Sunday, June 16, 2013

"The best way to find yourself..."

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. 

~Mahatma Gandhi

Mmmm I think Gandhi was spot on on this one, because we like service, don’t we? We like to be served. We like serving others. We like the feeling that comes with service: it makes us feel good about ourselves, like we have something within humanity to hold onto. Because, I guess, if we’re not helping one another… who will?

I know that I would NOT have made it through this last year without the acts of service people in my life lovingly poured out for me. Whether it be my parents coming to help me move in / out of my dorm, to random Starbucks treats amidst midterms week, to the promise of prayers being thrown my way daily—service is probably the biggest thing that kept me going. And more than that, serving others was often what got me through the really tough days, and reminded me that there is SO much more than just me and my little issues out there in this world. Seriously, whether volunteering at Children’s Hospital and getting to play with sick kids all night, or just sending an encouraging text to a friend—service totally makes this world a brighter place.

In the four days I’ve been in Nicaragua so far, I have seen the effects of those small acts of service like I never have before. My expectation was that I was going to arrive and instantly be thrown into the spotlight of serving. But that has not been the case at all, and I love that. I love that I have been able to see how the little things come together to make life for so many people better. Things like washing the old, dirty truck, or pouring 50 cups of juice for a team, actually do matter. Because if the truck got too dirty, the driver wouldn’t be able to see out the windshield and the cook wouldn’t get picked up from her home and no one would eat that day. And if the juice didn’t get poured 50 people would get dehydrated and they wouldn’t be able to go back to the villages to help build houses and love the beautiful people here.

Washing the Project H.O.P.E. truck with my cousins, Zoie and Hannah 
My friend, Katie, serving me by doing my hair for formal :)

So I’ve been learning these past few days that little acts of service really do matter! And even more importantly, they are a big deal to God. He sees them, and his heart overjoys for what we are doing! And that’s really cool.

I think that God ultimately doesn’t care what the end point of our service is. I mean, yes, of course He cares if those houses get built, or whatever. But I think He would be just as happy with us just seeing that we are contributing something, and that we are giving Him our best.

That’s another lesson I have been beaten over the head with this year: I AM NOT ASKED TO BE PERFECT I AM JUST ASKED TO GIVE MY BEST. Because my best is enough. I am enough. That is something really really hard for me to accept, but it’s true.

It’s just like when I got my grades for this last quarter and my 5 year-old cousin (Zoie) grabbed my hand, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Tay, you are beautiful. You are talented. You are smart. And we love you.” And I know beyond a doubt that I have hundreds of other people in my life that would say the same thing. Plus, I have a God who screams it out at me all day everyday.

And that has to be enough for me.

So what I’m saying is that, yes, paying for the lady behind you at Starbucks does make a difference. And your teenage son does notice the note you still put in his lunchbox. And the girl from the US is impacted by the fresh juice she gets to drink with her meal. The little things you do make this world a better place, and if we stop, I imagine this world is going to get much, much worse. The little things we do make a difference, and that’s something we (especially me) can never EVER forget.

Thanks for keeping up with me on my trip!

Lots and lots of #love,


Also, a special shout out to all the dad’s. Especially my own (the best one)! I love you, Daddy. I know I would not be where I am today without you. Thanks for always advocating for me and for loving me no matter what I do, you are an amazing example of my heavenly Father's love! Happy Father’s Day!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Am I too Pretty for my Dreams?

Nicaragua Post 1

If the past year of school has taught me anything, it’s that a lot of things just don’t make any sense to me. Like why I have to spend 10 weeks learning about the lifecycle of a plant when I have absolutely no desire to look at a plant from an academic viewpoint at any point in my life. And like organic chemistry…I still could probably not correctly explain what occurs when you throw those stupid chemicals into a beaker together; I just know that sometimes you accidently spill acid on your shirt and it makes really neat holes. It also burns like crap, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

I don’t think that this necessarily makes me any less intelligent, (at least that’s
what I’m choosing to believe…) I think it definitely makes me human, though.

