Wake Up Call

I’ve always liked to think of myself as someone who sees the glass half full.  However, if I’m being honest I have yet to find the plus side of being stuck in traffic on my way to work or school, or the benefits of having to wait in a ridiculously long line at the store just to purchase one or two items.  It’s easy for me to say that I make the most out of every situation because I like to focus on the things that I know I’m good at being optimistic about.  Yet, there are so many tiny things in my every day life that truthfully don’t matter, but they still manage to annoy me beyond belief. 

One of the most annoying sounds to me is the sound of an alarm clock.  I had the idea that maybe if I switched from an obnoxious, beeping alarm clock to a song I like on my phone that it would make the waking up process easier.  After putting this theory to test I found that instead of growing fonder of being awoken, I actually started to dislike the tune I picked to wake me up.  Of course, it’s not actually the sounds of the alarm  that bothers me, but more accurately it’s what it stands for:  Another rude awakening to surely be followed by the monotony of my typical weekday routine.  Life is so hard.  Poor me.  

 A couple days ago my alarm went off, but I didn’t look at it the same way.  In that moment an idea struck me.  I heard a little voice in the back of my head telling me, “This sound is one of the most miraculous and beautiful sounds you could possibly be hearing right now.  That sound represents the fact that you have been blessed enough to wake up today.  That you have been blessed enough to live to see another day.”  Something I’ve never been very good at is listening to God, but in that moment I knew that he was speaking to me, and it was such a humbling experience.  I didn’t have to wake up that morning, or this morning, and tomorrow certainly isn’t guaranteed.  Yet, that alarm went off, signaling the start of another day. 

Life is such a beautiful gift, one that we often take for granted as we  forget how precious it is.  Suddenly, that alarm clock isn’t such a horrible sound.  I’m not saying that I’m going to wake up every morning and dance around my room as birds help me get ready, but I’m definitely going to look at it differently.  I know that come Monday I’m probably going to still be bothered by the traffic, the loads of work that have accumulated over the weekend, and many other annoyances that are sure to arise, but I’m also going to challenge myself to find the good in those situations.  Optimism is defined as seeing the good in every situation.  Not just the ones that are easy for us to deal with. 

What’s your alarm clock?  What is that one thing that always makes your heart sink even the slightest bit whenever you hear it, see it, etc.?  Sometimes things are hard, life happens and we find ourselves discouraged and exhausted by our daily routines.  But take comfort in the fact that things could always be worse. 

Monday morning our weekend will be over.  We will be thrust back into our daily routines of work, school, or whatever else we have going on in our individual lives.  Things might not go as smoothly as possible and your day might not go as planned.  Life is going to test you, but the cool thing is that no matter what situation you find yourself in, you always have the power to decide how you respond.

 

Making Time for What Matters

When I was living in Fresno for my first year of college, I found myself not being as close to the Lord as I wanted to be.  I wasn’t doing my daily devotionals and I was not attending church.  When I decided to take a semester off of school (with the exception of one online class) to focus on work and figuring out exactly who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, I was making sure that I spent some time in the Lord’s word daily and made an effort to attend church regularly.  This past week I began my first semester at Modesto Junior College as a full time student, and right away I caught myself slipping on my time with God.  I caught myself using the excuse “I just don’t have time today” on days I didn’t do my Bible study, and this weekend I was so burnt out and exhausted from the long and busy week I had that I decided I was too physically exhausted to make it to church.

Then today this thought struck me: how lucky are we that God never decides that He doesn’t have time for us?  Could you imagine going to Him in a time of need only to have Him respond with, “Sorry, I’ve been really busy this week and am pretty worn out so I’m going to have to get back to you later.”  How blessed are we that no matter what, God will always be there for us?  I have been so immensely blessed in so many ways.  Every day I find a new reason to be thankful, so the least I could do is take time out of my day just to be alone with the Lord.  I’m not saying that not going to church makes you a bad Christian or even a bad person, and obviously God is still going to love me regardless of if I memorize all His scripture or not.  But if I can make time to watch football on Sunday, yet can’t make time to just sit and be with the Lord and give him thanks, isn’t there something wrong with that picture?

We live in such a fast-paced society, one where everyone is constantly on the go and so caught up in what they think needs to be done and what they want to do.  While obviously my education and work are important, the bottom line is that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the grace and love of God.   Yesterday my Niners suffered a devastating loss against Seattle for the NFC Championship.  I’m a very competitive person, and typically I tend to overreact about these things to the point where if someone were to walk into my house with no idea of what was going on, they would probably think I was in actual physical pain.  However, last night when it was clear what the outcome of the game was going to be I removed myself from the room and spent some time alone and really put thought into the situation.  Was it upsetting? Yes, of course.  Did it affect my well being?  I could probably get creative and find some way to make the argument that it does, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t.  I still have my family, my health, a roof over my head, and so much more.  Football didn’t give me those things, my loving Heavenly Father did.  And yet, I made time to put off my homework and studying to sit in front of my TV and be frustrated, but I was too tired to make the five minute drive down the street to church and give thanks.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?

