An Open Letter to My Youth Pastor

To my youth pastor (and his wife, really),

I’ll never forget the waiting period between one youth pastor and another. At this point, it felt somewhat common to us, particularly my group of girls. We’d seen more than one youth pastor in our time in the youth group and we’d seen many, many leaders serving our group where others had only seen a few. Change in this regard felt somewhat comfortable; it was only the uncertainty and amount of waiting that didn’t feel so comfortable.

I prayed a lot for you. I prayed about what I knew our youth group needed and I prayed for God to bless your ministry. Little did I know how your ministry would bless me. In those prayers, I never, ever, ever expected that I would love either of you the way I do. I never expected to grow into a leader so soon, or that that growth would start with you. I never expected to share such a precious and important relationship with you two. Ever.

So thank you, thank you for that relationship.

Thank you for so selflessly serving us.

Thank you for chasing after broken kids, who are likely to look you in the eyes with a “no.”

Thank you for encouraging us to serve Jesus.

Thank you for fearlessly leading us.

Thank you for teaching us to be leaders.

Thank you for supporting us in every individual adventure.

Thank you for loving us.

Thank you for letting me crash dinners I’m not invited to (hahaha).

Thank you for showing me opportunities to serve.

Thank you for serving with a Colossians 3:23 heart. I think that is truly rare, even in pastors.

Thank you for encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone.

Thank you for taking me to dinner, and for eating those left over chicken nuggets.

Thank you for reminding me of God’s beautiful plan for my life when I’m feeling the most defeated.

Thank you for doing life with me, for walking with me through my own life.

Thank you for never giving up on us despite our flaws; you demonstrate grace to us every day by doing just that.

Thank you for your part in shaping who I am and for encouraging me through one of the hardest seasons of my life (and continuing to do so).

It’s only been my junior year, but it seems like a lifetime. What a blessing knowing you is. I’m so thankful to be your student, and even more thankful for what the Lord is doing through you two.

While you cannot force us to love Christ and to grow in him, you can, and do, so humbly and gracefully lead us through these times—in the mountain highs and in the valley lows—and that is the most beautiful picture of leadership.

Eleven Most Wonderful Things I Learned in Eleventh Grade

Here are the learnings of the most wild (but somehow the best) year I’ve encountered thus far:

1. We cannot physically control everything. But you know who can? Jesus. In the midst of a struggle I had a friend remind me to give control of my circumstances to the Lord…I blew it off. I had another friend then text me the same thing one morning as a reminder when I was on my way to school, so I gave it a bit more consideration. But really, it was hearing a sweet teacher (who is a precious friend of mine) explain to an upset student that some circumstances are indeed out of our own control. Her perspective in the midst of her own struggles changed my personal perspective and taught me an incredibly valuable lesson (teachers teach SO. MUCH. MORE. than academics 🙌🏻). The moment we give these struggles to the Lord, everything changes. And when I did surrender that control to Him, my circumstances did change.

2. I want to be a teacher. MY HEART IS SO FULL knowing that this is my calling. After wanting to be a doctor for what seems like my entire life, I feel like a ton of bricks have been lifted off of my shoulders. Thank you, Jesus, for the opportunity to lead and love these future world-changing leaders! I am so excited about this; although nothing is as exciting as my teacher/classroom Pinterest boards😍😍😍

3. Leadership is so important. I mentioned when I shared my testimony here that we got a new youth pastor in October; he is passionate about leadership. I’ve learned so much about myself and about how to serve Christ in a manner of humble leadership. It’s an honor.

4. It is also important to have strong leaders in your life who mentor you. When you’re hurting, you need someone to call. When you’re wrong, you need someone to hold you accountable. When you’re struggling, you need someone to encourage you. But most importantly, everyone needs a mentor who points them to Christ no matter the situation. I praise God for these people in my life, and I think it’s important to have one everywhere. A leader at church, an older friend in your life, a teacher at school, maybe even a good nurse who can mentor you when you’re at the doctors office if that’s somewhere you frequent. It is just important to have someone to lead you and walk with you through life, no matter where you are.

