These Four Things

My name is Stephanie Maria Martin.

I was born on June 11, 1994.

I have brown eyes and brown hair.

These are facts.  These are the things that I have always known to be true about myself and that will never change.  But beyond this, there is so much I have left to discover about who I am.

I don’t know what I will have for dinner next Tuesday.

I don’t know what my strengths are.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I don’t know what my purpose in life is.

I don’t know when I’ll take my last breath.

There have been many days that I have found myself in tears over some of these facts.  I have a love-hate relationship with surprises, and uncertainty drains me.  One day I will think I have it all figured out, and then a split second later I realize how wrong I am.

It hasn’t taken me long to learn that I can do all the planning and worrying  that I want, but none of it will matter.  I can plan for the worst and hope for the best, but what good does that really do?  Realizing how little is under my control has been one of the hardest things for me to swallow.  I like to think that I live in present, yet sleepless nights and constant doubts prove otherwise.

There is indeed so much I don’t know about myself, and about the future. But there are some really important truths that, after a lot of time, I now know.

I am unique.

I have a purpose.

I am not a mistake.

I am so, so loved.

It took me far too long to realize these four things, and I’m not so sure that I always believe them to be true.  However, I know that while there is very little I can control, I can always choose to be happy.  I can choose to believe these things.  And that’s exactly what I will do.

I will repeat these truths to myself every day for as long as it takes for me to believe them, even if that means I will be doing it until the day I die.

And I hope that if you read this, you will do the same.

Because in a world that is constantly telling us who we should be, and as we constantly struggle to put the pieces together to figure out who we actually are, these four things will remain the same.

You are so loved.

-SM

Falling For Myself

I have never been the type to be fully comfortable in my own skin.  There has always been a laundry list of things that I would love to change about my appearance tucked away in the back of my mind.  Whenever I’m having a rough day I can recite the things I dislike about myself as readily as if I were being asked to recite the alphabet.  My almost non-existent shoulders, my lazy eye, my nose, my not-so-white teeth, my round face, my thick and often unmanageable hair….

The list goes on and on.

I have also never been the type to like to admit that I have insecurities.  But then I guess no one is.  I hide my insecurities under a smile and makeup, hoping that if I do it just right it will somehow imitate the confidence I seem to have lost so long ago.  It’s gone on this way for a few years now, and it could probably go on for a few years longer.  But what way is that to live?  Who wants to live in fear of mirrors and transparency their entire life?  I make money telling young adults that they cannot live this way, yet I have made it a habit myself.  I have become a hypocrite, and coming to that realization was so incredibly hard to swallow.

I have been my greatest enemy, constantly letting the whispers and expectations of society fill my ears until they get to my head and the lies dance around in my mind.  I let myself lose control over my self image, and in doing so I let the idea of confidence fade away until it was nothing but a nice yet unattainable concept.

It was time to go to war with myself.

When I look in the mirror and feel the urge to look away, I stare myself down instead.  I dare myself to think a negative thought so that I can shut it down and replace it with the truth I have been denying myself: that I am enough.  When I am afraid to look someone in the eye for the fear that they might see right through me, I instead silently dare them to look away first and make sure that I flash them a smile (after all, I’ve always had a brilliant smile).

It isn’t easy to reverse the negative, false image of myself that my mind has so generously created for me.  But it’s something I have to do, and something I will continue to strive to do every day of my life.  I owe it to myself.  If I choose to wear lipstick, it is for myself.  If I decide to wear no makeup and wear clothes that are dangerously on the border of not matching, I will smile because I know I’m doing it for me.  Maybe it’s selfish, and that’s okay.  Because if I can’t be happy with who I am, if I can’t look in the mirror and like what I see, then I’m doing something wrong.

If we as individuals cannot learn to be kind to ourselves and appreciate the things that make us unique, if we are unable to fall in love with ourselves all over again every day, then how could we ever ask or expect that of anyone else?  Or even more importantly, how can we give that kind of love and acceptance to someone else if we deny ourselves it?

Treat others the way you would want to be treated, but also remember to treat yourself the way you would want others to treat you.

-SM

You Are Enough

Dear Son/Daughter,

You are enough.

Plain and simple.

We live in a world that wants you to feel worthless.  Our society will constantly tell you that if you reach a little bit further or try a little harder you might finally reach the illusion of perfection.

Please believe me when I tell you that perfection is not something that can be attained.  We are imperfect people living in an flawed world.  But also believe me when I tell you that life does not have to be flawless to be wonderful.

If you are female you are constantly being fed the lies that you are not pretty enough, not feminine enough, not thin enough, not tall enough.  If you are male you are being told that you are not masculine enough, not tough enough, not strong enough.  Regardless of who you are you will be told that you are not smart enough, not cool enough, not outgoing enough.

You will be told that you are not enough.

One of my biggest fears is that you will believe these vile, loathsome lies.  However, I know that everyone will feel that they are not enough at some point.  It’s inevitable, and it absolutely breaks my heart to know that there will come a time when you will start to believe that you are less than enough.

