How Colonial Williamsburg Changed My Life: the Tale of a Redhead Patriot

Eighteen years ago, I sat on the bench you see here for the first time, as an nine month-old baby.

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Earlier this summer, I sat on it again as a new high school graduate.

You know, we humans are funny. We go about our busy lives and never stop to think about how God is connecting a bigger picture for us, and how relatively little things can impact us in enormous, positive ways.

This bench, and the place it is located, did that for me. My name is Grace, and this is the story of how Colonial Williamsburg changed my life.

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In case you’re not familiar with Colonial Williamsburg, allow me to give you a crash course. Often called the largest living history museum in the world, Colonial Williamsburg transports visitors back in time to an eighteenth century American town on the brink of the Revolutionary War. Entire streets have been reconstructed to look exactly as they did in the late 1700’s, and costumed interpreters stroll the area ready to answer questions about the time period, perform street dramas, and generally be amazing.

Think of it as Disney World–but with history.

Eighteen years ago, my family’s lifestyle looked a little different–we kids were all elementary school age (or, ya know, a baby, in my case 😉 ), and all of us were extremely passionate about history. Lifelong homeschoolers…what can I say? 😉

Around this time, my parents decided to give us the ultimate homeschooling field trip/vacation: a trip to Colonial Williamsburg. My brothers launched into studying the time period even more to prepare, while my mother engaged in a different sort of preparation.

You know how I said Colonial Williamsburg is like Disney World? Well, unlike Disney World, you as a guest can actually wear period costumes into the historic area–it’s welcomed, in fact! Thus, my lovely, talented mum began sewing costumes for herself, my dad, my brothers, and even baby me…and have a look at the results!

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I think it’s safe to say my family had a literal ball.

As you can see, my brothers adored the activity where you could march with the militia at the Magazine.

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Now, I know what you might be thinking…

“But Grace! You were a baby! I’m sure you can’t remember this experience at all! How could Williamsburg change your life if you can’t even remember the trip?”

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Exhibit A: Baby Grace

I hear you, dear reader. I hear you. 😉

Well, one of my brothers ended up going to college only about an hour away from Williamsburg, when I was around ten to twelve years old. For a few years in a row, my mom and I had the opportunity to visit him at the beginning of the summer and help him move out of his dorm room, while at the same time visiting Williamsburg for an entire week.

Yep–an entire week of eighteenth century bliss. 😉

This was just around the time that I was getting intensively into sewing for 4-H, so the obvious thing to do was sew a new colonial gown for myself…and here’s what we ended up with! I was especially thrilled with how this came out because at the time I really loved American Girl dolls/books and the print of the dress reminded me a fair bit of Felicity, the colonial American Girl. That, and the whole red hair thing. 😉

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Please pardon the Williamsburg lanyard…a bit non-historic. 😉

So off we went, and for about three years in a row, heading to Williamsburg during the first week of May was our tradition. It was truly glorious–we would head to the Raleigh Tavern Bakery and buy root beer, ginger cakes, and ham biscuits, and picnic on the Governor’s Palace Green to eat them. We would take literally every single tour available for every historic building and home, and scurry around the historic area to catch all the street dramas we could.

If you ever get to go to Colonial Williamsburg, I 1000% recommend catching all of the street dramas you can–they usually take place on stages behind buildings like Charleton’s Coffee house and the Raleigh Tavern, and they are absolutely gorgeous. Once, I had the pleasure of seeing a tear jerker about a couple getting engaged right before the boy went off to fight in the war, and another time, I saw one about a wealthy loyalist-turned-patriot receiving fencing lessons from an old pro…complete with–*swoon*–actual fencing!

In fact, that’s truly part of the magic of Williamsburg…it’s almost like a play or movie, except the script is ever-changing and you are a character–and when you wear a period costume, you feel even more like a character, because the interpreters treat you as such. The best way I can think of to describe it is this. When you were little, did you ever wear a princess costume to Disney World? You know how the cast members would go out of their way to make you feel special because you took the time to dress up? Well, wearing a period costume to Williamsburg is sort of like that–except, adults are welcome to do it, too. The interpreters never seem resentful…in truth, I think they’re excited to see people get as immersed in the history as they can!

By the way, if you can’t sew or want to go straight to the source, you can rent or buy costumes from Colonial Williamsburg itself–just head to the Visitor’s Center or one of the shops like Tarpley, Thompson, and Company. They have costumes for kids and adults, in both gentry class, formal looks and more middle class, casual wear.

Speaking of which…on one of these visits, I had the immense thrill of attending an evening event at Williamsburg–a ball at the Governor’s Palace.

I couldn’t have been more excited–I was literally living out the events of the Felicity books/movie! Pretty much everyone in attendance was wearing costumes, and let me tell you, the Governor’s Palace looks very different at night than it does during the day. Dozens of lanterns were lit and placed along the path and steps leading to the palace, and inside, every single candle in the chandeliers and sconces was lit. It was truly a living, historic fairytale, and I honestly felt like I had stepped back in time.

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This was years before I started attending local English Country Dances and got into dance calling myself, so I don’t actually remember much about the dancing itself–except for the fact that the music was provided by a lone flute player.

Oh, and that I got to be in the head couple for one of the dances, along with a lovely interpreter, and that he let me have the honor of cueing the musician to play the music. 😉

But wait, there’s more. 😉 After the ball was over, it was dark outside, and we happened upon a very kind interpreter from one of the evening tours in the historic area. Actually, he was waiting on another cast member who would lead the tour up to the palace, where he had some specific lines to say to further the story they were telling over the course of the tour.

And he asked us–me and my mom–if we wanted to be in the story.

That’s right–we got to be honorary cast members in the tour! It was absolutely insane, and probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever had the honor of doing.

Sadly, this is the only photo evidence I have of that story…but at least it’s something. 😉

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Unfortunately, those years of visits ended, life got busy, and I never thought I’d get to go back to Williamsburg. My years of elementary/middle school unit studies and field trip freedom ended, and I buckled down on dual-enrolling at my community college. Living history took a back seat to textbooks–although I distinctly remember that during one of my first online college classes, I sort-of-not-really-accidentally made my discussion post about the Revolutionary War 1500 words instead of 500. Oops! 😉

Meanwhile, my sewing projects shifted a little. Colonial Williamsburg had done an amazing thing for me–it made wearing costumes in public seem normal. I wasn’t phased by being approached by people asking, “why are you dressed like that?” and I had kind of already experienced the concept of staying in-character. Colonial people at a ball in 1776 simply don’t talk about certain things–the internet being one of them–and do talk about others, like the Stamp Act.

Thus, when I started making Disney Princess costumes and wearing them to volunteer at community events, going out into public places wearing petticoats, capes, and the like was pretty normal and not weird or awkward at all, and the staying-in-character part was an absolute joy.

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Last summer, I had the immense pleasure of visiting Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Tampa, Florida as Rapunzel, along with a truly glorious group of other volunteers–and it was here that something just *clicked* for me. I came home knowing that I wanted to work in a place like that. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a nurse, PA, or even a full-on doctor–but I knew one thing.

I saw that the kids who squealed with delight when they met Captain America, Spiderman, and me were just as thrilled to see certain doctors and nurses. People working in a medical capacity in a place like Shriner’s have the opportunity to light up the lives of children every single day with joy and hope, and I knew I wanted to do that or something like it. Currently, my hope is to go into pediatric medicine, although I’m trying to stay open in case God places a different opportunity in my path.

To be honest, I didn’t really connect the mental dots from Williamsburg to Disney Princesses to my career path until this May, when my parents asked me spur-the-moment if I wanted to go back to Williamsburg for my senior trip. Since we live in North Carolina now instead of Florida, it’s only about a three hour drive instead of a thirteen hour drive, and we already owned all the costumes. 😉

Obviously, I was thrilled out of my mind, but I’ll be honest–I was also a little nervous. What if I had gotten so used to being a princess that being a random colonial citizen would feel weird? What if I had outgrown Williamsburg? Would it just make me sad that I’ve grown up and a place I loved doesn’t feel the same anymore?

Well, my dears, I needn’t have worried.

The second we stepped into the lobby of the Visitor’s Center, I wanted to cry tears of joy. The drum and fife corps music playing over the speakers gave me exactly the same chills of excitement it did when I was ten years old.

