Natural Makeup for Every Day: A Tutorial

Hi!!

I’ve had several requests for makeup tutorials! So while getting ready today, I recorded one on how I do natural “everyday” makeup! Hope it helps!

In posting this, however, I also want to say that I believe you are already beautiful with or without makeup! It hasn’t always been my outlook, but now, I desire to embrace beautiful imperfections (like the freckle in my eye) and use makeup to highlight my God-given qualities, rather than alter my appearance entirely. That being said, I also think makeup is awesome and so fun to play with! So if you’re like me and love messing around with makeup, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all! I just want us to never get so caught up in it that we lose self-confidence when we have to go without it! Because if I’ve said it once, then I haven’t said it enough…YOU are beautiful! I’m so glad God created you just the way you are!

Enjoy the fun make up tutorial! Love you guys!

Love in Christ,

Helen Elizabeth

A Guide to Prayer Journaling: Discovering a Relational​ Approach

Hi!!

Today, I am so excited to share my heart with you on the topic of prayer! I’m a storyteller, so I’ll start with a brief story of how God called me to start journaling my prayers, and then I’ll give you some useful lessons, and a FREE “Prayer Journaling Guide” PDF. Praying my words can help you along your prayer journey!

The Prayer that Changed My Life

In my experience, if you pray for a sign and God gives one, then it’s probably in your best interest to listen and act accordingly!

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, then you already know I had a little bit of a rocky past. Nothing too bad by the world’s standards, just your typical college girl making the best of her sorority days.

Little did I know, however, God was about to change all that.

———

I’d been dating a guy for a while – [if you’re keeping up with my life timeline through my blog posts, then this is the guy right after Andrew broke up with me and told me I was selfish, lol.] – and around October I started seriously asking myself if this guy was really the guy for me.

Here’s a little piece of advice…if you’ve been questioning whether someone is the right person for you for a while, chances are, they are probably are not. (That one’s free, next time I’ll have to charge ya!)

There had been several signs that he most likely wasn’t my person, but like any smart college girl, I decided to ignore said signs.

Several Sunday’s in a row, I would get myself ready and then drag my boyfriend to church with me. I, of course, thought he would thank me afterward for helping him do something he didn’t realize he needed so desperately. I just knew that in no time at all we’d be that super cute camp counselor type couple that everyone would adore! Unfortunately, quite the opposite happened.

One Sunday, my boyfriend finally admitted, “Helen, I know that I should want to go to church, but I just don’t want to right now.” Kudos for your honesty boyfriend, but boo on you for crushing my church popularity dreams. Needless to say, that was our last Sunday together.

A few months later, I walked out of church on Halloween day and decided to go back to my apartment rather than hang out with my boyfriend over at his place as per usual. Throughout the church service, I kept having this weird feeling that I needed to talk to God about things. It had been years since I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart that profoundly, so I knew I needed to listen…even if I didn’t fully know how.

Once I was home, I sat on my couch in silence for a while, trying to decern what exactly I was supposed to do. I finally landed on the decision to pray. The only problem was, I wasn’t sure what the right way of doing that was. I hadn’t been spending time with God lately, so I didn’t know the proper way to converse with Him. You know those dinners where with an old friend where you start talking and it’s like you picked up right where you left off?! Ya, this was the opposite.

I tried to get the conversation going by awkwardly talking out loud and sheepishly looking up at the ceiling. Starting and then restarted fragments of sentences, it seemed as if I had forgotten how to connect words together. I got a few fragmented “Christian-y” sounded sentences out before I finally stopped and said, “Ok, God. I don’t really know how to pray the right way, so here’s what’s up. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be with this guy or not. Am I supposed to help him find you, or am I supposed to move on without him? I don’t really know what to do, but I feel like you’re kind of calling me back or something. So I think I’m finally at a point that, if you give me a VERY CLEAR sign, I’ll listen to your direction and won’t look back…Um, Amen.”

I obediently waited and listened in silence…Kidding, I totally fell asleep. But after about 30 min, I woke up to a loud *DING* of my iPhone. I opened my boyfriend’s text and read, “I’ve been cheating on you.”

SAY WHAT?!

Come on. No guy just decides to tell you that minutes after you ask God to show you if they’re the one or not. Say what you want, but I knew at that moment God had directed him to send that text as my sign to get the heck out of that relationship!

I dropped my phone like it was a snake, and felt an explosive surge of fear surge through my body. I suddenly realized – God was real, He’d been listening, and even worse…He’d been watching.

I imagine in the moments following, I reacted very much like Adam and Eve did when they disobeyed God. I immediately felt exposed and naked. I started trying to hide under pillows. I’m not kidding. I literally tried to pile pillows on top of myself to hide from the all knowing, all seeing God. But, just like Adam and Eve, I had to give up the hiding act and face my God who already knew where I was and what I’d been doing.

First things First, I immediately broke up with that boyfriend. As in made the call and ended it right then.

You know that feeling of regret when you break up with someone and you start questioning if you did the right thing? Didn’t get it. Not once, ever. Not because I’m so tough, but because if God showed me that obvious of a sign, I wasn’t gonna dare look back!

After breaking up with ole boy, I fell to the floor lying face down and cried. No words escaped my lips because they weren’t necessary. I felt my heart expressing everything on a much deeper level to my Heavenly Father. It was such a deep remorse for my actions over the years that I couldn’t begin to put it into words. For the first time, I could feel the Holy Spirit setting up shop within me to begin the process of making me whole.

It would be the start of a long journey.

