99 Things I Learned from Senior Year

Saturday, August 25, 2018


The 99 Things post series started at the end of my sophomore year, a collaboration with two of my dearest friends. (Rachel and Mary Shelley - you two forever have my heart.) A lover of routine, I've kept it up, now reaching what may be the final post in the series. Whether or not I'll keep this up into the college years, I really don't know yet, but I know that I love having these posts to look back on. Keeping up the Senior Saturday series with 99 Things that this whirlwind of a year taught me/reminded me.

1. You're capable of more than you think you are.
2. That being said, don't put yourself in a position where you're so exhausted and drained that everything is miserable.
3. Don't let someone who knows less about what you're doing than you do make you feel inadequate.
4. The happiest moment of your life will be when you're finally done with standardized testing.
5. DRINK WATER.
6. Sometimes it's okay to just eat a pop-tart for lunch alone in your car because #senioryear.
7. Get out of bed. Blare the Jesus music. You can do this.
8. No one cares what you look like besides you. Stop stressing.
9. The Legally Blonde soundtrack can get you through anything.
10. People who remind you that they're proud of you are the kind of people to keep close.
11. You. Are. Enough.
12. Watching your friends live out their dreams and just rock this life thing is the best feeling in the world.
13. God can turn any situation around, no matter how bad it looks.
14. You will be found.
15. Situations work out the way that they're supposed to, even when it looks impossible at the beginning.
16. Start shopping for your end of the semester stuff in January- prom dresses, graduation dresses, etc. You'll be so glad you did.
17. PLAN PLAN PLAN PLAN PLAN. I cannot emphasize that enough. Plan.
18. Comfort food might possibly be the only thing besides Jesus that gets you through the year and honestly it's okay we're all right there with you.
19. No matter how crazy things get, don't isolate yourself.
20. Stack your classes early in high school so that you have a light senior year. Just trust me.
21. Never say that "I'll never do _____." Jesus has a real sense of humor.
22. Cardigans are the best thing in the world.
23. Real friends stick with you even when life is crazy.
24. BE THOUGHTFUL.
25. Keep a running list of thank you notes that need to be written and try to get them in the mail as quickly as possible. It just makes life easier.
26. Don't feel guilty about letting yourself recharge. You can't function well if you don't take care of yourself.
27. You cannot be everything for everyone.
28. When God tells you not to do something, LISTEN.
29. Likewise, when God tells you to do something, LISTEN.
30. When in doubt, walk it out. (Prayer walking is even better.)
31. Survival without coffee is possible.
32. Leave your phone in another room when at all possible.
33. When online shopping, make sure it's returnable.
34. Sometimes, you have to be the one to speak up. Nothing will ever change if everyone stays silent.
35. Photographs are the single most precious memento you can have.
36. Go to prom. Just do it.
37. If you're going to get your nails done for prom, don't try to cram it in the day of prom. Do it the day before.
38. Sometimes you just need to sit in your car for an hour because it's the only place you can get some peace.
39. Have a go-to playlist for those mornings where you'd rather do literally anything than the things that you have on the agenda.
40. Routines save so much time.
41. The beach is quite literally the most therapeutic place in the world.
42. Ben Rector says it best - you can't make old friends. Cherish them.
43. If you don't write it down, you'll forget it. (You can't remember everything no matter how hard you try.)
44. Read for pleasure as much as you can.
45. You've Got Mail will never get old.
46. Prayer journaling will save. your. life.
47. Life is better in leggings.
48. Social media is literally pointless. Please don't let your life revolve around it.
49. Take the time to show people how much you appreciate them.