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When my mom and I put on our costumes and hopped off the shuttle at the Capitol building, it was all the same: the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves on the cobblestones, the smell of smoked ham wafting out of Chowning’s Tavern, the welcoming interpreters wishing you “good day!”

My life may have gotten crazy and changed over the past decade, but this eighteenth century oasis hadn’t.

So if you don’t mind, I’d like to take you on a little journey through my trip to Colonial Williamsburg this week. Slap on your tricornered hat, and let’s go!

We hopped off at the Capitol, and here I am still trying to be Felicity almost ten years later. 😉

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We slipped into the apothecary to listen to some interpreters talk about eighteenth century medicine, and as always, the interior of the buildings are just as stunning as the outside, with insanely accurate props.

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We popped into the Raleigh Tavern Bakery, and discovered that one super cool change has taken place since we last visited–they actually bake the ginger cakes in the colonial area now, and you can purchase them straight out of the oven! Excuse me while I cry more happy tears.

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Also, the mossy roofs are incredible this time of year.

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While we ate lunch, a colonial cardinal decided to grace us with his presence! Eighteenth century birds are so obliging. 😉

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One of the other best parts of Williamsburg is that all of these back gardens and alleys are unlocked–you’re free to wander, and they are truly gorgeous.

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Exhibit A: this insanely pretty ivy archway tucked back behind the bakery!
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Um, yes, I would like to live here, please. Thank you. 😉

Seriously, if you ever need ideas for short stories or even entire screenplays, come to Colonial Williamsburg. There’s a potential story behind everything!

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Also, because I’m silly, I thought this was amusing. 😉 This “not open to visitors” door was open! I discreetly stuck my camera lens in and sneaked a picture, and, anticlimactically, the contents were only cases of ginger ale. So much for being a revolutionary war spy! 😉

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Some of my absolute favorite parts of Colonial Williamsburg are the shop signs–like this one!

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Fun fact…in colonial fonts, a lowercase “s” often looks like a lowercase “f”–and it took me literally years to figure that out. For the longest time, I thought this sign actually said “done in the beft manner”, and that “beft” was some kind of metal working technique. 😛

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Gotta love that golden ball!

And this brings me to one of my favorite places, Tarpley, Thompson, & Company! Once again, the moment I walked in, I wanted to cry happy tears. For years, some of my favorite things to purchase here were the soap balls and bath powders, and that same smell greeted me the moment I walked in.

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I was, however, thrilled to find something new–colonial sunglasses for only $15 (with a carrying case)! In case you ain’t figured it out yet, I’m a nerd, and these remind me a lot of the glasses they used in National Treasure to read the map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

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You can also buy/rent period costumes here, from children’s gowns to adult riding habits, and even sewing patterns for all kinds of colonial garb, not to mention beautiful accessories.

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Even the doors are gorgeous! LOOK at this door! It’s the little things, y’all. 😉

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Oh yes, I also have a game now, in case you didn’t know. 😉

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Also, I highly recommend memorizing “Language of the Fan” for future reference–you never know when it could come in handy! 😉

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Once again, the back alleys are the most gorgeous things ever!

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Also, my Newsies-obsessed self absolutely freaked out at this insanely cool, operating printing press. I know, I know, wrong time period, but still! 😉 You can actually buy reproduction prints made on this press, but we’ll come back to that later.

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“AIN’T IT A FINE LIFE, CARRYING THE BANNER THROUGH IT ALLLLL!” 😉

Gotta love ye olde poft office. 😉

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FOR NARNIA!! Ooops, wrong time period again. I can’t stick to only one. 😉

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I was photographing this beautifully mossy brick wall (what, I’ve got a thing for moss! 😉 ) when a horse and carriage decided to grace the background. ❤

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It is pretty accurate to say that this weaver’s shop is what got me interested in textiles and wool way back when…so I also probably owe my love of fiber art to Williamsburg, too!

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Just some courthouse artsiness for ya. 😉

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Thank you for photobombing me, colonial dude.
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Notice that “public” is spelled “publick”. Why am I thinking about popsicles now?
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“I’M THE MAP, I’M THE MAP, I’M THE MAP…” 😉

Don’t mind this guy, just posing on his cannon before the firing of the noon gun at the Magazine. 😉

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….and there it is!

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Someone let me live at the Raleigh Tavern, please…or at least let me own this lantern that I think is my new aesthetic.

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Colonial teapots, y’all. I love them. Oh, wait…tea tax…no taxation without representation….(patriotism intensifies)….I love pots for holding unspecified warm beverages that are totally not tea! 😉

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At about this point, I started actually crying (as did my mom) because the fife and drum corps marched through town. I grew up listening to this music on CDs and it is truly gorgeous–and seals the deal of making you feel like you’re really in the eighteenth century. Also, cute soldier boys don’t hurt anything. 😉

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Alrighty, on to Day #2. This brings me to one of my all-time favorite spots in Williamsburg–Charlton’s Coffee House! Here, you can take a tour and learn about how coffee shops have always been the trendiest place on the block, and at the end, drink a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate with an interpreter! Just a tip…always get the chocolate. Always.

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Mr. Charlton out here spilling the tea (literally) about Williamsburg’s elite in his notebook. 😉

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This chocolate is literally the stuff of dreams. They make it with a colonial recipe that involves tons of spices, cayenne pepper, and super dark chocolate. Also it’s free, so…why would you not? 😉

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Okay, so next up, I’ve got to ramble for a while. In all my years of coming to Williamsburg, every interpreter I’ve ever heard speak has been completely awesome and knowledgeable--but y’all. On this trip, we had the immense pleasure of hearing Young Thomas Jefferson speak, and he was absolutely magnificent.

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Now, I say “young” because that’s part of his title, to distinguish from Old Thomas Jefferson, who portrays TJ in his later years. In fact, the amazing actor for OTJ worked there eighteen years ago when my family went and my brothers loved him. 🙂 They’ve just come out with a book about OTJ’s actor, by the way…I read a bit of it in the shops and it looked wonderful.

But back to Young Thomas Jefferson, whom my mom and I quickly dubbed YTJ. 😉 YTJ was insanely fantastic, and talked for about an hour before taking questions from the audience. Everything he spoke about was completely relevant to today’s world, from putting civility back in debating, to why the public needs to take a greater interest in government.

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Talk to the patriotic hand, amiright?

Right from the beginning, I knew it was going to be a fun time, because YTJ declared that he should take a vote as to whether or not we actually wanted to hear him talk. Of course, everyone said, “aye”, and when he asked if there were any “nays”, everyone went dead silent. However, one lone little boy of about eight years old stood up, threw his hands in the air, and yelled, “Of course there aren’t! We’re talking about independence here!” I love that kid. 😛

Another favorite of mine was when someone asked a question and YTJ asked the man where he was from. He answered that he was from Michigan, and YTJ incredulously said, “Sir, I think you mean Michigania. I named it that myself.”

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Brb, framing this picture.

After his allotted time was over, YTJ exited the stage, but continued to talk to anyone who had questions, whilst taking photos with kids and adults alike.

As someone who knows the struggles of staying in-character, I was blown away by how YTJ managed to stay within his persona while deftly answering every single question with grace. He was extremely knowledgable, and also amazingly kind to all the younger kids who wanted pictures.

My mom and I managed to capture some great moments of YTJ talking…allow me to provide commentary. 😉

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And I was like, “you want ME to write the Declaration?”
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And that was the FIRST time they wanted to change my Declaration, and I was like, BRO.
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That’s where you’re wrong, kiddo.
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And then I was like, “not my circus, not my monkeys”, you know?
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But, we came TOGETHER in the end, which made everything okay.

Also, I have to give a major shoutout to the random bystander who, when YTJ and I got our picture together, said very loudly, “Well, they’re a cute couple!” I love you, random bystander. You made my day. 😛

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Wedding invitations are forthcoming.

After this, mom and I hopped over to the Williamsburg Art Museum, where we caught the tail end of a performance by the Marquis de Lafayette and James Armistead Lafayette (the legendary Revolutionary War spy). I wish we had gotten to see this show from the beginning, but what we did see was fantastic. Once again, super relevant topics and incredible cast members!

