​I am a Christian.

When people notice, hear, or realize this, whether they are or are not Christians, they make other assumptions about who I am.

Do not let this statement confuse you on other things about me or my opinions.  

Do not assume that I am the same as other Christians you've met.
Do not assume that other Christians that you meet or those you've previously met are like me.
Do not assume that I believe in the same things that you do.

Do not assume that I am a republican or that I'm conservative in politics.
Do not assume that I am against swearing, a particular type of music/movie/show, feminism, gay rights, pro-choice, etc.
Do not assume that I think I'm any better than anyone else.

If you are curious about my actual thoughts on these and/or other topics, then ask me and we could perhaps have a healthy discussion, but I'm not interested in unhealthy conflict or debates.

Do not assume that because I disagree with you on a topic or that I act in a different way than you think I should, that that in any way would affect my Christianity and/or salvation. 

The list goes on and on, but here is what you can assume (and now know):

I am a child of Christ. I know Jesus died for me and has forgiven me of my sins. He loves me as I am. I know that I am broken and in need of my Savior. He provides love and peace. It is important that I decide to receive this from Him and I try to show His love to others through me. 

Again, I am broken. I am flawed. So this does not always show through in the way I want it to.

But this is really all you should be assuming, because I shared, and you know: I am a Christian. 

If you don't know what that is or means to me, if you don't know my thoughts on a topic and you are curious, it's okay to ask. I'd prefer that you ask, rather than assume. 
We make all sorts of assumptions because we don't have the courage to ask questions. - Don Miguel Ruiz
It may be hot out here in Arizona, but summer has only just begun and many great things have been happening the past couple months. Here are just a few:
Picture taken by Daniel Rae.
At the end of May, two good friends from home visited Dan & I  and we had a blast exploring, hiking, eating, drinking, seeing a live comedy show, and catching up. We had such a great time with the both of them and others. Thanks Dan I. & Jared! 
Photo from my mom of the new family <3
We flew to PA for a 'long" weekend in the beginning of June. It went by so fast, but it was totally worth it. I always wish for more time! When we were there, we witnessed the movement of my soon-to-be niece in my sister's tummy, but we missed her arrival by two weeks!  My newest niece, Lanaea Sue, joined us in this beautiful world just last Saturday. Everything went so smoothly for them all. I just wish I could be there in Pennsylvania to hold her. I can't wait to visit again and meet this gorgeous little baby face-to-face for the very first time!
So, this past Sunday, I had my heart set on finally donating my hair. I was so blessed to have found an amazing hairstylist that happened to have an opening for me that very evening. Although I was nervous about the drastic change, it was a fun experience, and it feels good to have a gift for someone else who will love it even more than I did. As a friend of mine says, "Some little girl is going to love her princess hair."  I sure hope so, Irene! Thank you for cheering me on all the way, friends, family, and my great boyfriend! And thank you, Alex/Moonbeam, for the awesome new style! I love it, and that was the most fun I've ever had at a hair salon. I'm looking forward to shipping the braids out this weekend. About 14-15 inches. <3
Alex aka Moonbeam (Her profile pic from Facebook)
I just have to do an extra shout out to Alex! Friends: Are you in the Chandler/Phoenix area and looking to get your hair cut/styled? Seriously - Contact Alex for your next hair appointment. She rocks! Plus she's affordable and talented. It's important to be able to trust your hairstylist, and she really took the time to make sure we had a fitting look for my face shape. Even if it's not super close to where you live in this area, it's definitely worth the drive to feel comfortable and get great results! Check it out:

 Thank you again, Moonbeam!

"Caring about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people, brings happiness." ~Harold Kushner 
Have you ever had an opportunity meet you in the face that you felt like you had to grab right away? Maybe you felt ready for it or maybe you didn't. It may have been the best jump of your life...maybe you are still avoiding it...or regretting it. I think we've all had moments like these at some time or another. My most recent was going back to school. Originally, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to go back for my Master's and if I did, I told myself I wasn't ready...until the opportunity came along. I suppose I was afraid of missing out on something because I took the leap as soon as it came upon my reach.