Learning to Pray

Over time, God would change the condition of my heart and prove to me that I was a new creation in Him. It didn’t just happen on its own, it took time and the building of a relationship between us.

How do we build relationships here on earth?

Well, Communication Theories would affirm that we build relationships through self-disclosure…aka..talking to each other. Sharing stories, thoughts, and experiences preferably on a daily basis.

I knew I had to start communicating with God on a regular basis; but as I mentioned before, my confidence was pretty shot as to how to do that.

I’m a pretty ADD kid (I don’t say that lightly. I’ve truly struggled with it for years), and so I knew I needed some kind of format to follow in order to keep my attention. So I decided, while getting started, I’d journal my prayers. Having no idea this was a thing people do, I began sitting down each day writing out my prayers [sometimes for hours at a time].

(Quick Note: I do believe we should be continuously communicating with God via prayer throughout the day! Prayer Journaling is, on the other hand, more so a tool to help us pause and spend dedicated time building our relationship and listening to what God has to say.)

After 2 years of journaling, I finally created a system for myself and defined what I felt was important about prayer. I researched scholarly articles on prayer to make sure I was things on target with what the Bible said, but after that, I kept it authentic to God’s and my relationship.

Today’s Takeaway(s)

Prayer Journaling has made such an amazing impact on my walk with Christ. Not to mention, I love looking back and seeing how much I’ve grown and how much God has done.

If you’ve struggled with prayer, or feel like you’ve never really tried prayer journaling, then hopefully the two takeaways I’ve included below can help!

First, I’ve listed a few lessons God has taught me over the years concerning prayer. Second, you’ll find a “Prayer Journaling Guide” PDF I created to assist you with journaling your prayers! I’ve included my own examples and space for you to practice! I hope you’ll find both takeaways useful in helping you strengthen your relationship with the One who loves you the most.

Lessons on Prayer:

  1. Prayer requires a humble heart and a thankful spirit.
  2. Prayer should not be based solely on receiving.
  3. Like any good relationship, it requires more listening to speaking on my part.
  4. If I want to be close to God, I have to be willing to be completely open with Him.
  5. Prayer is a balance of praise, repentance, petition, stillness, and thankfulness.
  6. It doesn’t require beautiful wordage, it requires being genuine.
  7. Let go of perfect. There is a time and place for organized formal prayer.
  8. Talk to God like He’s your best friend.

Prayer Journaling Guide PDF

Helen Elizabeth Speaks – Prayer Journaling Guide

(**Be sure to download the free PDF! I hope helps you grow closer to God as it did for me! Love you, friend!)

Praying for you today and always.

Love in Christ,

Helen Elizabeth

Reframing Body Image: A Thoughtful Approach

I didn’t look up any stats before writing this post, but without searching the internet, I can almost guarantee that a MASSIVE number of women struggle with body image. And that doesn’t exclude the girls that the world defines as having “rockin’ bodies”. No, body image insecurity doesn’t discriminate. Whether you think you need to lose 20 pounds, or you’re in the best shape of your life, you’ve probably experienced the feeling of looking in the mirror and being discouraged by what you see.

Now to be clear, I don’t think it’s bad to strive to be the best version of yourself. I believe that we feel better when we eat healthy, work out and take care of our bodies. So it’s not bad to look in the mirror and say, “Ok, it’s probably about time that I take control of my eating habits, or try to be active in order to help my body feel better.” That’s not where the issue lies. No, struggling with body image, like many other problems, is an issue of the heart.

Flashback to the Past

One random school day back in 5th grade, a friend of mine decided that on this particular day and during this particular recess it would be the perfect time to tell my crush that I liked him. The moment those words left her lips, a multitude of things happened. My mouth dropped, my eyes bugged out of my head, my heart stopped and my brain exploded.

I waited for his response for what felt like years (it was hard to tell for sure with an imploded brain), until finally my guy friend (without so much as glancing my way) said, “I don’t like her, she’s ugly.”

I think the exact prayer I prayed after hearing his oh so gracious remark was, “God, please let me evaporate. Or at least shrink me down to the size of a grasshopper and let me hop safely away until I find a hole hide in for the rest of my life.”

But in all actuality, that’s when it started. The slow killing poison, known as insecurity, started making its way into my heart.

I went home that day and started noticing things about myself that I had never seen before. Up until then, I looked at myself in the mirror just like I would anyone else. Not looking for something to critique or fix. I started noticing that I didn’t look like everyone around me. The girl that was considered the most beautiful in the class was quite literally, the very opposite of me. Silky long blond hair, blue eyes, hardly any hair on her legs, and a beautiful smile with clear braces. I, on the other hand, didn’t mesh so well with puberty. My hair was a huge, frizzy mess because I got lice at my summer camp that year and my mom had to chop it all off. [Several times I had boys pretend to have lost their pen and then find it in my hair.] I was skinny and lanky with size 9 shoes (YES! SIZE 9!) with no understanding of style whatsoever. My face was round, my eyes were small, and my multi-colored braces just set everything off nicely.

For the first time in my life, I started comparing myself.

Fast forward to 8th grade, and my best friend and I decided to go to a Halloween party dressed as zombie brides. Complete with white nightgowns, white face paint and raccoon eyes. We walked in and saw a room full of 8th-grade playboy bunnies, and we promptly realized, “Ooohhh, so this is that year when everyone starts dressing like you-know-what’s.”

[I’d like to pause for a quick second and address a few things: (1.) Yes, I realize this sounds EXACTLY like the scene from Mean Girls. (2.) No, I am not making this up, lol. We actually had the exact same experience; and (3.) not wanting to offend anyone here…but seriously! Who decided that dressing like a playboy bunny at 13 was ok?!]

