5 Rules For My Past Self

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What if you could go back ten years and talk to yourself? What would you say? Would you tell yourself to enjoy the this time, or endure it? Would you tell yourself that life gets better? It wasn’t hard to come up with 5 things I would tell my past self.

1. Don’t worry so much about your future and the future of the ones you care about. God has everything under control.

I had a pretty severe case of the worry warts as a child. I would worry constantly about things I had no control over. I mean really, how much control does a ten year old have? If I didn’t have control over it, I would worry about it. It took some serious prayer, time in the Word, and guidance from those wiser than me to get over that.

2. I know you hate that eyepatch and those fantastic pink circle glasses, but just own that look. You won’t have it forever and then suddenly, those glasses will be back and you will be upset with yourself for throwing them out with such disdain.

I have a lazy eye, so as a child I had to wear an eyepatch during the day. I can distinctly remember being seven years old and telling my mom that I would NOT be going to McDonald’s wearing that eyepatch. I had these ugly pink glasses that I had to wear too. I remember the day I got to donate those glasses, that was the best day of my young life. But of course, now those glasses are “in”. Oh trends.

3. Don’t ever stop writing.

I wrote my first story at age seven. It was about a dog named Patches who gets lost and has to find his way back home. It is honestly pretty good for a seven year old. I stopped writing for a while around age eleven, when I moved across the country. I wish now that I hadn’t; I would love to see the journals from that awkward transition time.

4. Please, care less about what people think.

I honestly didn’t have that much of a self esteem problem. Looking back, I’m pretty amazed at it. I never really hid who I was to impress other people. I did, however, do this thing where I was rarely my entire self. I would only show the parts of me that it would take to fit in with the current cool crowd. I was never someone else, but I was never entirely me. We all know by now that it isn’t worth the time and energy and that we need to be our whole selves, but poor 13 year old me just wanted friends.

5. Don’t take your friends for granted.

When I was 9, my best friend moved away to a different state. I was absolutely devastated. I can remember still exactly where we were when she told me she was moving. We wrote letters, but eventually our friendship faded, as many friendships from that age do. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t let that friendship go so easily.

Honestly, I could probably write a book full of advice for my past self. Be more adventurous. Say yes to the scary things. Be where you are. Read more.

The funny thing about coming up with rules for your past self is the challenge it gives you today. Do I still care about what people think more than I should? Do I still worry? Do I take my relationships for granted? When was the last time I wrote?

Don’t let looking back and wishing keep you from looking forward and dreaming. Take the things you wished you knew ten years ago and put them into action now. Don’t waste time on remorse. Ten years from now you would never approve.

Value in the Mundane, Worth in the Normalcy

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I made a new discovery the last time I looked at my collection of short stories.

Every short story I’ve ever written, from the time I was seven or eight up until the last one I wrote have the same common theme.

I wrote my very first story about a dog who gets lost and has to find his way home. When he gets home he is so relieved to see his own bed.

My second story that was somewhat substantial was about a princess who decides that there is more to her life than her palace. She gets on a boat and ends up in a dance studio in Italy, where she eats bread, cheese, and pasta until she misses her parents and life. She goes home and is finally satisfied with what she has. I can’t tell you why dance studios, bread, cheese, and pasta were my definitions of Italy, but hey, it could be worse.

Some of my more recent, grown up short stories are about normal people trying to be content without a grand adventure. These stories feature plain, normal people like librarians, parents, and teachers.

All of these stories have the same concept: finding worth in the life you live, not the one you wish you had.

Finding worth in our boring, intensely normal lives can be quite the challenge. How can we be content without adventure, suspense, something new?

Clearly this is something I’ve been thinking about for much longer than I thought. How does one find worth in the life they live now, instead of pining for a life that will never come? Or what if the life they wish for does come but they are too busy looking at some other life that they miss it?

I don’t have the answers to this question. I have ideas, but no real answers.

I think a big part of being content and satisfied is perspective. I feel like I always end up talking about perspective, but it is so vital. When you realize that the life you live right now could change drastically at any time, it makes you enjoy everything that much more.

Remind yourself to enjoy where you are. Some people are so anxious to get to the next part of their lives that they miss out on what is happening to them right now. I know we all know those people. Maybe we are those people. If we aren’t careful, we will get to the end of our lives and wonder how we missed out on so much.

