Because We Don’t Have Time

I haven’t written anything for a while, and to be honest, I had to try really hard to convince myself to write right now.  It’s easy to blame it on being too busy, because it’s definitely a hectic time of year for me.  However, I soon started to realize that being too busy was becoming less and less of a fact, and more of a convenient excuse.  It’s true, and it gives me a way out. Sounds like a win-win to me.

The truth of the matter is that I’m not too busy to write.  It’ll take me maybe fifteen minutes max to finish this post.  Yet, I tell myself that I don’t have the time to do it, or that there are more important things that need to be done.  I never really thought about why I find excuses to not do the things I love (partially because I never realized I was doing it), until I read the blog post of a friend of mine this morning.  Her post was about her passion, her absolute favorite thing to do, which is cooking.  As I was reading it I found myself thinking about how wonderful it was that she had something she was both extremely talented at and loved to do.  I caught myself thinking “I wish had something like that”.  Then I thought about this little blog I write on from time to time, and how I used to write nearly every day when I first started it, but now only submit a post every few months.  I love to write.  It’s one of the talents I know I have been blessed with. So, why do I never do it?  Sure, I’ve started a book or two and I run a couple blogs, but soon enough I start to pay less and less attention to them until they’re nothing more than unfinished pages and empty goals. 

Writing isn’t the only thing that I’ve quit on before I really got started.  My first love was music.  I played flute from the age of nine all the way through high school.  I taught myself how to play piano, and in high school I picked up three more instruments.  Yet, as soon as high school was over with it all came to a halt.  I stopped writing songs, the instruments in my house started to collect dust, and my music books were soon moved up to the attic.  I tell myself that the spark was gone.  That it was fun while it lasted, but that it’s not what I want to do anymore.  I tell myself that I just don’t have time.

It’s a cruel and vicious cycle that I have trapped myself in.  Whenever I get passionate about something that I might actually be good at, I run away from it.  I make excuses for myself and push it to the back of my mind.  I don’t think I’m the only person that does this.  Remember when we were little and people would ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up?  We didn’t limit ourselves to what we thought we would have time for or what seemed realistic, we set our goals high.  We were excited to grow up and be what we wanted to be.  How many of us are actually doing the things we said we would?  I bet not very many.  Now of course, we grow up and get a better feel for reality, and we do what we need to do to support ourselves and our families.  That’s okay.  What isn’t okay, is when we stop doing the things we love, the things that make us who we are, because we’re afraid of what will happen if we decide to make a commitment to it.  We become afraid of what will happen if we utilize our talents and try to make something come out of them.  Will people judge us for wasting our time?  Will we not be as good as it as we thought we were? Or even worse: what if we are even better at it than we thought?  What will we do then?  Surely we can’t dedicate any more time to a mere hobby.  After all, we have to work and run errands and do all of the important grown up things we’re supposed to do.  I’m the queen of making excuses to not do the things I love to do.  However, I think we’re not just letting ourselves down when we don’t utilize our talents.  We’re letting God down.  Every single person is blessed with their own unique abilities and qualities that make them who they are.  What if we’re given these talents because we need to learn how to make time for ourselves? Even scarier, what if we’re given these talents because they’re what we are meant to do? 

I’m not saying that I’m going to crank out a book within the next year and a blog post every day.  To be honest, I probably won’t ever write a book and there will definitely be days where I don’t write at all.  But, I’m going to make an effort to make time for myself.  To express myself in the best way I know how: through pen and paper (or, in this case, keyboard and screen).  I challenge you to do the same.  What makes you feel alive?  What’s something that you love to do, but maybe tell yourself you just don’t have time to?  I dare you to do it.  Time is only a barrier if we tell ourselves it is. 

 

A Voiceless Generation

Today as I was scrolling through Facebook while killing some time before class I came across an article that sparked my interest.  I won’t say who wrote this article or what site it can be found on, as my goal is not to call anyone out or start any controversy, but I will say that after getting less than half way through it I was pretty disappointed.  The objective of this article was to advise young adults of mistakes they shouldn’t make in their 20’s.  Turning twenty this year, I thought that maybe I could learn something from this article.  To say I was wrong would be an understatement. 

There were a number of little things I disagreed with, but the one thing that really shocked me was when the author of the article stated that you should avoid falling in love in your twenties.  Here’s a sample of what I read:

Not only does it make you complacent with where you are in life, but it makes you boring.  When your business is at stake and your future is resting on your shoulders, the last thing you need is to be bogged down by an insecure lover rushing you home.