I got a picture with Lafayette, and he was also, like YTJ, amazing at greeting guests and answering questions knowledgeably. Sorry about the blurry picture…bad indoor lighting!

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Notice that at this point in the day, we were not wearing our costumes…that will be significant later. 😉

We then grabbed some lunch at the nearby Mellow Mushroom and changed into our costumes, since we heard that the Governor’s Palace was open for self-guided tours in the evening–perfect for photos!

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Why do I feel like the unicorn is sticking his green tongue out at me?

I won’t bore you with too many, but suffice it to say that this little redhead patriot had lots of fun spying on Williamsburg’s loyalist HQ. 😉

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Also…I ruin every dramatic moment because that’s just who I am. Maybe I wouldn’t be such a great spy, after all. 😉

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The governor liked to have a constant show of power by displaying weapons…and he certainly had a large decorating budget. 😛

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Why do I love colonial people’s desks so much?

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Dang, this person had a lot of quill pens.

Also, all I want in life is to sit in this window seat knitting and talking to my cardinal.

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I found a mirror!

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Just fulfilling all my Abigail Adams dreams….

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….and then ruining the moment, of course. 😉

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Pro tip…always walk up and then back down a few stairs when taking photos in a full dress…it’ll spread out your train and make you feel mega-fancy. 🙂

At this point, we wandered the palace gardens for a few hours, just taking pictures and recalling memories. These used to be some of my all-time favorite places to hang out back in the day–because not a lot of people are aware of these lovely, hidden spots.

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Specifically, this hole in the wall always fascinated me when I was younger…I mean, why is it there?! Once again, a potential story in the making!

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And here we see, once again, that I ruin literally every dramatic moment. 😛

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In case you can’t tell, I’m stepping on Lord Dunmore’s Palace Green lawn in this picture, because there’s not exactly a convenient harbor to dump tea into…so this was the biggest show of resistance I could come up with. Deal with it, tories. 😛

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Please hire me for a slightly historically inaccurate colonial romcom, Hallmark Channel. 😛

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I call this one, “trying to flee the loyalists’ ball when they find out you’re a patriot spy only to discover that this is not, in fact, a staircase that leads to Duke of Gloucester Street, but rather a staircase that leads to a very small hilltop overlook.” 😛

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Future employers, my special skills include looking dramatically into the distance whilst standing on stairs. 😛

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I thought it was really interesting how these brick pillars obviously used to hold a gate that has been ripped off (hence the holes), possibly symbolizing something about freedom. That, or maybe I’m just an overdramatic person who reads into things too much. 😉

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Also, if y’all ever get to go to Williamsburg, you must check out this gorgeous arbor back in the gardens.

Here’s my daddy holding me in this arbor when I was a baby!

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I think it’s super cool how this one location hasn’t changed at all. Seriously, if you compare these photos, the arbor itself is exactly the same.

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Also, cool fused trees. Once again–story in the making! See, there are even dozens of scratched initials on these trees! Get on this, writers!

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Gotta love angry, colonial ducks.

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Ye Olde Duck Tales–woo-oo.

Adding this “HUZZAH” soap dish to my Christmas list ASAP.

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Okay, so here I’m going to insert another picture of the Magazine for two reasons.

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Number one: the sky is really pretty.

Number two: something hilarious and mysterious happened at this exact moment involving our old friend, Lafayette.

Okay, so remember how I told you to remember that when we met Lafayette, we were not wearing our costumes? Remember how right after that, we changed so that we could take photos during the evening at the Governor’s Palace, when you didn’t need to have a tour guide to wander around?

Well, this was the next morning, and at this exact moment, we were wearing normal clothes again. Right after I snapped this picture, I heard a very familiar voice loudly talking about the Magazine and leading a tour of about thirty people. They were about to cross the sidewalk that we were currently walking down.

It was Lafayette–and he immediately stopped in his tracks, halting the entire tour, and greeted us.

*Please mentally read this in your best rich, fancy, French voice–think Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast.*

“Well, hello again, ladies! Did I not see you last night at the Governor’s Palace?”

Okay, so at this point, about thirty tourists are staring at us, wondering why the heck Lafayette is stopping the entire tour to talk to a random redhead girl and her mom…so even though we obviously hadn’t seen him at the palace in the evening (we saw him at the auditorium in the afternoon), we of course said something along the lines of,

“Yes, you did!”

“I really must compliment your mantua maker. Well, have a wonderful day!” Lafayette replied before waving, bowing, and continuing to lead his tour down the street.

Um, what?

We quickly leaped onto the magical Google machine and came up with the following, from Wikipedia.

“A mantua is an article of women’s clothing worn in the late 17th century and 18th century.”

Wait…Lafayette was obviously talking about our costumes–but we weren’t wearing them when we met him, and he referenced us being at the palace in the evening, not at the auditorium in the afternoon.

HOW DID HE KNOW, GUYS? Seriously, how?!

My guess is that, 1) he was getting off work and heading to the employee’s parking lot, which I’m pretty sure is back behind the gardens somewhere, and saw us taking pictures, 2) that maybe he was in a different, more discreet colonial person’s outfit and was working at the palace somewhere and saw us, or 3) that maybe some employees were crowded around a security camera monitor laughing at this redhead girl in a costume twirling around while her mom snapped pictures. 😛

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Illustration of guess #3. 😛

That last option is my favorite.

Or, you know, he might simply have spies everywhere, since he’s Lafayette and that’s kind of what he does. 😉

Actually, all the interpreters had gone home by the time we left the palace, and we thought we were locked in for a minute. Reboot of Night at the Museum, anyone? 😛

Once again: I would like to live in Tarpley’s, please. Is that too much to ask? 😛

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That day, we stayed for a few hours before we had to start driving home, and I did discover something really cool that I didn’t previously know about…for only a few dollars, you can buy reproduction prints of speeches, handbills, and newspaper articles in certain shops! I found one I really love called “Sentiments of an American Woman”, written anonymously during the war by the wife of a soldier. These are so inexpensive, and I plan to frame the ones I got as cool art pieces…not to mention the words are incredibly inspiring.

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In other news, we took the tour of the coffeehouse again, because, obviously, free hot chocolate. 😉

So, in conclusion…

My senior trip was an absolute dream come true. I’d always loved Colonial Williamsburg and thought it would be cool to go back, but until I was actually there again I never really put together the mental puzzle pieces of everything Williamsburg has done for me.

Colonial Williamsburg showed me that my love of costumes wasn’t weird, and neither was my love of history and on-the-spot, in-character improv.

It strengthened my passion for history, and my love of my country.

It gave me and my mom something to bond over that has never lost its thrill over the last eighteen years.

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It showed me that everyone, from Thomas Jefferson down to the littlest fife player, played an important role in the revolution.

It showed me that honor, civility, etiquette, and chivalry never go out of style.

It showed me that we can all make a difference, no matter what time and place we are put in…

…and although I came home from Colonial Williamsburg a little tired out physically, I felt emotionally recharged. I felt as though God had given me an enormous gift.

Whether we realize it or not, I think that we tend to subconsciously place ourselves on islands. It is so easy to start thinking that we’re weird for being interested in certain things, or that we’re the only ones who feel a certain way.

Personally, I feel that a lot, especially since moving. I’m not going to lie–I’ve felt pretty lonely more than a few times this year. Our society is one that preaches individuality, but ends up leaning towards conformity more and more every day. If you don’t know what I mean, just walk into a mall on a Saturday morning. The current climate seems to be that it’s great to be individualistic–so long as you do it the right way.

History, costumes, and character acting have been loves of mine for as long as I can remember, but I think in my loneliness I started thinking I was alone in those passions.

One step inside the Visitor’s Center, and that passion came rushing back into me all at once:

I’m not the only one.

There are hundreds of employees who work at Williamsburg because they love remembering and bringing history to life, just like me. Millions of people have visited Williamsburg because they want to immerse themselves in the past, just like me. Williamsburg sells and rents out costumes because there are people out there who want to go all in on the experience, just like me. Odd as it may seem, it all felt so validating.

Looking at the big picture, Colonial Williamsburg quite literally changed my life because it was my first exposure to people who use characters and stories to impact people on multiple levels.

