Class of 2016

Dearest Fellow Students,

Technically I am the valedictorian of my school, so I think I am entitled to a little speech. Well, maybe entitled is too strong of a word considering I’m actually home schooled. Nevertheless, I am going to give a speech. I hope it doesn’t bore you to death and sound like literally everything your aunts, cousins, and dogs have been telling you for the past few weeks. I promise to not pinch your cheek and tell you stories about when you were “this tall.” 

Graduating from high school does not seem like a big deal to me. I know it is. I know that I should be incredibly excited and just bursting at the seams. But I’m not. I think it may be because I don’t really dislike school. I haven’t had to sit at a desk for seven straight hours a day and I’m not bored by the subjects I learned. I’m an odd duck, I’m aware. But I am very excited about the next step in my life.

For the first time in my life, I am actually seeing all the potential my life has. It’s a bit of a long story, but all of my life I have been focused on one thing or another and I could never really stop long enough to comprehend that I can actually follow all of my interests. I don’t have to settle. I don’t have to do what I said I would do last year. There is every road open to me, and I just have to have the insight and the trust in God to know which one is right for me right now. I don’t have to know about tomorrow or next week or four years from today. There is no way I can know about all of those times. Sometimes I will have to backtrack and sometimes I will have to turn left when I thought I was going to turn right, but overall I am just in awe of how in-control of my life I actually am.

I am in control. I can pursue a doctorate degree or become a mother or enroll in peace corps. I can research what it means to be a nun or how to become a music producer. I know nothing about anything I just listed, but I can find out if I want to. That’s what I mean by control. I am in control of how I spend every second of my life. And you are too. We all have circumstances beyond our control; I’m not trying to disregard all of those. I’m just saying that, above all, there is always a way that we can make our life exactly what we want it to be.

When I look at the next four years I will spend at college, I don’t see school. I see an adventure. The college grads are always saying that it was the best four years of their lives. They wish they could do it over again. They loved every minute of it. But I don’t want to feel that way. Instead of being sad those years are over, I want to top them. I want to know that I spent every minute in classes the way I wanted to spend them. I don’t want to look back at the four years and yearn for them, I want to think about how they were my springboard to send me flying through my life of exploring.

So I have to be brave. I have to be wild and thoughtful and kind. I have to look at who I am and then look at who I want to be in three months. I have to do things I’m terrified of. I have to meet people who intimidate me. I have to learn things. I have to become the woman I already know I am. I’m starting out on this adventure and I don’t intend to let it end in a mere four years.

I am going to stun the world. I am going to come spinning into existence and everyone will have to stop and stare at the magnificent joy that is radiating from me.

So you should do the same. We are graduating! Let’s be done focusing on being something and focus on being ourselves! Let’s run and jump and cart-wheel our way to who we should be. This is our moment. I know, it just feels like another transition into some grown-up life. If we don’t start our lives RIGHT NOW, when will we? Let’s be brave.

Shed the expectations and the preconceived notions. Let’s be exactly who we already are and deal with every single one of the consequences!

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Let Me Introduce You to Blimey Cow

Okay, this is an interesting week for my “Let Me Introduce You” series. Today I am introducing you to a Youtube channel known as Blimey Cow. Now, I have been following this content for much longer than my year or so of committed Christianity, but I have enjoyed every video I’ve watched. They are hilarious, clean, and actually helpful sometimes.

So, first of all, if you are homeschooled and you spend any amount of time on Youtube, you have probably heard of Blimey Cow thanks to this video. It basically outlines the top seven lies about homeschoolers. It is both gut-busting funny and heartbreakingly true. I totally recommend you check that out if you have time. The main owner of the channel was homeschooled and all of the content is totally homeschool-friendly. If that is a thing… I’m not sure. I’m homeschooled and I have no idea what I mean by homeschool-friendly. Ignore me.

Second, they have some of the best Christian comedy acts ever. I guess I don’t actually have a lot of experience in Christian comedy, but the statement still stands. They are freaking hilarious. They explain things in jokes and never bash anything because, well, they love Jesus too. They are Christian and homeschooled and still totally cool. Break all the stereotypes!

