Over three years ago, I started working on this blog post. I don't exactly know why I chose to keep it on the back burner all this time. There are many posts I've started but never finished that I don't feel any desire to do so, but I do feel compelled to complete this one. An upcoming birthday seems like as good a time as any to talk about a few life lessons learned. So... here we go.
I've learned a few things in my lifetime. I'd like to share them with you.
Some things in life truly can't be replaced by something else.
In my experience, substitutes are never as good as the real thing (diet mayo, for example... eww!). Once something is no longer there that used to be there, leave it be. Don't try to fill a void. It simply will not work; it will only fall apart. Besides, the only thing in this life that can ever be used to patch a gaping hole is Jesus, in which case He fills the void creating something brand new. Hmmm...something to ponder...if your life is falling apart. What have you been using to patch the holes? Okay, that's another blog post in and of itself.
In most cases, the simplest answer is usually the best.
I do not need the cleaning, planning, cooking, or financial schedule of some other superwoman on the internet with an awesome-looking blog. I've tried. I've failed. Clean a little every day, get the staples at the grocery store and follow new recipes, keep the same tried and true bill pay routine I've used since high school. I do not need some detailed diet plan complete with daily menus, calorie counting, and a rigorous exercise routine. I've tried. I've failed. Move more, eat less. Period.
Your body tells on you.
Headaches, neck and back pain, fever blisters, sleepless nights, weight gain: these are the ways my body tells me I've got a problem somewhere that needs fixing. These things happen to me usually when I am overly stressed, worried, or very sad about something. I'm sure our bodies are all different, but think about it. What are the signs your body sends to tell you something needs to be fixed, if at all possible? Maybe we should pay more attention.
The phrase "grin and bear it": Genius!
There is much to be said about acceptance. There is a big difference between accepting and giving up. The ability to learn how to choose one's battles is one of life's greatest (and hardest) lessons learned, in my opinion. My personality is such that I too often back down, or I avoid conflict at all cost. That is a weakness of mine. But being able to just simply accept something that is completely out of my control with a genuine smile—now, that is a strength. I don't always have to have it my way. I don't always have to control every single thing in my life. My needs and wants do not have to be first and foremost in every situation. I've learned that sometimes you just need to simply breathe in and out really long and slow...and then grin and bear it.
Happiness is not a necessity in life.
Hold on to your hats, folks! I'm about to say something you may not all agree on. Happiness is not a right we earn. Sometimes "just wanting to be happy" can actually be selfish. I probably just stepped on a few toes or ruffled a few feathers there. But hey, this is one of the perks of having your own blog: speaking one's mind. :) Call it what you want; but the times I've actually heard people say something to the effect of, "I deserve to be happy", are often on the brink of something very selfish in nature. Happiness is not something to be deserved. Happiness is a blessing. It is a gift for which to be thankful. I also believe that it is a gift that is not necessary to live a productive life. Happiness and joy, in my opinion, are two totally different things. I believe it is possible to live in joy and not necessarily be happy all the time.
Music has a major impact on your mood, attitude, and thought processes.
Input, output; what goes in is what comes out. What a simple concept that we too often take for granted. We seem to match music to our moods, and it sometimes it makes us feel better...momentarily. Other times it can actually make us feel worse.
There is a musical genre for any emotion you can imagine. I see this as a danger. When we open our minds to music, we cannot stop it from effecting what we think and how it makes us feel. Dare I say it? Music is spiritual. Feeling angry? What does loud, aggressive music with a strong beat seem to do? It feeds that anger instead of cooling it down. Feeling sad or depressed? Ever start crying even more than before once you turn on your favorite slow song? And during these times, what are you thinking? You're more than likely dwelling on those feelings, thinking of what made you feel that way in the first place.
I am speaking from personal experience here. I have learned that the best way to combat negative emotions is not by matching those feelings to music. Being a musician and songwriter, I have a love for music and I know the power it can have in our lives, both good and bad. The next time you're in your car angry at the world, or just bummed out from a bad day, instead of turning on that music your mind wants you to listen to, try some Praise and Worship music. Try some classical piano. Try something soothing rather than feeding that fire. You may not think it makes that much of a difference, but I truly believe with all my heart that it does. Music is powerful. Don't underestimate it.
It really will get better with time and God.
Ever heard the phrase "Time heals all wounds"? I believe that statement is severely lacking. Rose Kennedy has been quoted as saying,
"It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone."