The author goes on to write about testing limits and how just because some of your friends are doing it, you shouldn’t fall into the “trap of a relationship”.  So I naturally jumped to three possible conclusions: 1.) This guy has had a really bad relationship, 2.)This guy watches too many sitcoms, or 3.) This guy just isn’t ready for a serious relationship. 

If the author of this article is not in a place in his life where he wants to settle down and have a serious relationship that’s totally okay.  Good for him!  However, what’s not okay is saying that if you fall in love in your 20’s you’re falling into a trap.  Curious to see if I was the only one that was bothered by this I skipped the rest of the article and read the comments, and saw I was not the only one who was less than satisfied with what looked to be a promising post.  A lot of the comments complained about it being sexist, which I guess in a way it could be, but my reason behind writing this post is not fueled by any feminist angst.  It runs just a bit deeper than that.

My parents got married when my dad was 24.  My in-laws got married when they were in their twenties.  My fiancé and I know plenty of couples who are married and in their twenties.  In fact, every Saturday night I attend a group that is exclusively for couples who are engaged or have been married seven years or less, and believe it or not a good number of these couples were married in their twenties.  You know what’s even crazier?  I’m engaged and I’m only nineteen!  So obviously, all of these relationships I’ve listed are boring and restrictive to one or both spouses, right?

Wrong.  So, very wrong. 

Not everyone should get married in their twenties.  Not everyone wants to get married in their twenties.  So they shouldn’t, and that’s okay.  But what isn’t okay is to write an article that attempts to act as a guideline for twenty-something’s everywhere.  In fact, it’s not okay to write anything that attempts to speak on behalf of anyone.  My concern isn’t just with this article alone, my concern is with my generation letting others speak for them.  Every day on Facebook I see at least one link to an article or blog post with a title along the lines of “10 things short girls hate”  or “8 questions people of mixed ethnicity are tired of hearing”.  People my about my age and younger gobble these things up, they can’t get enough of them.  I’m just as guilty as anyone else, because obviously I was reading this article about twenty year olds for something. Every time I see a post like this that I think I might relate to, I read it. Yet, I’ve found that while these articles can sometimes be entertaining, and on occasion have something I can relate to in them, more often than not I find myself disagreeing with the author. 

So why do we read this stuff?  The bottom line is that people like knowing that they are not alone.  We as individuals like knowing that there are people we can relate to and that our way of thinking isn’t totally wrong.  We need some type of reassurance, and these articles give us exactly the sense of belonging we’re looking for.  At first this isn’t really a problem, it’s perfectly natural.  But what we don’t realize (what I didn’t realize until about two hours ago) is that what these types of posts and articles do is allow someone else to speak for us.  And when we do that, we start to lose are sense of individuality and with that we lose our voice.  We see a post that kinda-sorta relates to us and are so quick to click like, share, reblog, etc. that we don’t even realize that we are letting someone else speak for us.  And this really boggles my mind because my generation, “Generation Y”, claims to be all about individuality and being different. On top of that, we are blessed with so much technology that allows us to do just that: to put our thoughts out there, give our opinions, and speak for ourselves. So why let someone else speak for us?

The author of the article I mentioned at the beginning of this post is not a bad writer. I’m sure that a lot of people probably agree with the things he said. I’m not trying to say that he’s a bad person because he shared his opinion, I applaud him for that. What I want more than anything is for people to have the courage to speak for themselves. To open up and share their ideas and thoughts with the world in a way that is unique to them. Sure, it’s a lot more comfortable and way easier to sit back and let someone else do the talking for us. But do you want to be comfortable, or do you want to be heard?

A Letter to You

I’ve been thinking about you lately.

To be honest, I’m always thinking about you. You may be tucked away in the back of my mind, but there are always things that show up in every day life that act as if their sole to remind me that you are there.

I don’t believe in death the way it is defined. It took me a while to realize what it means to truly die. Just because your body is gone, doesn’t mean that you have to be. As long as people continue to remember you, then your spirit is still alive.

I know that you are still here with me. You are the ray of light emerging from the clouds for just a moment on a cloudy day. You are the smile from a stranger, the breeze that whispers around me.

The day that God took you home I didn’t cry. We were coming to see you one last time, but we were too late. You knew we were there though. I know you did.

