. I am a full-fledged adult now, but I still feel {sometimes}
like I am 12. Maybe it is because I have not grown since my pre-teen years, or maybe it is because I do not feel “old” like I once thought adults should feel. Nevertheless, it’s official. I’m a college graduate and a new member of this much-talked-about place called, “the real world.” Ready or not, here I come.

In the beginning of the year, I chose three words to help guide me through the next 365 days: First, Risk, and Joy.

My oh my, how perfect those words have been to summarize the many joys, struggles, difficulties, and blessings I have experienced thus far this year. In just these seven months of 2015, I feel like I have been stretched in ways I did not anticipate. Stretched in patience, faith, love, and joy. Stretched in trust, work ethic, focus, and determination. Stretched, stretched, stretched — but stretched in ways that always pointed me towards focusing on the God who gives me strength.

Without firsts, without risks, and without joys, life is pretty dull. As a girl who usually loves routine and order, the idea of risking a comfort zone to try new things can be a true test of what I am made of.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 10.42.51 PMI have a lot of adjusting and stretching to do. Obviously, I am not nearly as stretched as God wants me to be. Every day of life stretches you a little more towards Him. I’ve been stretching my identity to be more then just a piece of resume paper. My identity is more then the tasks I perform, the activities I participate in, and the motions of everyday life. My identity is through Christ, in Christ, alone.

A professor said to my class two weeks before the semester ended this past spring. He said to me, to us, “Stop thinking about what you want to do after college. Who do you want to be?” It struck me. Not because of the question, but because I realized how often I think about the things that need to be accomplished that I often forget to stop and really enjoy the moment.

The ironic part of this sort-of epiphany is how often I have blogged over the years about learning to find the little joys in every day life. It is a constant, life-long battle, and one that requires me to be constantly stretched and tested.

All I know is that I’m excited… and ready.

Another chapter has opened, full of new firsts, risks, and joys.

Let’s do this. IMG_1385

The 3 Words: January and February Review

It’s been two months and five days since 2015 began.

To me, it seems like we rang in the new year yesterday… time flies! But, so far, so good!

Remember when I chose 3 words to focus on in 2015?

Well, like all ‘resolutions,’ keeping them requires time, energy, and evaluation. Here’s a review of how the progress is going…

First.

So far, there have been a lot of firsts. Professionally, I purchased my first stack of business cards from Vistaprint. They were very affordable and extremely easy to customize. But that’s not all! They arrived only a few short days after I ordered them, which made my day enough to take this picture. Another first this year was reading Gone GirlYes Please, and Bossypants. These three books were incredibly well-written, inspiring, and hard to put down– I definitely recommend them. {Check out the entire stack of winter session reads here.} I’m also pleased to announce I’m an official The Skimm Ambassador and a member of the Her Campus Blogger Network {hence the new ‘Networks’ tab on the right of this page}

There have been several personal firsts, as well. I won’t name them all {I know, I know– I’m a terrible person!}, but here are several I will share with you. For one, I had my last first day of school — ever! And, in typical Keri fashion, I found a throwback of my first day of school {pre-K} and created this collage to summarize 18 years of school. Time flies! It has also snowed {a lot} this winter. Actually, it is snowing as I type this– just another snowstorm to add to the list. This was the first snow sunset photo I took this year — winter sunsets take my breath away.

Risk.

Thankfully, physical risk has been nonexistent; although, there have been several times while driving on icy roads that I have been convinced otherwise. This entire semester will be one big, risky adventure, if only for the fact that people keep asking, “What’s next?” It is hard for me to answer this question sometimes, because the unknown is…well, unknown. My need to plan, plan, plan is going out the window, and it really has pushed me out of my comfort zone. However, as my word ‘joy’ will explain, risk is not always a bad thing. It can lead to…

Joy.

My need to plan is a silly one, because God’s plans are far better than mine will ever be. Every time I think I know what the plan is, He patiently reminds me that He has it all under control. His have {and always will} be better than I had ever imagined. From job searching to figuring out what the next chapter entails to everything in between, it is easy to dwell on the question, “What’s next?” It is easy to rush through the little moments of life, but those are the experiences memories are made of. Joy is in the perspective, and 2015 has been the year of God teaching me more about it.

So that’s a {general, brief} overview of the first two months of 2015! If this is foreshadowing to how the rest of the year is going to be, 2015 is going to be a whirlwind of {awesome, exciting} adventure.

