Sayonara, 2013!

December 31, 2013.

This is the only time that we will ever see this date. Isn't it kind of strange to think about that? Sometimes days seem so much the same, but each one is actually completely unique and individual. That's why we need to appreciate every single day we are given. You never know what that 24-hour time period could hold!

The same goes for the 365-day period of a year. I think we get into a habit of saying, "Oh, next year will be different. This is just another year for the books." Think of all of the things that you could miss out on with that mindset! I'm loving all of the 2013 recap posts that are going up, because they show how much a year really can mean. That's why today, I'm going to share a look back at some of my favorite things from this past year.

January
I spent a lot of time outdoors here in beautiful Florida during this month. John and I enjoyed a beautiful hiking adventure at Leon Sinks, and I also got to cuddle with some wolves and skunks (yes, you read that right) at Seacrest Wolf Preserve!


February
This month was full of so much love and friendship. John suprised me with a beautiful Valentine's Day dinner. I also spent some time with John and my family hanging out around my hometown. Amber and I also made a trip to her hometown near St. Pete for a very cold fishing trip!
 

March
This was a month full of Seminole baseball and other fun activities! I had the opportunity to get dressed up and attend John's med school gala. My favorite part of the month was putting together a surprise birthday dinner for John's 24th!


April
At the beginning of this month, John and I spent a weekend in Panama City Beach with his Christian med group. The weather was still chilly, but it was a lot of fun! I also submitted my first freelance article and poured my heart out in a letter to my 11-year-old self.
 

May
Florida summer had officially arrived by this point, so my time outside of work began to be devoted to fun, sunshine filled activities, during which sunburn made it's first appearance of the season. Cookouts were had and cornhole was played in abundance!


June
This was the first month that I really fell in love with blogging and began to take it seriously. I shared all about how I became a Seminole and took a trip to meet a friend and spend some time at the beach.
 

July
This was a month of change as John moved to begin his third year of med school, working at a hospital in a different city. I also talked about traveling, in anticipation of the month's trip to visit family in Pennsylvania. I was also rejected for a new job, and was really sad and confused. Looking back now though, the rejection was a blessing in disguise.


August
In August, I continued to read a lot of books. We also took a fun trip to the Tampa area to celebrate Amber's 20th birthday.


September
This was a very eventful month! I told you all about my insane neighbors, who you will be happy to know were evicted just a few short weeks later. John and I celebrated one year of dating, and I celebrated a birthday and turned the big 2-4!
 

October
I hosted my first linkup with Jessica and Kelli! Florida State continued to kick butt in football, I saw Switchfoot with VIP status, and planned some awesome Halloween costumes for John and I. I also got real about depression, and received some great feedback from all of you!


November
This was the month that I was attempting to do NaNoWriMo, but I then ended up in the emergency room and had to have my gallbladder removed, so I never finished my novel due to being down and out from surgery. No worries though, because I have felt a million times better ever since. John and I also made a big decision that we are still currently working through.


December
I introduced you to Benjamin, now officially known as Benji, and you all loved him! I also told you all about my new friends Rita and Dina, and you loved them too! This month was all about the spirit of Christmas and holiday love.



And, that brings us to today, the last day of 2013. Wow...looking back like this makes the year really seem like it has just snuck by. I am so grateful for all of the blessings and experiences that this year has offered. I can't wait to embark on the new journey that 2014 will bring!

A very Happy New Year to you all! Stay safe!

Sick of Mediocrity

Whether we like it or not, 2013 is ending in just two short days. There is something about the end of a year that makes me more contemplative than usual. I have been in a mind set the past couple of days that is causing me to pick apart every little aspect of 2013. I have been thinking about all of the good, all of the bad, things I should have done, things I should have done differently...you name it, I've thought about it...in abundance.

2013 was a great year in a lot of ways, but it still wasn't what I would call a super successful year. Not much changed. I didn't work hard enough to achieve any major goals. I'm still stuck in the same job that I swore I would escape. I spent too much time being depressed. I could have been a better friend. I didn't spend enough quality time with my family. In the back of my mind I'm constantly thinking...I could have done better.

Then, I remember that I have a really bad habit of being too hard on myself. I have a tendency to focus on the negative so much, that the positive just completely disappears from my memory. So I have to remind myself...sure, all of that may have been less than satisfactory, but the good always outweighs the bad. Despite everything I just said, 2013 also brought me a brand new set of memories. I traveled. I wrote. I met new people and made new friends. I pressed through the beginning stages of this blog. I prayed. I changed the way that I talk to God. During this period of my life, I did okay. But, I didn't do my best.

For 2013 in particular, I feel like God waited until the last couple of months of the year to have me do most of my growing. He led me to make some decisions that I am still actively trying to figure out. I have no idea what lessons I am supposed to learn from them yet, but I am positive I will find out eventually...even if it's another year or two down the road from now.

I suppose that I can officially say that I feel like I'm going through my first life crisis. Okay, maybe not my first, but the first one that has felt this big and this important. Honestly, I am so tired of just beating around the bush and making excuses for this time in my life. I'm sick of telling people that I don't have my life figured out. I'm sick of trying to talk myself into liking a career just because it pays my bills. I'm sick of waking up every morning and accepting the fact that I am comfortable and change isn't necessary. I'm sick of "standing still" because I'm afraid of failure.

I'm sick of mediocrity.