Back to the story.

Hoping no one would notice us, my friend and I tried to quietly dip out of the cool kid party (we were ok to just trick or treat anyway) when one of the guys in the group said, “Hey look! Helen’s trying to be white!” Now, many of the kids didn’t laugh at this statement because even at our age they knew he had taken it too far. But even so, his words still felt like a Major League baseball player had just whacked me in the stomach with a baseball bat. [To give you perspective, I went to a school where the majority of students were white, and I was the adopted ethnic kid with white parents. I always knew that about myself, but until that day, I had never really cared.]

After that, I stopped going out in the sun as much. If I went to the pool I’d sit under the umbrella while the other girls laid out. I’d wear light make up, and straighten the heck out of my hair. I didn’t want to look different than my friends and family.

Fast Forward again to college.

Like many girls, I gained some weight due to poor eating habits and drinking too many…apple juices (…yaaa, we’ll go with that). My freshman year I dated a not so good guy that really brought me down and destroyed my self-confidence. That’s another story for a different blog, but what I’ll say is that the lies he told me about myself stuck. When I looked in the mirror I no longer saw a confident young woman who had done her best to work through the silly things young immature boys had said. Instead, I saw a girl heavier than she’d ever been and so unconfident that she didn’t think she was worth anything.

Eventually, I’d dump that guy and never speak to him again. I’d reconcile with friends, and decide to start learning about health. I started doing pageants which gave me something to motivate me. I’d work at being the best version of myself until finally, I got to compete on the Miss USA stage and ultimately be voted “best body of the year”.

But I’d soon find out that insecurity and body image problems don’t stop when you get an award. Unless you have a strong sense of who you are, and know that your looks don’t define you, having a so-called “good body” can control you. I didn’t realize how much my fear of not looking my best was controlled me until after Craig passed away.

A Change in Perspective

After Craig passed, I didn’t want to work out. I wanted to eat the massive amount of BBQ we had, and not lift a finger. [Apparently, when you’ve experienced loss, you’re supposed to crave a TON of BBQ because our fridge was exploding with the never-ending supply people kept bring us.] Then one day I looked in the mirror and realized what I was doing wasn’t healthy. My body didn’t feel good and I didn’t like not being active.

I started taking Barre3 classes and I’ll never forget something my instructor said. It was different than anything I’d ever heard in a work out class. During the hardest part of the class, she said, “Stop competing. Don’t do this to have the best body. Do this for yourself. Not for anyone else. Not to be what the world says you should be, but to be strong and healthy for yourself and your family.” It was like God was speaking directly to me through this unknowing instructor.

It was then that I finally realized, I realized I’d only ever tried to be the person someone else would call beautiful. I realized that without ever intending to, I was comparing myself to the girl next to me…living in fear that I wouldn’t measure up. But here’s the truth: God doesn’t want us to live in a state of comparison. He doesn’t want us to look in the mirror and pick ourselves apart. He wants us to see ourselves as He sees us.

But how do we see ourselves the way He sees us? How do we overcome the critiquing voice in our head saying we’re not good enough?

Focus on the Input

When we hear the phrase “body image”, it suggests that we’re looking at a picture. Which then further suggests, if we’re wanting to change our body image perspective, then we have to change the lens through which we’re viewing the picture.

In my opinion, in order to do this, we must focus on the input, not the outcome. Meaning, instead of focusing so much on what we want to look like, or think others expect us to look like, we focus on what we’re putting into our bodies physically, mentally and spiritually.

For Example:

Are you reading magazine’s that make you feel less than? Are you staring at your IG explore page obsessing over girls you wished you looked like? Are you choosing to listen to that voice telling you that you’ll never be self-disciplined enough to live a healthy lifestyle?

– Or –

Are you searching God’s Word for His Truths about who you are and what you’re worth? Are you finding healthy habits that help you feel better? Are you looking for friends who will help you live out your new lifestyle, and who will remind you of the way God sees you?

I ask these questions because I had to ask myself the same things. I had to disengage from my old way of life and search God’s Word before I could ever become healthy physically, mentally and spiritually. The most important lesson I ever learned associated with body image is that until we’re at a good place spiritually, we’ll never have a healthy view of ourselves physically.

Don’t focus so much on the outcome (aka how you look). It will happen if we make positive changes (even if it’s just baby steps). Why? Because when we’re too focused on the outcome, we’ll start looking for shortcuts. We’ll look to people and things to define our worth and our body image. No…focus on the changes you feel God’s calling to make, and trust Him to do the rest.

Final Thoughts

The more we allow God’s truth to fill us up, the more positively we will view ourselves. We will stop coveting the way other women look and stop allowing ourselves to feel less than. Because the truth is, we’ll never be perfect by the world’s standards; and we will never love who we are if we’re always focused on how we measure up to everyone else. In order to stop struggling with body image, we have to view ourselves and others through God’s lens. His lens is focused on love. Love for others, and yes…love for yourself.

 

Praying for you today and always.

Love in Christ,

Helen Elizabeth

Navigating Widowhood to Marriage Part 3: Waiting on God

By Andrew Peters

My grandpa owns some land in Drasco, AR, just northwest of Heber Springs. I think that’s where I’ve found peace the most. Most of my mid 20’s I had lost God…or I thought I had.

I found God for the first time in college.