50. God plans out every tiny detail of your life. There's zero reason to stress. He's got you.
51. If you feel yourself getting sick, CHUG WATER. I swear, every time I do this, I'm 80% better the next day. Pretty sure I've almost given myself water poisoning in the process but it's fine.
52. No matter how much you strive to be independent, lean on people every once in a while. It's okay, I promise.
53. You can't put out good art if you don't consume good art.
54. Nothing brightens someone's day more than surprise snail mail.
55. Car shopping is quite possibly the most miserable process on planet earth.
56. If you use an online calendar/calendar app, be sure to set it so that it doesn't delete your appointments after they've passed. Just trust me.
57. When you get the opportunity to learn from someone more experienced than you, soak in every second.
58. Dump your phone regularly. Don't let full storage stop you from taking as many photos as you possibly can.
59. Joy is a choice.
60. NaNo is never easy, but some years are even rougher than others. Be proud of what you accomplish, even if it's not what you hoped.
61. Prayer >>>>>>>>
62. Sometimes it's going to seem like nothing is working out and everything is falling apart, but in reality, God's pulling it all together.
63. College stuff sneaks up on you SO FAST. No one tells you just how early things are actually due. Don't let it catch you by surprise.
64. Make sure that you find your calculator BEFORE midnight the night before the SAT. Otherwise a Walmart run will be in your near future.
65. Jeremy Jordan Broadway covers will bless your life.
66. Dual credit is the best idea. Do as much as you can.
67. Getting your senior photos taken is one of the most surreal feelings.
68. Friends who send you cat photos when they know you're upset are the best kind of people you can possibly have in your life.
69. Bread will get you through anything.
70. You know things are low when you find yourself crashed on the couch at one am with comfort food you don't even like but are eating anyways.
71. There is nothing on earth better than having a class cancelled.
72. When your brain is messy, clean your space. It helps so so much.
73. Start working on Christmas presents in October. Just do it.
74. Dramatic musical theatre songs (LES MIS!) make the best alarms.
75. Breathe breathe breathe.
76. Seeing the Lord work in your friends' lives is without a doubt the most incredible thing to watch.
77. God WILL provide.
78. Show the people who are important to you that they're important to you.
79. Senior year and sleep basically do not exist simultaneously but try not to die of sleep deprivation. Going to bed before one am every now and then is a solid decision.
80. Sometimes you just need to eat ice cream for lunch.
81. Glitter makes the world a better place.
82. If you're getting the same advice from literally everyone in your life that you trust, you should probably listen.
83. Push yourself to make time to do what you love.
84. Writing things out will help you to process.
85. People are going to frustrate you, they're going to drive you crazy- love is a choice. Love them anyways.
86. It really really really really really really really doesn't matter what people think. No one will ever be as critical of you as you are of yourself.
87. Stand up for what you believe in without holding back.
88. Not everyone's going to like you, and it isn't the end of the world. Still working on being okay with this.
89. Anxiety can feel debilitating. Push through anyways.
90. Internet friends are some of the most wonderful people.
91. If you want to simultaneously bawl and be amazed, watch Bandstand.
92. There is no better feeling than driving home.
93. Completely avoiding drama makes your life so much easier.
94. Wing your eyeliner and do the thing.
95. Keep a book with you at all times.
96. Sunflowers make everything better.
97. God just might give you exactly what you never dared to hope for.
98. Graduation is the most special day. Soak up every second.
99. Don't wish away senior year. Enjoy every second.