Since I was a child, I have wanted nothing more than to make a difference in the world somehow. When I became a Christian at the age of 15, I knew that God had special plans for me. For a long time, I felt that inside of me...that willingness to do whatever and go wherever it took to make a difference in some way, shape, or form. In the past few years, I have slowly lost that drive. I became so focused on school, and paying bills, and being "successful," that the fire that was burning in me dwindled more and more every second. I stopped attempting to use my God-given talents to find my own path, and instead molded myself into someone that would go along the traditional road to the American dream.

And now, here I am...questioning myself every day because I know that I haven't even remotely been introduced to my life's calling, and I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted from fighting the fire inside of me. I fight to keep it at a smolder, because for some reason I'm afraid of what will happen if I let it consume me. I'm afraid of being wrong. I'm afraid that I will disappoint those that love me. I'm afraid that it's somehow too late to make my own path. I'm afraid that I will discover that I'm stuck in this place I'm in, and I won't be able to escape.

Here is my ultimate confession: I'm afraid to try, even though I desperately want to.

So, this is my first step for the new year. It's time to try. It's time to attempt to answer my call to living a life of outreach and serving others. A couple of potential opportunities have already been revealed to me, and through prayer and guidance, I know that 2014 is going to be the year that I find my purpose. I hope you are all okay with taking the journey with me.

Country Internet Problems

With Christmas, and being off work, and being at my parent's place the past few days, my posting schedule has really taken a hit! My mom and dad live pretty far out in the country too, so the internet is always questionable and not the most fun to use. I would also be lying if I said it wasn't nice to just kind of wake up and do what I want every day for the past few days. It's a rough life. Not really though.

I have been working on a list of topics that I want to blog about in the new year. I cannot wait to start writing some of the posts; there are some exciting things to share...both fun and serious. I love having this place to come to and not only be able to document my thoughts and feelings, but also receive feedback and support. Blogging really has been such a positive in my life!

Since I really have nothing else to talk about today, I will leave you with a song that I have been loving recently. It's my new favorite jam!


See y'all on Monday!

The 26th of December

Waking up the morning after Christmas is always similar to emerging from a fog. Even though the tree and all of the lights and such are still up, the mood is different. Our minds automatically tell us that the most wonderful time of the year is over. We know that within the next few days, all of the decorations will be gone, all of the leftovers will be eaten, and all of our new gifts will find permanent homes. Everything will go back to normal, and it will be an entire year before those holiday feelings return.

In that sense, December 26th is kind of a sad day. However, it is also a very promising day. The 26th is always the day that I really begin to anticipate the new year. It's the first day that I get excited about all of the exciting possibilities that will roll around with January 1st. A new year signifies a lot. It's a very exciting thing to think about! I have three solid "resolutions" this year. I haven't decided yet if  I'm going to share them here on the blog yet or not though. 2014 is looking really good so far. I don't want to go out on a limb and say it's going to be "my year," but it very well could be great for my family and I.

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas! What did you do? I had a very relaxing holiday with my family, and it was great. I didn't take very many pictures this year...just a few snaps on my phone,  but I thought I would share them regardless!

Sadie Lou on Christmas morning. You can't really see it, but she is wearing the new collar that Santa brought her!

My Amish brother and I. Just kidding...but the beard is throwing me off.

Journaling on Christmas night. Writing beside a Christmas tree is very thought inspiring. I think it's the lights.

Have I Been Christmas-y Enough?

Every year, I feel like I beat myself up a little for not "celebrating" Christmas to the level that it should be celebrated. By that, I mean that I don't always think that I do enough stereotypical Christmas activities. I never watch all of the holiday movies that I want to watch. I never drive around and look at enough lights. I never listen to an expected amount of Christmas music. I only drink one hot chocolate a week instead of five. So on, and so forth.

While these are all fun and important activities, I'm realizing more and more that they aren't what is truly representative of a "successful" Christmas season. Sure, it's fun to wear ugly sweaters and sing Jingle Bell Rock three times a day for twenty-five days in a row, but ultimately, these things don't bring the desired Christmas spirit on their own. The older I get, the  more I understand that true Christmas euphoria comes from one thing, and one thing alone...the LOVE that is so genuinely given and accepted during this time of the year.

Last night, I was able to witness the pure joy on Dina's face as she opened some of the Christmas presents that the church and others in the community donated to her and her mom. Seeing a smile on any kid's face at Christmas time is infectious, but Dina's excitement came from such an honest and thankful place that everyone in the room had tears in their eyes at one point. I have so many adorable pictures of her, and I wish I could share them with you. Her eyes practically popped out of her head when she opened up a little pink sewing machine, and when we blindfolded her and led her to her new bicycle on the back porch, she let out a scream so loud that I'm surprised no one in our condo complex called 9-1-1. After witnessing that, I decided that if Christmas were to end right here and now, I would be okay with it because my heart is full...more full than it has been in a long time.

I know that as I go home to be with my family this week, it will only continue to become more full. As we are quickly approaching Christmas Day, I won't be rushing to make sure that I eat enough goodies (that could end badly), or appreciate enough red and green decorations. Instead, I will be focusing on basking in the Christmas spirit that is so naturally floating around in the air. It's so easy to sense once you stop searching for it so hard.

It's definitely okay to wear a tacky sweater while you're looking for it though.


