So, this is 34.
I’m 34, and let me tell you, 33 kicked my butt. It was good and it was awful. It was hard in every way, it challenged me, grew me, destroyed me, and maybe hopefully began to repair me as well into a more fully healed and whole person than I was when I started.
God and I had some really intimate highs, some painful lows, and a slew of confusing silences.
This is a really long-winded blog, it’s ok to not read it, it’s mostly for me to process externally anyway.
So, for my birthday, here are 34 impactful things that I learned this year that I think are worth noting.
- I’ve fully submerged myself in the importance of forcing yourself to write/journal your prayers and thoughts. Even if not every day, it gives a place marker for the things you’re struggling through, and a way to go back and review how you have grown and changed. It’s the best thing to do when you have nothing to say inside or too much to make sense of.
Even if it’s once a week, write it down… Especially your prayers and feelings towards God.
- Don’t just share your highlights.
As intimately personal as seasons can be and feel, they were meant to be shared. The good, bad and ugly. It’s really important to allow people to see all of you. Obviously at varying levels depending on the relationship, but sometimes you have to be more vulnerable than makes sense to someone you barely know.
Life is meant to be shared so we all know we are not the only one and we can help one another heal.
- Celebrate. Everything.
I learned this from my dad. My mom calls him a “fun junky” and he loves to use anything as a reason to celebrate… “It’s Friday and we survived the week? Celebratory Pizza it is!!” – This year was really hard, and a few of my friends and I decided to celebrate everything. Try it! Celebrating everything makes the hard times better with moments of relief, and the best seasons more fun.
- Setting expectations is really important.
I’ve always been a communicator by nature and nurture, but this is the first year I’ve started really focusing on setting expectations for myself and clearly defining them or re-defining them with those around me.
Most (not all) arguments, heart hurts or relational pain of any kind can be avoided if expectations are clearly explained and talked through.
- Life is shitty sometimes.
There really isn’t anything you can do or others can do to make it better, it just has to be ridden out with the faith that it will get better because everything just has a season, and each season will pass.
The shitty parts of life feel like forever, but they aren’t, so give it time.
- Take the time to just be present in your good moments.
I’ve tried to make it a habit to take moments to just sit and be and focus on memorizing good moments. The way they smell, the laugh lines on someone’s face, the sound of the ocean or laughing, how I feel in that moment etc..
Take time to tuck away good moments in your heart.
- Learn how you process in a healthy way…
Just because something is the way “you” process doesn’t make it beneficial or healthy… But, learn what is, and then create space for your process.
So. Many. People. told me what I needed when the man I loved broke my heart and my job suddenly wasn’t mine anymore; all within a months time. But, I knew that I wasn’t them, and I couldn’t make myself process like them, I needed to observe my own personality and process and create space for that.
If you don’t know how to be healthy, ask people older than you or those who know you really well to help you. Don’t let your hurt and pain create an unhealthy process for you.
- When life is a shitshow and everything is out of control, make yourself choose healthy things within your control.
For me it was meal prepping healthy food for the week and exercising every single day. It made sure that I was giving myself every good and healthy food and chemicals (hello endorphins!) in my system that would help, but mostly it was something *I* could control in a healthy way in a season that was totally out of control.
- Apparently Essential Oils really do help.
I’m such a reluctant hippie when it comes to essential oils (I use primarily Young Living *cue drama*), but they have made a difference. Nothing that is EARTH SHATTERING, but small things. A few times they made a huge difference, and a few times I didn’t notice much. But, overall I did feel better, and whether that’s placebo or not is irrelevant if I’m feeling better. There are instances when essential oils worked better than anything else I could find, and didn’t give any side effects. So, do your research (it’s actually hard to find research, but slowly more studies are being done), but also maybe start using them.
- Sunshine really does make a difference in how you feel. Do everything possible to put yourself in some sunshine, even if you look like a crazy cat sprawled out across the floor. Do. It.
If you can’t find sunshine, go make your own fake sun and lay in a tanning bed for 6 minutes. (I’m not even kidding with this one)
- Self-care, like everything else is on a pendulum swing… Sometimes it looks like face masks and bubble baths, but usually it’s real and honest assessments of where you are, and what you need… AND THEN TELLING SOMEONE ELSE. Usually half of the time I think I need personal alone time for “self-care” I actually need my closest people, laughter, and a shared experience that makes me remember good times are ahead.
- I don’t understand God.