Since I started taking classes for my Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I've been enjoying the experience, but I often wondered if it was the right step for me. Don't get me wrong; last October, I was so set in taking on the challenge and becoming a professional counselor, and I thought it's what I wanted. In all honesty, I love the idea. I enjoy helping people and listening to people, and analyzing relationships and communication between those relationships. (I did receive my BA in Communication Studies: Interpersonal Relations, so I suppose this would make sense.)Even so, I still found myself questioning my possibilities over and over, and I decided it was time to reflect and reevaluate. To make a long story short, I realized it wasn't the right thing for me. It was difficult to come to that conclusion with the time I already spent, but it was so relieving when I officially made the decision. Regret does not linger in this at all because many great things have been recognized with this experience. I met some great people, gained interesting knowledge, and if I didn't chose to try out this program, I would have never known it wasn't the right fit for me. If I didn't try, I would have regretted the decision not to. 

Anyway, I feel like a huge amount of weight was just lifted from my back. Everything isn't perfectly planned out, but I can now breathe and explore new options and ideas. When an opportunity arises, it can be a great experience, but it doesn't mean it was meant for you to follow through. I didn't withdraw from graduate school because it was easier, but because it wasn't the path for me. I would love to use some aspects of counseling in my future career, but I don't need this particular program for the direction I'm looking to swim in. Life can be complicating, and our experiences are what make our own lives unique. 

Is there something that truly feels off to you, but you're afraid to do what feels right for you? Are you afraid others will be disappointed in you, but that otherwise you may be disappointed in yourself? Maybe it's time to reevaluate and make some room to breathe. If you take this time, it may help you focus on other things that are important to you, or maybe it will help you realize that what you're taking a break from matters more to you than what you thought. It can be a refreshing experience either way. 
We need to find the courage to say NO to the things and people that are not serving us if we want to rediscover ourselves and live our lives with authenticity. 
 ~Barbara De Angelis
Sleep taking into wet lashes
Cabernet tugging numb lips
Neurons struggling to meet 
Debated opportunities dismissed
The best of dreams
Perspectives perceive 
But lies within corners commend
Alive to wonder whys and ifs
For nothing is to be spent
Love combines and dries out eyes
The whole glued as fraught
Help arrives in custom tries 
But smiles demise these thoughts
A thank you to my boyfriend for helping me with a title on which I struggled to capture, to myself for braving to share, and for memories and encouragement of friends and families to continue. <3 
Boo! Didn't think I'd be back, huh? Remember when I said I wasn't much of an intense blogger and this was just for fun? I suppose that's why I was gone for about 3 months. I'm not the best role model for keeping routines. A perfect example is how I enjoy many things, but only consider myself "okay" or "mediocre," I have conflicting interests, and that's just who I am. Maybe one of these days I'll be an expert on something, but for now I'm just doing what I'm doing. 

Actually, one of the big reasons I haven't been keeping up with this as I originally planned is because of school. I'm currently in my Masters and if I try working on other projects, it's extremely difficult for me to get any required work done. It's bad enough I have trouble keeping up as it is sometimes. It's a hell of a lot of reading. I enjoy reading, but not forced reading. Bleh. Anyways, I handed in my last assignment, so I feel kind of free right now...for now. At least for two weeks. I'm going to try not to think about that right now. 

So, is it much of a surprise that I didn't keep up with my resolutions? Again, the routine thing. I think a lot of people are right, with it being a fad and possibly overrated, but it was fun for a little while. 
1. Family/Friends: I've been keeping in pretty good contact with some loved ones, but could always try more. Google+ and Facetime are awesome. Last Sunday, I talked up a storm! :)
2. School: I probably spent 5+ hours on school work per week this whole time without even tracking. I didn't have much of a choice. I was still a little stressed and missed some things here and there, but I passed...I think. I probably shouldn't jinx myself when I haven't seen the grades!
3. Food: I haven't been keeping track and I definitely cheat a lot, but I eat much healthier (overall) than what I used to. A little less butter and salt, and a little more veggies and fiber. I have Dan to thank for this craziness.
4. Exercise: This routine has pretty much vanished. One night was all it took. One night of staying up most of the night for a paper, and my routine was knocked out of the schedule. I suppose I should jump back in soon, but it's just so hard to wake up even earlier if you don't have to. I know: excuses, excuses. 