Ten Christmas Questions, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree


Yesterday, Kelly, one of my favorites, tagged me to answer a set of Christmas questions. Considering we are less than a week (wow, how did that happen?) away from Christmas, I thought...why not? Thanks for tagging me Kelly! Now, let's grab some hot apple cider and get to the answering.

What do you love the most about Christmas time?
The Christmas "atmosphere" as a whole is just a truly magical thing. The combination of sights, sounds, smells, and feelings is so beautiful. There are lights everywhere you look, whether you are driving down the street or sitting in your home and gazing at the Christmas tree. There are always scents of cookies and hot chocolate and ciders in the air. Hearts are touched by the kindness and happiness of those around them. Altogether, it just makes for a beautiful season.

Do you celebrate the holidays in style or is it "Bah-Humbug" for you?
In style, of course! I will admit though, I have had a bit of a hard time adjusting to celebrating Christmas as an adult. The reality is, it does lose a little of it's appeal as you get older. However, the fun in that is discovering new traditions and ways to celebrate that make it just as special in new ways. I believe that the Christmas season should be lived, and lived well...no matter the traditions!

Are you leaving anything out for Santa this year so he remembers to leave you presents?
Ha ha, nah...I told him to pass me by this year in order to make his rounds a little faster. Funny story though, back when I was still leaving goodies out for Santa, my brother and I never left him the traditional cookies. We always left him Reeses cups and Pepsi, because my mom said he liked those better. I thought it was funny that Santa had the same favorite snack as my dad. I obviously never put two and two together...

What is the one gift you are most looking forward to GIVING?
Instead of buying typical gifts, I have something special that I'm planning to do for all of my loved ones. I just can't say it here because they read my blog! Ha ha. Also, Benjamin and my other new friends are others that God has allowed me to give to in different ways.

What is your all time favorite Christmas movie?
This is such a hard question. It's probably a toss up between A Christmas Story and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. They are both HILARIOUS and I watch them at least three times a year. Home Alone is a goodie too! "Buzz, your girlfriend...WOOF!" Kills me every time.

What is your all time favorite Christmas song?
I think I have to go with Oh, Holy Night. It is so beautiful!

If given the opportunity, would you participate in an ugly Christmas sweater party, and what sweater would you wear?
Been there, and done that. Everyone tells me my sweater isn't ugly enough though. It's just a black sweater vest with reindeer on it. I'll insert a picture! This one is from last Christmas.


Have you started any Christmas traditions this year that you plan on carrying forward?
Hm...I haven't done anything this year that I failed to do in past years.

It's Christmas morning...what does it look like outside where you live?
Ha ha, I laughed out loud when I read this question. I live in Florida, so it's definitely not a white Christmas. It seems that nine times out of ten it's actually raining on Christmas day...which is not making the hair look so hot in holiday pictures! Oh, I have also been able to wear shorts the past three Christmases. Believe it or not though, the weather is predicted to be in the low 60's for the holiday this year...that will be a nice change!

You just found yourself standing under the mistletoe...who comes up to give you a kiss first?
Most likely this sweet little face. Sadie is such a lover, and she will never pass up the opportunity for a cuddle or a kiss!


Now, it's your turn to answer. I'm tagging anyone who is reading this and loves Christmas, so let me know if you decide to do it!

Happy Friday, and I hope you all have a great weekend! For those of you who don't have to work on Monday or Tuesday, I hope you have a great holiday week. Stay safe, and warm, and enjoy being with the important people in your life. Keep your heads up, and enjoy the magical feeling in the air during the last bit of 2013!

Shiny and New

Well, things are obviously looking a bit different around here today! If you clicked over expecting to find Young, and In Progress, you may be a little confused. Don't worry though, it's still me, the same old Miranda. This is still going to be a space for everything I have been writing and talking about, it is now just more visually representative of who I am as a person.

There is meaning behind the new look and name change. Miranda Writes is a word play on the well-known "Miranda Rights." It may not be as inventive as I think it is, but hey, it's still pretty creative, right? (Come on y'all, humor me. Ha ha.) I feel like the name also has more potential to grow with me in a couple of different ways...it will always be appropriate to my age as I physically grow older, and it will also be a good general representation of everything that I talk about here.

Young, and In Progress had originally started as a blog for me to document my journey as a young professional in the work world. I quickly realized though, why is that something I'm going to force myself to blog about when it's not what I plan to do forever? It is much more fulfilling for me to share other things with you, such as thoughts, events, travel, some of my fiction...whatever I please. The name still could have worked, but, I just wanted to go with something more basic.

As for the new appearance, didn't Erin do a phenomenal job on the new design? She is so fantastic, and she really found a way to create the vision that I described to her. You have probably noted the garnet and gold. I told Erin that I wanted my theme to be loosely FSU inspired. Most of you probably know that I graduated from Florida State about a year and a half ago, and I love everything about the university and Seminole sports. The FSU tribute isn't necessarily just because of these two things. They play a factor, but the real reason that I wanted my design to reflect FSU is because going to school there was really a turning point in my life. It was the beginning of a time period in which I would substantially grow as a person. That's something I will never forget, therefore, that was my inspiration. And Erin did a beautiful job of bringing it to life.

I believe that covers all of the basics about the new look! If you look to the left, you will also see two new sections...Faith and Popular Writes. Check those out if you would like! Oh, also, if you have my Young, and In Progress button on your side bar, would you please switch it out and put the Miranda Writes button there instead? And on that note, please email me if you want to swap buttons!