How’s 2015 shaping up for you? Let me know by sending a tweet or commenting below!

Slide1

January: The month of eventuallys

Winter session is winding down. Having almost two months off school is both a blessing and a curse. If you keep busy, the weeks fly by and before you know it, you’re back on campus with a running start. However, if you don’t have plans lined up for the long winter months, seven weeks can feel like an eternity.

Thankfully, I learned my lesson freshman year and every winter session since then, I’ve chosen wisely and filled my time productively. {Freshman year winter session was crazy long!}

At the start of this much-needed break, I wrote out a list of things I wanted to accomplish before the spring semester began. I can’t have too much free time or else I’ll go completely insane and start creating lists {and Pinterest boards} for everything. I decided that when I wasn’t interning or working this winter, I would use my free time to tackle the list of “eventuallys.”

While creating the list back in December, I stuck to indoor tasks thinking snow would keep me stuck indoors. Obviously that hasn’t really been the case, but at least I was prepared! One might wonder what a “list of eventuallys” is; it is exactly that: a list of things I said I’d do, but never got around to. Some of the items were easy to accomplish, while others took some time to complete.

I proclaimed January the month of eventuallys and got to work. IMG_8855

I’m a huge reader… when I have time. During the semester, I don’t prioritize “fun reading,” because of homework assignments and school-related things. Lately, there have been several books I’ve wanted to read, including Yes Please by Amy Poehler, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Bossypants by Tina Fey. Light reading, yes, but books I wanted to read nonetheless. I found Bossypants and Gone Girl at Goodwill for $1 each (no lie!), so those were no-brainers to buy. I received Yes Please for Christmas, so I was excited about that. Those are just three of the books I read this winter, but they’re all amazing and I highly recommend them.

IMG_8721Another “eventually” was to deep clean my entire computer, which consisted of erasing all unnecessary files, deleting duplicate pictures, organizing documents into folders and creating an extensive online writing portfolio (you can sneak a peak at a very similar one here). It amazed me how much space I was wasting just by saving random word documents from high school. I must’ve been a hoarder in my past life, because as much as I love to stay organized, I keep way too much unnecessary stuff– emails and word documents being two of them, apparently.

A few other items checked off are: create several versions of my resume, complete my LinkedIn profile, order business cards, revamp sections of my blog, apply to several big-girl jobs, finally watch the movie Grease, catch up on “How To Get Away With Murder,” meet with several professional mentors, guest blog for another blog, host a guest blogger, complete taxes (wooooo) and prepare social media plans for the spring semester.

I still have a week and a half left of winter session before life picks back up. I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. It’s been great to intern, work and organize my life, don’t get me wrong. However, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m ready for classes and exams again {am I insane?!}. Plus, this is my last semester of school ever {uh, what?!} so I’me excited to see what it will bring.

What about you? What types of items are on your list of eventuallys?

Guest Post: Courtney Kincaid on Blog Vision

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 7.18.35 PM

A few nights a week, I end my day on Pinterest. Yes, yes, I know, so cliche. I go for inspiration and for ideas, especially when it comes to style and blogging. I stumbled across Courtney Kincaid’s blog, The Everyday Elegance, and was immediately hooked. Her posts are engaging and her entire blog is adorable and fantastic. I noticed she also was working on a 101 in 1,001 list, and being the curious individual that I am, I began reading it. One of them was to write a guest post for another blog, and that’s when I decided I wanted to help her check off this item. I emailed her and before I knew it, she had agreed to guest blog for me, and I, in turn, guest blogged for her (another one of her 101s– you can read my post on The Everyday Elegance here).

Pinterest is fantastic and so is the blogosphere. I’m thrilled to have met a new blogging friend and am honored to welcome Courtney as a guest blogger for KeriBetters.com. Enjoy, and make sure to follow The Everyday Elegance on social media!

///////

Since starting my blog 10 months ago, I have definitely run into some struggles. There were literally days (more like weeks) with 0 page views in the beginning. It wasn’t until about 5 months ago that there were some real issues with my blogging vision. Having a vision is necessary for blogs. Without it, the blogger tends to ramble on and on about nothing. It’s an important foundation when deciding to start or rebrand a blog.