-- Okay, okay...Next week? haha! Oh, boy.
5. Writing: I'm in school; I've been writing plenty.
6. Saving: So, sometimes we still splurge on food, but we're packing lunch quite a bit, & thanks to Dan we have amazing leftovers after delicious dinners. Yes, not to make you jealous, but I have a great chef here in my own home.
7. Get involved: I might not be a volunteer somewhere just yet, but I am getting more involved with church, and when there's a food drive, Dan & I make a shopping date out of it. It feels good to help in some way. 
8. Crafts: I doodled once, and recently made a birthday card for my boyfriend's mom (she likes chickens/hens). 
I need more of this creative action in my life.
9 &10. Worry less/ Be positive: 
I'm working on some simple stress relief techniques and trying to be more positive.
Surprisingly enough, simply breathing (deeply) is a great exercize. Give it a try: click here.
    Not perfect. Not as planned. & More like me. 
So, it's been over a full week since the new year began. How does it feel? 
Have you been keeping up with your resolutions so far? 
If not, don't get down on yourself, but at the same time, don't give up! Try starting up again, and keep up the good work, either way (whether it's keeping going or starting again). 
Thus far, I've been doing alright with my list, I think. Maybe I haven't followed it to a t, but I don't want to overwhelm myself and get discouraged. Instead, I'd like to praise myself for what I've done. Surprisingly, I seem to head more for the goal when I do this.
It might be just me, but I feel like I've been talking to some family members and friends quite a bit this week. Grant it, many of those reached out to me first which made it much easier, but it still feels great to be in touch! Love it!

My classes have just begun, so I'll check out that school work resolution shortly...like right after posting this blog...I actually already started, but there's more to do! I just need to focus... I've pretty much always been a procrastinator.

Food & Exercise
Biggest accomplishment so far. I've been using the myfitnesspal app every day so far since the new year, and although I ate pretty unhealthy last week, I'm doing much better this week. It really had been helping realize what I'm putting into my body, and making me think twice before I grab that huge second helping and add on unneeded snacks. As for the gym: Woo! I've made it at least every other day! (This doesn't include New Year's Day. I mean, come on.) I'm not doing anything too insane just yet, but just the fact that I'm going pumps me up.  
  I haven't really worked on a art project this week, but have been playing DrawSomething with Dan & a few other people. That works for now. It's fun, interesting, and sometimes just plain funny. 

Btw: That is an evil squirrel to your left. Yes, squirrels are all EVIL! (Story for another time if you don't already know it. Just remind me.)

Annnddd, this is the belated blog for the week. I had to share some updates. So yeah, I'm missing some things, but let's remember: don't worry too much, and be positive about your resolutions.
The miracle isn't that I finished. 
The miracle is that I had the courage to start.
- John Bingham
Many people are creating resolutions around this time of the year. 
What's the point?, I thought a few days ago. It seems like a silly idea to "start over" when it's all the same life. Shouldn't we be trying to set goals all the time? Well, yes, probably, but the New Year is definitely a good way to set a date to start doing what you hope to do. So, in celebration of the new year, I've decided to create a resolutions list to hold myself accountable. Maybe you all can help me out with that...Have you made yours yet? 