I didn’t cry the next day, or the day after that. I felt silly crying, I was only twelve and there were so many people there that knew you longer. They were the ones that earned the right to cry. I didn’t cry until five years later. You see, I was trying to move on, and in doing so I was also trying to forget you.

I finally realized that I was starting to lose you for good. I forgot what your hand writing looked like, I forgot what your laugh sounded like. You were becoming dead to me. You were such a remarkable person, you deserved better than that. I locked myself in the bathroom, turned on the faucet so I wouldn’t be heard, and I cried.

You told me once that when bad things happen to us, we can have one long good cry about it, but then we have to pick ourselves up and carry on. So that’s what I did.

I miss you everyday. I wish you could see us now. So much has changed. But in some ways, so many things are still the same. It’s hard not to imagine what it would be like if you were here.

I had never really felt hate until the day cancer took you away from us. For the longest time I was so angry about it and couldn’t comprehend why it had to claim the life of someone like you.

As I’ve grown closer to The Lord, I know that everything happens for a reason, and you knew that too. Through all of it, you demonstrated such admirable faith and peace that still inspires me to this day.

I rode a Ferris wheel this weekend, and it immediately brought me back to when I was just nine years old sitting next to you. We sat there high above everyone else and talked about everything there was to talk about. Up there with you I was invincible. I never wanted to come down.

It’s memories like that one that are proof that you’re still here with me. I can’t see you, but I can feel you. And I know that you’re safe now.I want you to know that I love you. We all do, and even though we might not admit it, we are thinking of you.

I love you, and I’ll be seeing you.

Finding Real Confidence

At one point or another in our lives, we all develop some sort of insecurity.  When people hear the word “insecure”, they often associate it in their mind with someone being self-conscious of their appearance, whether that be their height, weight, facial features, hair, etc.  Because of this, I often thought that I somehow was invincible to the curse of insecurity.  I’ve been blessed enough that I’ve always been happy with my appearance.  I always figured that if I didn’t like my hair I could cut it, if I didn’t like my height I could wear heels, or if I didn’t like my weight I could exercise more and eat healthier.  However, insecurities run a whole lot deeper than physical appearance.

Merriam-Webster defines the word “insecure” as the state of being “not confident or sure”.  In other words, being insecure means that you are uncertain of that area of your life.  After analyzing this word and trying to figure out how it applies to my life, the answer hit me square in the face via Facebook.  While I may be confident about my physical appearance, I have pretty much zero confidence when it comes to who I am inside.  Now, I know exactly who I am. I know my strengths and weaknesses, so that’s not what I am “uncertain” of.  My big insecurity is whether or not I belong, or whether or not people will accept or like me.  A lot of the time I meet people and they think that I’m really shy or quiet, but as time goes on and they spend more and more time with my they learn that I’m actually not quiet at all.  I’m perfectly okay with talking to strangers whether it be at school or somewhere like the store because chances are I’m not expecting to form some sort of long relationship with them, therefore it doesn’t matter to me what they think of my personality.  The big issue is when I’m trying to form meaningful, lasting relationships.  New friends, family friends, family members I don’t see too often, etc.  Those are usually the situations in which my anxiety really kicks in and I just want to hide in a corner and disappear.  Once I came to terms with the fact that this is in fact a form of insecurity, I have to admit that I felt pretty embarrassed.  I felt like a high school freshman who’s afraid of not fitting in with the cool kids.  But after thinking about it harder, I realized that it really is nothing to be ashamed of.  It’s not as though I want to fit in a worldly way, I’m simply afraid of not being able to form healthy relationships because of the fear that others will not find my personality as dazzling as I would like them to. 

Admittedly, I’m still pretty embarrassed to even be writing about this.  As a human, I’d much rather broadcast my strengths and positive aspects.  So, in an effort to make this a positive post, I did some thinking.  Following that thinking, I did some Biblical research (my favorite kind), and what I found really helped me.  First, I analyzed my issue and narrowed it down to one simple statement: I am afraid of feeling as though I don’t belong when it comes to _____.  I could finish that sentence with a couple different things (friends, family, etc.), so I left it open ended.  Then I did my oh-so-scholarly research by going to Bing and literally typing word for word “what does the Bible say about belonging”.  In the blink of an eye (what a time to be alive, am I right?) my computer was filled with various verses and explanations.  A lot of them had to do with how we shouldn’t desire to fit in with the world or to partake with worldly things, which while that is always excellent advice, I didn’t feel it was applicable to my current lack of self-esteem.  One verse that stood out was this one:

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

John 6:37

I felt some instant relief after reading this, because it serves as a reminder that Jesus has accepted me with all of my sins, flaws, and weird quirks, and that should be all that matters.  Then, it occurred to me that there was something I read in my Bible study this morning that went along with this.  At one in the afternoon, that seven o’clock Bible study seemed like forever ago, but after some searching I found what I was looking for, and the best part was that it was in a footnote that I myself had written this morning.  There at the bottom of my page in my first-grade like handwriting I saw, “God is greater than our self-condemnation.”  The verse I had written this in reference to was the following:

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” -1 John 3:20-21

To me, this verse was saying that no matter what I may not like about myself or what I have done or will do wrong, I have to remember that if God, who is much greater than us, can forgive, love, and accept me through it all, then I need to be able to see past my flaws.  Once I’m able to do that, that’s when I will be able to have true confidence.  I shouldn’t be so concerned about whether or not people accept me.  When I do this, I cause myself to become closed off and don’t allow others to see the light of God in me.  My main purpose in life should be to serve the Lord in everything that I do, and one of the ways I can do this is to open myself up and greet others with the love and grace that God has shown me. 

Whenever we open ourselves up to others we run the risk of being judged or disliked.  Not everyone is going to like us, and that’s okay.  That is to be expected.  Our goal in life shouldn’t be to win people over to satisfy our own selfish needs, it should be to allow other to see God work through us.  If we are allowing others to see Him at work in us, then we are doing his will, and that is all that matters.

I wish that I could say that all of this is going to allow me to open up and be myself 100% of the time without any speck of fear, but I know that wouldn’t be a realistic expectation.  The next time I’m thrust into one of those situations in which I tend to become withdrawn and quiet my anxiety will definitely kick in and the negative self talk telling me that I’m not good enough will be going on in my head.  However, the difference is that now I know how to handle it, and instead of letting those doubts and insecurities take away from who I am, I’m going to utilize the confidence I have in God’s love for me to overcome those insecurities.  It won’t be easy, it’s something that I’ll probably have to struggle with for the rest of my life, but the good news is that it’s not something I have to face alone.

Whatever your insecurity might be, whether it’s regarding who you are externally or internally, know that it doesn’t have to define who you are or how you go about your life.  Focus on those strengths and traits that you love about yourself and really work on embracing those, and once you do that those flaws that used to seem so huge to you will no longer have control over how you live your life.

 

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.

The World Needs More Love Letters

More Love Letters is an organization made up of a community of individuals who come from all over the world and different walks of life, all with one common desire.  To spread love to those who need it the most.  They spread that love by scripting letter after letter to complete strangers in an effort to remind them that they are loved and that they matter.  For more information on what More Love Letters is all about and how you can get involved, you can visit them here.

The reasons I got involved with this cause are enough to form a blog post of their own (keep an eye out for that this weekend), so I won’t be getting into all of that right now.  What I want to do tonight is talk about something wonderful this organization is doing for the holiday season.

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This is the third year that More Love Letters has ran its annual “12 Days of Love Letters” letter writing event.  Basically, individuals are nominated to receive a love letter bundle.  The first names of these people along with their stories are posted online for us to write and send letters of love and encouragement to.  These requests are updated all year long, but during the 12 Days of Love Letters campaign a new request is posted daily for twelve days.  You can view the letter requests here.

Today’s letter request really moved me.  It was for Jenna and Paul, whose three month old son Jordan has been diagnosed with Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  If you’re like me and aren’t familiar with what this condition is, it is the inefficiency of major bodily organs (especially of the respiratory system) caused by rapid motor neuron death.  Babies diagnosed with type one SMA generally do not live past two years of age.  Approximately ten percent of cases live into adolescence and/or adulthood.

Despite all of this, Jenna and Paul will make their little boy’s life as normal as possible.  In the midst of this heartbreaking news, Jenna and Paul have continued to pour out their unconditional love and nurturing upon their beautiful baby boy.

I have scripted quite a few love letters for various letter requests, but there was something about this one that weighed so heavily upon my heart that I was nearly in tears as I wrote my letter for this amazing couple.  My letter for Jenna and Paul is as follows:

My Letter to Jenna & Paul

“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.” -Zara Neale Hurtson

Dear Jenna & Paul,

When I heard your story, this quote is the first thing that came to my mind.  My heart goes out to the both of you and your beautiful child.