Miranda Writes

Most importantly, a big thank you to all of you who read and comment here every day. You never fail to encourage me, inspire me, and make me smile. Here's to many more adventures here at the brand new Miranda Writes!

Home for Christmas

There's something especially infectious about a child's joy during Christmas time. This thought occurs to me as I sit here on the couch, watching my newest friend decorate her specially chosen Christmas tree that is now sitting in the corner of my living room. She places ornaments with a special attention to detail; a skill that most 10-year-old girls have yet to develop. She pauses every couple of minutes to stand back and admire her handy work. The gleaming lights reflect in her glasses, complementing the sparkle in her smile. My roommate and I commend her on her decorating skills, and her quiet sense of pride shines through her sweet expression.

Isn't it amazing how one small person can completely change your perspective on life? One week ago, I didn't even know who this precious little girl was. She isn't my sister, or my cousin, or even a kid that I see occasionally at church or some other various place. She came into the lives of my roommates and I as a complete stranger, and just over a week later, she has changed us. She is going through probably the most difficult situation of her young life, yet her sweet spirit hasn't been broken. She is still humble, and thankful, and full of joy.

She is putting the last ornament on as I look back over to the tree. She completes one final observation of her masterpiece, staring contently at her beautiful creation. I can't help but wonder if perhaps she is so happy because she has been preparing to not have the enjoyment of holiday decorating and celebrating this year. She has probably been mentally preparing to not be home for Christmas. For a moment, this saddens me. But then, I see that genuine smile on her face, and I realize that this is not a time for sorrow. This is a Christmas miracle.
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Some stories are just too special to not share. Today, I have one of those for you.

A few weeks ago at church, our pastor had told us that he received an email from a woman asking for help. This woman, we will call her Rita, wrote him, telling him all about the difficult situation that her and her 10-year-old daughter (who we will call Dina) have been enduring for the past year. At the beginning of 2013, the water heater in their home malfunctioned while they were away, and all of the damage wasn't discovered until they returned a week later. The damage was extensive, and on top of all of the initial destruction, mold also began to spread rapidly through their home.

Even with her full time job, Rita couldn't afford to pay for the rising costs of the damage in their home. Eventually, their house became unfit and unsafe to live in, and her and Dina were forced to move out. The only problem with this was that they had nowhere to go, and no one that they could really turn to for help. At the time that Rita had contacted our pastor for help, her and Dina had been living out of their car for nine months.

Although our church is quite small in every way, Pastor knew that we were being called to help Rita and Dina. They quickly became the main focus in our endeavor to celebrate Christmas by giving back. The "Home for Christmas" initiative was born, and plans were quickly made to do everything possible to get their house prepared and comfortable for them to move into by Christmas day. Through prayer and generosity, their house is in the process of renovation. Everything has been stripped and thrown away. The mold has been treated. They drywall is being replaced. Donations of clothing and necessities and money are coming in so that they're home can be refurnished.

The only issue remaining was, where would Rita and Dina stay while all of this was taking place? With the weather getting colder, continuing to stay in their car just didn't seem like an option. God always has a plan for everything though.

Last weekend, I was getting ready to drive back to Tallahassee from Pensacola when I got a text from my roommate Amber. I opened it and it said, I have a crazy request. Call me when you can! So, as soon as I got in the car, I called her. She had gotten the opportunity to meet Rita and Dina earlier that day, and spent a lot of time talking to them and getting to know their story. I'm sure you can guess what she asked me. It went along the lines of, "I know this is kind of crazy, but do you care if they stay with us for a couple of weeks? You can say no, and it will be okay. If you don't care though, I'm going to give them my room and bathroom and we can just share yours."

Of course I couldn't say no. Sometimes, you just have to take a leap of faith and trust God's reasoning.

So, Rita and Dina came to stay with us. For the past week, they have had the comfort of knowing that they have a bed and a warm house to come home to after a long day of school and work. They have had hot showers when they want them, and food and drink when they need it. Rita has been able to sleep at night, without having to stay awake and constantly being on watch while Dina is asleep in the car. Dina has had internet to do her homework, and three older girls to laugh and play with. Amber, Alyssa and I have had the chance to get to know them, and their hearts. We have had the privilege of listening to and praying with them.

Every year, we are told what Christmas is supposed to be all about...giving, quality time, prayer, loving others. This year, I have witnessed all of that in what is nothing short of a true Christmas miracle. Rita and Dina have entered our lives with such a force of faith and positivity, despite their situation. The attitude that they have is one that I often lack in my life that has been so much easier than theirs.

Our church is still aiming to have them back in their home by Christmas. For right now though, they will continue to stay here with us. They have quickly become a part of our family, and there's no way that we will let that go if we don't have to. These are the types of situations that offer hope in a world full of doubt. God always pieces everything together perfectly. You never know when you will be in the right place at the right time. There are still people out there who care, and who want to help. Rita and Dina themselves are proof that hardships do not have to break a person. Watching Dina decorate the Christmas tree tonight has deemed that true.

The Easiest of Christmas Treats

The holiday season comes with promises of many exciting things, and one of these things would have to be Christmas parties, luncheons, and other get together's. Christmas is a very social holiday, and a major component of that warm and fuzzy Christmas feeling that we get comes from interacting with the special people in our lives.