5. Faith is SO. MUCH. GREATER. than fear. Truthfully, fear is oftentimes an absence of faith. But when we cling to the slightest faith, we know that God can move mountains with it (Matt. 17:20). AND HE DOES🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

6. We Must Always Rejoice. One of my favorite books of the Bible is James, simply because I love James’ perspective. When facing trials, James doesn’t say to react in ways that are natural to us; James does not say to run, he doesn’t say to beg God to provide, meanwhile forgetting that God delivers. He does not say to ask the Lord to take every ounce of suffering away. He simply says “Count it all joy.” While we selfishly want God to eliminate our suffering, James says to rejoice in it. So when we face uncertainty, waiting, and pain that seems unbearable, we shall rejoice. Not because our suffering is so terrible, but because our God is so faithful. Trials are a time to thank the Lord, and to be still and know without a doubt that He is our deliverer. Don’t rush through the trial, rather, hold tight; it is in these faith-testing valleys that steadfastness is produced (and is it not SO HUMBLING to look at your suffering and realize God would allow you to endure it for HIS GLORY?! This is why we rejoice).

7. Not only do we rejoice because we serve a good father and we want to glorify him, we rejoice because someone else is always struggling, too. We must rejoice for them. We stand in the gap for them. We pray for deliverance for them. We love them, and we lead them. When you rejoice in your own hurt, you are able to help someone else in their desperation. Truthfully, someone else always has it worse.

8. A color coded planner is the key to success. It keeps me organized and on task. Plus, everyone needs a flair pen for everything.

9. Math is hard, but so is life. We just have to get over it. Figure out how to solve for x, memorize the unit circle, and MOVE ON. It will be okay. Your struggle in a math class does not define you. My worth isn’t found in my math grade, it’s found in my maker’s love for me. Thank you, Jesus this is true! (However, find someone who is good at math to help you. Although your math grade doesn’t define your worth, it does kind of define your GPA, so it’s sort of important…but, not really…maybe).

10. Our God is an Ephesians 3:20 God. Not that I didn’t know it, but He just keeps revealing himself to me in ways that are exceedingly and abundantly above anything that I could ask or imagine. I prayed big prayers for this year, and it’s been hard. But He has used this heartache for good. Praise His name!!!

11. “A life without friends is like a life without sunshine.” True facts. My friends who have walked through it all with me this year have made it just a tad bit easier. From Newks dinners, to Starbucks coffees, and even nail dates, Dairy Queen, and dippin dots in between (Gosh we eat a lot)…I’m so thankful for their love, encouragement, and prayers. What a good, good father we have who would give them to me!

There you have it. My junior year has been one of the wildest, hardest, most exhausting years of my life, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Christ’s joy trumps every ounce of heartache, and for that, I am thankful.

See you soon, Hillcrest High– I can’t wait to do this thing one. last. time. I have a feeling it’s going to be the most bittersweet year. 😭❤️

Dear Northside Students

When I found out that one of our most beloved teachers would be leaving Hillcrest after this year ended, I was sad. But more than that, I was excited.

I say excited because I am so excited for other students to have the opportunity to have a teacher who cares deeply for his students, so humbly serves the Lord, who encourages everyone and goes out of his way to help those who are struggling. A teacher who loves his job, who does his job well, is always extending a little mercy, and who leads by example. He is one of a kind, and Hillcrest hit the jackpot by having him here for 7 years. Every single student deserves to have a teacher like Mr. Ray at least once in their lifetime.

Within the walls of room 310, and outside among the Hillcrest community, he’s shaped lives, touched hearts, and helped students find purpose.

Dear Northside High School students,

You have no idea what kind of sweater vest wearing blessing you are receiving once Mr. Ray steps into one of your classrooms, and I just want to take this opportunity to tell you all about him.

Mr. Ray is a good friend. He maintains friendships with his students, and I have to believe that being treated as his equal is one of the reasons we all love him so much. Whenever he gets the opportunity, he tells anyone who will listen how wonderful each of his students are, but the truth is, he’s a wonderful friend to each and every one of us. He notices when I’m struggling and takes the time to offer help and make sure I’m okay. He congratulates us in every triumph, and he prays for us through every trial.