One of the things that didn’t make sense to me today was why it was cheaper for me take four flights to get to Nicaragua when Denver flies directly there…. And also why it took less frequent flyer miles to fly first class compared to flying economy (I am NOT complaining about this. I just find it asinine that this was the case...) Anyway, so I’m on my second of four flights today, and I had been sitting next to this family with three precious kids on their way to Spain to go on a cruise. I was talking to the mom about Nicaragua and my dream to someday work as a physician in a third world country. She did the whole “raise the eyebrow and marvel at what a good person I am for wanting to do such a noble thing with my life” response. I personally can’t see it like this, I feel in love with places like Africa, I’m such a science nerd, and I can’t imagine not doing what I love for the rest of my life. For me, it’s a much more selfish ambition than what it may appear to be.

And then that mom said something I’ve never gotten before.

I just think you really need to pray about what you’re doing. It’s really dangerous, you know, especially for such a pretty girl like you. If you were a man, I would say go for it! It’d be a lot safer…But you’re so pretty and you hear about all these stories from third world countries…I just think you should pray about staying in America and helping from here instead of actually going.

Wait. So what I hear you saying (yeah both of my parents are counselors..) is that because I am a “pretty girl,” I should just quit pursuing my dream?

I mean of course I’ve thought about my aspirations being more on the dangerous side. And, yes, of course it is more dangerous for women than it is for men.

But is that really reason enough to say no?

I don’t think so.

I think saying no would pose a much more dangerous situation.

What really didn’t make sense to me about this interaction was that this woman, who has never been to a third world country herself, was not only making such rash judgments about the conditions there, but was actually discouraging me from continuing to pursue what I love.

I think this is a problem.

Instead of thinking about how dangerous it is for us to visit these parts of the world, why aren’t we thinking about how dangerous life is for the people who live in these countries? Lack of proper nutrition, the threat of abuse, healthcare inequality, human trafficking, preventable epidemics—these are all what I consider to be dangerous issues. And they are the terrifying reality for a large part of our world. Why aren’t we thinking about how we can make it better?

I think a lot can be done for these issues without being onsite. From fundraising, to building awareness, to partnership—there is nothing wrong with supporting from afar. But someone has to go. We are all called to help, but we are not all called to go. I strongly believe this; however, I know that right now, I am called to go, so I am going to go. I am going to go to the “scary” places. I will take the proper precautions and do my best to keep myself out of harms way, but ultimately, I trust that since I am called, He’s got this. I don’t think God needs me to worry about how safe the places are He’s sending me to. I think He just needs me to be obedient.

So yeah, Nicaragua has been incredible thus far. God is going to teach me a lot. I’m SO thankful to my amazing family for letting me stay with them, and am so thankful I have an opportunity to do what I love for 6 short weeks. Even if it might seem a little dangerous :)

Just loving life with my beautiful cousin, Hannah (Photo creds to Kari Gibson :) 

Love you guys! Thanks for listening to my scrambled thoughts. Please be praying for my family in Colorado Springs. They were evacuated from our house and I haven’t heard anything about how they’re doing.

Lots of #love,


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"I am a mess. I am so loved. And I am going to Nicaragua": a casual update.

Hi there!

Well, my last post was on February 19th. So much for posting AT LEAST once a month haha. Let's just say my life has been a chaotic and complicated mess. It has been an absolute mess, y'all. Here's a brief update since you last heard from me:

  • I successfully completed 56 hours of college coursework (not including labs...) And will be able to keep my scholarships next year! 
  • So I studied. A LOT. 
  • I joined a sorority. (Tri Delta for the win!) 
At formal at Red Rocks, which was awesome. 
  • I volunteered. A lot. 
  • I built and strengthened incredible, lifelong relationships.
  • I did lots of Colorado things. 
Like watching the sunrise at Red Rocks with my best friends from Arkansas :)

Like doing the incline. 

