Birthdays, anniversaries and “beginnings” (like the start of a new year) always have a way of making people reminisce… overthink… ponder… attempt to forecast. Over the past 3 or 4 years I have spent most birthdays and holiday seasons primarily alone; left with far too much time to wonder if there would be years in the near future when I wouldn’t be “alone like always” and far more time to pray that this wouldn’t always be the case. It has become a year in time when it seems like there is ABSOLUTELY nothing that is “normal” and we are all still trying to learn to adapt to new ways of living, schooling, working, and… quite frankly… managing doing and being ALL THINGS at all times. While I often wish I had FAR MORE free time to put the million scattered thoughts in my head to paper, “life” has gotten in the way (in the form of two very busy jobs) and I have failed to speak life into those searching for answers through my trials and experiences.
With a new year of life now before me, I feel it is only fitting to put the last one (and many before that) to bed by personally reminiscing on some of the best (and hardest) lessons this year… and the 37 before… have taught me. For so many years elders have told me “you have to go through it to understand it” and I always balked at that, thinking I could somehow be smarter, learn from their mistakes and others I had read about, educate myself enough to steer clear of the speedbumps and landmines along the path of life. But, unfortunately, the truth is that they have been right all along…. you DO have to go through it to learn through it. And the wisdom on the other side of it allows you to educate others and save yourself from allowing it to happen again. Perhaps just one person reading this will say “I felt that,” or “man I wish I had known that sooner too.” So, in my own words through experience, here’s my version of Maya Angelou’s “I’ve learned that.” I pray that you will share this with someone in your life that you know it will speak to as well. As we always do at the end of each blog, please take a moment of silence to read along and pray along with me.
I’ve Learned That:
- It’s just a highlight reel folks… just a highlight reel. If you find yourself getting angry, frustrated, jealous, envious or any other sinful reaction, put the phone (or mouse) down and pick up a book. The ABSOLUTE smartest thing I did in this year of 37 was enacting a “silence social” mode when I felt myself even beginning to feel any of the emotions mentioned above. Too much of anything can be incredibly toxic – and social media is absolutely the devil when it comes to inviting sinful reactions to infiltrate your mind. No one posts about their losses, bad days, breakups (or if they do it is in tasteless, dramatic fashion) and hardships… they post the best days, biggest wins, I love you’s and fake victories. If you can’t take it with a grain of salt and keep scrolling, shut it down and open a book. God forbid you educate yourself on something, learn a new hobby, grow in your faith, follow along a romance novel or refresh your memory of Texas or US history!
- You can love someone with everything you have and it won’t be enough for them because it is not the kind of love they need or want; learn your love language (and your partners if entering a relationship) as soon as you can in life (like YESTERDAY!) and don’t take offense when you give someone everything you have and it still isn’t enough for them
- God is not in a hurry – you are! That is why you are frustrated, angry, doubting your faith, depressed, exhausted, hurt, felt forgotten…. God’s timing is NOT ours and ours is NOT Gods. The sooner you can release your hold on the wheel and TRULY let Jesus take it, the more peace, grace and patience you will have with yourself, with society when they judge and jade you and with God on delivering the things you THINK are “due” to you.
- The day you choose to live in gratitude will be the day you stop comparing your life and situation to others. Gratitude has a weird way of teaching us perspective. It keeps our feet on the ground and our minds and souls humble and it sets the tone for a thankful life everyday. When you “rise and give thanks” instead of grumbling about all you have to do, so many things will seem like a blessing to GET to do instead of HAVE to do. Replace “have to” with “get to” in your sentences. Thank the people around you and the holy one above you for ALLOWING you the opportunity to do things and see how it changes your mindset.
- CHOOSE Happy. Always. Above all else. Choose happy. Happy feels good. Happy looks good – on you and on others. It physically, psychologically and emotionally allows us to achieve more, love more, be more. And please hear this, dear friends… there WILL be days when you truly have to CHOOSE happy; legitimately have to trick your brain into finding a smile, applying mascara that you feel like you might just cry off and finding something (anything) to be happy about and set the tone of your day to gratitude and happiness.