Mr. Ray is SMART. Smarter than I ever could be. However, he never fails to remind me of just how smart I am, and that is quite the encouragement when I’m feeling the most defeated. His intelligence makes him so so good at his job. Although sometimes he uses words that I don’t understand, he’s helped expand my vocabulary and led me to become an even better writer because he is just SO. SMART.

Mr. Ray has a sweater vest for every occasion. Even a sweater vest birthday card I made him in the 9th grade. He’s got the coolest wardrobe.

Mr. Ray is one of the reasons that I, myself, want to be a teacher. Because he is all of these things, and I’m thankful for the role that he has played in my own story. He has taught me so much about education and it’s wonderfulness. I can only hope to be as incredible of a teacher as he is one day.

Mr. Ray loves the Lord. I love being in a classroom where I can just see Jesus all around, and Mr. Ray’s room is like that. I’ve been in his class all 3 years of my high school career, and his room is one of the ones that feels the most comfortable to me. Mr. Ray radiates the love of Christ within his actions and within his love for his students, his school, and his fellow educators. We cannot save others or guarantee them eternity in Heaven—Jesus does that. However, we can love others with the love of Christ; if one person sees that love within us, it’s all worth it. Mr. Ray has spent his career fulfilling that mission. What a gift it is to students who may not otherwise see Jesus, and even a gift of reassurance for students who do know Jesus.

Mr. Ray demonstrates altruism. He taught me what altruistic means, and there is not a better word to describe him. He is a selfless servant of others, and he always wants to help.

Mr. Ray celebrates with us. Not only does he celebrate our own victories, but he celebrates student teachers with parties, birthdays with singing, random days with root beer for his favorite first period class, and even has coffee made for whomever wants it in the mornings. There’s always something to celebrate, and today, we celebrate him.

Mr. Ray is one-of-a-kind. He arrives at Hillcrest at 6:30 in the mornings and there are some days he’s there for well over 12 hours. He is hard-working, compassionate, encouraging, and truly altruistic.

He teaches us how to write essays that deserve a “9,” how to be confident in our selves and in our intelligence, how to always take a stand and remain confident in what you believe (through our class debates), and how to love harder, encourage more, and find joy in everyday learning.

With that being said, Northside High School, you couldn’t be luckier.

Thank you, Mr. Ray for never giving up (even through the great cheating scandal of 2017), for never backing down, for always caring, and for lending a helping hand, even when we don’t want your help.

Congratulations on your new adventure. We can’t wait to cheer you on just like you’ve spent your last 7 years cheering for us.

Sincerely,

Mr. Ray’s thankful students.

Brokenness is Beautiful: My Story

When you begin to type a new post on WordPress, it says “Share your story here.” How ironic that sharing my story is exactly what I’m doing.

I have 3 friends that really, really encourage me within my faith. One of them has mentioned creating this post more than once; Another asked me to draw it.

I’m scared, honestly. Being transparent and vulnerable seems wild to me. There are parts of this story that I work hard to keep hidden. It’s not what’s comfortable; But, being a follower of Jesus isn’t about what is convenient or comfortable for us. It’s about Him. Purely and entirely Him.

That’s what my story is about too: Jesus.


Before I met Jesus, I was a very broken girl. Of course I was considered to be a good person, but I was young and shy and living life without a drive to serve. I had, and sometimes, still do, a whole lot of fear built up inside.

I was born almost 17 years ago and have lived on the same street in Alabama my entire life. I’ve grown up in a supportive Christian home where I rarely ever miss a Church service. Church has been a constant for me, and really, it’s all I’ve ever known–About a week before my second birthday, my sister, Annie, was born. Incase you don’t know Annie, she has special needs…not long after that my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Around this same time, my Granddaddy also had cancer.

Now you can understand why I’ve lived a life full of fear, can’t you? From the beginning, my life has been anything but normal. I remember so little of this time; but I do know that it is by the grace and healing power of God that my family is healthy and happy today. We will never stop praising Jesus for his goodness.