Don’t spend your time comparing your life to someone else’s life, or even to the ideas in your head about what your life should be, Enjoy what you’ve been given.

Sometimes finding worth in my life means journaling about the silly, mundane things that happen. Sometimes it means taking pictures of the things I see everyday because one day, I won’t see them everyday.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strive to improve your life. I am not giving myself a pass to sit still and not work at making my life all it could be. I am however, giving myself the ability to take it easy, to relax, to not worry so much about what my life could be and instead, focus and enjoy what my life is.

Find something in your life that you think is mundane and make it beautiful. Understand that the life you are living right now is one of value. Enjoy where you are right now, because you won’t be there forever.

 

 

 

 

Passion > Apathy

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What gets you excited? We all have at least four or five things that we can come up with that just get us going. Mine are kids, writing, injustice, church, and music. Bring up any of those things to me and then watch me go. Put any of those together, like writing for kids, church music, injustice that involves kids, and you may as well be prepared to listen to me go on forever.

I would call these things my passions. That doesn’t mean that I have talent or anything special to say on the subject. I am passionate about music, but I’m not a musician. I’m passionate about injustice, but that doesn’t make me someone special who can change injustice everywhere. Having a passion simply means that you care really deeply about a subject.

I’ve come to realize recently that our passions are often the source of our greatest pains. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been frustrated with myself for my lack of inspiration when it comes to writing. Or when I write something that I simply don’t enjoy reading. And when I am not able to make a situation better for a child, I get really frustrated. It hurts me when I see an injustice that I can’t fix. Things happen within my passions that I can’t change, and that brings me some of the worst pain.

What should I do with this pain? I know that my passions won’t change anytime soon. Even though I’ve been hurt by my passion for writing, does that mean I stop writing? Does the fact that I can’t fix every problem a child has mean that I should stop trying to help? Does my frustration with the American church mean that I should abandon it? No. I push through the pain, I channel it into determination and perseverance.

Realizing that my passions bring me so much of my pain and frustration doesn’t really change much. I still get upset and frustrated. Knowing that my frustrations and tears come because I care helps a little. When I think about the opposite of passion, which is apathy, I think that I prefer passion. I would rather have pain that is coupled with accomplishment and frustration and joy than not care at all.

Apathy may be an easier route, but passion is much more heartbreaking and rewarding.

 

 

Fear Conquered

It was the first Wednesday of July, 2007. Fourteen year old me was backstage, sweat dripping off her forehead, stomach in knots that wouldn’t untangle despite her many yawns and pep talks. She was terrified.

One week earlier, her youth pastor had asked her to speak to the church congregation about the mission trip the youth group had just returned from. Her youth pastor knew she had a huge fear of public speaking, and challenged her to conquer that fear.

Fourteen year old me agreed, feeling the panic rise within her. For a solid week, she prepared. She painstakingly wrote a speech, threw it all out, and started over. She practiced in front of the mirror with a timer. She memorized her speech backwards and forwards. She stressed out for one solid week.

As she paced backstage, fourteen year old me felt like throwing up. She could hear her youth pastor begin to introduce her. Tears welled up in her eyes, I can’t do this! Her name was called, and she apprehensively walked onto the stage.

Her speech was shaky, and she had a nervous lisp. She was barely able to get her first two sentences past the giant lump in her throat. She thanked her leaders and had the audience give them a round of applause, buying herself a moment or two to compose herself. Fourteen year old me then went for it.

She talked with passion, not with eloquence, about her trip and what changed her. She even left the audience with a challenge. As fourteen year old me left the stage, she almost burst into tears. She actually did it. She didn’t lose her dinner on stage. She remembered her speech. She made people think.

Fear conquered, mostly.

One down.

How many left?

 

The Perfect Perspective

photoI have always known that perspective is an important thing to have, but recently I’ve been reminded of this lesson.

I’m not sure about your life, but I can tell you that there are things that happen in mine that feel like they will never end. Sometimes I feel like David after the dentist when he asks, “Is this gonna be forever?!” We have this feeling of desperation and helplessness when it comes to situations that we cannot change.

When it comes to these situations, these things in life that we just have to get through, I’ve learned that perspective is key. If I can remind myself that this situation, whatever it is, isn’t forever, it is much easier to get through.