You are enough. You are more than enough.  I want to speak this truth into your veins so that it flows throughout your being and is as real to you as the air that you breathe.

You are so worth loving simply because you exist.  You are beautiful because you are you.  There is no one else like you, and there never will be.  You can spend your whole life chasing after a perfect image that you will never reach.  Some people waste their days away trying to be something that they are told they should be but they never will be.  That kind of life can drive you mad.

The truth is that there are days when I feel that I’m not enough.  And there will be days when you feel that way too.  On those days we have two options.   We can choose to give in to society’s demands and make ourselves miserable trying to be something we simply were not made to be, or we can choose joy.

I hope you remember that nothing is worth it if you are not happy.

I hope you choose joy.

I hope you know that you are enough.  Because you will always be enough for me.

-SM

Rotisserie Chicken Salad Recipe

So, a few months ago I was looking for a quick and relatively healthy dinner recipe when I came across a recipe for the greatest salad I have ever had. Fast forward to this morning. As I sat on my couch trying to plan out dinners for the next couple weeks, this particular salad came to mine. I knew I had found it on Pinterest, but apparently I didn’t have the sense to “pin” or “like” it. My husband and I both remembered most of the ingredients and were able to recreate it. I’m not going to take credit for this recipe, but I am going to post it. Mostly so that I don’t lose it again, and also so that any fellow salad lovers have something new to try.

Anyone that reads my blog regularly knows that it is far from a cooking blog. I have never written out a recipe before, and while making this salad tonight we eyed the ingredients as opposed to taking exact measurements. So I apologize ahead of time if my estimates are off, but chances are that as long as you know how many people you are trying to feed you’ll be able to judge how much of each ingredient to put in.

Ingredients:
3 romaine lettuce hearts
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 rotisserie chicken
6 strips turkey bacon
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic (or to taste)
crushed black pepper to taste
Croutons

Prep:
Wash, dry, and tear lettuce hearts into smaller pieces.
Wash both grape tomatoes and sliced mushrooms and cut into halves to make bite sized pieces.
Cook bacon and then cut the strips into small bits.
For the rotisserie chicken, pull the chicken off of the bone, and then tear the meat apart until you reach a desired size.
Combine the lettuce, chicken, bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms in a large bowl. Add in the garlic, pepper, and croutons. (It’s up to you what kind of croutons you use, or if you use them at all. I personally prefer the butter & garlic flavored ones. )
Toss salad until it is thoroughly mixed. Add dressing if you would like to, although I personally prefer this particular salad without dressing.
Serve with garlic bread, sourdough, or whatever you like!

These are the approximate measurements we used for our dinner tonight (keep in mind it was just the two of us) and we ended up with plenty of leftovers. Like I said, I’m new to all of this cooking and recipe business, so I apologize if this recipe and it’s instructions don’t make much sense. But mostly, I just wanted to make sure I had it written down somewhere that I could be sure not to lose it again.
If you do end up trying this recipe, and I really hope you do, let me know what you think or if there is anything you did differently!

Cheers!
SM

I’m Not Ready

Tomorrow I get to marry my best friend. Tomorrow a new chapter will begin to unfold. Tomorrow I will get a new last name. Tomorrow everything changes.

This year-long engagement has been a a blessed one, a journey that the two of us will always look back on with nothing but smiles. The question we have been getting the most lately is “are you ready?”. We know that when they ask this they are asking about whether our favors are done, his tux is picked up, etc. We smile and nod and tell them everything they want to hear.

But you know what the truth is?
We aren’t ready. Not even close.

Marriage isn’t something that you just gear up for. Marriage isn’t about one day, it’s about a lifetime. You can do all the premarital counseling and read all the books in the world, but you still will never be ready. One moment you’re cutting cake and dancing with your friends and family, and the next you find yourselves alone in a new home asking yourself what you’re supposed to do now.

As strange as it sounds, that “what now” moment is probably what I’m most excited for. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. There will be ups and downs, good days and bad days. But the beauty of it is that you get to embark on this imperfect journey together. This man I’m marrying is God’s provision for me. How special is that? Probably one of the most wonderful gifts there is. Today’s society sets so many standards for the “perfect marriage” and tells us that if we aren’t happy we probably married the wrong person. Society tells us that divorce is an easy fix. Society is wrong.

There will be arguments and disappointment, but from that will come learning and growth. Of course I’m not ready to be married. How can I ever be ready for something I haven’t experienced? That being said, what I am ready for is to see God’s plan for us start to unfold one day at a time. Our prayer for our marriage is that we always remember to keep God at the center of it, and that others will be able to see His love in us.

I’m excited,nervous, anxious, and overjoyed all at once. The one thing I’m not is ready. The cool thing about that is that it means I still have so much to learn, and tomorrow I get to start learning with my best friend. Knowing that is what will make tomorrow the best day of my life.

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?

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.