After all of that, my life was pretty mellow until I started 3 grade. Our church has a revival called “Awakening” every single year, and it was that year that I fearfully met Jesus with my worries and invited him into my heart. I’ll never, ever forget the joy knowing Jesus brings. I’m pretty sure that next day I told every single kid in my 3rd grade class that I knew Jesus and that he was GOOD.

This joy signifies a great start to our 2010; unfortunately though, that year doesn’t feel that way. My dad lost his job the day before I started 4th grade that fall. About a month later, my grandfather passed away. That’s a lot of hurt and loss for a small child who has seen God move mountains in her life.

My dad eventually started working for ESPN and FOX and my mom started a new job that she loves. They both are able to have jobs that they are passionate about.

Middle school was a rough season of life. I don’t know of many people who can confidently look back at their middle school years. Bless my soul; I was a mess– I ran from God instead of pursuing Him.

But it was through my middle school years that I fell in love with Jesus all over again–He meets us in our mess, and He makes our mess so beautiful.

The mess in my life was me trying to fill an emptiness in my heart with other humans, but it was really an emptiness that only God could satisfy. When I realized that, everything changed.

I started high school in 2015, and it has been one of the biggest blessings. So much growing, loving, serving, and learning has occurred within my high school years. One day, soon, I’m going to have a really hard time letting it go.

I ran into a point of exhaustion during my 10th grade year. I was entirely overcommitted and had a serious fear of missing out, and I just needed to rest. I’m so thankful that rest can be found within God. During that time, he took some of my greatest fears and turned them into my greatest blessings.

Although my junior year began the way I always dreamed it would, it’s been nothing like my dreams. It started in a polo, driving myself to school, and beginning 1st period with one of my favorite teachers. But after that, nothing’s normal.

We found out in September that my aunt has cancer. We’re too familiar with cancer to be able to find much comfort. That surprise hit me with a lot of fear.

Not long after that, we got a new youth pastor. My other two youth pastors have influenced my story, too. There are bits and pieces mentioned that involve them, but when I think of Taylor, I think of God’s perfect timing.

One of my dearest friends graduated college and moved away at the end of my sophomore year. Not only did she move home, but she then moved out of the country. She’s a servant, and I’m so thankful for the way she’s loved and poured into me all these years. However, not having her, and suddenly being hit by a ton of adversity shaped bricks, was hard. I needed someone here. That’s where the perfect timing comes in—my youth pastor and his wife have taught us and led us in such a humble way. Timing was perfect within that relationship; I’ve been encouraged through my adversity by great leaders who have led me through a beautiful time of spiritual growth. If I didn’t know them, I can’t say that I would be doing this right now. I’m so thankful.

In November, I gained a few bruises from those adversity shaped bricks. My sister is in kidney failure and spent two weeks in the hospital in November. The day Annie came home was the same day a sweet friend of ours, Anna, was admitted to the hospital for a liver transplant. Annie left room 941 that afternoon, and Anna was admitted to room 941 that night; I think that beautiful detail plays such an important role in both of their stories. Our God is sovereign and remains faithful to us always.

Our friend Anna passed away a few weeks after that, and December was a really hard month. Annie’s levels weren’t getting any higher, and we seemed to be getting bad news after bad news. She started dialysis at the beginning of January. My parents and sister travel an hour 3 days a week for treatment.

Life right now has been really, really hard. It is uncertain and scary and I’ve struggled a lot.

While I don’t know the outcome of my current struggles, I do know is that our God is faithful. He is merciful. He is gracious. He is perfect. He is all-knowing. His is our joy. He loves relentlessly. He fights for us. He knows us. And that we are precious to Him.

Each of these truths are written and displayed all throughout my story. I look at my life and I see a story of a rescue and hope. I see a story of joy and new life. I see a story of conquered fears and healing.

And because of that, I can look ahead and see a faithful father, even when life is hard. His faithfulness is not contingent upon our circumstances.

I’ve always been worried that my story didn’t mean anything, because to me, it seems really hard for anyone to relate to a girl who ran from God with a family full of cancer and a sister with special needs. My life looks really, really different, and I’ve struggled with that a lot. It’s not as simple as everyone else’s seems to be.