Sure, Thomas Jefferson made some amusing jokes during his speech, and was kind enough to hug little kids who wanted pictures with him, but he also spoke about so many thought provoking topics that I’m certain people remembered long after they went home.

I bet the little boy who stood up and yelled about independence will carry the memory of Williamsburg his entire life…I know my brothers and I did.

The concept of being entertaining in the short term but inspiring in the long term is why I started volunteering as a princess, and it’s what led me to decide that I want to work in pediatric medicine–so that I can positively impact people in my career.

It might seem abstract, but those first years of dressing up are what eventually led me to be as outgoing as I am today. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I wouldn’t be the crazy redhead I am today without Colonial Williamsburg.

So, to anyone reading this who has ever worked at Colonial Williamsburg, or is working there currently…thank you, from the very bottom of my heart. You, and the spirit of the time and place you represent, have truly changed my life. You showed me that I’m not alone, and most importantly, you showed me that anyone, no matter how small, can spark a revolution.

From then…

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…to then…

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…to now.

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Say it with me, everyone…

HUZZAH!

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When Things Fall Apart: a Guide to Walking Away Gracefully

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Dearest readers,

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I last posted! I’ve been away from the internet for about two months now due to a summer camp job, and today I’d like to talk about some things I learned through this job.

Up until this week, I had been on top of the world with this job. I was getting to serve children with chronic medical conditions, I was making friends (which meant a lot after my crazy moving process over the last year), and I really felt like I was making an impact.

This summer, I have seen countless beautiful and pure things that felt like gifts straight from God. I watched a six year-old girl with no mobility below her shoulders catch two fish while operating a fishing pole with her mouth. I watched two eight year-olds perform on stage for their peers in an act that they self-named “The Wheelchair Sisters”–their physical variance suddenly becoming a sisterly bond and something to be celebrated rather than something to be ashamed of. I watched eight diabetic tweenage girls artfully arrange their glucose meters in a heart shape for an Instagram picture and debate which filter to use. I got to hold the hand of a nine year-old girl with cerebral palsy while she belted out “a Million Dreams” on stage with more emotion and feeling than I can put into words. Perhaps best of all, I had eight little girls gathered around me before bedtime one night while I told them a fairytale story, and I saw eight pairs of bright eyes drawn into the beauty of pure, sweet imagination, completely forgetting their medical conditions for a few precious minutes while they giggled uncontrollably.

Well, this week, I had to quit that job.

I made the decision to quit, packed, and left all within about one hour, and none of my friends even knew I was leaving. I didn’t say goodbye to anyone. I didn’t get to tell certain people what they meant to me. I didn’t get to stand in my beloved Arts & Crafts building (where I worked) and look out over all the glitter glue stained tables and children’s drawings tacked up on the walls and think about what I had accomplished.

Everything and everyone that I had poured my entire soul into for the last two months was snatched away from me within the span of a few heartbreaking days.

How did this happen? Without giving too many details, people let me down. Coworkers, supervisors, managers…no one wanted to address the immorality happening behind-the-scenes among counselors in my cabin. When I tried to stick up for what was right, nobody backed me. I was simply told to hang in there, and when I requested a new cabin, it was refused.

I didn’t write this article just to vent, though…I wrote this because any of you might be experiencing a similar situation at school, work, or otherwise. I want you to know that you’re not alone–that there are other people out there trying to do the right thing, too. I want you to know that there is always hope, and there is always a reason to stay on God’s path, even if no one else stands up for you. I want you to know that choosing to walk away from an immoral situation is not the same as running away. I want you to know that having grief over things like this is okay.

To start things off, I recently found this quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which says:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.

Let’s be real, here…we’re not always going to be the protagonist, hero, or person otherwise in the spotlight. Often, we’re just someone on the sidelines, and that’s perfectly okay. However, you still have power as a bystander.

Take the example of Beauty and the Beast…when the townspeople get angry at the Beast and mob his castle, you wouldn’t call them the “bad guy”, right? Gaston’s still obviously the villain and the driving force behind the evil…but the townspeople had the power to decide for themselves what to do. Instead of reasoning out the situation for themselves, they chose to be followers going along with the loudest voice, and because of that, helped carry out Gaston’s plan.

At best, a situation works itself out to a pleasant conclusion without the help of followers–but at worst, a situation ends in disaster and the followers who did nothing are just as guilty as the ones instigating the harm.

I want to empower you, dear reader, to take action when you see evil happening around you, even if it isn’t affecting you directly. This could be as simple as reporting unprofessional or harmful behavior–it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to get up in a bully’s face. Even if it’s only in a small way, you always have the ability to be someone’s cavalry: the reinforcement that keeps them going and saves them from giving up or giving in.

Next, I want to talk about when people let you down. Specifically, when authority figures let you down. Personally, I was raised in a household where we respect authorities–from parents right up to public officials. Especially in certain situations, like extracurricular groups I’ve been in for years, classes run by family friends, or summer camps like this one, I find myself simply expecting managers, teachers, and overseers to have my best interests at heart. Sometimes, it just seems logical that when you need them, powerful, kindly, benevolent people will come through.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to discover multiple times in my life that the people you look up to don’t always come through–and that’s okay.

That doesn’t mean that you should respect them any less. It simply means that you can’t put them on a higher mental pedestal than the one that really matters: God.

Yes, humans can be kind, good, and wise supervisors and managers–but they will never be perfect, and you can’t expect them to be, or you’ll only be let down. This might sound miserable, but it can actually serve to point us to our Savior, who will never let us down, always hears our prayers, and has the perfect plan for our lives.

So, what should you do when people let you down? What should you do when all your friends are suddenly followers going along with something immoral, authority figures aren’t helping, and you just don’t know what to do? Today, I want you to know, dear reader, that it’s okay to walk away. Walking away from something dangerous is not the same thing as running away in fear. You should never be ashamed of your choice to get out of a bad situation, and I beg you, don’t spend precious time wondering what might have happened if you had acted differently. I made the mistake of wasting mental energy on that this week, and I wish I hadn’t. One of my favorite books of the Bible, James, talks about double-mindedness like this in a really poignant way:

 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

James 1:5-8

If you feel that God is leading you to walk away, don’t bother second-guessing it afterwards. Spending time wondering about what might have happened had you taken different actions does absolutely nothing for you–it’s literally spending energy on emptiness.

Honestly, I probably spent too much time this week wondering what could have happened if I had stuck it out in this job. The truth of the matter is that God obviously wanted me to get out–and who am I to question His plan? There’s probably a really good reason(s) that He didn’t want me to be at camp this week. I have to rest in knowing that His plan is bigger and better than anything I can wrap my head around, and I didn’t run away in fear–I chose to walk away in confidence.

Am I heartbroken over leaving my beloved camp? Absolutely. However, I can still look back at my memories of the people I had the privilege of serving with joy and love. I may have had to walk away, but I still get to be proud of the impact I made. Even though this was my first time working at camp and I didn’t know anybody at the beginning, I was still able to find ways to love on people. I got to make dozens upon dozens of cookies for my coworkers, lend them a listening ear when they needed to talk, and come up with jokes to bond over. I got to serve countless beautiful children, whether that meant giving them a fourth helping of mac & cheese, searching in the Arts and Crafts supply room for ten minutes to find that perfect giant purple pom-pom, singing “Let it Go” with them for the fiftieth time, or comforting them when they missed home. 

Your impact goes far, y’all–farther than you can imagine. There were days at camp when I honestly questioned whether I annoy people, and whether anyone actually likes me…but the number of people who wrote me this week, of their own free will and accord, just to say hi and make sure I was okay, made me realize that even though I had to walk away, my time at camp was not spent in vain.

On that note, if you are one of those people and you happen to be reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m truly sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye to you–I wish with all my heart that I could hear your voice again and hug you, and thank you for a summer of truly gorgeous memories.