In 2013, I would like to...
1. Contact family & friends from home more. Whether it's via text, phone, Facebook, video chat, etc. I would like to reach out to my loved ones more often. I find that it puts me in a better mood. For example, my dad & little brother recently called me through Google video chat on my phone & it made my day. :) 
2. Dedicate more time to school work. Let's try for 5+ hours working on school work per week, or at least reading if it's in between classes. By doing this, I'll be less stressed when it comes to the due dates, and the end of the class when it's time for a big paper & I feel like I have no idea how I'm going to write it...
3. Eat better. A good start would probably be to eat less butter, cheese, & drink less soda. I have no idea. I'm horrible at nutrition. Any small easy guidelines that you would suggest? Ooo. I know. I'm going to start using MyFitnessPal app again. That will help open my eyes to what I'm putting in my stomach. And no, I'm not doing it to lose weight, so I don't want to hear it! I just need to start eating healthier. Speaking of that...
4. Exercise more. I was doing 3-5 days a week a few months ago, and I can do it again. It made me feel healthier, more awake, and added more confidence to my day. The C25K helped me out with this before. It's a fun app that I can listen to music while I walk/jog/run on the treadmill or outside & it's more of a realistic goal-achieving device. It gives great motivating quotes & tips. 
5. Write more
Let's start off slow...especially with class starting up again. At least one blog per week, and maybe sprinkle in a letter and journal entry or two while we're at it. 
6. Increase savings/ Spend more wisely. Eat out less often, pack lunch more for work, and stop talking myself into reasons to spend money. You can always justify spending a little extra on yourself for some reason. (I worked so hard... so eating out a few times this week will be a reward...ugh.) Let's put it into the savings instead.
7. Yes, get involved. Before moving to Arizona, I had a job that required a lot of my time and didn't pay much, but it was one that I enjoyed. It helped push me out into the community and I felt like I was making a difference. Plus, it might be something I want to do for my future career. I'm not sure specifically what to do yet, but I need to volunteer or something. I want to help the community in some shape or form, but in order to do so I need to make an effort and take that 1st step.
8. Create more art/craftsSometimes I get down on myself for not being able to force art/an idea, and sometimes I just don't feel like I'm good enough to do it, but either way, it's something that I enjoy. 
I should try to have fun with this more often. 
My little monkey isn't perfect, but he was a fun creation.
9. Worry less often. Our lives are so short, yet we worry about the littlest things. Of course I still will & I'm guilty of this just about every day, but at least I am aware, which is the first step. After that, work on things that will help me to relax and deal with stress in healthier ways, and take it from there.

10. Because I feel like I need an even number: For this one, I'm going to try not to beat myself up if I get behind on something, and take it slow. Otherwise, it will probably make me feel bad about myself and just deter me from continuing my resolutions. Be positive and encouraging. 
What resolutions do you have for 2013? Do you have any suggestions for me for mine? I would love to hear your thoughts. :)
Maybe if you ignore it, it'll go away. This is a concept that many of us use in our everyday lives without even thinking about it. Whether consciously or unconsciously, it's there. Maybe it's the big paper that you should've started working on over a month ago, or that huge box of junk items that you'll eventually have to face, or maybe the last thing you expected to avoid: Christmas

A couple weeks ago, Dan & I kind of decided that we weren't going to get a tree or a bunch of decorations for Christmas. We hung a few lights in the apartment and that was it. It's not because we were purposely trying to be Scrooges, but because it meant more work and more money for things that no one else was probably going to see but ourselves. With being so far away from home and family it almost seemed like what's the point this year? Now grant it, that's not what we were saying, but maybe how we felt inside. - One of those, I don't want to think about it (being away) kind of thing. We figured we'd save all those goodies for next year. I'm not sure why, but that was our plan. It seemed to make sense then. Plus, Christmas without the freezing weather and snow just seems weird. Haha.

But once the gifts that we ordered for our families started arriving in the mail, and we had to get ready to prepare them to ship out, we started easing more into the Christmas mood. While we were out and about last weekend, we decided to check a few places for trees for the heck of it.  Originally we were looking at fake trees...
Well, to make a long story short, we caved. Meet Douglas (our live Douglas Fir tree):
Isn't he lovely? He's Dan's first REAL tree! 
We only have lights, 4 ornaments, & a star on Douglas this year, but I'd say that's a good start. It takes time to build up some great ornaments. And no tree skirt? That's okay! A small old red sheet works perfectly.