I remember showing up to one of the first classes of my senior year of college. I looked around and everyone looked so sure of themselves. They looked ready for the world.  I wasn’t. I was a child. An immature, scared child. I didn’t have the same look on my face as my classmates. I knew I had to change but I wasn’t ever strong enough to. Every outlet I ever used for the stress and pressure in my life was gone. I had nowhere to turn. I came home that night and cried. I locked the door to my room, fell to the ground in my room, and it just all came out. In the middle of this breakdown, it hit me. There had to be a better way. I’d felt it my whole life. Somewhere down deep inside. It was the same feeling I had when I was 13 years old, looking out the window from the breakfast table each morning before middle school. This feeling like there was a peace to be found.

God wanted me.

I don’t remember how it happened. I must have reached for the Bible collecting dust on my nightstand. I read, I flipped through pages, and I found it.  A verse in Matthew that changed my life forever.  Jesus taught me how to live, taught me how to think, and I was renewed.  I became strong with God.

Fast forward a year and a half and I felt lost all over again, but at least I knew God. However, even though I knew Him, I still became depressed after college. Life just wasn’t as exciting anymore. Going out on Friday nights became a tedious chore. I felt bored in a room full of music and people, even with enough beer and whiskey to satisfy us for days. But it just wasn’t the same. In college, the gratification of passing classes listed out on a daily schedule was too easy. The world got busy after college, and I got lost in it…I became impatient with God. I yelled at God asking, “Why am I here? Why do I even matter?”

In early 2017, however, things began to change. My dad told me he wanted to start going to the land in Drasco and put a four-wheeler trail in.

That’s where I heard God again.

The Girl

I loved her since I was 17. She was ‘that’ girl. The hot, cheerleader of my dreams.

I was quiet, shy and for some reason, she took a chance on me back in high school. After a few parties, phone calls, texts and lake trips, I made her my girlfriend. But like many high school loves, it didn’t last. Time went by, and me, being the young immature kid I was, called it off with Helen after senior year of High school, and then (again) later on in college…but I always thought about Helen. I knew I would always love her.

I was actually really happy when Helen found Craig. Someone to make her happy. All I ever did was make her cry. I had let go, I never contacted her. I wanted her to live her life. The Helen I once knew became a picture and post I’d see while scrolling through Facebook. But even though we lost contact, I thought about her almost every day.

A year after her marriage, I remember hearing about Craig’s accident. I thought back to the one time I met Craig. It was at a wedding, and as chance would have it, he was one of the first faces I saw. We shook hands and chatted a second. We even walked together out to where the ceremony would be held. He had an upbeat personality, you could tell he loved life. He was a good guy too. You could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. I was truly happy for him and Helen and felt at peace that they were together.

When I heard he had passed, I drove home from work at lunch. I stood in my dining room and looked out the back window. I don’t know why it happened, and I don’t know why I started doing it, but I started praying…not just to God, but to Craig as well.

Somehow God let me know that Craig could hear me and that he was listening. It almost felt like time no longer existed, it no longer mattered. The physical world around me went away, and my spirit just came out and spoke:

“Craig, I’ve loved Helen my whole life. Thank you for loving this girl that I was too immature to love. Look into my heart, and if it is good…if it is worthy…please lead her back to me. I can take care of her, I’m finally ready to love her.”

After the Prayer

About a year after this prayer, I stopped going out as much. It might sound counterintuitive, but I stopped trying so hard to be happy. I’d been worn down, I gave up. I was tired of trying to find happiness after college. I figured out that sometimes, happiness is just being content with what God’s given you. Being Content with what God has put right before your eyes. But so often our pride blinds us, and we think we’re supposed to have more. I thought because I knew God and had a good heart, I was supposed to be happy.

A huge turning point came when my dad asked me to put a four-wheeler trail in at the land in Drasco. We worked on the trail every weekend for almost 2 months. It was the perfect getaway. I loved it. No more loud bars, empty conversations, or meaningless relationships. Just me, dad, his three-legged dog, and the woods.

God spoke to me when I went there. Life slowed down. I could hear God loudest in the silence. One day we went over the creek and crossed a gas line, which brought us to a row of pine trees. I saw the sunshine through the trees, a red-orange glow just over the horizon at dusk. My dad was heading to the truck after a long day’s work. His three-legged dog trotting along behind him. I stood back. I let them get a little further ahead. I wanted to capture this moment. This one moment in time. Just for me, like a gift God had waited 28 years to give me. I stood still, the wind blowing through the knee-high grass. “Patience”, is all I heard. God spoke to me. It was the first time since college.

A Year Later

Days and months went by. I was in bed one night, planning to get up early for hunting that morning at the land in Drasco. Around 11:00pm I get a message. I roll over to see who it’s from. It’s the girl I’ve loved my whole life. She sent a video of us from high school, laughing and joking like we always did. I decide not to say anything right away, I want to think about a reply. I go peacefully back to sleep with a smile on my face.

A few short months later we celebrated our marriage with close friends and family. Somehow the girl I always loved found her way back to me. Is my life perfect now? Far from it. What I can say, however, is that waiting on God was the best decision I ever made. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t do it boldly, I’m no saint. I fought and clawed my way through it; I let down my friends and family but kept my eye on God all the while. I’ll never forget the message he told me on those 40 acres of land that day. “wait, be patient.”

Helen’s Take-Away

Andrew’s story is so powerful. I remember when he told me all of this in full detail on one of our first conversations. As I read his blog it reminded me of a time in my life when God called me back to Him. Even though Andrew’s and my experiences were different, they were ultimately the same…we had to step away from the world for a while in order to suck out the venom it was poising our hearts with. I remember crying on my floor during graduate school (probably close to the same time Andrew was doing the same thing since I was a graduate student when he was a 5th year senior), and after I don’t know how long of laying on the floor, I heard God say to me, “Be still Helen, and know that I am God.”