I’ll be honest…the first day or two after I left camp, I was in complete and utter shock. I couldn’t believe that I had made a decision so quickly, and I felt like I was grieving a loss. That’s the last point I want to leave you with, dear reader: it’s okay to grieve when immorality ruins the things you love. It’s natural, and it’s important to let those emotions run their course so you can bring them to God in prayer. In the midst of all my tears and hurt that first night home from camp, I stumbled upon a random quote thing on Facebook that said: Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…it is the price of love.” That little quote by an unknown author hit me so hard that night. I am incredibly thankful that I had enough good times at camp that losing it broke my heart. Tiny things add up, my friends: giving smiles across the cafeteria for no reason, having heartfelt conversations in rocking chairs, and simply calling a person by name and asking how their day is going while refilling water bottles. As sad as I am to have left without any real closure, I am incredibly thankful for those who had an impact on me, and for all the good, pure laughs and smiles we shared.

As I said at the beginning, I didn’t mean for this to be a venting post. No matter what you’re going through, I hope that perhaps this article helped you to know that you aren’t alone–there are others out there trying to stay on God’s path for their life, too, and it’s okay to be let down by the world. Truly, the only thing to do when sinful humans disappoint you is to look upwards, and lift your eyes unto the stars that were sprinkled in place by the One who is always there for you, who will never let you down, and who is always applauding you for doing what He would want you to do.

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

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To the One Trying to Do the Right Thing

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Do the right thing.

We hear it in different forms our entire lives. From childhood on, this message seems to be at the core of everything we’re taught. For Christians like myself, it’s often said more to the tune of “do the right thing because it’s what God would want you to do.” Personally, I fully believe that this is correct, and should be at the heart of our Christian beliefs. After all, if we profess our faith but don’t show it in our everyday lives by doing this proverbial “right thing”, then we’re hypocrites, plain and simple. 

However, I also believe that in our society, the concept of “doing the right thing” is highly romanticized, especially through literature, plays, movies, and the like.

In The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, we all cheer when Peter decides to fight a duel to the death with Miraz for the throne. In Newsies, we all rally behind Jack Kelly when he gives the bribe back to Pulitzer and joins the strike again. In the Little House on the Prairie books, we all admire Laura for vowing to become a teacher in order to make enough money to send Mary to a college for the blind. In The Princess Bride, we all root for Westley when he puts his life on the line time after time in the name of true love (or, “twu wuv”, if you’re the Impressive Clergyman). In fact, you can find a “do the right thing” moment in pretty much every book and movie.

Although I love all of these stories dearly, I think that because of them, we tend to go out into our lives imagining that there will be people applauding us when we do the right thing, and that our instrumental movie score will build up to a triumphant crescendo while sparkles float down around us.

As someone who recently had to do the right thing, I can tell you that unfortunately, this ain’t the case.

To put it simply, doing the right thing is hard. Really hard.

People probably won’t applaud you. In fact, a lot of them will probably “boo” you off the imaginary stage.

You probably won’t get a triumphant “you were right and I was wrong” moment from your adversary. Actually, you’ll probably lose some friends and make some enemies.

Truth be told, you may never get any kind of validation for doing the right thing, from any human being.

A while back, I had to do the right thing and cut off a friendship. It hurt me deeply—I had known this person for years, and never dreamed I would be having such a confrontational conversation with them. I would have never in a million years pictured being put in a situation like this one where I had to choose my Biblical principles of morality over my friend.

I didn’t get any applause from the other people in our friend group. Nobody acknowledged that I did the right thing. No one stuck up for me or defended me. I left, and I have no idea what kind of nasty things were said about me afterwards. I’d like to imagine that at least one person silently thought to themselves that I was right, or maybe even said it aloud, but I don’t know that for sure. I don’t know for sure that gossip won’t be spread about me, causing me to have even more enemies.

Oh, and that’s another thing—because of fictional stories like the ones I mentioned earlier, I think we subconsciously picture that the only real adversaries in our lives are going to be cut-and-dried “bad guys”, like the White Witch or Prince Humperdinck.

Unfortunately, life has a lot of gray areas. A lot of the time, “friends” can disappoint us or betray us in ways that might seem relatively small to someone who doesn’t understand the entire situation. Many times, we don’t have one, big, in-your-face betrayal that makes it obvious to us that it’s their problem, not ours. That’s kind of how modern, every-day situations happen: moral forks-in-the-road come up that can be minimized and made to seem small when they are, in fact, honkin’ big deals. 

In those situations, we have a choice. We can a) follow the loudest voice, get stepped on, and compromise our morality, or, we can b) do the right thing. The former is definitely the path of least resistance, and it’s obviously one that a lot of people choose to take, but I hope by the time you’re done reading this article I will have convinced you that the latter is the better choice. 

My friends…doing the right thing is not for the faint of heart. You might think that you’ll have this surge of righteous indignation and that you’ll know that this is exactly what you should be doing—but you probably won’t.

You’ll probably be shaking all over. You’ll probably be thinking that maybe you shouldn’t be trying to do this. You’ll probably be second-guessing yourself and wondering if maybe this is a problem with you, not the other person(s). You’ll probably be wondering what in the world you’ll do after this—how you’ll be able to keep going if you lose this friendship…or romance…or job. 

Now, I realize that this whole time, I’ve been painting a pretty dismal picture of what “doing the right thing” looks like. I mean, I’m not not going to sit here and tell you that there will always be that glorious, hero’s-journey moment when you ride off into the sunset as epic cello music plays…but the way I generally roll in life is not to sugar-coat things, but rather to offer a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. 

So, even though I may have just given you way more tough love than you bargained for, I’m now going to give you three reasons why you should be motivated to do the right thing, and why the often blatant lack of resulting applause is okay. Spoonful of sugar, comin’ atcha. 😉

You know, I often take some flak for being who I am: a girl whose wardrobe is 70% pink and sparkles, who works part-time as a Disney Princess, who spends her weekends knitting and sewing, and who drinks British tea and plays classical music while she studies. Just last week, my biology teacher was talking about how many animals are much more vicious than we would think at first. She then motioned to me and said,

“But if you live in a Disney, animated-movie world, then you would just assume that all animals are adorable and sweet.”

Read: awkward. Later that same day, she called me out in front of everyone because of the fact that I don’t cuss/swear, and heavily implied that I’m some sort of sheltered, wimpy little flower just because I don’t.

Unfortunately, a lot of people probably see me that way–as a girl who sees the world through princess-y, glittery, rose-colored glasses. My teacher probably assumes that I’m oblivious to the evil things happening in the world–either because my parents shelter me from it or because I’m too stupid to even recognize it.

Now, just to preface…I’m not trying to put myself up on a pedestal here. I’m only talking about me so much because I’m willing to make fun of myself, and I wouldn’t want to do that to anyone else. 😉 I’m by absolutely no means perfect, I just tend to think talking from personal experience makes this kind of thing more sincere, and like I said, I’m okay with making fun of my quirks. Okay, back to the story. 😉

Guys…I’m not who I am in spite of the world’s darkness–I’m spurred to be who I am because of the world’s darkness. When I see kids being bullied, or the increasingly immoral pop culture being promoted by the media, or my biology teacher devaluing human life to the point of saying there’s virtually no difference between turtle embryos and human embryos, I don’t shrink back into my animated, sparkly, pink cave of g-rated shelter.

Instead, my inner Newsie starts going on strike. That spunky little kid from Brooklyn in my head starts cracking her knuckles. I start putting on my red lipstick and My Little Pony t-shirt and getting ready to rebel. If the dark, evil world is trying to stop me from being my non-cussing, dancing-in-the-Walmart-aisles, cupcake-baking, fairy-godmother-ish self, then I’m going to do exactly the opposite of stopping–I’m going to kick the glitter up a notch. 

That’s the first reason why doing the right thing is worth it–because you’re sticking it to the man (the man being the world). In fact, I wrote an entire article about that very thing. 😉 You don’t have to be a fearful captive to the world–instead, you can be a sword-of-light-wielding warrior.

You know, I also haven’t mentioned yet the one person who definitely makes all of this worthwhile–the person who does validate you even when no one else does–the person who will always root for you and applaud you when you do the right thing. It’s the same person who has a plan for your life and intelligently designed you and loves you more than you can ever imagine—it’s God.