Let's not lie though, the food is also a pretty important factor in the Christmas equation. When you are invited to a holiday gathering, what do you automatically expect of yourself? You feel like you should bring some sort of food to contribute to the spread. Whether you are going to a party with friends, or a traditional family reunion, or a luncheon for work, you have to think of some good grub to add to the mix.

At work a couple of weeks ago, a sign-up sheet was passed around for the annual office Christmas luncheon. I always get a little flustered over these types of things, because cooking and baking are not my areas of creativity. However, it didn't take me long to put an item beside my name, because if there is one time of year that I am comfortable making some tasty goodies, it's Christmas time. There is one goodie that my mom and I make every single Christmas without fail...and that would be sugar cookies.

Even though the process is extremely simple and self explanatory, I thought I would share the idea with you all anyway. These aren't only easy...but cute and extremely tasty as well. They are like a holy baking trifecta.

Sweet and Simple Christmas Sugar Cookies
 
You will need two items. (No, I'm serious, just two items!)
*Break and bake sugar cookies-I think Pillsbury are the best, but that's just my opinion.
*Red and green sugar sprinkles.
 
 
Step 1:
Open cookies and pour the a portion of the sprinkles into two different bowls. The sugar sprinkles are so pretty and sparkly...very festive, right?
 

 
Step 2:
Taking one of the cookies, place upside down into the sugar and press until a generous amount has stuck to the dough. Do this with each cookie, alternating colors until they are all sugar-fied.
 

 
Step 3:
Place cookies onto pan and bake at the temperature and time period suggested.
 

 
Step 4:
Eat, and enjoy! Good luck in your endeavor to not consume at least ten at a time.
 

 
These little jokers are always a hit at my family's Christmas celebration. And you have to agree, anyone could make them, right? Let me know if you decide to try them out at any of your events.
 
What are some easy and delicious Christmas treats that you turn to during this season of celebration?
 
Truly,
Miranda


Currently...

 

Watching
My fingers tapping on the keyboard as I type this post. Occasionally I will look up and in my line of vision is Amber sitting at the bar, attempting to create things on her Silhouette and sewing machine. It's so nice to live with roommates who have hobbies and a heart for creativity.

Listening
We have the Hit List channel turned on the TV. The song that's playing right now is Safe and Sound by Capital Cities. I used to really like this song, but now it kind of gets on my nerves. I'm hoping Marry Me by Jason Derulo comes on!

Thinking
About so many things! My new blog design is going to be installed within the next couple of days, and I'm so excited! It looks fantastic. I also cannot wait to share the Christmas blessing that I mentioned to you guys on Friday. Look for that on Wednesday! There has been a lot going on over the past few months...good and bad things, but there is never a shortage of happiness when you really stop to evaluate life.

Eating
Nothing at the moment. I had some spaghetti for dinner a little bit ago. I'm about to get up and bake some sugar cookies for tomorrow's office Christmas luncheon though, and I'm sure that I will have to "sample" one of those. You never know how bad it could taste, you know? I would hate to feed my coworkers un-sampled sugar cookies.

Drinking
Again, nothing. Soon I will need some milk to go with my cookies though. I mean, um...just for safety reasons when it comes to the sampling.

Anticipating
Life. Well, not really anticipating. I guess I'm just really looking forward to my future. Every day, God's plan for me is being revealed, through the easy and the hard things. I'm finally beginning to realize that being "stuck" in a certain place in life doesn't have to last forever. I have been bombarded with promising ideas and situations lately.

Appreciating
The people in my life. My family, my friends, my coworkers, my church family, my blog friends...sometimes I just get overwhelmed when I think about all of the fantastic people I have had the privilege to encounter. The cool part? I'm only 24 years into my life! That is mind blowing.

Truly,
Miranda

A Different Kind of Gift


The Christmas season is a season of giving. There is no secret about that. November and December are filled with conversations of what to give to who and who needs what. There becomes a major focus on material items, money, and shopping. Is this always a bad thing? Definitely not. It's fun, and rewarding to give to those that you care about. It's nice to be able to give someone something that they have been needing or wanting. It's a blessing to be able to donate to the less fortunate, or charities who depend on the generosity of others in order to help those in need.

I think we sometimes fail to realize though, that we have some really awesome gifts that we could give that are already in our possession. These are gifts that we don't have to go to a store to buy. These are gifts that we don't have to pull the checkbook out for. These are gifts that don't even need to be packaged and tied with a red and green bow. What are these gifts that I am speaking of?

They are the gifts of the heart. Everyone has one of these, and they are different for every individual. Some people have the gift of spending quality time with others. Some have the gift of lending a listening ear to someone who needs advice. Some have the gift of healing with their words. Some have the gift of serving others. These types of giving, although we know that they are there, still seem to become more and more overlooked every year, even during this season of loving and giving.

I believe it's important to realize that these types of gifts benefit the recipients just as much, if not more, than material items do. Take a plate of cookies to your lonely neighbor and get to know her. Volunteer at a soup kitchen and interact with those who are going through a tough time. Spend the day with a friend who is fighting depression. Offer to clean the house or yard of an elderly person who can't do it themselves. Let someone cry on your shoulder. Invite someone who is new to town to Christmas dinner. These are the types of acts that the world so desperately needs.

I have a really amazing story to share with y'all next week. It is something that has completely opened my eyes, and I can't wait to tell you about it. Realizing the importance of gifts of the heart is easy, but when you actually begin to give them, the experience is life changing.