I recently wrote a blog post about fear, and how God conquers (John 16:33) it. Our life is an ocean and things like my sister’s kidney failure, are only waves. And yes, when you try to jump over waves with all of your might you might get knocked down. But we can reach up to God to hold us above the waves— because he’s an ocean-tamer.

He’s been that in my life, and my prayer is that you would allow him to hold you above the waves when they get rough. He is faithful.

The moment we give Christ control of our circumstances, everything changes. I promise.

They’re Only Waves

Hey– it’s been a minute since I’ve posted something here!

Life has been so busy. A good busy, but a really busy, busy.

When I find time in the busy, I listen to music sometimes. I listen to classical music when I study. I listen to Christian music a lot because God is SO good and I listen to Christmas music in the in between.

There’s a song I randomly came across one evening when I was wandering around my house with my headphones on. I think it’s called “Peace Be Still” because it utters the words about a thousand times within the 8 minute song.

Anyways, my favorite part of the song is what I want to talk about.

It says : “I don’t wanna be afraid, the waves are only waves,” and when I first let those lyrics register in my mind, it sounded wild. But after thinking about it, rather, they speak so much truth.

I was reminded of a shy little girl who was afraid of the ocean. While her family was far out, jumping over the waves she, instead, reached up to whoever was there to hold her over them.

So often, even as daughters and sons of God, we still feel like we have the power to handle the big waves on our own, so we simply jump with all we have, often times to crash and find ourselves lying under a wave with everything it threw at us lying all around us and the ocean.

It is scary. It seems scary. But, we don’t have to live in fear. Because, just like that girl reached for someone to hold her over the waves, we can ask God to hold us over the waves. He is our strength.

I don’t know what your waves look like, maybe you’re like me, and the waves are your sister’s kidney failure, or maybe the waves are great loss of a dear friend, or maybe your waves symbolize a time of other waiting, hurt, or fear. But, I do know that our God has overcome the world (John 16:33), and we can take heart in knowing that in doing that, he’s overcome our pain, fear, loss, and disappointment. Surely, he can overcome the waves– he created them himself anyway. He’s an ocean-tamer.

God gives us peace and joy when we look to Him. Being carried through the water is so much better than sand in your pants. I promise you that. So, we set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2) and press on toward the goal (Philippians 3:14): Jesus. He is greater, and it’s all for his glory.

Thank you, Jesus, for your oceans and for the people you’ve placed in my life to help guide me through fear. I am so thankful, and you are so faithful.

10 Reasons Why Older Friends are Honestly the Best Friends

For starters, they’re the kind of people who let you get away with stuff that your parents wouldn’t let slide, am I right?
Let me start this by telling a little story…

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For those of you that don’t know, this is my girl, Michelle.

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and this is Lauren.

Michelle and Lauren and I planned to eat dinner one night back in September, but Lauren ended up getting a migraine and couldn’t make it. So, of course Michelle and I handled the news so well- you know, as every dramatic gal would…by crying because we were devastated. Genuinely. But, we decided we’d cheer ourselves up by trying to make Lauren feel better. So after eating our Newks Q’s, we stopped at an unfamiliar gas station, bought some candy, yellow Gatorade (just what the doctor ordered), and some sketchy “headache relief” that I’m really hoping Lauren just admired rather than actually took because we really got it just to be funny.

Here’s where the story gets interesting- we had no idea where Lauren lived. Well, we had an idea, we just didn’t really realize it was as far out as it was and that it was as creepy as it is at night. So, as I am driving, Michelle constructs a story about a birthday party she is having, and texts Lauren to ask for her address so that she can “mail an invite.”

Lauren lives a good 27 minutes from Newks, but y’all, traveling to her house felt like traveling to East Egypt. My best friend, Emma, lives probably 2 minutes from Lauren, and I know how to get to Emma’s house. However, going to Lauren’s, I decided I’d use the GPS. I’m a fan of Waze by the way- it’s a great app, go download it. It avoids traffic which is great because I’m always trying to avoid it- you know, especially in the middle of nowhere Alabama at 9:00 PM.