If I said the phrase, “And it came to pass”, you would probably think about the Christmas story. I once heard a comedian use this phrase in the context of perspective. It came to pass. It didn’t come to stay! It WILL pass. It might take a long time, but it will pass.

Take a moment and think about your life in the context of eternity. ETERNITY. As in forever and ever. We can’t even wrap our human, finite minds around the idea of forever. The Bible says that our life is like the morning dew, there a moment and gone the next. If our entire life is just this tiny speck in the realm of eternity, how much does this one situation that feels like forever really matter?

I’m not saying that our situations won’t affect us. And I am certainly not saying that God doesn’t care about the things that happen to us. Quite the opposite of that actually. One of the most beautiful things about God is the fact that He does care about everything that happens to us. The fact that He cares about the little speck of eternity that is me is a huge deal; the fact that He is invested in the things that happen to me, that is life changing.

To find the perfect perspective, we have to look up. Looking behind us makes us regret the past, looking forward can make us worry about the future. Looking up reminds us of the One who holds our past, present, and future.

One of my favorite bands, Gungor, released a song that I just love. It’s called This Is Not The End. You can listen to it here. It talks about how this, this situation, this life, this semester of school, this illness, it isn’t the end. God has more for you, and He has it all under control.

No matter what you are going through, good, bad, ugly, or even worse, know that God has you in His arms. And know that this is not the end. Your life is a speck, but it’s a speck that God loved enough to send His Son to save. Take comfort in His love and care.

 

 

Journal Entries

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Last night I found one of my many, many journals. I read through the past five years of my life via late night ramblings and early morning prayers. Journals are so interesting. Even back in 2012, I had some pretty solid thought processes. Here are a few of my favorites.

“I’ve realized recently that while I am in the middle of something it feels like that one thing is my whole world. But there is so much more.”

That truth still applies to my life every single day. Perspective is a rare quality that I am constantly searching for. With perspective comes peace.

“TTYL”

Why did I ever, ever think that TTYL was necessary? If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that TTYL is NOT okay.

“If I don’t learn to be satisfied with Christ alone, I will never be truly satisfied, no matter what I gain. Boom. Done.”

Being convicted by your past self is a strange thing. Being content is not something that the culture teaches us, but it is so important. Attempting to always have the latest and greatest is a dangerous game to play. It never leaves you satisfied. Only God can do that. I also really enjoy the fact that the phrase “Boom. Done.” is a part of my journal on a regular basis.

“I got a really expensive sandwich.”

I wish I was making this sentence up, but this is in my journal. This was my, “I’ve never been in an airport alone before and I am flying home from Costa Rica solo and I don’t know what to say to myself” post. So full of wisdom and proper grammar.

“One of the most dangerous things a person can do is think about what might have been.”

Regret and guilt are not from Jesus. Don’t look backwards and wonder and wish and change your mind. Look forward and hope and plan and dream.

“It was so good, and it had ice!”

That random statement basically sums up my mission trip to Baja in 2010. We did manual labor in the desert for two weeks. On our last day in Mexico we went to a restaurant and at this restaurant they served ice in their beverages. I think a few members of my team cried with joy.

“I’ll wait. I always wait. Quietly, but not still.”

Sometimes when we ask God for something we take ourselves completely out of the solution. If I ask God for a solid friendship with a person, but never put any effort into that relationship, what am I doing? I believe in waiting on God to move, but I believe that God wants me to move too.

“I’ve learned this past year that I don’t have my life together. At all. But I’ve also learned that most people don’t.”

I still don’t have my life together, and that is still okay.

If you don’t journal, you are missing out on seeing yourself grow and change.

Journal entries are snapshots of emotions. In my journals you can see the times that I’ve had to stop writing because I’m laughing. You can see the wet spots from the tears that have fallen while pouring my heart out on a page. You can feel teenage angst and frustration. In my journals you can see me. My journals show my journey, and I love watching my past self grow.

Sisters

When I hear the word sister, three images immediately pop into my head.

There is this one:

sister-sister-posterI mean, if you didn’t watch this show in the 90’s, what did you do?

This one:

haynes-sistersI can’t tell you how many times I’ve sang this song and wanted that rocking blue dress, complete with that feather whatever-you-call-it.

And this one:

FAVThis one is my favorite because this picture is a picture of my sisters. My sisters are the best, let me tell you why.