- Regardless of how much of an OCD planner and terminally organized person you are, your best times and greatest freedom will come when you “take a risk” and do something that makes you feel like you are flying by the seat of your damn pants and acting “crazy and young.” Believe me. I’m that girl… the ridiculously calculated, planned, organized, snacks packed and plans double and triple checked… that girl. Trust me when I say this… GO.ON.THE.LAST.MINUTE.TRIP! Pack your bag in a rush, go without a hotel reservation, drive with no destination… it will result in some of the best memories and freest moments you will experience in life.
- Your best kiss, biggest smile, brightest memory, warmest hug, BEST LOVE and biggest aha are STILL TO COME! Don’t lose faith or let the world tell you that you are behind or “late” or “too old,” because the second you stop living is the second you start dying!
- You can love God and want to strangle some of His children. Daily. Just don’t actually strangle them. The problem with people’s interpretation of Christianity is that it requires you to like everyone… not true. It requires you to love everyone and treat everyone fairly and judiciously, but it does NOT mean you have to like everyone. And it DEFINITELY does not mean you have to hang out with them, go to events with them, PRETEND to like them. Fake nice is worse than full fledged silence or avoidance. Please don’t disrupt all the peace in your soul by trying to like someone you really just can’t stand because you feel like it will make you a bad Christian if you don’t like them. What WILL make you a sinner is faking it, lying, pretending and compromising your integrity.
- There will always… ALWAYS… be someone who is prettier, skinnier, wealthier, with better skin and bigger boobs and more youth. But there is ONLY ONE YOU! As one of my very favorite sayings goes: “if you ever struggle to decide between me and someone else, PLEASE don’t pick me!” You have to OWN the fact that you are uniquely YOU. The people whom God puts in your path were put there with divine purpose and the ones who choose to stay were assigned by him. NEVER… and I mean EVER… beg for attention, love, affirmation, time, importance, worthiness or a place in someone’s life. You – wholly and completely flawed and imperfect – will be enough for the people who are meant to be in your life. Find those people and love them hard and never let them go!
AND LAST, but indefinitely not LEAST…. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all!” I often get comments from people like “you are always going and doing something or skirting off on some crazy adventure”… well HELL YEAH I am! My days here in the flesh are NUMBERED and before God calls me to His side, I plan to shove AS MUCH FUN STUFF into the days he gives me in good spirit and good health as I possibly can! “Work hard, play hard” has always been my biggest motto… and although MANY who do not know you intimately will criticize the things they “see” portrayed on social media networks or “hear” from that grand ol’ game of telephone, you owe NO ONE (other than God) an answer for how you live your life. Live it with unabandoned joy, passion, drive, spirit, grace and LIGHT… and for all those who try to dim that light, your goal should be to remind them that NO ONE can dim the light that shines from you as God glorifies your path of conquest.
If you’re a praying soul (or even if you aren’t or don’t feel particularly comfortable doing it or claiming it), read these words and then pause a moment to truly reflect on them, insert your own and tell God the worries, stresses, thank you’s and fears on your heart.
Heavenly Father, hear our hearts through our words as we reach out to you, first and foremost in gratitude and next in continued need for MORE of your love. Your grace. Your mercy that you have given so freely through the gift of your Son, Jesus. As we enter this season of CHRISTmas and embark on a new year (both through birthdays and the changing of the calendar year), may we walk boldly and in accordance to your will. Shepherd us as we continue to try and navigate this new and scary “norm” we are currently facing. Be with each of us as we continue to lay our worries and stresses at your feet and blindly accept that the only way to fully succeed is by taking life one day at a time and relying on you and your word and YOUR plan. For those of your children struggling with issues on their hearts that maybe ONLY YOU know of, guide and comfor them; remind them to pray the hardest when it is the hardest to pray and when life gets too hard to stand… KNEEL! With every ounce of gratitude for all of the blessings you have bestowed upon us, we ask all of these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who came to save the world.