Long story short, Waze takes us nearly to the toll bridge, then around some dark, windy, eerie, poorly-lit roads all the way to Lauren’s house. It was quite possibly the most scared I’ve ever been, but it’s a funny story to share now. Get this though- we were so scared we wouldn’t even get out of the car at her house. We drove super close to the mailbox, shoved it all in, sent her a text, and sped off. Yeah. I’m still shocked we made out out alive.

I start (yes start, I know, I know, everyone reading this right now is feeling like they do when the pastor says he has one more point before he closes) with this story to say that:
1. Older friends keep secrets like grandparents. You know our parents would have said “No way, Jose” if we had asked to go out to Lauren’s at 9 on a school night on unfamiliar sketchy back roads alone as a sort of new 16-year-old driver, but Lauren never told on us. You see, she’s almost like our grandma! #welovegrandlauren #welovelaurina #welovegrannyren
2. They’ve got wisdom you don’t have. They always seem to have answers don’t they? It’s because they’ve been there. Being friends with someone older than you can be so beneficial because they know more than you!
3. They can share their mistakes with you! This is so good- They’ve already lived the part of life that you’re living, and they’re old enough to look back and see what they did wrong. Most of the time, they don’t hesitate to share those faults with you so that they make sure you don’t do the same!
4. With that being said, they never, never, never want to see you fail. I think this part is so sweet. These older friends of mine go out of their way to help me be successful in life, and in my math class (honestly).
5. They Understand, and can help lift your spirits when you’re feeling low❤️ A few weeks ago, I had an older friend really help calm me down when I was really stressed. And I have another friend who has constantly done that for me since I was in the 7th grade.
6. They’re like a bonus parent sometimes. You know- you don’t want one, but sometimes you need one. They’ll be honest with you about your outfits and set you straight when you’ve done something wrong.
7. You become cooler for hanging out with older people. Because they’re already cooler. Right?
8. They don’t want the drama. They’ve already been there. THIS IS SO GREAT because I hate drama.
9. They’re less judgmental- this allows conversation without judgement because they’re well aware you have more growing to do.
10. They’re a sweet role model and someone for you to always adore and want to be just like.

I love these people (and more)!  Thank you, Jesus for older friends!

 

It Matters Most

When I was in middle school, I had one particular English teacher whom I really connected with during my seventh grade year (she's one of the reasons I started this blog!). Nearly every day, I left her a note somewhere in her room, usually on her desk. Whether it was a piece of scripture, a silly quote, or a simple note that read something like, "Hey, you're the best teacher ever! -Elle," I did it in an effort to send some encouragement in her direction.
This same teacher was, and is, a mentor and friend in my life. I knew how hard she worked, and how late she stayed up. I actually don't know if she ever slept that year. But, I loved her and tried to help brighten her days.

The night before I started high school, I sent her a text, to be a "note" that I left on her phone (instead of her desk since we were no longer at the same school), with a Bible Verse that is a mutual favorite of ours, and a message that basically said I was praying for her as she stepped into her 3rd year (I had her her first year). In her true fashion, she responded with a novel explaining to me how much she knew I would love high school (she and I are twins, so of course she was right), and how I was going to do great. But, what stuck out to me was a sentence that said something like this: Someone needs you to be their spark and encouragement this year just like you were to me when I had you, and I know that God is going to use you for that.
She told me two things within that sentence. The first one being that my notes worked!! Woohoo I had been encouragement to her! And the second one was that I had a mission- someone needed me to be encouraging to them.

I clung to that so dearly, it made everything that I did in school feel semi-important. I prayed and prayed on it. I was convinced it was someone and then I no longer thought it was them.
After a lot of continuous praying- (I mean seriously, if you've taught me in the past two years, your name is written ALL OVER my prayer journal, and if you teach me these next two years, I'm sure yours will be, too), I've decided it was each of you.

My very first blog post was about teachers. Right now, it's what I want to do. It really is where my heart is at, and that sounds so strange to me, but it's so true. There is no one that I would rather be more like. Teachers are each some of the most intelligent, loving, life-saving, kind-hearted, hard-working, sweet, swwwweeeet, patient, human beings. Teachers, you display a grace, ambition, and courage that I can only wish to carry myself with someday.