When you do the right thing, God and His angels are cheering for you in heaven. When you do the right thing, you show that you aren’t controlled by fear, self-doubt, and peer pressure. When you do the right thing, you show that although you are in this world, you aren’t of it. When you do the right thing, you straighten your crown that says you are a royal child of God. That’s the second reason–and trust me, it’s enough reason to sustain you in any situation. Did you know that the phrase “steadfast love” is used in the Old Testament alone 196 times? Y’all, God is always rooting for you when you do the right thing–that steadfast love is never leaving your side.

And for our final reason…I know it might seem obvious, but I think in heat of the moment we tend to forget that there are other people out there who are trying to do the right thing in their lives, too.

The fact, plain and simple, is that you’re not alone.

You may not know any right now, but I guarantee you that somewhere out there are other Peter Pevensies and Laura Ingallses—other people just trying to find the path of light in this crazy, dark world.

In fact, you’re reading an article written by one right now.

I’m not saying I’m perfect–none of us are–but I am saying that as hard as it is to do the right thing–as much as you will undoubtedly tremble and sweat and cry just like I did recently–you’re not alone.

Take comfort in that, and don’t be afraid to seek out those other people trying their best to honor God. Don’t be afraid to walk away from your “friends” who are pressuring you to do the wrong thing. God has a plan for you, and I promise that somewhere in that plan are fellow right-doers.

So, in summary…

To the one trying to do the right thing:

It’s worth it. You’re worth it. You’re not the problem. You’re doing the right thing by doing the right thing. If anyone is mad at you, that’s their problem. You are amazingly strong and brave, I applaud you, and you’re not alone.

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Why Is Grace So Happy All the Time?–A Tale of Miraculous, Non-Accidental Joy

Hey all!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week! I can’t believe the semester is almost over! I just got through with my last round of exams before finals, so a little bit of breathing is in order. 😉 In other news, this former Florida girl is thrilled out of her mind with all of the spring flowers popping up here in NC! Did y’all know that dogwood trees are a thing?! They’re everywhere right now and I’m ridiculously happy about it. 😉

Speaking of happiness, today I’d like to share with you a little anecdote from my biology class that happened just this week, and what I learned from it. I hope y’all enjoy, and by the way, make sure to follow us over on Instagram @_herheritage_ if you haven’t already! 🙂

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Yes, these are my actual DNA transcription notes from class, haha!

Recently, my biology teacher started class with a casual discussion about the differences between generations, and she mentioned that Gen Z’ers (who make up most of the class) seem to have been born with the world in their pocket and yet they don’t appreciate it.

“I tend to think that your generation isn’t really amazed by anything anymore because you were born with all of these technological advances and discoveries already around you,” she said. 

“Well, not all of you,” she added, motioning towards me.

I blushed a little. “Why not me?” I asked.

“I mean, you seem to be really happy, like, all the time,” she laughed. “And because you’re so happy all the time, I’m assuming you won’t kill me for saying this, but you do your dang homework.”

“But, like, I’m sure you can’t be this nice all the time,” one girl chimed in jokingly. “Sometimes you must be really mean, right?”

I laughed and said that no, I’m pretty sure this is how I am all the time. I wasn’t offended by any of that, but for the rest of class I was wondering in the back of my head why these people think I’m different, and why they think I’m so happy all the time.

First of all, let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am definitely, decidedly not perfectly happy all the time. I have hormonal, crazy, emotional days sometimes where I cry over things like cookies and rain. It’s called being a teenage girl. 😉

However, I try my very best to be a steady person, and especially when I go to classes, to get in an upbeat frame of mind. I view it as an opportunity to impact people positively, especially in lab classes where I get to work closely with a small group of people. If I have to spend six hours a week with the same people, why not enjoy it? Why not compliment them or make lighthearted jokes or ask them about themselves?

Back on Valentine’s Day, I brought little cellophane bags of cookies for everyone, which I could tell was perceived at first as weird. I know, I know, this isn’t elementary school—it’s college. But you know what? Later that week I asked my lab partner if he did anything fun for Valentine’s Day, and he replied,

“Well, I ate the cookies you gave me. That was about it.”

And this is exactly why I wanted to make cookies—so I could make an impact on some people and give them something fun for Valentine’s Day, no matter how small it was.

I guess that—along with almost an entire semester’s worth of my cheery “good morning!”s—translates roughly to “happy all the time.”

Later that week, however, this whole conversation about my being an apparently weirdly happy person came back to me when my teacher was talking about Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution.

Oh, Charles. You and your Galapagos finches. 😉

It’s so funny to me how throughout my homeschool education, I’ve been reading books by creation scientists about the arguments evolutionists tend to pull out in debates about the origin of life, and now I am seeing those exact same lines of reasoning used by college textbooks and professors. Kids, listen to those books like Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door and It Couldn’t Just Happen—trust me, you will be glad your parents and Classical Conversations tutors made you read them. 😉 

I’ve taken college chemistry and two levels of college anatomy and physiology before, but none of them spent too much time on the origin of life—there was simply no time. Although my current teacher hasn’t been too terribly rude about cramming the Theory of Evolution down our throats, she does (like many college professors) take a very flippant mindset when it comes to where we came from in the beginning. 

So, while I was sitting there watching her roll her eyes as she disdainfully explained that Aristotle (among others) believed in a Biblical account of creation, one word kept popping into my head:

accident.

If you don’t believe in intelligent design, you essentially believe that we, and all life, are here by accident. In that view, we don’t serve any real purpose, and no one lovingly made us—it’s just a lucky coincidence that some prehistoric biological soup somehow *popped* a cell into existence from which all of us somehow descended…

…and I started thinking about how constantly depressed I would be if I truly believed that I was here by accident—if I didn’t have a higher power in my life, if I didn’t have a relationship with God—if I didn’t know that I was born for a reason.

I would be a hot mess.

I’m sure that I would have dated and dumped multiple boyfriends by now in a search for validation. I would have gone on dozens of crash diets and would still obsessively worry about my weight every single day because I would care so much about what people think of me and fitting in. I wouldn’t have a good relationship with my parents because I would be unbelievably self-centered, I wouldn’t strive to get good grades, and I wouldn’t have any aspirations for a career. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.

I truly wonder how in the world we can sit in that class learning about the trillions of possible genetic combinations, and the insanely intricate way that DNA replication, transcription, and translation works one week, and the next week be talking about how all of it is here by mere chance—by some freak twist of fate.

The short answer to the question of why I’m so happy all the time is simple:

I know I’m not an accident.

Soon after, my mom randomly found a quote that sums up exactly what I was thinking (the author of the quote is allegedly Albert Einstein, although it’s been disputed):

You can live life as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.

In our age of social media, it’s not hard to find people to compare to, who have seemingly better lives or more followers or who get sponsored to talk about Oreos and Sephora on YouTube. We settle into our daily routines and start thinking that we aren’t special—we’re just one face in the crowd, and no miracles ever happen to us.

My darlings, this crazy redhead is here to tell you that you are a miracle: the culmination of a truly glorious, miraculous plan that God has for your life. Absolutely zero moments in your life have occurred by accident–and personally, I think that knowledge can take an awful lot of weight off your shoulders. Once you have this lifeline of confidence and peace, your priorities can change for the better—a lot. This is why even though we all sometimes struggle with those things I listed earlier like worrying about our weight and needing validation, we can make them take up so much less of our mental energy than they would if we thought we have no purpose or reason for being alive. It’s completely normal to have anxiety and self-consciousness about this stuff, but it’s what you choose to do with that anxiety that can determine your daily joy level.

Getting back to the biology class, though…

Why am I so happy all the time? Why do I feel compelled to, as my teacher so eloquently put it, “do my dang homework”? Why do I wear red lipstick on a Tuesday just for fun and dance around in my living room like a nerd to my favorite musicals for absolutely no reason? Why do I spend my spare time dressing like Disney Princesses, of all things, for community events? 

I already gave you the short answer, and here’s the long one: because I view every single day that I am alive on this beautiful earth as a gift. I don’t have to go to class, I get to go to class. I’m darn thankful that I’m healthy and able to study and take tests. I’m grateful that I have enough energy to sing joyfully (albeit, badly 😉 ) and dance around my house. I praise God that I have the opportunity to dress like Rapunzel and Cinderella and visit children’s hospitals and daycares.