Like climbing Gray's Peak (a 14er) in the snow. 
SO obsessed with Colorado. 
  • I got a job as an RA for next year.
  • I fell in love with GlobeMed (an incredible organization you should check out or ask me about :) 
At the National GlobeMed Summit with the incredible Leymah Gbowee. 
  • I made some good decisions. 
  • I made some questionable decisions.
  • I learned from each one of my decisions. 
  • and I somehow lived through THREE near death experiences.
So I'll start with that last one. (I'm not going to give details here haha, but if you would like to hear these stories, definitely contact me!) We can just say that my body hates everything I lovingly put into it, and that God has something HUGE in store for me, because He could have so easily taken me back home on three separate occasions these past 6 month. 

Basically, I feel like I am such a different person since I moved to Denver in September. Everyone says you "find yourself" in college. And I was always like "yeah whatever." But no. It's so true. And I realized that I know absolutely nothing about myself, about God, about Organic Chemistry, about science, or about how I am supposed to live this life. I have also realized that I am not perfect, I am not called or expected to be perfect, and that when I give the best I have to give, that's enough. This has been the hardest year of my life. Hands down. And even though my life is a mess. It's HIS mess. I don't understand why He keeps taking me back, why He continues to love me more than I can even comprehend, but He does. It's the coolest thing I have ever experienced. 



Yeah. Tomorrow.

Like my plane leaves in 16 hours. 

Have I started packing? 

Haha no.

So I'm just sitting here at Starbucks drinking insane amounts of expresso and writing this instead? 

Haha yep.

Yeah that's my life. 

BUT. I just felt like I needed to write an update. And hopefully I'll get a chance to blog while I'm in Nica, but if not, I'll write them there and post them when I get back!

Did I mention that I'm so excited I like shake and cry and giggle at random points throughout the day? 

Yeah that's probably not normal... but I'm that excited.

Just to remind you, I'll be staying with my extended family down there and working at a ministry called Project Hope. I will be shadowing a physician, working in a clinic, working in a home for girls out of sex trafficking, and working in an orphanage for 0-5 year olds with special needs.

I'm pretty much just going to be in heaven for 6 weeks. No big deal.

Okay it's SUCH a big deal ;) 

I know God is going to use this trip in huge ways in my life. He could not have brought it at a more perfect time. He's kinda funny like that :) 

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us" - Ephesians 3:20 

God is about to do AMAZING things in my life, and I'm so thankful to be able to share it with y'all. Thank you for supporting me, for loving me, and for reading about my crazy, awkward, unbelievable life. 

With #love,


Saturday, February 9, 2013

12 in 13: February (also NICARAGUA!!!!)

Hello all,

Sorry it's been awhile since I've blogged. I came back to DU (University of Denver) the 2nd week of January, and life really hasn't slowed down since. (I'm taking 19 hours of pure math and science, so I'm basically just trying to stay afloat...) 

Things like this are just happening more and more...

and it's so awesome. 

Last month ("Striving Towards Simplicity") was super beneficial to my journey. It was a great way to start off my year of "betterment," and it felt SO good to get rid of a lot of clothing. 

Like really guys, SO MANY CLOTHES...

and I even ended up giving away more than this.. :/ BUT it's been so good for me to realize how little I need, and how blessed I am. Also, I love that I'm learning to appreciate my resources and take time to determine whether I really need something before I buy it. It's made Luke 12:28 come alive for me- But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith! It has reminded me not to worry about clothing, or anything else for that matter, and to instead rely on my faithful Father. But since I'm trying to completely completely transparent with you guys, I have failed miserably at this these past few weeks. And that's completely okay.

SO January = eyeopening, a lot of adjusting, fun, and lots of work . And so far, February = hard, fun, stressful, full of love and laughter, and hard. I decided back in January that February's theme is "Falling in Love with Myself," and now that I'm amidst this month, I totally see how God is going to use this theme to change my life. He's probably not going to do it all in a month, but He is completely turning my life upside down and breaking me and confusing me. Which are things that I know are going to lead to great things later.. but that just doesn't change the fact that this has already been one of the hardest months of my life, and it's only beginning. I wish I could tell you that I'm seeing purpose and hope throughout all of it, but I just can't. What I can say is this: that I'm choosing to believe, despite how I'm feeling and how things are looking, that ultimately I serve a God who is full of purpose and hope and love. I believe He is here with me and will remain faithful, even if it doesn't always seem so. 