I hope you all have an amazing weekend! Stay warm, and be festive!

Truly,
Miranda

Questions for YOU

This blog humbles me every single day. My core group of readers have to be the sweetest women on the planet. To all of you, I just want you to know...you aren't my "readers." You are my friends. I have never met any of you face to face (yet anyway!), but I know that if I had the opportunity to do so, it would be a beautiful thing.

Because of this, I want to give you all the opportunity to become more involved around here. I still haven't added sponsorship options to my blog, and I really don't plan to for a good while. However, I do want to give those that I swap with (or don't swap with, even) the chance to participate in some surveys and even share their thoughts and feelings through guest posting. The beautiful thing about this blog land is the diversity of opinions and experiences. I want my blog to be a reflection of that, and what better way to do that than through the words of you guys that I have already had connections with?

So, seeing as my blog is about to undergo a makeover and name change, I also want to throw out some opportunities for reader particpation. Therefore, I'm asking you all...

Would you ever be interested in guest posting?
How do you feel about being "interviewed" by me in a post?
Would you want to swap blogs with me for a day?
If asked for opinions on a specific matter or subject, would you be interested in contributing?

Most importantly, is there anything else that I can do in order to make y'all feel more at home around here? I want your honest answers and opinions. Tell me anything and everything!

Truly,
Miranda

My Newest Family Member

Good morning, everyone! Today, I have some really cool news to share. But, in order to understand it, you're going to have to meet someone first. Say hi to Benjamin!


Benjamin is my new little buddy. Isn't he precious? As of yesterday evening, I am responsible for this adorable guy. In a sense, my best friend Amber and I adopted him. Does this mean he will be coming to live with us? No, he will be staying in his home country. What it does mean though, is he will now have a lot of opportunities he didn't have before, and access to necessities that he couldn't always obtain. With the money that Amber and I send him every month, he is assured to have three meals a day, the clothing that he needs, the ability to go to school, and a promise of attending church services twice a week. He will also be eligible for full medical coverage, which is a huge blessing because he lives in an area of Africa that has a very high percentage of AIDS.

At the beginning of the holiday season, my church family took on the mindset of celebrating Christmas in a different way. As a group of Christians, we wanted to use the holiday season to not only give to others, but to help those who may be overlooked or don't have the option of helping themselves. Amazing things have been happening, and I have had the absolute pleasure of participating in a few different projects to benefit people here in our own community, as well as people like little Benjamin who live in extremely poor areas of the world. Benjamin is just the first of a couple of really amazing things that have been happening, and I can't wait to share the other things with you too!

Now, to share some more about my new little friend!


Benjamin lives in Ghana, and has been waiting for a sponsor through Compassion International for six months. When Amber and I decided that we wanted to share the cost of sponsoring a child each month, we had the opportunity to look through a giant stack of pamphlets, all with different sweet little faces on them. Something about Benjamin jumped out at us, and when we realized that he was on the priority list and needed an immediate sponsor, we knew we had found our new little brother!

Upon signing up to sponsor him last night, we were given a packet with all of his basic information. The representative told us that we would receive full information on him within the next couple of weeks, and even more exciting than that, within the next four weeks, he himself will be aware that he has two young women in the United States that cannot wait to be friends with him! Amber and I will have the opportunity to send translated letters and gifts to him, and we will even receive letters back from him. I cannot wait to tell him how much we already love and care about him. There are vast amounts of children in the world that have to spend every day without hearing a single encouraging or loving word. That is absolutely heartbreaking. Although a small step, helping even one of these kids just seems like a step in the right direction. Whether local, or overseas, children are important. There's no denying that.

 
Reading Benjamin's bio made me smile, because I can just imagine him running around and playing soccer with a smile on his face. At four years old, he is still just a baby, and I can't wait to see him grow and mature over the years. I'm looking forward to this experience, and I'm glad that the opportunity has been put into my path. This Christmas season is teaching me a lot, and I am beyond grateful for that.
 
I will be posting about Benjamin around her pretty often, since he is a new and important part of my life. I'm sure you guys will grow to love him right along with me! If you have any questions about Compassion International, or other child sponsorship programs, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email. I'm not affiliated with them in any way, but I am familiar with them, and if I can't give you the basic information I can point you in the direction of someone who can!
 
Truly,
Miranda

Stop with the Comparison

"Comparison is the thief of joy."
-Theodore Roosevelt
 
This is one of the truest quotes ever spoken. It applies to so many areas of our lives...finances, material items, happiness, success...basically every part really. As human beings, we have the tendency to base our self worth off of the outward image of others. We are in a constant state of striving to be, do, and have more.
 
What area of my life do I struggle with comparison more than any other? What is the one thing that I compare to that of others day in and day out? My looks. My physical appearance. I have, and probably will always, base the value of my self image off of the those of other women. This should be hard to admit, but it really isn't. It's just a part of my life, and as sad as it is, I know that the majority of other women out there do the same thing.
 
It has become so "normal" for us to go out into the world daily and mentally place ourselves onto a pedestal next to every woman we come across. This makes it all too easy for us to pick ourselves apart, and say things like, "Oh, her hair is perfect. It makes mine look like bedhead," or "I will never be that stylish. I just look frumpy and lumpy." We become so focused on coveting the features and clothing of other women that we completely forget to appreciate everything that we have going for ourselves. This leads to self loathing, and ultimately, unhappiness.
 