Third, they can relate to both the teenagers of today and the young adults of today. The kids that are in the midst of middle school drama or struggling through their freshmen year of college. I think it is a really important time to be able to find pop culture icons that aren’t bashing Christianity or being awful moral role models. It’s also great to find educational personalities that aren’t forty years old and wearing a sweater vest embroidered with the nativity scene. I didn’t grow up in Sunday school, but even I know that those humans exist.

Finally, they have new videos every Monday! How cool is that! Regular videos so you don’t have to wonder or check back every other day waiting for new content! Hooray!

How to find them:

Go to Youtube.com, type in Blimey Cow, and their channel should be the first legit answer to your search. Or you could just click this link. Whatever.

Hope I gave you some new, cool binging material! See you guys next week!

When Satan Knocks…

Venom. Doubt. Temptation. Poison. Lies. Contempt. Hate.

They all seep into our lives at some point. Whether someone else invites them in or you open the door yourself, evil will always find a way to knock you on your butt. I know that we don’t like to think about it. We would like to pretend that the devil has a lot less impact on our daily lives than what God does, but it simply isn’t true. The devil is always in our shadow waiting for a moment of weakness to hit us where it hurts. So what do we do? How do we protect ourselves and fight when we need to? I’m not an expert, but here are my war tactics.

Pray for intercession from St. Michael the Archangel. This is one of my forever favorite prayers. I learned it by heart in the sixth grade and have held it near and dear to my heart ever since. Something about the protection I feel it provides really sets me at ease with my feelings towards those that dislike me.

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Center yourself in love. Find people that love you when you feel surrounded by people that don’t. Go to a family reunion or invite your best friend to dinner. Have fun with others instead of letting the venom of your haters destroy you. Don’t let the devil use others to get to you. It is his way of ruining two lives at once, don’t give him the satisfaction.

Let go and let God. Gather all of your poisonous thoughts into a basket in your mind and hand that basket over to Him. Show Him the assortment of thoughts that you feel are weighing you down. Tell Him that you have been trying to drag them with you, but you realize that now it may be His turn to handle them. He is our greatest protector and our fiercest fighter.

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Find a church. Sit in the pews and stare at the crucifix hanging before you. Kneel and let your forehead rest against the wooden back of the pew in front of you. Breath deeply in His presence and let the peace of the place fill you up completely. Just relax into the church and become comfortable again. Let the demons you have been hauling around slip away and just allow yourself to be at His feet.

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Arm yourself with His love. Look the evil in the eye and tell him you will have nothing to do with him. Stand up and be brave in the face of venom. Don’t let your heart falter. Take courage and know that God is your armor. He is on your side and He is cheering you on. He is proud that you are not willing to submit. He is joyous that you have chosen the right side. He will help you through this low in your life. Because He loves you so.

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Resist for three minutes more. Sometimes temptation is just too strong. Sometimes we feel like we really would rather die than remain without. But we can always wait just three more minutes. And at the end of that three minutes, we can wait another three minutes. Make your suffering shorter because goals are what successes are made of. You are strong for those three minutes, now be strong again. And again. And again. Until you are so strong that the demon of temptation has no power over you.

We are powerful in the love of God. The devil will send us demons when we are least prepared, but if we remember our true King and put our armor into place we can be free of it. Of course, we are only human. Sometimes we will lose the battle. Sometimes we will fall right on our butts and the devil will throw a fiesta in the name of our failure. But Jesus will be there to pick us up and pat us on the back when we are ready to accept His help.

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Let Me Introduce You to Life is Good

This is a post in my “Let Me Introduce You” series on my blog. You don’t need to read anything else to be able to understand this post but if you are interested in what this is all about, click here for an introduction! Awesome. Read on my pretties.

This is one of my favorite clothing companies ever. I discovered them about three years ago on vacation with my family in Florida. We walked into a fun little store in some tourist area, and I walked out with two of my favorite shirts that I have ever owned. They are soft, simple, and optimistic. Optimistic? you say. Yes. Optimistic. What do I mean by that? I mean that the company itself fosters optimism. They celebrate the outdoors and invite everyone that reads their shirts to celebrate with them. They are witty and silly and make you smile.

For example, I bought a purple shirt that has a small picture of a television with the words “think outside of the box” written beneath it. How cute is that?! I love it. I love TV as well, don’t get me wrong, but still. Adorable. They have plenty of examples, but really you should just go scroll through the website and see if you see anything you like. They also have very cute mugs and hats you can get yourself. I bought my dog, Luna, a collar that is the same color as my shirt and simply says “Life is good” around it. It fits her perfectly!