I started searching through my closet looking for a diary of some sort to start documenting my new season of life. It came as no surprise when I found a journal my mom had given me a long time ago, with a verse on the cover that read, “Be still and know that I am God.” That journal became my first prayer journal, and I still hold on to it today. It’s full of pain, tears, and prayers crying out to God. But it’s also filled with hope, strength, and new beginnings.

Sometimes waiting periods are words than the storm. They drive us crazy because we can’t see the future ahead of us. But God’s word tells us He is there in the waiting period. He is working on our behalf. So whatever waiting period you’re in. Wait on God. Have faith in who He is and what He promises He will do. Like Andrew said, you don’t have to be a saint. You may have to fight your way through the whole process. But if you’ll wait. If you’ll have faith in God’s steadfast love, and trust that it is His desire to take care of you. Then I believe you too will tell someone someday, “It’s worth the wait.”

Praying for you today and always.

Love in Christ,

Helen Elizabeth

(Ps. If you’re looking for a good “coming back to Jesus” song, I love the song “Let it All Out” by Relient K. I listened to it on repeat when I was going through my waiting period.)

 

 

Navigating Widowhood to Marriage Part II: The Release of Expectations

“Releasing Expectations to Embrace God’s Plan.” – Helen Elizabeth

Over the last year, I’ve been building up the courage to chase wholeheartedly after my dream of being a writer and speaker. After making the decision to go all in, I then began trying to define what the core of my ministry would be. After lots of reflection on different aspects of my life, I finally decided on the mission statement above because I believe it encompasses what I desire for myself and for you – the people I encourage.

Releasing Expectations is a tricky concept because they come in two forms:

  1. Expectations we place on God, people (or relationships) and ourselves.
  2. Expectations people place on us.

As I’ve mentioned before, not all expectations are bad. My parents, for example, expected me to make good grades and treat people kindly. No, we’re not talking about those. I’m talking about unwarranted expectations. In my last post, I wrote about releasing expectations I shouldn’t have placed on God. Today, I’ll be focusing on releasing unwarranted expectations we allow people to place on us.

This is where I pick back up with the story…

Releasing the Expectations of Widowhood

December 27, 2017, marked the second anniversary of Craig’s passing. As I drove to the cemetery to meet Randy and Julie, I found myself reflecting on the past two years…How my life had changed, and how I wondered when [and if] it would ever be different. During my time as a widow, I worked really hard to not let expectations I had for my life dictate my happiness. But I realize now that with all that effort directed within, I wasn’t seeing how I was allowing other people’s expectations for widows dictate my actions.

As I stood with Randy and Julie under the Cedar tree next to Craig’s resting place, I was overcome with the greatest sense of gratitude for Craig’s family. I never wanted to go through this experience, but since I had to, I’m thankful I had a family by my side who loved God and who loved me.

After a while, we went back to the car and Julie prompted a conversation that would lift a weight off my shoulders that I didn’t even realize I was carrying. In this conversation, she told me about a letter that her late husband’s family wrote to her. A letter explaining that they wanted her to be happy. After telling me the contents of the letter, she went on to say, “Well Helen, we don’t have a letter, but we want you to know that we want you to be happy too. You don’t need our permission, but if you were waiting for it, we want to tell you to move forward with your life. You’re so young, you don’t need to be alone. Not marrying isn’t proving that you love Craig more, and getting married doesn’t mean you love him less.”

Needless to say, many tears were shed as I drove away that evening. The selflessness of both Julie and Randy amazed me.

I’ll be transparent here and say that this point of widowhood is confusing. The feeling of being ready to move forward, but also hurting because that means life is moving forward without your late husband is hard for your brain to grasp. It leaves you wondering how you could feel both feelings at once; and if that wasn’t enough, you’re subconsciously fearful of the few people who will judge you for moving forward.

But those aren’t the expectations God, or the people who truly know my heart have for me. I was holding fast to expectations that people created and that God never meant for me. Deep down I knew this, so that night I asked God to give me the strength to release those expectations and embrace His plan.

Little did I know, God was already at work.

Third Times the Charm

I’m a firm believer in God’s use of the number three. The most obvious being The Trinity (Father. Son. Holy Spirit.)…and the less obvious [and more humorous] being the number of times it took for Andrew and me to finally get. it. together.

(Seriously people, I used to be a hot mess.)

One night when I was insanely bored, I decided to clean my back room and happened to find my dad’s old video camera. Obviously, I stopped cleaning at once and turned on the camera to see what kind of home video gold I had just uncovered. I fast forwarded through an old cheer competition until someone on the screen caught my eye. I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched a 17-year-old version of Andrew and myself making faces at each other across the table at a dinner with our friends.

After rewatching that a few hundred times, I then fast-forwarded to a scene from football season. There I was, waiting to tumble across the field in front of all the football players, and there was Andrew [full upper body painted with a “P” across his chest for the dual purpose of representing NPHS and his last name, Peters] doing his best to distract me by popping me with a rally rag. I literally laugh out loud as I sat alone in my house as I watched a baby version of myself trying to grab the rag from Andrew as he darted back to the other chest painted guys getting ready to run out with the team.

I replayed this video several times in a row before I allowed the thought to enter my mind. Should I text him? What if he doesn’t want to talk to me? What would I say? I decided on the grand idea of sending him a facebook message of a recording of the video I just watched and tell him how funny it was. Ya…that seems like a good idea.