My sisters make me laugh

When God made my sisters, He gave them this special ability to make me laugh, especially when I’m grumpy or sad. No matter the situation, each one of them can say something to make me feel better, even if I don’t show them right away.

My sisters drive me crazy

Not only did God give my sisters the ability to make me laugh, He also gave them the ability to drive me up a wall. I only have one button, but boy, the three of them know how to push it. And I love them for it. It means they know me.

My sisters are always around (figuratively speaking)

My older sister lives in a different state with her husband, but my other two sisters and I still live at home. I know that that won’t always be the case. But I know that at any point in my life, I will be able to pick up the phone and have a conversation with any of my sisters about anything. That is a great feeling.

My sisters know me, and love me anyways

If there is one thing that is hard to come by, it is full knowledge of who you are and acceptance of you anyways. My sisters and I have that. We see who the other is, their gifts and talents, their flaws and insecurities, and accept each other unconditionally. Even when we are at odds with each other, I know that my sisters understand me and love me anyways.

My sisters actually enjoy my presence

Believe it or not, my sisters and I like to hang out with each other. Maybe it’s because we were forced to be each other’s friends earlier in life as loner, homeschooled kids. But now, we genuinely enjoy each other’s presence. Sure we still get into fights; doors are still closed quite forcefully, and music is still turned up to volumes that are beyond listening capacity, but for the most part we like to be around each other.

166516_418280948252274_2111334063_nGod knew exactly what He was doing when He gave me my sisters. They make me laugh, scream, cry, think, and enjoy life for what it is. They are the friends I get to see every day (except for you, Alleson!). They are the most frustrating people I know, but also the most exciting. The best part about having sisters is that we get to do life together. We’ve grown up together, and we will continue to grow up together.

When it comes to sisters, I’m pretty sure I hit the jackpot.

Memories

Have you ever had that moment when you are completely floored with a memory? Just the other day I was in the middle of a scriptwriting session with my boss when my mom knocked on the office door (my mom and I work at the same church in the same ministry, so this isn’t out of the ordinary). My mom then showed me a text she got from a very, very old friend of ours, Mr. Mark Shipley.

We have known Mr. Mark since I was three or four years old, and he has been there for some major moments in our family’s history. He and his wife, Kaye, were my best buddies when I was a little girl. Mrs. Kaye was my absolute favorite person alive. So much so that I called the two of them Markaye and Morkaye. Mr. Mark was just more of Mrs. Kaye to me.

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The older I got, the more I appreciated Mr. Mark and Mrs. Kaye for who they were, devout Christians. Mrs. Kaye would go on mission trips all over the world, and I was so inspired by her. We moved from Illinois to Florida in 2004, but my best friend Rebecca and her family lived near the Shipley’s, so eleven year old me knew they would be taken care of. 1

About four years ago, we got a phone call from Rebecca’s mom, telling us that Mrs. Kaye had passed very suddenly from a blot clot in her lungs. Just like that, Mrs. Kaye was in Heaven with Jesus. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was in shock for a while. There just was no way that Mrs. Kaye wouldn’t be waiting in Peoria next time I went to visit.

We weren’t able to go up to the funeral, but we got a recording of it in the mail from Rebecca’s mom. It was mentioned in the service that I always called Mr. Mark Markaye, which of course made me cry. Mrs. Kaye impacted me more than I realized at the time.

So here we are, four years later, and my Mom gets a text from Mr. Mark. He had randomly remembered one day we ate at this little restaurant. It wasn’t a mind-blowing, big memory, but a quiet, simple one. It was one that brought smiles and tears to me and my mom. This is when I remembered that memories are so, so precious. 4I was young for the majority of the time we had with Mark and Kaye. I remember feeling very safe and loved when I was with them. They were like a third set of grandparents to me. But the time we spent with the Shipley’s is a time that I know we all cherish. Time is fleeting, and we don’t know how long we have to spend with people. This is why it is vital that we take advantage of the time we have been given.

Memories are funny things. They can make you laugh so hard you cry and cry so hard you laugh. They can make you feel happy and sad. But I believe that even the saddest memories are better than no memories at all.

Mrs. Kaye lived a full, Jesus loving, people caring, always smiling life.