As far as the rest of this month goes, I guess it's going to be a lot of prayer, truth seeking, crying, and vulnerability. I really am trying to focus on what God says about me and viewing that as the truth in my life instead of the lies I am constantly being exposed to. If y'all have any verses focused on any of this, PLEASE share them with me in the comments below.. I would absolutely love to hear what God has placed on your heart :)

OKAY now onto a new, so much better topic. 

Guys, I'm definitely going to Nicaragua for almost TWO MONTHS this summer. 

Yes. I'm serious.

Yes. I'm insanely excited.

Yes. This is the only thing that is currently keeping me sane. I cannot even explain how thankful I am that God opened the doors for me to serve in Nica with my family, the Gibsons, and Project H.O.P.E. (check out my aunt, Kari's blog here, check out my FIRST GUEST POST on her blog here, and check out Project H.O.P.E ministries here.) And wow did God open the doors! The story is way cool, but I'm not going to share the whole thing right now.. maybe another time.. (or just ask me if you're really dying to know haha). 

In Nicaragua, I'm going to be staying at the Project H.O.P.E. campus loving big on orphans, helping out their full time doctor, Dr. Melba, and just living my adventure that is life-- falling in love with Jesus and encouraging others to do the same. I'm entirely overwhelmed by my God's faithfulness to giving me the true desires of my heart, even if it means breaking me and shaping me into more of His beautiful creation. He's awesome, and I'm so excited to see what He's going to do this month, and the months leading up to June 12th--my official day of departure :)

Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing my pain, my joy, my laughter, my awkardness, and, most of all, my passionate love,


1 Corinthians 10:13 #love

And in honor of the beautiful snow that has just started falling outside of my dorm room window:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

12 in 13: January

I hope everyone had a wonderful CHRISTmas (okay it totally bugs me when those people who have never abbreviated Christmas as "xmas" even in a text to their best friend spell Christmas like that... but I'm in a weird "I-want-to-show-you-all-who-I-really-am" mood today... so just go along with whatever happens in these next few paragraphs--I'm honestly not even positive as to what's about to happen). 


Now that THAT'S cleared up let's move onto the NEW YEAR 2013!  I hope you all had a wonderful evening yesterday.  My night consisted of flying back from Mexico, getting into Denver at about 8pm, and going to a great family friend's home for dinner and fun. 

Here's basically what you're thinking I did..

But, guys, I promised from the beginning to be entirely honest here.  So, with that sense of mutual love, friendship, and respect in mind, here's a more accurate look at what I did to welcome in 2013...

Let this be a gentle reminder to anyone ever doubting my being truly genuine and honest on here.  (On a side note, I AM ABSOLUTELY LOVING READING HARRY POTTER, I'm currently about halfway through book 6 and must get through all of them before I go back to school on the 7th, or risk facing judgmental floor mates as well as failing every single class of the 19 hours I'm taking)...  Anyway, my night was a delightful conclusion to a week full of quality fun in the sun, as I sincerely hope all of yours were as well :)

Okay, now let's get down to business.  One of my favorite American traditions to willingly participate in is the act of welcoming in a new year with loved ones, and then taking some time to do a bit of self reflecting, and setting a few personal goal for the year ahead.  However, one of my frustrations with this tradition is that I feel like most people (myself included) stick to a goal for the new year for at most two months, and then the craziness of life proves to be too much and the goal eventually gets pushed out of mind.  So this year, I decided to approach my New Year's resolutions in a new light. 