As I’ve stated before, I’m not one for “New Years Resolutions”, I prefer to make goals as I see fit.  And after this weekend, it’s pretty clear to me that I need to get better at making time for what really matters.  Whether that be time with the Lord, my family, etc.  It’s so easy to make excuses and put things off.  But the fact of the matter is that my daily devotional takes up about thirty minutes of my twenty-four hour day.  That’s less than 4% of my day.  So as the year is still young I urge you to figure out what really matters in your life and make an effort to make time for that every day.  Everyone is different, and I know that what I wrote today won’t apply to everyone, and that’s okay.  But the bottom line is that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so never put something off with the excuse that you will get to it later, because you never know what could happen today.

I Matured Too Quickly

While growing up I often heard people say about me that I was in too much of a hurry to mature.  In some ways that statement is true, but the implications of it are certainly false. 

The first time I heard someone tell me that I was trying to grow up too fast I was pretty offended.  In my mind, they were implying that I was constantly unsatisfied with my current state and was in a rush to leave my childhood and everything that came with it behind me.  I would think of that “Thirteen Going on Thirty” movie and would be absolutely disgusted with the idea that someone might suggest I was behaving as the dreadful, ungrateful girl in that movie did.  Now – being nineteen years old, engaged, and already beginning my career – I can see how someone on the outside looking in might come to the conclusion that I’m rushing into adulthood much too quickly.  However, I would have to disagree.  I can act as silly, be as good at any video game, and can be as entertained by any Disney movie just as much as any eight-year-old child. To me there was never childhood and adulthood, there was no “real world”.  To me, there is just life and how we choose to live it. 

Growing up, I was placed in some situations that required me to mature a lot faster than most kids my age.  God took those not-so-great circumstances that I was placed in and used them to do amazing things in my life and to help me grow as a person, and I don’t regret a single thing that I have been through.  This doesn’t mean that at the age of eight or twelve I suddenly had the wisdom and sophistication of a forty-year old.  It just means that at an early age I learned that some things were more important than others.  To learn that lesson at the young age that I did in a world that thrives on superficial ideals did wonders for me, and I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today if God hadn’t placed the obstacles in my life that he did.  Another important aspect of my way of thinking is the way that my parents raised me.  I am blessed to have two amazing, strong, and hard-working parents who have always taught my siblings and I that the world doesn’t owe us anything.  If we want something, we have to work for it because nothing in life worth having comes easy.  This is something that I wish more parents emphasized, and if I ever have children years (and I mean YEARS) down the road, this is something that I certainly would want them to know.  I am a part of what some refer to as the “Selfie Generation”, a generation of individuals so caught up in themselves and much more interested in what the world has to offer to them as opposed to what they can offer to the world.  If my parents didn’t raise me the way they did, I would be a very different person.

Now, if you’re still with me you’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with my original point.  The easy answer is that age is just a number.  However, I’ve never been a fan of that phrase nor do I like to take the easy way out, so allow me to explain.  There are plenty of thirty-year-olds who have the maturity of a fifteen-year-old and the work ethic of a sloth, and there are plenty of teenagers who have maturity beyond their years and are some of the hardest workers you will ever meet.  I was never chasing adulthood.  I was never under any illusion that once I reached a certain age I would be satisfied.  I wasn’t drawn to the idea of any particular number, I was drawn to the idea of working hard to get the things I wanted.  I was longing after being the amazing people that my parents have turned out to be.  So in some ways those people that told me I wanted so badly to grow up were right.  But as I actually have grown, and continue to do so every day, I realize how instead of being offended by that statement, I should be proud of it.  Three days ago I was drawing pictures on the fogged up windshield of my car.  Today, I got my eighth badge in Pokémon Black.  Tomorrow, I’m going to get up early for work, and then go straight from there to school.  To me, childhood doesn’t end at a set age, and adulthood doesn’t pick up where childhood left off.  You don’t wake up one day and prance out of bed with the profound realization that you are now a part of the “real world” , as if to imply that everything you experienced until then wasn’t worth while.  There is just life and how we choose to live it.  I have always wanted to grow as a person.  No one truly ever is completely grown, we are all growing and maturing every day.  Some faster than others, and that’s okay.  There is no shame to be had in wanting to mature, and there is no shame to be had in still being able to dream the way a child does. 