I don’t understand why He allows so much pain and suffering. I don’t understand why He doesn’t fix things the way that I think a kind, tender, faithful and loving God should… I don’t understand why some people experience so much trauma, and why others experience so much blessing… But, then again I have been believing in God long enough to know that pain and suffering doesn’t mean God is absent, even though that’s really what it feels like sometimes.
My lack of understanding God often leaves me angry, frustrated and hurt by Him, but, it doesn’t mean I believe or love Him any less either. It is all just the reality of the situation.
- I’ve discovered this year that my head has more faith in God than my heart does.
My heart is fickle and full of chaos and turmoil. My head remembers the things of the past compared to how things are now and is able to process through and draw logical conclusions. My head is able to recall scripture to anchor to when my heart just feels chaos. God is faithful, even when He doesn’t seem like it right now.
- When you’re going through the worst season, or even just a really hard one… You have two options as it pertains to those around you that love you:
A) communicate your needs to others.
B) Give them the grace and benefit of the doubt that they are in over their head too… And, they are likely just as incapable of reaching out to care for you, as you are for them.
There isn’t any other options with those we love and rough seasons.
- When you’re in a good place, reach out to those that aren’t.
If you’re in a really great place and those around you are not… Every. Little. Thing. Helps.
Text messages, bottles of wine, chocolate, hanging out, sending gifs or youtube videos, sitting silently, sending a card, cleaning the house, hugs.. Anything that shows you see them, you care, and you have the capacity to carry the burden with them for even one day.
- Adulting is hard. – But, it’s worse when you allow yourself to wallow in unhealthy choices.
Adulting well means choosing to do hard things that are good for you no matter how you feel… But, do it anyway, especially when you have to force yourself to make good choices regardless of how you feel. Doing those healthy-hard things now means the better things later.
– And, if you’re struggling with depression, it’s ok, we all do at some point. But, it’s so important to talk to a few people who love you about it, and ask them to help you.
Also, physical exercise of any kind truly does help.
People are shitty sometimes. People can make awful choices that directly or indirectly cause pain… But, not everyone who hurts you was malicious or even understands, and sometimes people use us and disregard us because they are inconsiderate. Sometimes people hurt us out of misunderstanding, and other times they are too self-centered to see how they hurt us. No matter the situation, it’s really important to forgive. (Which is not the same as forgetting, that’s just stupid to think we will forget like it never happened.)
- Take breaks.
Take a break from your phone, social media, tv, movies, anything that is a distraction for you needs to be something you break from… Whether that’s a few hours, days, weeks or seasons of breaking and fasting it. Give the distraction a break and step away. It’s really hugely important for your brain, your heart, and your soul.
- When you’re not ok, STOP READING THE NEWS.
I’m not even kidding. Do whatever it takes to avoid the news and people who talk about the news. I’ve gotten up and walked out because people I care about wanted to talk about world news and I couldn’t handle it and knew it. – Your heart and mind were not meant to absorb the world’s news constantly. Ban it from your world for a little while and replace it with good, fun or uplifting things. Your heart will thank you.
- Apparently a regular skin care routine actually does make a difference!
The last half of this year I’ve begun doing much more than just washing my face twice a day… Or for a while I was washing, toning, moisturizer, and SPFing daily. But, what I’ve discovered is that once a week face masks, washing and moisturizer twice a day, and the semi-occasional exfoliation really does wonders. But, even more than that, I’ve learned to rotate my products every 2-3 months to keep it effective. (Seriously, mid-thirties women should not still be struggling with acne)
– Fun tip ladies, treat your neck like it’s your face. It helps.
- Do hard things that you are a little afraid to fail at.
I took on some seriously daunting physical challenges this year. I was really very uncertain if I would be able to succeed due to my tendon and ligament disorder that causes my body dislocate all the time. It took so much training, but also a lot of people to help me learn and grow and stay focused when I wanted to quit. I succeeded, and I was more proud of myself than I expected to be. Especially given everything that was working against me while I trained.
- Community that loves you makes all of the difference.
I’ve always been a more-better when it comes to people around me. But, this year I allowed people to actually step in and be around me and with me through my various seasons and types of processing. It made a huge difference… But, it is also so much work to continue to pursue people when life is busy and hard. Scheduling things for a month later really does help.
- Holding Steadfast doesn’t mean what most think.
I learned how hard it is to hold steadfast. To remain and stay strong. Yet, I also learned that it does not come without struggle, pain, doubts, fear, and turmoil… But that it cultivates a different type of stubbornness; one that is not selfish or for your own gain, but rather despite how it feels, the consistent choices to pick up and continue to remain steady.