Because of this, we wake up every day ready to push ourselves down instead of bring ourselves up. We begin to refer to ourselves in negative ways, cursing our skin or our hair or our bodies. Instead of getting dressed and thinking, "Wow, I am beautiful today," we are thinking "Well, you're looking disgusting today." As we zip our zippers and button our buttons, we are lecturing ourselves and convincing ourselves that we look terrible, when we should really be admiring how lovely and individualistic we are.
 
Everyone is beautiful.
 
We hear these words weekly, if not daily. Society has pressed so many unattainable ideas of beauty on us that we are more willing to accept the false notion that we are "unattractive" rather than love ourselves for who we are. "Everyone is beautiful," has become very hard for us to believe. Or, when we finally do begin to believe it, something happens that makes us think otherwise.

We need to stop with the comparison. We need to let go of constantly looking at ourselves next to our friends, or our sisters, or our cousins, or even complete strangers. Remember that out of the insanely vast amount of people on this planet, there is no one that looks exactly like you. How special is that? You are an original. Originality is such an amazing concept, and it simply cannot exist as long as comparison continues to take place. Embrace who you are, flaws and all. At the end of the day, you are gorgeous.

No two women are exactly alike. If you want to be "her," then who is going to be you? That's food for thought.

Three cousins. All different. All unique. All beautiful. No comparison necessary.
 
Truly,
Miranda

Moody Monday


This picture has nothing to do with today's post, but I like it so it's going to go here because that's what I want. Last Monday was my friend Elena's 22nd birthday, and I celebrated with her at a local place called The Wine Loft. I like wine. I don't drink it regularly, but I do enjoy it every now and then. Usually only if it's a white wine though. I'm a bit too much of a wimp for red wine because it isn't sweet enough.

You know, I really don't have anything planned to talk about today. I woke up in a really strange mood, and I can't decide if I'm tired and want to go back to sleep or if I just have too much on my mind. There is a lot of stuff going on in life right now. 24 is a hard age. Actually, I'm pretty sure the 20's in general are just hard. People have been telling me this for years. I'm now here to say that it's true.

I think I'm so grumpy because I have to go to my surgery follow-up appointment this morning. I know it won't be bad, I just don't want to go. I don't feel like being examined and questioned today. Also, I have no clue where the doctor's office is and the directions are confusing. I'm pretty sure it's inside the hospital which means I'm going to have to pay for parking and that makes me angry because I have no cash or check on me and they don't take credit cards. Why do things always have to be difficult? It's too early for this.

I keep typing out paragraphs and erasing them because I feel like they sounds too whiney. I don't know what my problem is! Someone slap me. Life is too short to be moody. I need to think about positive things, not negative things. And...this paragraph is just as full of complaining as the three I previously erased. My apologies...really.

The best thing about my weekend? My 'Noles are once again ACC Champions and they are headed to Pasadena to face Auburn for the BCS Championship! So, so exciting. I couldn't be more happy to be a part of the FSU family!

And, while I'm on a positive note and I'm not being whiney and annoying, I think I'm going to sign off. I'll be back tomorrow, with my usual smile. Have a great day!

Truly,
Miranda

Florida Problems {Holiday Edition}


It's shaping up to be a lovely spring, December day here in The Sunshine State. Notice the high...81 degrees. Excuse me? It's December 6th and I'm dressed like it's the middle of May.

Here's a not so secretive fact about us Floridians...we love to complain about the weather. This doesn't make much sense because we are obviously used to it, but we still do it anyway.  It's always too hot and we wish for cool weather, but then when the weather drops below forty degrees we want it to be warm again. When it's raining, we want it to stop. When it's dry and sunny, we wish for thunderstorms.

It's a neverending cycle, but it's really Florida's fault because the weather patterns are just strange and bipolar. We don't really have "seasons." I mean, we have times of the year where the temperatures are overall cooler, but we still get rain and 80-degree days throughout the entire year. Oh, and no snow ever, of course.

The time of year that this is most annoying is during the holiday season. Holiday culture has us all walking around with these visions of hot chocolate, and scarves, and snow, and sledding. In Christmas movies, people walk around in these quaint little towns covered with fresh snow, and their breath comes out in puffs when they speak, and they make snowmen and sit by the fire and read Christmas stories. Even on the coldest days here in Florida, and other areas of the South, things do not play out like this. We get a quite different experience during the holiday season. Just like everything in life though, there are pros and cons to our specific holiday experience.


Pros

No snow.
Yeah, I know I was just complaining about not having snow. However, I don't know from experience, but snow seems like an awful lot of work. You have to have special tires, it literally covers everything, and it's a constant battle to keep it off of your driveway and your car. Plus, it's really cold. I'm pretty sure it's something that I would appreciate more if I only have to deal with it occasionally.

No ice scraping.
On the coldest mornings here, cars will get covered with a thin layer of ice and it absolutely drives me crazy. I don't have a special ice scraper thing, and I don't feel like it would be a smart investment because I would only use it about three mornings a year. Plus, I'm not even sure if we can buy them here? I don't know, I haven't looked into it. Nobody has time to pick the ice off their car at 7:00 AM. I just can't deal with that every morning.

Less wardrobe expense.
I can wear most pieces of my wardrobe year round. There is no swapping out the summer clothes with winter clothes, because they are all the same clothes. I can still wear shorts some days in December, and I can wear a pair of jeans in June. (Only if I'm brave though, or it's the evening, because it's just too hot for that.)