We are both so happy that we changed our minds! It just brightens up the place altogether. And here, the very thing that we were avoiding actually made us feel closer to home. We are much more welcoming toward the holiday now, and we're excited to combine our family traditions into our own. <3 Thank you to everyone who encouraged us to give into the holiday spirit. It was totally worth it. :)
As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is. - Eric Sevareid 
During my commute to class, I notice the blinding sun glossing the tops of beautiful palm trees, and realize where I am. The desert of Arizona - over two thousand miles from the rolling greens of a place I’ve always known as home. Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m here. It’s like on those days I enter a zone of confusion, where I coast through my day at work in a blur. It’s not that I’m depressed during these moments, but just surprised or at a loss of understanding of how and why God brought me here. Four years ago, I swore aloud to other ears that I would never move away from my family, yet here I am.  
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t regret moving out here. The weather is amazing and I’m living with the man I love. It was a move of opportunity and chance‘This is the time to do it,’ many people said and they were right. We have no kids and our part time jobs were important experiences, but not those of careers. Nothing was concretely holding us back. We needed to try something new, and we wanted to experience it together. So at the end of last May, we packed up our things and traveled our way. And good things have come.

Although I do love it here, I've been fairly homesick lately. I come from a large family and they are my life. They are the reason I believe and the reason I have strength. Through the good and even bad memories, I have learned so much from my experience in Pennsylvania and it lead me to who I am today. Plus, even an adult needs her mommy and daddy sometimes. And I do have those cravings for a hug- make that hugs- from those at home. Nothing beats that huge squeeze of excitement you get from your little brother when he hasn’t seen you for five months. I want to feel that again already. Especially being so close to a big family holiday like Christmas, it’s hard not to think of them all.

We did recently fly home for Thanksgiving, and it seemed to go by so quickly. By the time we were back at the Harrisburg airport to return to our new home, I found myself dismally pointing out ‘It feels like we were just here...’ My boyfriend shared wise words: ‘...think of the details.’ He was right. When I focused on everything we did that week and everyone we’ve seen and spent time with, it made me realize how emotionally productive we had been. We built more great memories. It may not have seemed like enough time - it definitely wasn’t - but because we only had so little time to spend, we made the best of it that we could. We had such an amazing time with family and friends and each other. And the ton of smiles received are ingrained in my mind, and they keep me motivated every day.

God, I’m so blessed to have all of these wonderful people in my life. I’m thrilled to see where this journey flows with the support and love from them all, including that from my best friend and partner in this great adventure.  
Sometimes, you have to be apart from the people you love, but that doesn't make you love them any less. Sometimes, you love them more. ~The Last Song
Hi. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Keara. It sounds like it's spelled, with an ear in the middle. 

This is my first time really blogging, well, as an adult. I remember writing on some social network when I was a young teenager. That doesn't count. 

For a little while now, I've thought about blogging, especially since I've made a big move from home not too long ago. Maybe as just a way that I can let family and friends know what I'm up to, or something of the sort. 

But now that I'm starting, I'm not exactly sure that I'll have any specific type of focus. 
I just think it'll be fun. 

A friend I met a few months ago loaned me a great book by Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project. If you haven't read it I recommend it. Gretchen mentions about how people tend to avoid certain things due to being afraid of failure &/or rejection. She was afraid to begin a blog as well as other things, but she tried it out, which made me think about doing it myself. Grant it, I'm not a professional writer, but it's the thought that counts. 

I mentioned the idea of blogging to Cathy, owner of the book, after she shared her blog with me. By the way, it's great, so you should check it out at http://cathytrails.blogspot.com. :) She encouraged me to get started, and after struggling with myself for a little, here I am. 

Actually posting this is difficult for me. Why? I'm reluctant to share my writing or thoughts publicly, to people I don't know and people that I do know - maybe because of that
fear of being ridiculed or judged. But the fact is that I do enjoy thinking and writing for myself, so why not try to share? I'm going to take the chance in doing something I feel I may enjoy, and maybe- just maybe- others will too. 

So here it goes!

Sometimes what you fear the most to do is the very thing that will set you free~ Robert Tew