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Also! In case you missed it on Twitter, the winners of the blogiversary giveaway are...

Abigail Lennah
Hanne T
Amanda from SKG

Thank you so much to everyone who entered! I so appreciate you celebrating with me! 

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What did this year teach you?

Four Years of Totally Graced! // Survey, Giveaway + More!!

Monday, August 13, 2018



Grab some cake and settle in, because...

WE'RE CELEBRATING TOTALLY GRACED'S FOURTH BLOGIVERSARY!

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I suppose we should start with the obvious....what do you think of the new look?! I've been wanting to revamp the blog for SO LONG, but, well, senior spring basically ate me, and it didn't happen. Summer hit, and while I gained a small amount of time back, I thought it would be fun to wait to break out a new design until the blogiversary. Surprise! Do you like it?? I'm super happy with how it turned out (shoutout to Abby for saving my life with CSS help yesterday), and just really excited to have freshened up this space. I also updated my About page, and added an Archive page up top compiling some of my absolute favorite posts, so I'd love for you to check those out as well! 

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It's so crazy to me that it was four years ago that I sat down in my living room and opened up Blogger for the first time. I'd just turned fourteen, hadn't even started high school yet, and wanted to start a blog because I was obsessed with beauty YouTubers, but hated being on video. (So thankful for that. I cannot even imagine what the cringe level would have been if I had a series of old YouTube videos to look back on. Occasionally, I just have to thank God for my anxiety.)

So I made a blog- terrible design, cringe worthy posts, the works. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I loved it anyways. It was my little space to do with whatever I pleased. I told exactly two friends that I was making it, then realized that the thought of people I actually knew reading it was nothing short of terrifying, and proceeded to keep it a secret project. I've never been the most confident person, far too eager to please, and there was such a freedom in having a space to create where I didn't have to give a thought to what anyone else would think of it. It was just mine. 

I didn't know how on earth to interact with other bloggers, or even find them. I knew that I wanted to be a part of the online community, but I didn't have the slightest idea how to begin. Slowly, I found a few other bloggers my age, but for the most part, the first year of blogging was just me and three or four occasional readers. 

Then, slowly but surely, I figured some things out. I finally got plugged into the blogging community, and found so many other bloggers creating such incredible things. My content slowly got stronger, although, let's be honest, it's always going to be messy. I launched social media pages specifically for the blog and got to engage with even more people on those platforms, and when Totally Graced turned two, it got its first facelift, which remained the design up until last night.

As of yesterday, this blog turned four, and I don't think that my mind can quite wrap itself around that fact yet. After I hit that publish button for the first time, Totally Graced became a pretty big part of my life. It chronicled the entirety of my high school years, and all of the ups and downs that came along with it. It's been my longest consistent project, and I'm so thankful that I have this blog to look back on. Blogging has given me a space to detach from the rest of my life, to be able to write and share and just do what I love without stressing out over whether or not it's perfect. That's what I've loved about this space the most, and why so few people that I interact with on a daily basis know that it even exists. As a person who does almost everything in her life with the mindset of "What will ____ think of this?", it's been so freeing to have this one thing that's just been for me, and for the people who've stumbled upon it and jumped on for the ride. 

I say a lot of that just for the sake of clarity, because I have had more people in my personal life end up finding out about this blog over the course of the past year, and I know that it's inevitable that more people will as well. (I'm finally beginning to get to the point where the thought of that doesn't just make me feel like I'm going to throw up, so that's progress.) So if you do know me and you're reading this, I just want you to know that no, the fact that I didn't share this with you does not have anything to do with you or how I feel about you. (I have literally had to try to explain to someone that my lack of sharing the blog with people does not mean that I don't love them.) It's solely because I just wanted to do it for myself, and I know that if I share it, I just adds too much pressure. I do hope that you can understand and respect that. ♥ Personally, I'm still praying that this stays my secret little abode forever, but that's just me. 

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So now here we are. Four years later. I'm eighteen, and headed into college in less than two weeks. Somehow, I love blogging even more than when I started, and you'd best believe that this blog isn't going anywhere. I'm so thankful for all that I've learned, and especially for all of the people I've met on this crazy ride. My blogging tribe is filled with so many incredibly special girls, and I am so grateful for every single one of you. You constantly encourage me, point me towards truth, and pour wisdom into my life, and I cannot thank you all enough for everything you have done for me. You ladies make everyone around you feel like they can take on the world, and I'm so lucky to be a part of that. Every time that I get the opportunity to meet one of you and give you a hug, I'm the happiest girl in the world. You have helped me to find my voice, and you constantly inspire me to chase my dreams with the same ferocity that you all do. Thanks for proving that online friends are real friends, too. Here's to many, many more years of group chats, snail mail, breakfast food wars, and dreaming of that blogger party we're all going to have one day.

I don't entirely know what the next year of blogging is going to look like yet. I know that I'm still going to blog as much as I can, but I also know that pretty soon, I'm going to be in a new season of life. Life is changing, and I guess that this blog and I are going to have to change a bit along with it. But hopefully any changes will all be for the better. I chronicled high school here; now I guess it's time to chronicle college, eh?