Additionally, I know that every experience I have (good or bad) is worked into God’s plan for me. I may not always see it right away, but that’s okay. It’s totally normal to not understand why things happen the way that they do, but as children of God we have the freedom to trust that there is a plan. Sure, I have my off days when I’m weepy and need to drown my sorrows in chai tea and Jane Austen novels, but I have the ability to move on. Part of the miracle of life is that our intelligent designer didn’t just make us and leave us here–He’s involved in our day-to-day lives and not a tear falls from your eye that He doesn’t know about.

Tying back to the biological side of things, God knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13) and we are made in His image…that alone is a reason for happiness and joy. Every single nucleotide, phosphate, and pentose sugar molecule is in your unique DNA sequence because God knew it needed to be there for you to be you

Finally, and most importantly, I’m so happy because I know that we’re not living for this often dark, disappointing world—we’re living for His world. Even when it seems as though like-minded people are fewer and farther between every day, and that morality is decaying at an alarming rate, we can have peace in knowing that our eternal life is secured by our Heavenly Father. 

So I ask you…why shouldn’t we be happy and joyful? Seriously, why not? If your joy makes you stand out, that’s never something to be ashamed of–it means that you’re carpe-ing that diem! 😉 

Personally, I can’t wait to continue being “happy all the time” at my classes—it doesn’t bother me at all that people notice I’m different. If they think I’m weird, so what? On my own, I’m an emotional mess, but if God wants to use me as an example of what His saving love can do for someone’s happiness level, then who am I to stand in His way?

I’ll keep being my weird, crazy, non-accidental, inexplicably happy self, and I encourage and challenge you to do the same. Oh, and “doing your dang homework” ain’t bad either. Just a thought. 😉

XOXOXO,

Grace

My Life as a Teenage Double-Agent: Sticking it to the Mainstream Man

Top of the morning to you, dear readers!

I hope you’re having a wonderful week, and I’m so excited for today’s topic, so let’s dive right in…cue the suspenseful music! 😉

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At any point during my childhood, if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I more than likely would have said “mermaid-fairy-princess-spy”—not kidding. I’m not sure exactly what book or movie gave me my love for detectives and spies, but for whatever reason, I wanted night-vision binoculars and walkie-talkies for my birthday just as much as I wanted the latest Barbie princess doll.

Looking back, I think that part of the reason the concept of spies and detectives appealed to me was because the good guy spies were always fighting against something evil for the sake of something good and morally upright.

In fact, think about your favorite books, movies, and TV shows—I’ll bet a good chunk of them center around the concept of the protagonist rebelling against something unfair, unideal, or downright evil to stand for truth or justice. After all, if the status quo never changes, we wouldn’t have a story of any kind.

Although not spy-related, one of my favorite books, the Newberry Award-winning Strawberry Girl, focuses on the Boyer family, who battles against nature and the prejudices of their neighbors to raise a strawberry crop in early 20th century Florida. As a child, I always loved how Birdie Boyer (basically the real-life Strawberry Shortcake 😉 ) was constantly taking peoples’ criticism and negativity in stride and managed to lead her family to success in the strawberry industry. Even though the Boyers are a fictional family, it’s because of real-life people like them who stood strong in the face of naysayers that we even have Florida agriculture today (and as a Florida 4-H kid for life, I’m forever thankful for that 😉 ).

Moving into more real, serious stuff—one of my life role models and inspirations is Corrie Ten Boom, the lady who chose to hide and aid Jews in her home during WWII even though she knew she was rebelling against the Nazis and could so easily be imprisoned and harmed because of it. In fact, she was imprisoned for it—for years. If you haven’t read The Hiding Place, the true account of her life, I totally recommend it—it is a constant source of inspiration for me to always live life with the Lord as my hiding place and refuge, and to never be afraid to stand up for Biblical principles.

Here’s the thing—in an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to rebel because there wouldn’t be any prevalent evil, prejudice, or harmful societal norms to rebel against. However, the unfortunate truth is that we live in a fallen, sin-filled world, and this side of heaven there will always be evil. But here’s the other thing—we aren’t of this fallen, sin-filled world. Jesus tells us in John 15:18-19:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

I know this might seem a little depressing at first, but think about it…like we talked about in the Dump Doll post, it’s okay if bad people don’t like you—in fact, it probably means you’re doing something right. In this case, we believers belong to God as His children. He’s never going to leave our side, and our names are written in His book of life. This means that we get to be representatives of His love and truth in this fallen world—and I think that’s pretty cool.

Like we’ve talked about before on the blog, it is so easy to get pressured into complying with worldly practices, whether that’s as simple as swearing or as complex as adultery. It’s so ironic to me that even though our society tends to preach uniqueness and individuality, we all end up following the same trends anyway. I’m certainly not perfect–it’s sometimes fun to be up on the latest thing, and I’m not saying that all mainstream things are bad…but how many times recently have you bought a makeup product just because a YouTuber said they like it, or watched a movie just because critics rate it highly? I’m stating the obvious here, but those influencers aren’t always right.

Unfortunately, worldly influence goes way beyond products and media…how many self-harmful practices can you name that people engage in simply because they’re common, trendy, or “what’s done”? We’ve talked about eating disorders here on the blog before, but another one that stands out to me is the common practice girls have of collecting, trading, and dumping boyfriends like baseball cards. I’ve personally known girls who are incredibly beautiful, intelligent, and talented, but choose to sacrifice their self-esteem time and again because of dating and boyfriends. Simply because it’s “what’s done”, they choose to get boyfriends as early as age thirteen and get an ego boost by posting all about it on social media, only to break up six months later and have a confidence crash. That cycle of acceptance, “love”, and rejection—it can be lethal. I promise, I’m not trying to drop judgement on those girls—I dearly love the ones that I know personally, and I’m not saying that they’re dumb or bad people—but observing from a friend’s position, it’s just plain damaging.

As children of God in this dark world, we are constantly pushed to comply with practices like this, and often are threatened with negative consequences if we don’t. If you don’t believe me, it’s called peer pressure—look it up. Even though the Bible clearly tells us we aren’t of this world, we often tend to hang over the edge of the fence, looking wistfully at those things we know we shouldn’t do but wish we could so we could “fit in” or feel accepted.

However, rather than look at this as a negative thing, like, “Ugh, I can’t do (fill in the blank) because I’m a Christian and the Bible says not to”, flip that around: when you follow the Bible and don’t do that thing, you’re sticking it to the man—the man being the world—and that’s kinda groovy.

Recently, in my own life, I’ve been observing enormous peer pressure at my new community college to not get good grades. On the last test in my biology class, out of a class of thirty people, twenty-two people got Fs. In case you’re wondering, that’s 73% of the class. When asked by someone what grade I got, before I even said anything, he rolled his eyes and said, “oh, probably perfect, right?” Nearly the same thing happened in my calculus class, and it isn’t because the teachers are bad or the material is exceptionally hard. I think it’s simply because the culture is one of low achievement—that not trying too hard is cool.

Instead of taking the perspective that I’m a suck-up nerd because I do try hard and study a lot, I’m choosing to flip that mentality around this semester—every time I work hard and get a good grade, I remind myself that I’m sticking it to the man (“the man” being low-achieving culture) and honoring God by doing whatever my hand finds to do with all of my might (Ecclesiastes 9:10). You can apply this to anything—by not doing drugs, not smoking, or not being sexually immoral, you’re sticking it to the mainstream culture man. 

Here’s another way to wrap your head around it…

At some point in time, it became cool to be anti-establishment (“establishment” meaning any prevalent belief or practice in society), or to use a more modern term, hipster…but if everyone is anti-establishment, then the uniqueness of that goes away—you’ve only made a new establishment. If you’re not familiar with this new establishment, simply turn on a major network television show or walk through a crowded mall on a Saturday. 

So, if the establishment we’re looking at is Biblical principles and traditional morals, and the new societal standard has become anti-establishment immorality, when you choose to adhere to those Biblical beliefs you’re actually being anti-anti-establishment…

…and that makes you a double-agent.

If that sounds awesome, it’s because it is. 😉

When you don’t give in to peer pressure and the world telling you to do things you know are wrong, you’re not the one with a problem. I know this sounds obvious, but when we’re in the middle of friends and colleagues, it is so easy to get bullied into feeling like we’re the weird ones, and that it’s our own fault we don’t fit in. In case you forgot, the Bible tells us that we don’t fit into the world because we belong to God and His world. That’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.