A major part of having a great vision includes two important characteristics: consistency and perseverance. Again, this is something that I struggled with for a long time (Probably May to September of 2014). Unless consistency was structured for me, I wasn’t consistent, and when the comments and page views didn’t happen after a couple of months, I lost my stride.

blog1

  1. Write original content. This seems like an obvious one, but you would be surprised that many people are affected by this. I was affected by this. My blog was originally thrown together under the impression that I was “finding what I wanted to do in life and expressing myself in a creative way”, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Until I looked at some of my content and realized that I was simply regurgitating what other bloggers were saying. I was afraid to share my own personal opinions, and because my posts weren’t my own opinions, it was a lot harder for me to come up with content. And because it was a lot harder for me to come up with content, I was less consistent. After a while, I resented my blog because it wasn’t a representation of myself. It wasn’t something I was proud of. This lead to the whole “re-vamping” of my blog. Now I’m getting at least 4 posts up weekly with content that I’m proud of. I’ve found that I’m more inspired and wanting to write posts about things that I love. Find what you love and write about it, whether it be fashion, interior design, social justice, religion. You’ll find that when you write what you’re passionate about, blogging becomes more exciting.
  1. Keep an editorial calendar. It’s necessary. This is coming from someone who was the most disorganized person ever in high school. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most of my life could be categorized as “organized clutter”, but here’s the thing: It’s organized in a way that makes sense for me and in a way I can keep track of it. Here’s why you need one: If you don’t have a place that you set deadlines for yourself, you’ll keep pushing back and pushing back until all of your goals seem unreachable. This is true with a number of other things. I’ve found that writing it down (particularly in pen) I’m more likely to keep the deadline.Honestly, there’s nothing worse than scratched out pen in a Kate Spade Agenda. If you’re a digital person, use Google Calendar (or whichever calendar you please)! There are a number of options to keep yourself organized.
  1. Join networks. I’m not kidding, I have never felt more support than I did when I joined two networks over the winter break. Mid-December, I was accepted to HerCampus Blogger Network, and in January I chose to join The Peony Project, a network for Christian Bloggers. Both of these networks over a variety of things and there are thousands of others that fit different niches. From blog design to follow trains and daily encouragement, don’t even question whether or not I should have started my blog. It just seems like a natural source of community for me, and to be able to talk to bloggers who have more skill than I do in areas and learn from them, it’s been a priceless experience.

When I started my blog 10 months ago, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with it. 10 months ago even 5 months ago, I was still afraid to share that I had a blog. I was afraid to open myself to criticism. But as I’ve joined blogging communities and established my personal vision, I’ve grown. My content has grown, my writing and photography quality has grown, and in turn my readership has grown. Having consistency and perseverance with your vision is vital to the life of your blog. Within a week of having a blog, I quickly realized that this was one of the most challenging things I have faced. Maybe you’ve realized this too. Maybe you wish that you could “get the hang of this whole blogging thing” so it would just be easier. But here’s something important to remember:

blog2

–  Courtney Kincaid

Courtney is a junior studying Social Work at The University of North Texas. She’s excited to have the opportunity to share her story at KeriBetters.com and to have made a new blogging friend through this experience. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to see the latest on food, fashion and her kitten, Queen Bee.

2015: The Year Of Three Words

2015. It’s finally here.

Day 5 and I’ve already done this multiple times: 201415

In the past, I have begun each year with a list of resolutions. Doesn’t everyone? A list of tasks, goals, and dreams I believe would make me a better person. A more well-rounded individual.

Read more. Run more. Write more. Laugh more.

This year is different. 2015 crept up on me. No list was created.

The other day, I read this post by a blogger I follow, Jessica Lawlor. In it, she explains three words she wants to focus on for the new year: light, possibility and choice. She goes on to dig deeper into why she chose each word and that got me thinking.

Instead of writing a list of tasks, I, too, would choose three words.

Three themes of 2015.

I am excited to see what 2015 holds and will use these three words to help guide me through the journey:  Slide1

1. First. 2015 will be the year of firsts. The first time I graduate college. The first time I start a real-world job. The first time I don’t go back to school in the fall. But what else? Yes, I will approach several key milestones this year, but I think 2015 has more in store than that. I resolve to look for other firsts this year, to not be afraid of opportunity because it’s new. To experience life through the lens of adventure and transition. To look at 2015 as a year of awesomeness even if I don’t know how yet.

2. Risk. Similar to “first,” the second word I choose is “risk.” With a year of firsts also comes the risk of the unknown. A set of adventures waiting ahead with endless possibilities. A planner and organizer at heart, I am also an adventurer. (I said that here.) Adventurers take risks. Adventurers don’t back down from challenges. A few months ago, I wrote a post discussing a few tips for Type-A Adventures like myself. Risk is inevitable and can sometimes be confused with lack of thought. “Oh, that was risky.” “I took a risk and now I regret it.” In 2015, I want to take risks and step outside of my comfort zone, but don’t mistake that for stupidity. You can take risks and be smart at the same time. Risk is inevitable, but I’m ready for it.