Let me just share with you how the rest of the night went down…

As soon as I hit send I started freaking out. What if he didn’t see it? What if he thought it was weird? Or worse! What if he had a girlfriend?! [30 Facebook stalking minutes later] – Alright, we’re good. I was almost 98% certain he didn’t have a girlfriend. But wait, it had been 30 minutes, why hadn’t he messaged back? I should text him instead. What should I say? “Hey! Is this still Andrew?” Ya…that seems like a good idea.

And again, freak out commences. Seriously, Helen? “Is this still Andrew?” Great choice. Just call it a night, Helen…Unless that was just him who texted! Oh no, just a bed bath and beyond email. Ok, just call it a night.

Yep. I got tons of sleep that night. (No I didn’t.)

Two Times before the Third

After dating all Senior year of high school, Andrew and I broke up before we left for college. Ya, I know, typical. We then proceeded to be that on-again-off-again couple before finally trying to date seriously our Senior year of college. We lasted until February, and you guessed it, we broke up right before Valentine’s Day…again, typical.

One thing I’ve always loved about Andrew was how straightforward he was. I didn’t love his timing on that particular day, but I loved that he always told me the truth. I didn’t realize, however, that on this particular day, his truthfulness would prompt a drastic change within me. A change that would eventually lead me to believing I could do something like pageants, as well as make me the kind of woman Craig was going to need several years later.

When most guys break up with you they say something like, “It’s not you babe, it’s me.” But not Andrew. Instead, he told me this: “Helen, I’m really not trying to be mean when I say this but…you’re kind of selfish.”

WHAT?! Well, you can imagine how that conversation went.

“Whatever Andrew! I am the most giving person ever! I would give you the shirt off my back!” To which he responded, “Yes Helen you would, but you wouldn’t pause to ask me why I needed your shirt in the first place.”

Touché.

He then went on to ask me if I knew what was going on in my best friends’ lives and then to tell me (as nicely as he could) that I tended to make life about myself. [Splendid.] Finally, he ended with, “But to be fully honest, I’m also wanting to grow in my relationship with God right now and I think you do too…and in order to do that I think we need to be alone.”

Initially, I left that conversation angry, but after letting it all sink in, I realized he was right. I had been self-focused and never even realized it. That same day I bought my first prayer journal and started talking to God again, not for Andrew, but to get back in touch with my Heavenly Father. I started contacting my friends and asking more questions than I gave answers. I began to see my relationships improve, and I saw the first glimpses of the girl I was meant to be.

One Final Try

After reconnecting, Andrew proved to still be straightforward when sent me a text that read, “Helen, what are you wanting from this?” I answered with a simple, “I’d like to get to know you again.” To which he responded, “I’d like that too.” (Which he later admitted was sent after several silent fist pumps alone in his room. Lol.)

Then one night when we first started talking again, Andrew brought up his concerns about not wanting to rush things by talking every day so we wouldn’t get hurt if it didn’t work out. I appreciated his concern but knew it was rooted in his fear that, hidden away somewhere, I might still be that needy girl desperate for a guy to make me happy. In response to his caution, I smiled and said, “Andrew, I’ve gone through things I never imagined I would have to go through. I’ve faced my worst fear and I’ve survived. I’m stronger than I ever knew. And I mean this in the kindest way possible, but I don’t need you. I’d love to be with you, but I don’t need you. If this didn’t work out, I’d be ok. If I were to never date seriously or get married again, I’d be alright. God is with me and I no longer look to you or anyone else to be my source of happiness.” To that, he said, “Wow. You really are different. That’s all I needed to hear.”

We decided that I would come home for a weekend (he lives in the city right next to our hometown) and we would get to know each other again as friends…just to make sure before moving forward. At the end of the weekend, I remember telling my mom as we ate breakfast together that I knew God had orchestrated all of this. He brought Andrew into my life such a long time ago for this moment. I told her I believe God connects all the pieces of our life, and he knew Andrew would be strong enough to love a widow.

Soon after Andrew asked my dad for my hand in marriage, and I asked for Randy and Julie’s blessing. Andrew and I decided as two 29-year-olds who’ve known each other for 12 years, we didn’t want to wait months to prep for a huge wedding, and decided to get married on our own. No distractions. No comparisons. No publicity. Just God, each other, and the love of our families. We then decided to hold a big reception honoring our marriage as an alternative for an untraditional bride, and to celebrate what a great miracle God had done in our lives.

I know a lot of people questioned my reasoning as to why I didn’t post anything or even introduce Andrew into my social media until after the wedding. I know that probably made the announcement seem sudden, or even questionable. But to tell you the truth, it took me this long to release the fear of what the world might say. I knew for sure that this was the path I wanted to take, but I wanted everyone on board with me. I wanted all of you to know that I have so many things I want to share and truth I want to speak that isn’t based on my decision to remarry. I didn’t want to be judged harshly for taking a step into a new chapter of life. And so here I want to pause for a moment and say thank you. Thank you to all those who have reached out and congratulated me. Thank you for encouraging me to keep writing, keep speaking. Your love and affirmation have made my heart so full.

 Take-Aways

Sometimes things don’t go the way we expect [and most of the time they won’t], but even so, we can still be sure of these three things:

  1. Releasing unwarranted expectations for others, as well as unwarranted expectations people have for us allows our hearts to experience true freedom.
  2. Embrace expectations that cultivate personal growth within you, but also give yourself the freedom to reject ones that don’t.
  3. We can trust that God knows what He’s doing and His timing is always perfect.