Anyway, click here if you would like to expand your summer shirt collection. I obviously highly recommend it or it wouldn’t be in this series of posts.

Follow Me Elsewhere!

Hey! I heard you thought I was kinda awesome. I mean, maybe you only think I’m moderately interesting… But all the same you should totally come and follow me on Facebook! I have a page that I have been sharing all my regular posts to just to spread my content around a bit. It would be so amazing if you would head on over to the book of faces and look up my coolio self. I am going to start doing some more regular updates over there just so you can follow along more of my daily life instead of just the compilation of ideas that ends up here. You can follow my Facebook page by simply clicking on the “like” button on the sidebar of my Home page or you could look up “Elizabeth Van” under the search box on your Facebook – Make sure you look under pages, not people!  Just go check it out and maybe click like? And, if you are so inclined, you could share it with your friends! That would be so groovy.

Did I really just say groovy? Yes. Yes I did.

Is that because I just watched Scooby-doo for kicks? Yes. Yes it is.

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Let Me Introduce You to Thrift Books

This is a post in a series. If you are interested in finding more of these just search through the Advice or Stories categories and you will find more! You don’t need to read anything before you move on to reading this post, but if you would like an introduction to the “Let Me Introduce You” series, here is a link! Read on!

Thriftbooks.com is my favorite website. I adore it. I discovered it a month or two ago thanks to a post I scrolled by on Tumblr. It has saved my book-addicted life. I am normally the type of reader that likes her books in pristine condition, but when I am getting them for four bucks a pop, I couldn’t really care less about a bent dust cover. Plus, when you throw in free shipping on orders over ten dollars, my heart skips a beat! I promise they didn’t pay me to write this post. I just really love getting cheap books delivered to my doorstep. It is an introverted bookworm’s dream come true.

Here is the link to the website. Your life will be forever changed. I promise. They have cheap Bibles if you are in need of something to journal in! They also have plenty of Christian books, but some are more on their end of expensive (which is still plenty cheap). They have all genres and pretty much anything you can think of. The shipping takes a week or two, but not months like some thrift places. It is simply the best website ever.

I got myself an account right away. I tested it out with a book I really wanted just to see the quality and whatnot. The books are all rated and it tells you in their description what kind of condition they are in, if they are old library books, or if they are severely damaged. If you are the type of person that cannot even handle a dog-eared page or a nicked cover, then you should stick to the “like new” category. I got a book in “good” condition and the cover was bent and there was a drawing from the previous owner on the cover page. Nothing too bad, and still totally intact and readable. I am usually very stingy about taking care of my books – and I would never treat a book like the previous owner of this “good” book treated it – but saving money trumps pristine condition for me in this situation.

I recently bought Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis from this website for about four dollars in “very good” condition and the only problem I can find with it is that the spine shows it has been opened a few times due to the wear on the corners. Just like it has been loved a bit by it’s previous owner. Other than that, it’s in totally amazing condition. I haven’t read it yet, but I am sure I will be posting a review here on the blog when I do. Enough rambling though! Go get some new reads! I basically just saved your bookworm heart! (Or started the life of a bookworm.)

CLICK HERE TO GO SHOPPING FOR CHEAP BOOKS

You’re welcome.

Vanity?

I am not vain. I mean, maybe I fall into vanity a little sometimes. I am not going to say I am free of that sin. But for writing’s sake, I am saying that I am not vain. The reason I am saying that is because I used to think I was. I used to think I was vain and self-consumed and filled to the brim of both those things. The reason? I liked my hair. I liked my freckles and my eyes and my skin. I liked the way my physical body looked, and I thought that was the same thing as being vain and selfish and shallow. I was wrong.

Society in America has distorted the way that young girls think of themselves. They think that they have to live up to the beauty standards that celebrities and magazines set for them because they are defined as the “perfect woman.” With this pressure, girls are always able to find something wrong with themselves. They are conditioned into believing that they should be focused on making their body better all the time. You may not find much wrong with that last sentence as a standalone thought, but combine it with the fact that girls think they should be doing it for other people creates one of the most destructive thoughts in our generation. This thought process is creating an epidemic of self-conscious young girls. So much so that it is the new norm. In fact, it is rebellious to think that there is nothing wrong with your body. From the eyes of a biased and shaded world, loving the way you look is wrong and simply not how it’s done. It’s not normal, so it must be wrong. Where is the logic here? Oh, there is no logic? Imagine that.