Ergo, this morning I sat down with my bible, my new favorite notebook, and a classy black sharpie to go about creating two pages full of random words.  The first page was titled "Words From 2012" and included some tear stains as I wrote hundreds of words describing what was the hardest, but most rewarding year of my life thus far.  On my second page, "Words For 2013," I wrote longer phrases that I want to be reoccurring themes for my 2013.  By the time I had finished, I realized that I had conveniently come up with twelve goals, and would, therefore, be assigning a different theme to work toward each month of 2013.  Some of my goals are more tangible than others, while some seem honestly quite silly to spend an entire month working on, but I feel as though each one is an extremely important characteristic I develop in order to make my life more Christ-like.  I have decided to entitle this endeavor 12 in 13, and will be keeping an account of my personal journey through twitter, instagram, and Facebook.  And of course here at Hashtag Love! 

ALRIGHT here we go!  January!  Part 1 of 12 in 13!!!  (yeah that's not confusing at all.)  My theme for this month is "Striving Toward Simplicity."  My main goal is to start off by clearing out about 50% of my wardrobe, and donating it to an organization I'm passionate about supporting (I currently have a few in mind but not a confirmed one, so I will let you guys know when I have found "the one.")  This is basically starting off a big goal I have for my whole year.  In order to strive toward more simplicity in my life, 2013 is going to be a year where I am focusing on learning to be content with the blessings I already have, and to nip my temptation to constantly shop for clothing right in the butt.  I went shopping today with my mom and sister, and will not be shopping for nor buying clothing for myself until January 1st 2014!  This is honestly a scary endeavor for me, mostly because I'm terrified it will end in failure.  However, I have been convicted to trust that God is going to provide me with the exact doses of patience, humility, and heart I will need to accomplish the goal He has inspired me to set for myself.  It's going to be so cool to watch what He does with the money I save from not buying clothes, as well as with the time I will no longer spend devoted to the subject. 

More simplicity in my life is something I would love to see happen for a few big reasons, which I won't get into right now, but I know it will benefit me greatly in so many ways.  I'm not sure at this point what else I will do this month to integrate more simplicity, but I am totally confident God is going to show me some great ways to do so, and will joyfully share as I can :) 

If anyone is interested in joining me through this month-by-month challenge to integrate new habits and passions into your life I would be overjoyed!  Simply make your own list and hashtag 12 in 13 (#12in13) on any post about your own journey, and let's inspire one another to be the change we wish to see in ourselves and in the world around us in 2013! 

Seriously, thanks for reading, thanks for letting me be myself, thanks for encouraging me, and thanks for showing me love in so many ways.  I have so much to be thankful for.  Love you guys!!! 

Inspired in love,


Psalm 63:1-3 #love

Find me on twitter (@TaySmalley) and on instagram (@TaySmalley) to see what other wonderful adventures I'm up to ;)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Why I Slightly Hate Christmas Time

Okay, I know this may seem slightly sacrilegious, but I want to be honest.  Christmas time kind of drives me crazy.  Don't get me wrong, the idea behind it and it's intended purpose is awesome.  I mean the savior of the world was born--that's something to celebrate.  And I'm not a horrible person, there are other things about Christmas time that I really do look forward to.

 First of all, this:

Because Christmas caroling and wearing ugly spirited sweaters with my friends is the best.

Also this:

 Because my family is amazing and we have some of the best memories together from the holidays. 


Because what's Christmas without cute, delicious cookies?

Definitely this:

Because it's always good to give back, and one of the things I love most about the holiday's are the feelings of generosity and kindness that fill the air.  

These are all great things, right?  And while Christmas time is great, the fact that it only happens for one month out of every year really gets me.  I feel like we are living in a culture that manages to only be nice, generous, kind, and happy 1/12 of the time, which leads me to believe the spirit of it all must be fake--like some sort of mandatory social obligation or something.  I mean if only one out of every twelve interactions you had with a person was pleasant, you probably wouldn't like that person a whole lot, would you?  I guess that's kind of like my relationship with Christmas time.