But I'm excited. Or trying to be. New seasons, new experiences, new things to create. I can't change it, so might as well run in headfirst. I'm excited to see everything that God has in store! So here's to the new, and all of the crazy that's undoubtedly coming with it. Let's tackle this. 
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Every year, I love sharing stats to see the growth over the years. I really don't pay a ton of attention to numbers, because like I said, I just blog because I enjoy it, but it's fun to see how we've grown.

First Blogiversary-
Pageviews- 8,046
Blogger Followers- 27
Email Followers- 0
Instagram- n/a
Pinterest- n/a
Twitter- n/a

Bloglovin'- n/a

Second Blogiversary-
Pageviews- 26,424
Blogger Followers- 65
Email Followers- 13
Instagram- 160
Pinterest- 37
Twitter- 60

Bloglovin'- n/a

Third Blogiversary-
Pageviews- 59,500
Blogger Followers- 132
Email Followers- 419 (pretty sure these have to be spam followers but hey)
Instagram-374
Pinterest- 110
Twitter- 365
Bloglovin'- 47

Fourth Blogiversary-
Pageviews- 82,300
Blogger Followers- 155
Email Followers- 1,145 (I swear these have to be spam)
Instagram- 458
Pinterest-130
Twitter- 570
Bloglovin'- 153

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One of my favorite things about blogiversaries is taking the opportunity to get some feedback on what's working, what isn't, and what you all would like to see in the future. Every year, I try to implement the feedback that you give, so it would be so helpful if you could take a few minutes to fill out this form and let me know how I can make this the best possible space. Thank you so much for taking the time to help me out! ♥
 



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And really, c'mon. What's a blogiversary without....


disclaimer....this isn't mine, it's something I received from Aaliyah. Isn't she the cutest?

THREE winners will receive a snail mail surprise! I say surprise because....well, I haven't even decided what officially will be inside. BUT IT'S GOING TO BE FUN! If you talk to anyone who receives snail mail from me on a regular basis, they'll tell you that I love sending what I like to call 'happiness bombs', which could quite literally contain anything from jewelry to Starbucks gift cards to bookmarks to stickers to GLITTER! So, if you want one of my trademark happiness bombs showing up in your mailbox, enter the giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Thank you all so much for making the blogging world so beautiful. I love our crazy little community of artists, and I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of it.  It's been the best four years. Here's to many more! 

Senior Spring

Saturday, August 4, 2018



Senior spring was a time that I will never be able to properly put into words.

It was a season of early mornings and late nights. Of more rehearsals that I would have thought possible, of running and dancing and singing with everything we had. It was a time of roles I'd dreamt of, of the opportunity to work underneath pure genius.

It was a season of friendship. Of practically living with my best friend and somehow never getting sick of each other. Of putting our all into maintaining relationships, no matter the exhaustion and lack of time. Of 'how are you' texts and 'tell me about your day' phone calls. People who were always there for an encouraging word. Of learning who cared enough to keep things strong, even when life was crazy.

Senior spring was way too much shopping. It was wondering why on earth it's so difficult to find a white dress. (Hint: Altar'd State is your best friend.) It was prom dress option after prom dress option before finally deciding on the dress I fell in love with from day one, of hours spent looking through dance costumes and swearing that I would never online shop again as long as I live.

It was prom. Of not even knowing if I really wanted to go, but having the best time. Prom was swing dancing with old friends and endless photobooth strips and dance circles and going out to eat until two in the morning. It was singing along to all of the songs at the top of our lungs like we didn't have rehearsal in the morning. It was swirling skirts and flying curls and people I love and laughter.

Senior spring was the most bittersweet. It was knowing that things would never be completely the same after May 12th came around, and fighting to enjoy every moment of it because of that. To soak in the minutes, the details, the things I never want to forget. Hugs and conversations scribbled in the pages of my mind forever.

It was hard. It was exhaustion almost all the time and feeling like nothing would ever be good enough, like would never be good enough. That I'd bitten off more than I could chew but had to make it all perfect anyways, no matter what it took. Thinking that I had to be everything for everyone, and being determined to do it. Determination, a wonderful character trait that walks such a fragile line.