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So because of all of these thoughts floating around about how a girl should feel about her own body, my own understanding was compromised. A few years ago I was a ballet dancer. That is another story for another time, but I am drawing from that point in my life because I was under the constant belief that I was not the right body. I thought my thighs were too big and my waist too soft. My boobs were too small and my legs were too short. I scrutinized every single part of my body – especially the parts that I knew were out of my control. I was living with the constant, underlying belief that I was all wrong all over. It wasn’t something I went around telling everyone, but it really wasn’t a secret either. Ballet dancers were not meant to think that their bodies looked good. Ballet is a sport that requires constant improving. You can never say you have reached the maximum number of pirouettes or finally perfected your pique. Your arches will never be good enough and your arms never too fluid. It was the culture, and I am not saying that culture was wrong, just that it was personally destructive to me. I didn’t have the correct tools then to know how to counter the thoughts in my head – I didn’t even realize there were tools out there that could help me. Here I am, two years out, and still recovering from that destruction.

When I stopped dancing, I was introduced to the self-love movement. Of course, I was in love with it. It was everything that made sense – plus I was a baby feminist at the time so I was all about everything that came through on my Facebook page. But when I began loving my body I was crushed by overpowering guilt. This is where I thought vanity came into play. I was convinced that by thinking my body was okay and that it not in need of constant revision, I was becoming self-absorbed and vain. I thought that by thinking I may actually be beautiful, I was becoming a girl that thought she was “all that.” It sounds silly, but I really thought those things. Change is difficult when you have been conditioned into one way of thinking – the mind is a weird and delicate thing.

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So how did I end up overcoming that stage of guilt? I found God. Someday soon I will tell you how I found him again, but for now just know that that moment has changed my mental health for the better in so many ways. It took a long time for me to fully understand Christian self-love, but when I finally did it was like my heart exploded. That sounds gross, but picture it metaphorically and move on. Basically, discovering this secret hiding in plain sight changed the way I live. It is obvious. Once I tell you you will either smack yourself in the head and dance around like a fool or you will be confused. If you are the former – congratulations! Go re-vamp your wardrobe! If you are the latter, it’s okay. You just aren’t there yet. One day you will be and then your world will change for the better. Don’t fret.

Love yourself because you are God’s creation.

He literally created you. He decided on all of your physical traits and knew that if he put your certain soul into your certain body, amazing things would happen – as long as you realized they could. He shaped your toes and your nose and he said, “Woah! I need to send this awesome human to earth right now and make sure she gets to meet as many of my other amazing creations as possible!” (Okay, I don’t know that those are His exact words, but they are probably pretty close.) He created you. He loves you. If nothing else, you should love yourself for that reason alone.

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When I had this little epiphany, my entire demeanor changed. These days, I really only wear makeup when I feel like it. I do not feel self-conscious when I don’t have it on. I do not even think about what others think when they look at my clean and bumpy face. God created my face and so it must be glorious. I started dressing in exactly the way I wanted to. I bought clothes without a single thought as to what others would think. I didn’t focus on where the clothes came from, suddenly Wal-Mart and American Eagle were the same thing to me. I focus on what will make me feel more like me. I want my real, true self to show through because my real and true self is the one that God created.

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Self-love isn’t vain. It isn’t selfish or thoughtless. It is worship. It is love – in the purest sense. In the best sense. It is one of the most powerfully good things you can do – and you can do it right now.

Treat others like you would want to be treated. Treat yourself as you would want to be treated.

When you realize how beautiful relishing in yourself can be, you will feel like you have grown wings. The laws of fashion won’t apply to you. Your makeup will become a toy instead of a necessity. Your heart will grow three times in size because suddenly you are free to express the love you have for yourself – God’s creation. He does not create a rough draft in need of revisions. He sends you to earth fully formed – you just have to be ready to show everyone all of your pages.

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Love yourself, because He loves you. You will be stronger and your love for the entire world will blossom.