Especially if you’re a teenager or young person, you’re in a special position because the world already has a host of preconceived notions of what you should be doing and thinking. In many people’s minds, teenagers are obnoxious, disrespectful brats—but you’re a double agent, remember? You have the opportunity to flip that on its head and be an awesome kid who respects their parents, is kind to those around them, and makes a difference for God each and every day.

Am I saying that you need to wear a trench coat, use 1930’s detective slang, and put a black-and-white filter on all your Instagram photos in order to be a double agent for God? No, although major bonus points if you do. 😉

I am saying that you never need to feel ashamed about standing up for what the Bible says is right, and not fitting in with the world. In a society of trends, I challenge you—no, I dare you—to start your own trend. Be the first person to reach out. Be the person who says no to a damaging habit. Be the one who does the right thing. Stick it to the mainstream man.

 XOXOXO,

Grace

The Dump Doll and What She Taught Me

Hey all!

I hope you’re having a great week! Are y’all ready for spring yet? Our yard actually has a lot of daffodils growing, which is totally mind-blowing to me! 🙂

Today we’re going to start off with a little story, so settle in! 😉

In January of last year, my parents and I took on the task of moving my grandmother from her house two hours north of us into the house next door to ours. Of course, a few months later we started all over again and moved both households to North Carolina, and we definitely learned a lot from this first move. 😉 I don’t know if you’ve ever moved someone, or yourself, but it is a huge task. As such, we were running several times a day a few miles over from her house to what we fondly call “the dump.”

On one of these trips, I wasn’t there, and my mom tried to text me this picture.

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I’m assuming you have questions about this picture. Rightly so. 😉

Well, I never received that text. About a week later, we pulled up to the dump, I asked what in the world that was next to the garbage chutes, and I ended up plucking the doll that you see here from her perch and taking her home. See, I may be eighteen years old, but I’m still a huge kid at heart, and I may or may not still own some toys. 😉 What struck me, however, was that this doll was actually being thrown away. In the trash. Not even being given away or sold—just trashed. Over the next couple of days, my family started jokingly calling her “the Dump Doll”, and she got me thinking.

See, whether we realize it or not, we can all probably relate to the Dump Doll in some way. There are always going to be times in our lives when we feel like we’re in a dump–emotionally, physically, any which way. I can 100% testify that I have felt this way before, many times…

…but I’m here today to tell you that whatever dump you feel stuck in is not your final destination in life.

For me, a prime example of a mental dump was counting calories. A few years back, I fell into the common trap of thinking I was overweight. I compared myself to other girls (read: bad idea), and ended up thinking that I needed to eat less. Thankfully, I have an amazing family and my relationship with God to support me, so I never got into an eating disorder or anything drastic…but I got into counting calories. Inside, I knew that extreme dieting was not the answer, and that refusing to eat when I was still hungry was not the answer either. I kept eating healthy foods in healthy amounts, but I counted calories obsessively. I mean, I was on the calculator of my phone every hour adding up my allowance for the day, and I would spend so much mental energy worrying if I was going over on calories, even by a little. Of course, an inkling of worrying is good, because it keeps us away from super unhealthy eating habits, but a lot of worrying? It doesn’t help you a lick. 

See, this doll was being thrown away, but someone picked her up and set her on that sign, so that she could be spotted by a little girl who wanted to give her a new life (even though that little girl turned out to be a college student). 😉 

 In a society where we are constantly told how to look, what trends to follow, and which people to emulate, it is so easy to feel inadequate–which is why I think the concept of weight and skinny-ness is such a common dump for girls my age.  However, this little piece of plastic who received a new lease on life is a perfect example of how you can get out of any dump. You can’t do it alone, though. Find people who inspire you and lift you up, and spend time with those people! Don’t focus on the people who drag you back down into the dump (and trust me, there are always people like that). One of my personal heroes, Corrie Ten Boom, says “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” No matter how deep or messy your dump is, Jesus paid for it when He paid for your sins on the cross—and He’s never going to just leave you there.

Pray often, latching onto the assuring knowledge that God knit you together in your mother’s womb like it says in Psalm 139:13—He designed you with your specific physical traits for specific reasons. I will tell you, as someone who has taken multiple levels of anatomy, physiology, and biology classes, the deeper you get into the workings of the human body, the more it hits you in the face that human life is beautiful, period. Your life—and you—are gorgeous, especially in God’s eyes. Did you know that when you were first conceived, you took on one unique genetic combination out of approximately 70 trillion variations? There is literally no one in the world like you.

Shifting focus here, maybe you’re not the one in the dump. Maybe you’re in a position to lift up someone else who is bogged down. In our society, we’re told almost every day of our lives to have tolerance…and without making a political statement, I want to tell you about a new kind of tolerance–one that I dare you to exercise.

I call it radical tolerance.

I challenge you to take in the outcasts, the un-populars, the “weird ones”, and tolerate them…and by tolerate—I mean listen to them. Take an interest in them. Converse with them. Befriend them. I think you’ll be shocked to find how many of them befriend you right back. In, fact, in a heck of a lot of situations, I would be perceived as weird or awkward. I mean, I carry knitting projects with me almost everywhere, I dress like a fancy grandma from 1955, I probably laugh way too much, and I sing show tunes very badly and loudly at every possible opportunity. 😉

But you know what? My fellow awkward-ers are some of my best friends. Personally, I think that a lot of bullying in the world could be alleviated if kids were raised from the beginning with the ideology of reaching out—but it’s never too late to start. In fact, one of the best examples that I have ever seen of reaching out happened in my choir, with a few little boys who were about ten years old. There was a new kid, and the choir director didn’t even have to prompt them…they just reached out, shook hands and said “Hi, nice to meet you!” They then proceeded to invite this new kid to sit with them and started asking him questions about himself.

You never know who is in a dump–but you have the power to lift them up. In fact, you have the freedom to lift them up. One of the things I hate most is when I see people not reaching out to others because they’re held back by fear of what others will think of them.

If fear is what’s holding you back, or if there are bullies and negative people stopping you from being a light for Christ, I want to give you a piece of advice. It’s often said that not everyone in life is going to like you, but for whatever reason we still think they will, and we try to please everyone, even if that means missing out on opportunities to reach out. Like, hey, I might not have made that shy girl’s week by asking her to sit with me at lunch, but at least I kept up appearances with the cool people, because they know now that I don’t sit with weird, awkward people like her. 

A while back, I heard a news reporter on an interview, where she was talking about how she often gets cyberbullied on her social media after appearing on talk shows and news outlets. She said that people often say really mean things, not just about her news-related opinions, but about her appearance and skills at speaking and reporting. But she said that when she clicks on their profile and looks at their Twitter or Instagram, they’re absolute trash—they’re Internet trolls who are obviously terrible, messed-up people. She summed it up like this—it’s okay if bad people don’t like you. In fact, it’s probably good. She said that she would honestly be pretty concerned if those awful people did approve of her and what she says, and she would probably be checking her heart and reevaluating her stances on issues. It’s okay to separate yourself from bullies, oppressors, and Negative Nancies—in fact, it’s probably one of the best things you can do. If you can brighten some lives by reaching out, do it without a second thought to what people will think of you.

But, back to if you’re in the dump…grab onto the pure and good things in your life, and be encouraged. No dump can hold you down forever—God is with you, and He can help you get out of it. Never be afraid of your past, either. Your past is not today, and that is something to celebrate.

And, just for fun, I thought you might like to see for yourself what happened to the Dump Doll….

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….She surrounded herself with people who helped her to overcome her past, her insecurities, and her fears, and she lived happily ever after.  😉

 

XOXOXO,

Grace 🙂

Get Ready With Me Cinderella Edition + Let’s Talk About Cliques

Hey all!

I hope you’re having a wonderful day! Today I’m so excited to share a new video with y’all about bullying through cliques and how to overcome it! Make sure to watch to the end for a slow-motion Cinderella twirl, too! 😉

Obviously, Cinderella is a huge role model for me…let me know in the comments who your favorite princess role model (fictional or real life) is and why!

XOXO,

Grace 🙂 ❤