Make memories. Take pictures. Be where you are. Don’t waste time on silly, little things that don’t really matter. Laugh with your friends. Cry with them too! Don’t let life just pass you by. Make your life count.

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White Blank Page

I had already decided by 7 o’clock this morning that today was not going to go as planned. I had unintentionally been awake since 5am feeling sick to my stomach. Also, I walked straight in to the doorframe of my bathroom around 5:45am. Happy Monday, Gabs. Luckily, the pain on my face dulled the pain in the rest of my body. Joy. Running on four hours of sleep I went to work my 8:30am-5pm job, which I love, by the way. No sarcasm for real.

Of course, my day did get better. Free Sonny’s at the office for lunch certainly helped, as did the beautiful weather we experienced. And there is nothing quite like a good Spotify playlist to get you back in the groove. As I sit, exhausted, in my room with a bruise starting to form on my nose, I remember that every day is a new one. As Anne of Green Gables said, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

Was I a grump today? A little bit, yeah. I probably have a few people to apologize to for being so snarky. But tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes (yet!).

No matter what happened today, tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow is a white blank page, ready to be written on. My attitude regarding my day and my actions during the day determine what is written on the page. I love to look at life this way, as a writer it gives me perspective.

Lamentations 3:23 reminds us that God’s mercies are new for us every morning. And what an encouragement that is! It doesn’t matter what I did today, God loves me always.

Days like these always end with a dessert called humble pie. Guys, I am a human and will fail. And that’s okay. It’s actually beautiful because in my failures, God can shine through.

So no matter what your today looked like, remember that tomorrow is a white blank page, that you have a Father who loves you regardless of yourself, and that He can use things like stomach aches, bruised noses, and Sonny’s to remind you of His greatness.

The Power of Being

When someone asks me how I am doing, my response ninety-nine percent of the time is something to the equivalent of, “Good! Busy, but good!” Our society glorifies people who are busy. For some reason, we see busy as good, as something to strive towards. I can’t tell you how many times I have boasted on my multi-tasking abilities (like I have any). But where does it say that being so busy that you can’t see straight means you are doing something right?

I go to a young adult service at a local church on Fridays. One night the pastor spoke on the Sabbath day. He talked about how we are to keep it holy, and why we should take a Sabbath. As someone who has grown up in church, I’ve heard this message a couple times. But, as always, I learned something new.

The Bible tells us in Mark that Jesus left everyone, early in the morning, to be alone with God. Obviously spending time with His Father was a big deal for Him. If Jesus, the One who can do anything, felt like He needed to take a breather, than who am I to think I can do anything less?

You see the Sabbath at the beginning of the whole world. On the seventh day, God Himself rested. Why do we feel like we can constantly be going, when even God rested? Let me say this, I can’t do more than God can. If God needed a break after six days of creating, than you know I need a break after six days of living!

One of my favorite stories, one that convicts me the most, is the story of Mary and Martha with Jesus. Luke tells this story. Jesus and His disciples came to stay at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Martha was the busy one, always moving. I’m pretty sure her love language was acts of service, because she spent the entire time working to make sure that dinner was on time, that the silverware (or whatever it is that they had) was clean, and that the house was spick and span for her special guest. Mary, on the other hand, probably had the love language of quality time. She decided to sit at the feet of Jesus and gain wisdom from His words. Martha gets all upset with Mary and goes to Jesus to say something to Him about it. His response is one that always gets me, every single time:

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed- or indeed only one. Mary has chosen better, and it will not be taken from her.'”

Yikes. Here is the thing. I am a doer. If I have the option, I will do something instead of sitting still. I’m sure many of you are the same way. If Jesus came to my house, I can easily see myself as Martha, stressed out about the fact that my cake over baked and that my chicken is dry.

My point in all of this is as follows: sometimes, doing is overrated. I’m starting to learn that there is a power to just being. Mary was with Jesus. She was just there, soaking up His every word. Jesus left everyone to recharge by hearing from His Father. And here are me and Martha, cleaning up the house, doing the homework, serving at church, and not thinking about stopping to be with Jesus at all.

There is a song I heard for the first time that night at my young adult group. It’s called “I Will Be Still”. I’ll put a link right here if you want to listen to it. It is a beautiful song. Can you imagine just being still? I think that is exactly what God wants for us. It’s why He made the Sabbath. He wants us to be still, to be rested and restored by Him.

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