- Perseverance has to be cultivated and you have to prove yourself.
Doing hard things and seeing them through no matter how you feel, what you’re going through, whatever obstacle is in front of you, all of these things can only be cultivated and created with the decision to persevere. You learn who you are, and sometimes you have to actively choose who you will be… And then, on the other side, you discover that you truly are someone who perseveres no matter what is in front of you.
- Obedience to God doesn’t make sense.
Probably the biggest and most painful thing I learned this year is that obedience to God doesn’t make sense. In fact, it is often awful and really incredibly hard. Obedience, no matter how you feel or what other people say, and even if it is illogical, it doesn’t matter if you know what God is asking you to do – You have to do it.
Obedience is hard, and proving that you are faithful (although not perfect), is another thing that can only be learned and created through perseverance. Your integrity grows, your patience grows, but you also have to take lots of moments to step back mentally and choose the right choice instead of the reactive response. It’s hard, and there’s no way around it. Learning obedience is a must.
- Being single in your mid-thirties is really rough.
While being single has some life-giving and really fun opportunities, and while I do my best to live life fully… it is also heart crushing and soul killing to be single with the majority of men today.
It’s also hard to be single and to be given advice by people who are ignorant of what it means to be much more than a decade into adulthood, and still navigating life alone.
Dating is really awful the vast majority of the time.
Being a single woman who loves Jesus, and chooses to remain a virgin in her mid-thirties (hello hormones anyone?) is literally no easy task. Because there are also very very few good single men who believe and follow Christ wholly, it easily creates an overwhelming depression about what the future may or may not ever turn out to be… It’s hard.
- Being single is better than being in a broken marriage.
I have watched and walked through some really awful marriage situations with people I love so much. It breaks my heart to watch how people’s brokenness, sins, selfishness, apathy, laziness, or just meanness creates so much unnecessary pain and turmoil.
Marriage is what I want, but I am not blind to the pain it can also cause.
- Decisions have natural consequences, and wisdom matters.
I feel like this year more than any before it I have started to see and reflect on the wisdom of situations and choices. My own and others. What can I learn from this or that? I’ve started to see choices and natural consequences like a highlighter leading to wisdom or foolishness, and that has led me to pray more for wisdom and understanding.
… I don’t know how much God has answered those prayers, considering so many things in my life, but It still is the thing I pray the most for.
- Sometimes, all that can fix a situation is the ocean – Or really any vast expanse of space…
There is a peace and calm that settles over your anxious heart and racing mind when you put yourself somewhere that makes you feel small. It is really good and resetting.
- It is really important to learn who you are.
I’m intense, I’m passionate, and I’m kind…. But, I’m not gentle.
I have learned a lot this year about the qualities I possess that are really good, but that I frequently misuse. I have also learned a lot about how to better communicate so that I am not harming others…
I will forever be intense and passionate and kind, it’s who I am naturally.
I will forever have to work incredibly hard to be gentle when the situation calls for it because I am not so great at this when I’m not paying attention to myself… We are all flawed works in progress.
- I learned this year that I do not trust God with my heart when it comes to love and romance.
In fact, I expect Him to build my trust and then rip it away and leave me even more broken. – I wish I had a healing answer for this to share with you, but because of the 14 month process with God and this guy who hurt me this year, I don’t. I’m still hurt by God more than the guy at this point, and I don’t really trust God with this area of my heart… So, I’m trying to find my way back to Him and healthy in this area… To Be Continued.
You need to travel, even if it isn’t out of the country… Although I really love to do that too.
This year I learned from some of the most incredible people in another country. I learned about humility and perseverance, forgiveness and faith, and I learned about strength and love in a way that I had never seen before. Traveling and experiencing people and places changes your heart and helps you see things differently than you could ever understand by just reading about it or watching something about it.
Traveling gives perspective that I think God uses to help us see better.
- Patience is cultivated.
Between God, my dog’s 14 month health issues, people, and so many other things, this year I have learned so much about patience being cultivated and chosen. You don’t become more patient just by going through rough situations, you grow in your patience when you engage in it fully.
- Change can be good or hard or fun or the worst thing ever.
Change is like the seasons, it will come and it will go… It can be good or bad, ugly or beautiful, fun or the worst, exhausting or exhilarating… Change is not inherently anything.
So, it’s important to choose change for fun things… change your hair, get a fun tattoo, buy clothes that are a different style, change-up your pattern. Allow change to be good for you, and fun, because change will inevitably come at some point that is not positive…. But, that too will change again.