So, my prayer for you all this year, whether it's year one or year 20, is that this year will be your best yet (if you're teaching me, it probably will be 😉)…that you have the perfect mix of chaos and order and that you're able to find a little sanity and encouragement in the in-between.

You are so under appreciated and overworked, and I truly do think that encouragement (from students at least) is a rarity in so many of your lives.

But, teachers, your work matters most. I know this because I am a student, and I get the honor and privilege of watching you CHANGE THE WORLD every single day. How cool is that? You get to teach, inspire, and love the future- and I don't think you ever stop learning yourself.

I know that your job is challenging, but I also have to believe that it is one of the most rewarding. You're changing lives every day, and I know this because you've changed mine. I want to teach because you all teach- and you're rockstars at it. You make learning fun.

I shared all of this to remind you that what you do matters most. The way you love, the way you teach, the way you inspire and encourage, the way you help and guide, the way you hold a students hand and walk through fire with them…It matters most in so many lives. I see your effort, but more importantly, God sees your effort (and truly, He matters most, am I right??). What you do is not in vain.

So, no matter what an angry student (that is sometimes, a lot of times, me) says, and no matter what an misunderstanding parent posts on Facebook, your work matters most- there are students who care. There are students who are grateful, who are learning more than they imagined they could, students who love you right back, and who want to be just like you.

I can't thank the Lord enough for the honor of being your student- I'm also so thankful that I am one of those students. I am thankful. I see your effort. You are very appreciated.

Hoping this will be your best year yet, teachers! Welcome Back! I'll see you in less than a week!

 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters," Colossians 3:23<–

Sincerely,
Elle

My Best Advice for High School Freshmen

Since I was once a freshman, I've rounded up my greatest advice for all of those who are about to embark on a totally new, crazy fun, emotional journey.
I'm going to be honest, I freak out…over a lot. My first day of high school was no exception. It was terrifying to walk into a completely new school with such a widespread diversity of kids- and adults.

But, Freshman Year was totally one of the greatest school years of my life. So, with that being said, here is 16 pieces of advice I have for you:

1. Remember That Everyone grows at their own pace. 
Appreciate that, and don't hate yourself because you're not doing the things that your peers are. Please don't rush yourself to do them too. Maybe the things they say/do won't be things you ever say/do. That is Perfectly Okay…Always, Always Remember this.
2. Know It's totally fine to talk to and Make Friends with new people!! 
The majority of my good friends weren't in any of my eight classes freshman year, but that turned out to be such a great thing because a door was opened to a whole new sea with a diversity of amazing fish! Now, I have so many new friends that I never would've imagined being friends with. So, do make new friends. It's a really, really good thing.
3. Don't try to change yourself for other people. 
I spent so much time hating myself because I was changing myself to be who I thought my (get this, best friends) wanted me to be. I didn't like the person who I had become and I didn't know how to get out of that relationship without loosing those friends, so I just became angry, and I hated myself. Changing who I was for those people was definitely not worth the pain that came along with it.
4. Always be Kind to People, but especially be kind to your teachers.
The thing about teachers is, the things they do to make you "hate" them, is all for your benefit. Appreciate that. Because if they're anything like my teachers were 9th grade year (and 10th, too), they are some of the most hardworking, patient, kind, and loving people who want to see you strive, and will do anything to help you accomplish your dreams.
5. Step out of your comfort zone and make friends with upperclassmen.
This is something I wish that I had done more of. Most of them are totally willing to be your friend and offer you advice to get through the day. It was two seniors I knew that totally calmed my nerves the first day when they ran up to me and screamed "HEY!" In reality, they were nervous just like me!!
6. Study, Study, Study. 
If you don't study, and you don't put in the effort outside of school, you won't do well. So study, the night before…days before. Don't cram 5 minutes before the test. Even if it is just as simple as WOTD!
7. Always, Always, Always remember to keep The Lord as your biggest priority in all that you do.
When God is at the Center of your life, and You work at everything with all of your heart, for him, everything else falls right into place. I promise. It's a challenge, I know, but try your best. The Joy that The Lord brings is the greatest feeling to carry around and radiate- even on your toughest days.
8. Celebrate the fact that Homecoming is SO AWESOME. 
Homecoming is one of the first times you'll ever feel real school pride, and you only get to dress up as a baby once, so embrace it, and enjoy it, Freshies!!
9. Get Involved!!!!!!!!
I know you've heard it so many times that you are sick of it…But, Involvement is such a great way to learn things about yourself and to make new friends, as well as build your resume! In High School, there is a lot for you to do regardless of your interests.
10. Know that the friends you walk in with in August of freshman year will more than likely not be the ones you walk out with in May of senior year. 
You probably don't believe me now, but you'll begin to understand this and realize its truth somewhere throughout Freshman Year. High School is a place for growth. Everyone changes and finds things out about themselves and it's really crazy. But if they're not worth it, don't be afraid to let them go. I have had a hard time with that.
11. Hey. Know this: Netflix is fun and is a great way to chill. 
I recommend Grey's Anatomy, Gossip Girl, Friends, or One Tree Hill, but (speaking from experience) don't over use it and mess with your sleeping, you'll regret it.
12. Speaking of Sleep, Sleep as much as you can! 
Someone told me this right before I started High School and I thought that it was really stupid. But, it was actually really beneficial.
13. Walk on the right side of the hallway/stairs. 
People will push you down and shove you around. Trust me, I know. I speak from experience…
14. Remember that your teachers can be your friends, and they are there for you. 
My teachers these past two years have been some of the greatest blessings (see my first blog post again!). It was incredibly hard to say goodbye that final time, knowing that I would never be in some of their classes again (insert a lotta lotta tears here)!!! But, those that I don't get the honor of being their student everyday anymore, are STILL encouraging and helpful- and fun to talk to sometimes!