3. Joy. Different than “happiness,” I choose “joy.” Happiness is temporary and circumstantial. Joy is a mindset. Through the little things, I yearn to discover the joy. I’ve discussed the idea of joy before, and I want to continue this through 2015. With a year of risks and firsts, it may sometimes be a challenge to find the good. Choose joy and keeping choosing it — that’s what I want to do. Instead of “I have to …”, replace it with “I get to…” Changes the perspective, doesn’t it? A mindset makes all the difference. Through every situation, good or bad, I aim to focus on the joy of it all.

So those are my three words for 2015.

2015 is another adventure, I can feel it. I’m excited for it. Ready.

A year of firsts, risks and joys.

A year of three words.

Let’s do this thing.

A fleeting moment’s journey

– Three weeks ago – 

I sat on the couch, listening to the still of nothingness that surrounded me.

For the first time in a long time, time hesitated to continue.

I froze, willing myself not to breathe — for fear this moment would soon be lost in the rest.

Nothing was inherently special about this day, this hour, this moment. Just another Thursday.

But it was a moment, none the less.

I embraced it, this one phone-less moment, to ponder the ones before it.

To think back on a year that had, once again, flown by too quickly.

Of all the obstacles endured and conquered. Of all the good observed and experienced.

She believed that she could, so she did. A quote I had always reminded myself of in the moments where I lost perspective. Of the tiny moments when  I lost all confidence to continue studying, dreaming, doing, working, pursuing, trusting.

But it wasn’t the quote that kept me pushing forward. It was this verse.

The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still. – Exodus 14:14 

The fear of unknown dissolves when you understand the magnitude of God’s grace and strength. I am nothing, a fleeting breath in the wind, but I was made to worship Him. To be still, to take a moment to breathe — God fights for you. Overwhelming, yet true.

The moment continued in a whisper. Looking at the lights glittering on the seven-foot pine, ignoring the distractions of technology, I continued to analyze and digest all that had occurred in the past 300-some days.

A year of changes, both good and bad. A year of being pushed out of my comfort zone in more ways than I had anticipated.

A year of difficult decisions, but a year of unexpected joys and blessings. A year of deciding which thoughts to dwell on and which ones to discard. A year of forgiveness and acceptance. A year of wondering God’s plan for my life (like always). A year of confidently putting faith in the One who sees all.

A year of seeing God work through little details.

God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them. – John Piper

The story isn’t finished yet. Is it ever? In the midst of ‘what ifs’ and ‘if thats,’ we transition between ‘I understand what God’s doing’ and ‘I have no idea what’s going on.’

Piper’s words encourage me. It is easy to dwell on the three things we know for sure, the three things God allows us to see. However, it is harder to accept the other 9,997 things God orchestrates behind the scenes. I sometimes feel like a passenger in a car I can’t control. I don’t know where I’m going, but I know I’m going somewhere. The driver won’t tell me — I have to wait and see.

Life is like that, and it’s sometimes a difficult concept to surrender to. A thriving struggle with our own mindsets — our own agendas — and the one God has for us. Faith. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the hardships instead of the joys. Sometimes, the hardships are all we see.

But when we worship, when we remember God’s plan — that He makes no mistake — we are renewed.

I am renewed. Renewed in the fact that letting go has never been my forte. That surrendering is foreign to me. That it’s okay to let go of a grasp I’ve held so tightly for so long. A part of the healing process. A tug towards faith, instead of control. A daily battle of fight and surrender. A part of what needs to be done to transform into the person God wants me to be.

Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. – Psalm 62:6 

– Today –

I wrote the above blog post three weeks ago, but didn’t post it. I didn’t think it was done yet, but I didn’t know how to end it. Didn’t know what it needed to be considered complete. Until today.

In that moment of silent gratitude, just twenty-one days ago, I realized 2014 is just another fleeting moment. But in that moment, in this year almost gone, all that God has done intertwined with the past and with the future. It was in that moment of silence, right before the clock resumed its circular journey and the phone buzzed again — it was in that moment, I was renewed and reminded.

I am but a fleeting life, but in it, I will worship.

God used a whale to get my attention

Have you ever had a bad day?