The author M.J. Croan said it best when he said, “Maturity is when your world opens up and you realize that you are not the center of it.”  If that is the case then yes, I do wish to be mature.  I wish to be very mature indeed.

 

 

 

Some Thoughts for the New Year

I have never really been a fan of making New Year’s resolutions.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that it is extremely important to set and achieve goals for yourself.  However, I don’t think that you should have to wait until the beginning of a New Year to do so.  I think that we should be setting new mini-goals for ourselves every day.  The key thing to remember though is that they must be practical.  One thing that I am really guilty of is setting these huge goals for myself (be healthier, be a better person, etc.), but having no plan in place to carry them out. I think this is part of the reason that I am against New Year’s resolutions. Every year on January 1st I’m up and at ’em with these grand ideas of success, change, and contentment. And then it’s January 2nd. And then it’s January 3rd. And then it’s December 31st and I find myself far from that change and success I was looking forward to. I’m sure many of you can relate. So what do we do to make sure that this New Year’s Eve we will be standing with our heads held high and genuine smiles on our faces? Here are some ideas:

1. Have a plan
I cannot emphasize this enough. You can have some of the greatest ideas in the world, but if you don’t have a plan in place then there is absolutely no way that you will succeed. I’m not saying that you need to have an elaborate blueprint of the year to come. What I’m suggesting is something along the lines of if you’re going to lose weight, how are you going to do it? If you’re going to spend more time with your family, what will that consist of? Being too vague with your goals can often cause them to seem too overwhelming or cause them to be very easily forgotten.

2. Take it day by day
This is somewhat along the lines of my previous suggestion, but it’s a little more specific than that. Choose a goal that you know you can work towards every day. You’ll be surprised how when you focus on the individual days instead of months, you start to see progress in ways you wouldn’t expect at first.

3. Be realistic
The thing about goals is that in order to be considered a goal, they have to be achievable. If you’re setting a goal for yourself that you know deep down inside is not going to happen then that is considered a fantasy. Instead of saying you are going to completely stop doing something, eating something, etc., maybe you could instead say that you are going to do it less. And on the flip side of that, instead of saying you’re going to do something everyday simply make an effort to do whatever it is you want to do more. You will be amazed at how much easier it is to gradually do something as opposed to trying to do it all at once. For example, part of my New Year’s resolution last year was to eat healthier. A smaller part of that was to eat less fast food. By the end of the year I hadn’t had fast food in months, and the idea of eating it did not sound appetizing at all. It never really crossed my mind that I was going to stop eating fast food, especially because for so long I ate way too much of it. But I consistently ate less and less and sure enough it happened on its own.

4. Be positive
Nobody is perfect. I’m not, you’re not, nobody is. So if one day things don’t go as well as you had hoped, or you find yourself doubting your goals it’s okay. There are 365 days in a year. You can mess up 180 of those days, and you will still have been successful a more than half of the year. That alone is something to celebrate. You have to be patient with yourself. Remember that you are setting these goals and making these resolutions for yourself, not for anyone else. So don’t let anyone discourage you, and especially don’t discourage yourself! Nothing is going to happen overnight. Never give up.

5.Reward yourself
This in my opinion is the most important part. It also happens to be my favorite. Have a big reward in mind for yourself at the end of the year or whenever you feel that you have finally met one of your big goals. But even more important than that is to reward yourself along the way. Celebrate the little victories. Five pounds gone may not be the thirty you were hoping for, but it is five pounds closer than you were before! Take the time to acknowledge the progress you have made and use it to motivate yourself to keep going.

Like I said at the beginning of this all, I don’t enjoy making resolutions specifically for the New Year. That being said, I really wanted to write this blog post and how hypocritical of me would it be to be giving advice on goals and resolutions when I don’t even have any of my own? So my big resolution is to be a better person. When I put it like that it probably sounds incredibly cliché. So more specifically, I just want to continue to mature both spiritually and mentally. I’m getting married this year, and as fun and swell as that sounds, marriage is not something to take lightly. It’s a lifelong commitment. I’ve always been mature for my age, but I definitely have a lot of work to do in terms of becoming a wife. My specific goals are to continue to grow closer to the Lord, be wiser financially, take better care of myself, and learn to cook something besides scrambled eggs. Of course there are so many more things I need to work on with all of the changes I have coming up this year, but those are more on the private side. More than anything, I guess my prayer for myself this year is to always try to think and act with the grace, patience, and love of a Godly woman. (Thankfully, I have a Godly woman or two to look up too and help me along the way!)

I really do believe that if you allow it to be, this year could be the new best year of your life. All you have to do is believe it too.