15. High School can be very intimidating, but be confident in yourself. 
Confidence will carry you so so far.
16. Last, but not least, GET A PLANNER and take advantage of it.
A planner helps you to be a tad bit more organized and get things done on a schedule. It's the best!!

On your first day, everyone is nervous, the sophomores, the teachers, the seniors, the juniors. But it will be okay. Enjoy it, Freshmen. Don't wish it away because I promise, it goes by in the blink of an eye. This year has the opportunity to be the best one of your life!!

Xoxo,

Elle

Twelve and Sixteen; A Happy Birthday Letter to my Best Friend

Happy Birthday to my forever friend. 
Today, My girl MH is Sixteen. 
Sixteen and we’ve been friends since age 4-or 5 (Ok, we met in preschool, but became real pals in Kindergarten)?  Twelve years of friendship…
Through those twelve years the monogrammed and smocked outfits with bows have turned into Jennaration, and the dolls have turned into iPhones and Apple watches…The teachers pets that once shared that title in the 3rd grade eventually shared geometry together in the tenth grade (bless). Sharing school store erasers turned into sharing chemistry answers (sorry, Dr. Strick- we sure do love ya!), and the matching outfits grew fewer. The spend the nights every Friday night (your house, my house, your house, my house), turned into every once in a while dinners at Newks (of course). The games of doctor and dentist turned into games of makeup and two little girls grew from kindergarten besties to Juniors in high school. 
Although everything around us has changed, the love and bond we share has not. No matter how far away, or how rarely we see each other, we pick back up like we haven’t missed a beat. I love you all the same and even more at sixteen than at five. Your friendship is such a blessing. Thank you for these twelve years. 
Wishing you the grandest day in all of history. 
Because you were born, I am a much happier, sassier, and dramatic human being. 
Thank you for coming, and never leaving. I am 12 years more lucky because you’re my pal. 
Happy 16, forever friend. 

Be safe on the roads, Mary-Harbin. I Love you lots.

Take me to Newks?- just us this time:) 

You’re driving.

-Elle❤️ 

Big Stuf 2017 and a Copyrighted Video

I just got back from Big Stuf. It was awesome. Here is a video & some pictures to prove to you just how awesome it was! ​

This video with this music was removed from my Instagram and my YouTube, so to see it there you’ll have to listen to less-cool music. But it’s here.

I would say more, but I’m a little tired  and I believe the video does the job. 
So yippeeeeeeee for Big Stuf!!!!
This music is not my own, it belongs to Hillsong. Just saying for copyright reasons!!