Sure, we all have.

How about a bad week?

Yep, that, too.

 

Good, I’m not alone. In fact, none of us are. It happens. A part of life.

This week was one of those weeks where I struggled to stay optimistic.

For lack of a better way to phrase it– I felt spiritually under attack all week.

On Sunday, the sermon focused on how Satan attacks those who are spiritual leaders; those with a vision or those about to go through a spiritual victory. As I sat in the pew, I jotted down a few notes and Scripture verses, all the while thinking that the coming week would be like every other.

That night, a friend sent me a Bible verse. Joshua 1:9. It says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged; for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9 is one of my favorites so I found the “coincidence” an encouragement to start my week. I copied the verse onto a post-it note and stuck it to my mirror.

Sometimes, a spiritual attack comes all at once. A hard hit you didn’t see coming. Other times, it comes one punch at a time. A pinch, a hit, a punch. Little by little, it makes its presence known.

This week, it came little by little. One discouragement after another. One almost-right thing at a time. One “you’re not good enough” thought at a time. One “you don’t deserve this” thought at a time. One “How can you believe in Jesus when the world is so cruel sometimes?” thought at a time. One incontrollable situation at a time. By Monday night, I thought, Here it comes… it’s only Monday and I’m done with this week. 

By Thursday night, I collapsed at my desk, teary-eyed. The week had been fine– no dramatic situations had occurred– just little punches to the stomach. Little thoughts of negativity swam around my mind like fish in a sea. Little punches, however, add up to bruises, whether they come hard or not. By Thursday night, I felt spiritually, mentally, and emotionally bruised. Tattered.

Joshua 1:9 echoed through my mind as I awoke on Friday morning. I was drained. I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t have the energy to face whatever that day would bring. Quite frankly, I just didn’t have it in me to discover what that day had in store.

That’s when it hit me.

Satan wants me to feel like this.

He wants me to feel so utterly discouraged, weak, and lethargic that I won’t want to live for Jesus.

Be strong. The words echoed in my head as I got up.

And courageous. I brushed my teeth.

Do not be afraid. I packed my lunch.

Do not be discouraged. I packed my back pack.

For the LORD your God will be with you. I drove to school.

Wherever you go. I parked.

Feeling an urgent need to stay positive and reflect on the week and what God wanted to teach me, I listened to “Nothing But the Blood” and “In Christ Alone” on repeat. It was then, walking the college green, that I realized what today was.

Youth group.

As a youth group leader, I spend my Friday evenings with hundreds of junior and senior high school students. I help lead a small group for ninth grade girls. I love getting to know the kids who enter the doors. I look forward to it every week except this week, I realized that something big was going to happen.

Something was going to shake me. I felt like God was slowly preparing me for whatever He had in store for that night.

Fast forward to that evening. I hesitated walking through the doors. I didn’t know what was coming. I didn’t think I was ready for whatever it was.

Be strong… do not be discouraged. I entered.

I pushed the negativity away. I pushed the thoughts back so far that when the talk began an hour later, I felt okay.

“How do we know there’s a God?” the speaker began.

He continued. Verse after verse, example after example, the speaker listed the ways in which God is everywhere. “There is no random chance. Everything is strategic. Everything has a purpose.”

The words repeated in my head. Everything has a purpose. 

It’s when I saw this video that I lost it. THE HEAVENS DECLARE THE GLORY OF GOD.

The HEAVENS– the oceans, the whales, the fish, the stars, the planets, the sound waves.

Watch this (it’s worth EVERY minute):

The pure impact of this video collided into me. Like a punch in the stomach, I couldn’t breathe.

Everything has a purpose. I have a purpose. YOU have a purpose.

Sometimes, we will have bad weeks.

Sometimes, our weeks will be SO BAD that by the end of it, you don’t want to face the next day.

But, “Be strong and courageous. Do NOT be afraid. Do NOT be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you WHEREVER you go.”

What a great reminder, huh?! Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes, I need that reminder. I need to be shaken out of my comfort zone. Sometimes, I need to be punched in the stomach in order to wake up, look up, and turn my eyes back to worshipping my Savior.

This past week is behind me. A new week will begin. I know that no matter WHAT happens, God doesn’t do random. Everything has a purpose. Sometimes, that purpose is unknown to us. Sometimes, discouragement overwhelms us to the brink of exhaustion; but fear not, for God is with you.

Isn’t that the best news for a Saturday?

Get ready.

Sunday is coming.