It was a season of learning. Of learning that I can do more than I would have thought, but learning that I can't do it all, and learning that that's okay. Of trying to remember that I can't be a superhero, and that no one expects that. Of learning to breathe through it and keep at it.

It was endless spontaneity despite the craziest of schedules. Pockets of time for adventures, ice cream for lunch and thirty minute road trips to nowhere. Fitting in as much as possible with the 24 hours given.

Senior spring was dreaming way too big, and fighting to make it happen anyways. Creativity thrust into overdrive. Pushing and working and going going going to make it a reality. Hours upon hours upon hours alone in the studio, the music permanently ingrained in my memory. Scribbling down notations at the most frantic of speeds, desperate to remember every fleeting idea. It was endless gratitude for the love and patience and gigantic hearts of the ones who were a part of it, of the senior project that I still can't believe actually happened.

It was a season of provision, in every possible aspect. Of opportunity beyond my wildest dreams. Of Jesus knowing the depths of my heart and whispering yes. Seeing the Lord's hand in everything, opening up doors for the future while keeping me rooted in the moment and helping me get through where I was right then. Holding me up and keeping me grounded while giving me glimpses of the joy and blessings in store.

It was tears. Tears of exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy and fear, but tears of relief and pure gratitude for the kind souls who helped make the load a little lighter. family. the second momma crew. friends who are family in every sense but blood. {cyrus freaking fontaine who saved my senior project + sanity simultaneously and whose praises I will never stop singing. go buy every song he's ever written.}

It was a season that culminated in one big, wonderful night that I'll never forget. Surrounded by nearly everyone I loved, in my favorite place in the world, dancing on that stage one final time. We took it all to the next level as theatre kids tend to do, and walked down the aisle to Don't Stop Believing. That song and the many others of that night (theatre kids, remember?) will forever have the biggest space in my heart.

Senior spring was overwhelming. Overwhelming stress, overwhelming kindness, overwhelming exhaustion, overwhelming gratitude, overwhelming joy. Overwhelming is the only way to describe it. And maybe that's why it's a season that I'll never be able to adequately put into words for anyone, no matter how desperately I want to throw it all onto the page. Sometimes, God's goodness is so grand that it can't be described, and I'm just grateful to have lived it.

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I know that this was so long ago, and doing a senior recap in August is the strangest thing. But the season was so crazy, and in the months since, I haven't been able to write anything that I felt did it justice. So now, almost three months later, I'm processing and taking the time to record it. This blog has followed me since the beginning of freshman year, so it feels wrong not to wrap high school up. Hopefully you all don't mind too much. ♥ Thus, I'm going to have a little baby series running on the blog this month called Senior Saturdays. If you're heading into senior year as I know quite a few people are, hopefully you'll particularly enjoy these, and if you've already graduated, maybe they'll give you a bit of a trip down memory lane. Either way, thanks for popping by this little space of mine. Love you lots. xx

it feels just a bit like hope

Friday, July 20, 2018



some days you wake up
and the world looks like a sea of gray.

your mind a tangle as you stumble from one task to the next
trying to fight through the fog but
slipping
slipping
slipping.

the trees are as bare
as the wasteland that you're fighting through
and it feels like you're never going to see the river.

some days, you're just tired
so tired.
tired of the gray,
tired of the wasteland.
tired of the battle that's never going to be won.

but some days
there's a light.

a little part in the clouds
where a touch of brightness can shine through.

and some days, you're driving home.
and the light is golden
and the trees blossom a bright pink.

and it feels
just a bit
like hope.

--g.a.j.


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Today is a VERY exciting day, my friends, because today, the beautiful Elissa from Letters to Jayna is beginning a new adventure! She is moving to a new blog- Dancing in the Rain. 

Dancing in the Rain is a place of encouragement, a place to spark hope and a place to grow in community. It is the loveliest blog, and I could not be more excited for Elissa as she begins this new chapter! She is such a sweet, genuine human, and I cannot express how much I adore her. 

Go give this wonderful corner of the internet a follow for me, friends! You aren't going to want to miss Elissa's beautiful upcoming content. 



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