My prayer for you today is that whatever you’re experiencing, have experienced, or will experience, you’ll be able to trust God through the process. I want my story to show you that even when my life didn’t go as expected and things went terribly wrong, God still had a plan for my provision already mapped out. I promise He loves you the same and will do the same for you. Learn to love Him with all you’ve got, no matter what, and I promise He’ll show up.

I hope my story has touched your heart and lifted your spirits. I CANNOT WAIT for next week to share the last blog in the series!! I’ll be taking a backseat and letting a special guest share their story and the lessons they’ve learned. Can you guess who it is??

Believe me, you won’t want to miss it!

Love you all so much, thank you for your support and encouragement as I share my personal stories. Prayers going up for you today and always.

Love in Christ,

Helen Elizabeth

[Enjoy the pictures below!!]

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Navigating Widowhood to Remarriage Part I: God Connects the Pieces

Throughout my life, I have come to be sure of several key characteristics of God. He has proven Himself to be not only the ultimate author of THE most amazing real-life stories, but also a God of redeeming love, healing, restoration, hope, and provision.

How has He shown me these characteristics, you ask? [Oh, I’m so glad you did.]

The first proof of His goodness came before I was born. Before I could talk He began writing the most interesting and unbelievable story for my life. Full of heartache and joy, ups and downs, mistakes and redeeming moments. All which kicked off at the age of two with my adoption, the point at which he gave me a chance for an amazing life with wonderful parents. Parents who introduced me to Christ, and gave me every opportunity they possibly could.

I can’t wait to share that story with you another time, because it truly is beautiful. Today, however, I want to focus on two other moments in which God gave me a glimpse of His provision.

 A Revelation from Widowhood

God’s Story is so intricate that we may never see how everything fits together, but I can tell you this: Every good and tragic thing has a purpose because God connects every piece of our story together for our good. And what a blessing it is when we get even just a glimpse of how a few small pieces of it fit together.

Losing your spouse at any age is more than heartbreaking. You feel like you’ve been ripped in half. I’m not the knower of all things, but maybe it feels that way because part of our very identity has been taken away. The Bible tells us that through marriage, we become one with our spouse. So it makes sense that when I lost Craig, it felt like part of myself had gone missing. One of the hardest parts about widowhood was relearning who “Helen Elizabeth” was again. Not Helen Elizabeth the Wife. Not even Helen Elizabeth the Widow. But who was “Helen Elizabeth” in Christ, without the labels?

This is where I found my first glimpse of God connecting pieces of his story. This time it was not only my story, but also Julie Strickland’s, Craig’s stepmother.

I will never forget sitting in the police department in Ponca City, OK, waiting to begin our search for Craig. I had found a place to sit by myself over by the restrooms and water fountains. Julie came over and sat with me, and after a moment she said, I never knew why I lost my husband at such a young age…but now I realize it was so I could help you. So I could help Randy. So I could help this family in their greatest time of need.

Yes. God is a God of provision.

It is such a special moment when we have the opportunity to see how God is working together for our good. In a time when I didn’t know how to work out my latest identity crises, I had someone who had walked this path before me. In the days/months/years to come, I was going to need guidance and someone who would “tell it to me straight” without beating around the bushes…and the Lord knew I’d get that with Julie.

Making the Decision to Remarry

Nothing about making the decision to date again and/or get remarried is easy. No part of introducing a new person into your life and to all those watching your life is easy. It’s messy. And quite frankly [excuse my language] it just sucks. But at some point, you have to put it out there and let it be awkward (as Julie wisely informed me). The good news is if we ask God to help us along the way, He’ll make a way for us…because when God’s writing your story, you know it’s gonna be good.

Looking back on my widowhood, I’ll be real with you, I didn’t do hardly anything the way I would do it if “today Helen” could go back and help “newly widowed Helen”. I struggled with communicating, making friends and family feel left out of my life. I struggled with laziness, not allowing God to use me fully. But through every confusing emotion, one thing stood. God was present. And he was making a way for me long before I ever lost my husband. Long before I ever knew Craig, and long before I knew what I wanted to do with this life.

Let me take you back to Junior year of High School, during cheer tryouts at a new school, and a chance encounter that would greatly impact my life.

A Chance Encounter

March 2005

(Yes, that means I’m currently about to be 30, I’ll save you the time and energy of having to do the math. Math = Gross.)

As I stood in a gym I’d never been to before, watching girls I’d never met practice cheer moves, I laughed to myself as I observed teenage boys making as much noise as possible. They were practicing baseball on the other side of the gym, doing anything they could to snag a glance from this very stressed group of practicing cheerleaders. The girls were about to try out for next years cheer squad, and so was I. No one from the school I currently attended, and cheered at, knew I was trying out or was planning to transfer schools. I had made the decision on my own, going against my parent’s wishes for me.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering why I chose to transfer as a senior. Ya. The guy at the school district head office, who steadily refused to grant my “transfer to a school I wasn’t zoned for” request, wanted to know the same thing. To be honest, it was for two reasons. I wanted to get to know some people I hadn’t grown up with before we all went off to college. And on a more personal level, the previous year I lost a close friend that went to the same school I wanted to go to. I wanted to be with her sister and our mutual friends. Well, after a week of sitting outside his office, the head guy of transfers finally caved. And that’s how I ended up at my new school, trying out while knowing almost no one, and being happy as a clam.