No layering. (Most of the time.)
It's hard enough to pick out an outfit and get dressed sometimes. What would make it harder? Having to put on leggings and crazy socks and fourteen other layers of clothing to prepare for the cold. That's a lot of time to take to get dressed in the mornings! If I'm going to be outside on a particularly cold day, I will layer a bit. But that's fairly rare.

Cons

Listening to Christmas music gets kind of awkward.
I love Christmas music, but sometimes it just makes absolutely no sense. I'll be driving down the road with my sunroof open, and out of the speakers I will hear, "Dashing through the snow..." All I can think is...no. Just no. The only form of precipitation I ever dash through is rain. That doesn't exactly have the same effect.

Sweater weather isn't always a thing.
I can pin a million and a half cute sweaters on Pinterest, but does that mean I will actually get to wear them? No. Aside from not having money to purchase all of the sweaters, it's rarely cold enough to wear one here. In the mornings you can get away with it, but by noon it's 75 degrees and you're contemplating removing it and walking around in your undershirt.

No snow.
I know I said this is a pro, but it would be nice to understand the meaning of a white Christmas at least once.

Hot chocolate and warm apple cider just don't have the same appeal.
It would be awesome to walk through a winter wonderland with a scarf around your neck and a hot beverage warming your hands. Last time I had cider, it was 70 degrees and it made me too warm. And I wasn't wearing a scarf. Or even long sleeves for that matter.

What's the holiday weather like for you right now? Are you in the same boat as us Floridians, or are you wishing for warmer temperatures?

Happy Friday, and I hope you all have a great weekend! I'm off to finish work for the day and then prepare for my first Christmas party of the season...to which I will probably be wearing shorts and sandals with my tacky sweater. True Florida girl, right here.

Truly,
Miranda

I Believe in Adventure


Over the past few months, I have been constantly out of town, going places on the weekends. Upon returning home one Sunday evening, I was talking to a friend about my most recent little trip and they said something along the lines of, "Wow, you're gone all the time! You just don't sit still do you?" I pondered that statement for a while, and then I discovered a new found truth...I just don't believe in sitting still.

Sure, I know that sometimes all a person really needs to recooperate is a nice long nap, or some down time that involves gluing yourself to the couch and watching every chick flick in your movie collection. Trust me, I find plenty of time for this during my week. However, we sometimes fail to realize that there is a beautiful, vast world out there. This lovely planet that we live on has so much to offer. Don't you want to experience it?

Experiencing the world doesn't mean that you have to travel to foreign countries to appreciate the splendor of different sights and cultures. Sure, that is something that we all want to do, and I plan to do plenty of traveling outside of the U.S. myself someday. But the fact that you may not be able to do it right now shouldn't hinder you from having a little adventure in your life.

I believe in adventures, no matter how big or how small. I have full confidence that going for a walk in the park down the road will rejuvenate my spirit just as much as a stroll down the streets of London. I have no doubt that driving to the beach for the weekend, and sleeping on the floor of a friend's parent's house to make it cheaper, will result in just as many memories as staying at a five star resort in a large city. I know from experience that taking a day to explore a small town thirty minutes away can open your eyes to everything that the world, or even the state that you live in, has to offer.

You know that state park in the next county over that is supposed to have great hiking? Go visit it. Have a friend that lives a couple of hours away and has been begging you to come hang out? Make it a day trip. Want to go somewhere for the weekend, but you're short on cash? Go with friends, share costs, and cut corners until you can make it happen. Bored, but really can't afford to leave town? Take the day to visit places in your town that you have never been to.

Never let an opportunity to make memories pass you by. Say yes more than you say no. Travel when you can. Familiarize yourself with your own backyard. Take in as much of the world as you can. This is what our planet is here for...to help us grow and learn and gain experience from simply visiting familiar and unfamiliar places alike. Take advantage of your free time. Just go.

Truly,
Miranda

Sanctuary

In Monday's post, I mentioned that I had the pleasure of breaking in the newly renovated guest bedroom at my parent's house over Thanksgiving break. When I moved out a few years ago, my bedroom was used for storage, and eventually became my brother's room because there was obviously no point in keeping it as is. However, the downside to this was I didn't really have anywhere to make myself at home when I would come back for weekends and holidays.

My parents worked their butts off during the days leading up to the holiday weekend. My mom was so excited about me coming home and having my own little space to live in for a few days. I was excited too! You see, when I go back to my hometown for visits, I always view it as a little vacation from life. Having my own little area, or sanctuary, as I like to call it, is just the icing on the cake for a bit of time away from the real world.

Mama and Daddy did such an exceptional job at turning a tiny little spare bedroom into a cozy home away from home. They did all of the work themselves, including a brand new ceiling and brand new flooring. I loved it so much that I decided to take some pictures to share here on the blog. I just want everyone to see how open and airy and relaxing the room turned out. My mom is actually a blogger as well...you can find her here if you are interested. She is basically a professional thrifter and DIYer.

Hope you enjoy the little picture tour. All of my stuff is kind of lying around, but I feel like that just makes the room look even more homey. You will also see Farrah, one of our cats lounging on the bed in a couple of the photos. I'm pretty sure she thinks the new room is actually hers, because she spent a great deal of time in there with me!





 
 



Truly,
Miranda