I cannot even begin to imagine what you must be going through, but I strongly believe that if God has brought you to it, he will bring you through it.  The both of you are such an inspiration to so many people.  Your unconditional love and faith shines among the brightest of lights and is touching the lives of everyone you meet. 

No matter what happens, I pray that you never lose faith.  Never give up.  Years from now, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as some of the most beautiful.  Your son is so immensely loved and is in my prayers.  I believe in him, and I believe in you. 

With Love,

S.

 

If you want to write a letter in support of Jenna and Paul, you can mail letters to the address below:

Jenna & Paul’s Bundle

c/o Colleen K.

4 Chapman Street

Apartment A

Newington, CT 06111

As long as your letters are in the mail by December 20th, they will be included in their letter bundle.

 

Walk, Don’t Drive

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Tonight I had the pleasure of being able to walk through the local “Christmas Tree Lane” with my wonderful sister and fiancé.  Though I have driven through a couple different Christmas Tree Lanes in past years (once a few years back with my parents, once last year while living in Fresno), there was something about walking through it with the two people I hold dearest to my heart that really sparked something inside of me.  Call it holiday cheer, call it the Starbucks kicking in, but tonight was definitely something special.

As we were nearing the end of our magical journey through this lovely neighborhood I heard a parent near us tell their child that they had reached the end and it was time to go home.  The child, being rather young, didn’t want to leave.  They whined and begged to stay, and upon hearing this I couldn’t help but smile.  Had I been walking through this winter wonderland of sorts at their age, I probably would have done the same exact thing.  When we are young we wish magical and beautiful moments like that could last forever.  Maybe it’s something as remarkable as Disneyland, or something as simple as Christmas Tree Lane, but there is something special about these places that spark a feeling in our hearts that is so unbelievably rare and magical.  As children, we want these moments to last forever.  We want it to be Christmas every day of the year and we want to live in Disneyland forever.  But as we get older, we realize that it’s how rare these moments are that make them so special and memorable to us.  When I was young, adults would tell me that if I got to go to Disneyland every single day it wouldn’t be special anymore.  To this day I do have my doubts about that statement, however they make a valid point.  We took a week long trip to Disneyland when I was ten years old, and as much as I loved that vacation, I couldn’t tell you much of what we did everyday.  It all blends together in a blur of music, junk food, and rides.  However, there is one specific moment of that vacation that I remember so vividly and beautifully.  I remember watching the fireworks over the water in front of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride.  I remember being so entranced by the combination of the dramatic music and the lights over the water.  But most of all, I remember out of the corner of my eye seeing my dad look at me with the biggest smile on his face, because even though I didn’t know it then, he knew a beautiful memory was being formed in my mind, and he got to be a part of it. 

Days come and go. They begin and they end, usually with nothing remarkable happening in between.  But within those days are moments.  Moments that stand out from others, and it is in these moments that we have the opportunity to create memories that will last forever.  Had Eddie and I simply driven through Christmas Tree Lane tonight by ourselves the way we had originally planned on doing I’m sure that it would have been fun, but as the years went on it likely would have blended in with and eventually gotten lost in all of the holiday memories that are to come.  But at the last minute we asked Christa to come with us.  We decided to wear silly Santa hats and get Starbucks and listen to Christmas music on the way there.  We decided to go through the neighborhood by foot as to not feel rushed and to be sure we had time to fully take in the sights that this community works so hard to create for us.  Because we made these decisions, tonight’s adventure won’t just be a moment, it will be a memory.  When I look back on it I will remember making jokes about how long it would be until Christa tripped, as she was prone to do.  I will remember Eddie and I almost crying because of how hard we were laughing at her irrational fear of smooth jazz.  I will remember our deep discussions of antiheroes and villains in classic Disney movies as we walked back to where we had parked our car.  I will remember the music and displays that we were able to stop and admire and might have missed had we drove on by. 

This time of year it is so easy to get lost in all of the holiday shopping, planning, and rushing to get everything on our to-do list taken care of.  It is easy to forget what this time of year should really be all about.  Years from now you won’t remember who you forgot to send a Christmas card to.  It won’t matter if you didn’t have time to make that extra side dish for dinner.  What will matter is that you took the time to step away from all the craziness and spend time with the ones you love, that you chose to walk through this season with the people that matter the most to you instead of driving through so fast that no lasting memories were formed.  The days will come and go and the moments will fade with time, but the memories will always be with you, tucked safely into the corners of your heart.

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