I'd like to take it a step further, if I may. God is the One who covers wounds with scars, and He uses time to do it. He's the pro when it comes to scars, by the way. Because the human mind is blessed (sometimes cursed) with the ability to remember, I'm not sure that wounds ever completely fade; but I do believe they heal. There have been several times in my life that I wasn't sure if I could get through the next day, but I did. Was it easy? No. Did it hurt? Tremendously. Am I still here? Absolutely. By the grace of God and through the faith and prayers of close friends and family who love me dearly, I held on; and it got better. Speaking of things I never finish, there's a song I started a while back that talks about one of my favorite verses in the Bible, "...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).
Just when you think life has settled down, hang on tight! It's about to change, again.
I'm nearly 36 years old, and I have never lived under the same roof for more than three years at a time. I'm afraid of putting down roots because as soon as I do, something comes along to uproot me all over again. I'm having a transparent moment here, but I am jealous of those of you who have had the luxury of growing up in the same house and getting to bring your children to see your old room. I am in no way complaining about my life. I've been blessed beyond measure and will be the first to admit that fact. I just wish I could have settled down somewhere. I'm not about to make plans where I am at present, either. Nope, I know better. The main thing is just doing what I was speaking of earlier: grin and bear it. I've been in the ministry all of my life. The life of ministry is a horse of a different color. We don't get the same roof for 20+ years. We only get a handful of true, life-long best friends, if we're that lucky. We give way more than we get. We serve. We encourage and build up other people; then, we cry ourselves to sleep at night. We don't put down roots; we tend to others' roots. It's just the way it is.
You don't have to be perfect in order to be a blessing to others.
Thank God! If He required perfection, I'd be completely useless. Don't look at yourself in the mirror every morning and immediately decide you have nothing worth giving to the world. For every weakness you possess, I guarantee you have a strength that someone else wishes they had. To keep yourself from others because you don't like you, to hide in your hole of insecurity, to bury yourself in the sands of your imperfection—it's the most selfish thing you can do. Somebody needs you. Probably a lot of somebodies need you. Don't wait until you feel you have it all together because, I promise you, no one does. No matter how perfect someone else's life may seem, it's not. Every living, breathing human being you pass by each day is going through their own personal hell. We all have one. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others. What better way to combat your own hurt than by helping heal someone else's?
Let other people be in their box.
Ok, let me explain a little here. I heard of the concept of the box while listening to a marriage seminar message. It was geared towards the idea that men have their mental boxes and that they get them out one at a time and deal with things in life that way. When they are "in their box", they typically ignore everything else going on around them until they put that box away and go get another one. Women, on the other hand, have twenty or more boxes open at a time and are jumping from box to box all day long, which is why it bums us out or even makes us angry when our husbands don't help us deal with all our open boxes because they have their hands and heads in their one little box. Make sense? For instance, say he's outside doing yard work, plain and simple. More than likely, it's a stress reliever for him rather than a chore; it's his quiet time to get away from it all and just sweat and cut grass and attack tree branches. Let him. Don't go out there and ask about a past due bill or what he wants to do about next week's church social or, even worse, ask him to come inside and kill a spider. No. He's in his box. Let him be in his box until he puts it away. The secret is timing. Catch him before he goes and opens another one. :) I have learned that this principal not only applies to marriage but can also be useful in life. Let people be themselves. Let them have their moment. Let them be in their box, if at all possible. Just imagine how happy you would be if others would let you be in your box...or boxes.
Comparison: code for joy-killer.
So, some of these things that I've learned...I'm still learning them...most of them, in fact. This is probably the biggest one for me. Why do we (women probably more than men) have the tendency to constantly look at others and compare ourselves to them? It's really crazy when you stop and think about it, but it happens all the time. Homes, clothes, weight and sizes, jobs, cooking abilities—Gracious!—even our own families—we are always mentally comparing ourselves and everything about us with others. I'm speaking from personal experience here; but in most cases, we end up feeling less than perfect. It got me so down and out at one point in my life that I actually had to stop looking at Facebook and Pinterest. Some of my favorite quiet times had somehow morphed into moments that made me feel like a worthless, pathetic, inadequate mess. All of my faults and failures seemed to rise from the computer screen and hit me in the face with each picture I saw of grand, expensive family vacations that I wasn't financially able to take my family on, delicious recipes that I wasn't cooking, beautiful outfits that I didn't have, gorgeous homes decorated to perfection that I could never afford, and toned and muscled bodies that I didn't see in the mirror. I had to combat these feelings with some serious soul searching. I had to take a break from social media and hit the reset button of my mind. I had to do some fasting and praying. Most importantly, I had to take mental note of everything I had to be thankful for; and as the list grew longer, my feelings of inadequacy shortened. I had to realize that I am who I am—that I'll never be anyone else—and to love me for me, despite my many imperfections. I'm still trying to realize it each day, actually.