Back to try out day…

As I walked to my car after tryouts, I heard someone pull up behind me. I turned around to find a guy yelling my name out the window of his friend’s red pick up truck. This very sure of himself Ricky-rando, who would later become a good friend of mine named Johnny (he sadly passed away recently, which actually makes this a sweet memory of our friendship to look back on), started asking me very detailed questions about my yellow mustang [my dream car I absolutely loved and referred to as “Stella”]. And after listening with an “I’m not impressed” face for a moment, I finally told him in my nicest matter-of-fact tone that it was “not a GT because my dad didn’t want me driving that fast, but it has a “pony pack” on it so it looks like one.” You see, I had a boyfriend that I was for sure going to marry because I was in 11th grade and grown and all that. So I didn’t need to be talking to this guy trying to make small talk. I quickly ended the conversation, but before giving my most polite ponytail flip and getting in my car…I happened to catch a glimpse of the guy in the front seat laughing at his friend’s failed pick-up line attempt. We made eye contact for a second and I couldn’t help my stop for a moment. There was something about him, but I hurriedly reminded myself that I “was in far too serious” of a relationship to be concerning myself with that.

Well, the end of the year went by in a blink, as time typically does when it’s springtime, you can drive, and have hardly any responsibilities but making your grades. I ended up making cheer at my soon-to-be new school and started hanging out with the girls and guys I saw in the gym that day at tryouts.

Have you ever had a summer that was your absolute favorite summer ever? Like “Phineas and Ferb ‘Best Summer Ever'” kind of summer? Well, that particular summer was my favorite ever. Hanging out at my new friends’ houses, playing Wiffle ball, feeling the heartache of a first real breakup, and other twists and turns along the way that would probably make for a pretty good pre-teen TV series. But the most exciting part of that summer was one person. Yep. The guy in the front seat of that red pick up truck…Andrew Peters – my now husband.

You may be asking, did I know then that I had met my future husband? Did I know he would marry me two and half years after the loss of my husband, Craig, giving me another hope for a family and future?  Did I know that he would pray and ask Craig to lead me back to him if Craig saw him worthy to take care of me? Not at all…but God did.

To wrap up Part I of a three-part blog series, I want you to know that I firmly believe God was already working out a plan for my life the day I met Andrew. He was already formulating a story of provision, redeeming love and hope for Andrew, Craig and myself. God knew the storms I would face in the future and was already making a way for me.

Even in the hardest moments of life, we can trust that God will provide for us. We may have to wait and be patient, but He will bring beauty from ashes if we will trust Him.

Andrew and I didn’t work out the first time [or even the second or third time we tried to seriously date in college, ha!], and I never really knew why we didn’t. The only reason we’ve come up with was that we both needed to grow in our relationship with God – which is a very valid reason. But still, I had a few questions I needed to work through with God. So one day I sat down and asked Him, “Why do things have to be so hard, God? Why allow us to experience such hardship? Why do we have to suffer?”

God then reminded me: “Helen, think of all the people Craig’s story has helped. All the people who have given their lives to Christ. The impact you and the Strickland family have had for my Kingdom goes far beyond you just having a perfect life. Instead, you now have a story that shows my love for you and that can help lead others to find healing in Christ.”

The truth of that statement stopped me in my tracks. Even today, after writing that last paragraph, I thought about the woman I used to be compared to the woman I am today. Even with all the suffering, mistakes, and heartache, I’d take the woman I am today over the former because this woman is becoming more like the person God created her to be. If everything always went perfectly, I don’t know if I would ever have had a real relationship with God. By no means am I doing everything right these days, but I truly am proud of the woman God is creating within me and the strength I’ve found in Him.

I know now that every hard and painful moment I’ve experienced has allowed me the opportunity to find strength in my weakness through Christ Jesus, as well as help others do the same. I believe you can be that person for the people around you too. Our God is a God of Provision. Allow Him to show you how He’s been connecting both the joyful and the heartbreaking parts of your story for your good, and the good of others. Then allow Him to strengthen you from the inside out and use your story for His Kingdom. It will be well worth it, my friend.

Prayers going up for you as always.

Love in Christ,

Helen Elizabeth

(And for your laughter and enjoyment…a slideshow with a few photos from high school, college, and our engagement shoot! Side Note: Andrew really tried to get me to include two horrendous pictures of me from high school, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, ha!)

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Everything You Need for Spring! -Fabfitfun 2018 Spring Box

Hi friends! So, I recently got the awesome opportunity to review the 2018 Spring Box, and this blog is really just breaking down the different items! I typically don’t review items, but I honestly wanted to with this one because I think this particular box stands for something great (which you’ll see if you watch my vlog – see below). I’ve also included pictures of the items and who makes them in case you wanted to go check out the brand!

And! After watching, if you decide you like the box, here are some things to know!

  1. Fabfitfun is a subscription box with full-size fashion, beauty, fitness and lifestyle products.
  2. The box comes out once each season.
  3. It retails for $49.99 but always has a value over $200.
  4. AND! *** You can use coupon code “HELENBLOG” for $10 off your first box at fabfitfun.com!

Items included in the 2018 Spring Box:

  1. Rachel Pally Reversible Clutch
  2. Free People x Understated Leather Eye Mask
  3. Anderson Lilley Sunset Collection Candle
  4. ISH Lip  Statement Palette
  5. Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion
  6. Physique 57 Massage Roller (*Not discussed in vlog, but included in picture below.)
  7. Dermalect Cosmeceuticals Makeover Ridge Filler
  8. Maya Brenner Designs Love Bracelet
  9. KORRES Guava Body Cream
  10. Bonus Sponsored Product: Dove Exfoliating Body Polish

Hope you’ll check it out!

With Love,

Helen Elizabeth

Photos of Items Listed above! (Physique 57 Massage Roller- not mentioned in vlog):