Doesn't it always seem like your problems are less important around this time of year?  It's like our society realizes that--WOAH-- we're actually not the only people here, and we put a valiant effort into helping the less fortunate people all around us.  What bothers me is that these less fortunate people are always all around us.  Each and every day presents an opportunity for us to look around and see suffering, and each day presents an opportunity for us to do something about it.  There is always someone who needs to be shown love.  One of the best parts about Christmas time, at least for me, is hearing the amazing stories about how God is loving the whole world through His people, and how He is impacting lives for His glory.  But I am sick and tired of only having these stories highlighted for one month out of the year.  I wish we lived in a society that paid more attention to these things rather than the things that, ultimately, are pointless.

Now don't get me wrong here, I am absolutely guilty of getting caught up in the Christmas hype, doing nice things, and then completely forgetting about it come January.  I wish I was better about spreading "Christmas cheer" all year long, but I'm just not.  It's something I will always be working on, though. So, what do you guys think?  What are some things you love about Christmas time?  Anything that drives you crazy about it?  What are your ideas to keep the Christmas cheer going even after the holidays have passed?

With love,


II Timothy 4:7 #love

Oh just one more thing... 

Merry Christmas!!! :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My First EVER Blog Post

Hi bloggy friends!

Well.. I've finally given in and gone over to the dark side. That's right, I have started my very own blog. I have always liked to think of myself as too hipster or something to succumb to the mainstream pull that is sharing your entire life with random people on the internet; however, recently God has been convicting me about the fact that blogging is a great way to share what He is doing in my life, and possibly make amazing connections with people who share my passions. So here we go. :)

I got the idea to name my blog hashtag love (I thought it was creative enough for someone as left-brained as myself) and I feel like it fits perfectly into what I want my blog to become. I want this to be a place where I can share what I love in life, and figure out how to do more of those things. So this first post is just going to be a short list of all the things I love most in life.

  • I love my family. I am the eldest of four children, and my siblings (Murphy-15, Garrison-11, and Annie-5) are some of my best friends, as are my incredible parents. 
  • I love my friends. We laugh incredibly hard at the most inappropriate times and at the most ridiculous things. They are the people I can totally just by myself around- my awkward, silly, sometimes sassy, and passionate self. And it's the best.
  • I love college. I am a freshman at the University of Denver, and it's been the greatest season of life thus far. 
  • I love doing nerdy and left-brained things. I am a double math and biology major with a huge dream of one day going to medical school.
  • I love Colorado. Have you seen it here?? It's gorgeous, and everyone is so happy and active. Also the mountains are like the best invention ever. Props to their creator! 
  • I love running. I'm not very fast and my endurance sucks, but in my mind I'm a beast at it. 
  • I love Africa. I spent three weeks in Uganda / Ethiopia two summers ago and it completely changed my life. It's my happy place.
  • I love Asia. My sister, Annie, is from China. She constantly makes me smile and challenges the way I do life every single day. I really love Asian people in general, I think they're adorable and if you have an asian child, I secretly want to steal him or her and raise him or her as my own.
  • I love India. Yes, I know India is technically in Asia, but I love the food, the culture, and the music. Like a lot. God has placed India on my heart lately; my desire to go there is something I can't even explain, but I know my God is sending me there very soon. And I'm SO excited to see how He does it.   
  • I love music. I suck at guitar, but it's so fun to attempt. And you will find me singing inappropriately loud most of the time.  
  • I love ugly sweaters/vests. Especially holiday themed ones. Or Hawaiian ones. 
  • I love laughing. I laugh ALL the time at everything. My laughs are often too loud, too inappropriate, and too awkward, but whatever, it's great. 
  • Above everything else, I love my God. I cannot imagine living without the hope, love, acceptance, purpose, and encouragement I find through Him alone. His grace is absolutely incredible, and somehow His timing always turns out perfectly. Even when I'm so angry at Him, more angry than I've ever been at anyone ever, He always gently draws me back to Him. He's so cool. The coolest guy I have ever met. I have nothing in this life besides Him. 
I'm blessed beyond belief by all of these things, plus SO many more, and I'm excited to see what else I find to fall in love with throughout my life. I'm sure there are many more amazing blessings waiting just around the corner. Thanks for reading! 

In awkwardness and love,


II Timothy 4:7 #love