Don't kill the quiet.
In this crazy, busy life full of technology where absolutely nothing is personal anymore, take the time to turn it all off, sit outside or go for a walk, and let the sun shine on your face and the breeze mess up your hair. I've never needed the quiet more in my life than I do now. In the extremely rare moments that I have all to myself, most of the time I like to be completely silent. I won't say (or sing) a word. If ever I'm alone in the car, it's very rare that I play music. About a year ago I had a job that required an hour long commute to work every day. It became my most favorite time of the day. I just drove...in complete and utter silence. Nothing but my mind going 90 to nothing. And I tried to even silence that part of me, but it was incredibly difficult. I've been around people who can't sit still, literally. They can't look at another human being in the eye and carry on a 10 minute conversation without pulling out their phone. It drives me crazy, mainly because that used to be me. I now try to make a conscious effort to leave my phone in my pocket, especially when I'm with other people. I go to a restaurant and see couples sitting there, both on their phones, completely ignoring each other; and it makes my heart hurt. Let me tell you something: your cell phone can ruin your marriage. Put it away. Talk to each other. And when you're alone, don't say anything at all. Be quiet for a moment or two. Let everything calm down a bit; turn off the distractions; and embrace the silence. I think you'll find there's an awful lot out there worth listening to that's not plugged up to something electronic.
For Pete's sake, say "please" and "thank you"!
What on earth has happened to common courtesy? Show me an adult who keeps the words "please" and "thank you" active in their daily vocabulary and I'll nearly faint. I'm utterly dumbfounded these days when it comes to outright rudeness. It has gotten to the point that I see common courtesy (which is by far not common anymore) as a sign of actual maturity, dignity, and intelligence. It's no wonder kids these days don't know how to act. They have pitiful examples at home. Although I'm in no way the perfect parent, I have actually learned something about raising kids (I have three). If you'll say "please" and "thank you" to your kids, they'll pick up on it and say it to others. Wow! Shocking, isn't it? When someone compliments you, say, "Thank you." When someone gives you a gift, say, "Thank you." When someone is simply nice to you and holds the door for you instead of letting it slam in your face, say, "Thank you." Good grief! What are we—a bunch of cyborgs?! Or is it that we're just really that stuck on ourselves that we can't stoop down to a commoner's level and show a hint of politeness? Can you tell that this is one of my pet peeves?
Righty tighty, lefty loosey...
Words of wisdom! I can't tell you how many times I've said that little phrase to myself. It's simply amazing how much it's helped. Thought I'd throw it in for good measure. :)
Old people are amazing.
There are few things in life that bring me more pleasure than sitting down and talking with an elderly person who still has their wits about them (and even those who don't). They've lived through so much, survived so many obstacles, and are brimming with wisdom and knowledge. They deserve our utmost respect. They deserve to be heard. They deserve to tell the world what for because, if anyone knows about anything, they do. If you still have grandparents or, better yet, great-grandparents, cherish every moment you can with them. Pick up the phone and say hello. Go see them. And if you don't have any elderly relatives living, then do yourself a favor and go visit a retirement home somewhere; pull up a chair, and make a new friend. If nothing more, you'll enrich the life of that sweet person in their last days. And who knows? You just might learn something.
Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.
Forgiving someone who has wronged you is one thing, but being forgiven when you're in the wrong is quite another. If anything in this life is the epitome of the heart of Jesus Christ, it's when someone forgives you when you've hurt them. You'll never fully appreciate nor understand forgiveness at it's core until you've been forgiven yourself. My husband and I were talking about how God forgives and forgets (see Isaiah 43:25 and Hebrews 8:12). He brought out a very good point. The fact that He forgives is not the God part of it. It's the part where He actually forgets—that's the God part. That's the part we as humans can't comprehend. We can forgive, but we'll always remember. But to actually forget...that's truly divine. And it's absolutely beautiful.
There isn't much that dry toast and hot tea can't fix.
It's gotten me through three pregnancies, countless stomach bugs, the flu, migraine headaches, or just a bad day in general. Don't get me wrong; I'm a coffee girl to the core. But there are times that coffee just isn't the answer. There are times when nothing but hot tea will suffice. The next time you feel like death warmed over, give it a shot. Piping hot, dry, nothing-on-it toast and a cup of mild, steaming hot tea with just a pinch of sugar in it. You will feel better. I promise.
Cold, rainy days heal the soul.
Call me crazy; but I absolutely love autumn days with dreary, overcast skies, a hint of cold wind, and a steady, light rain. I love it even more if I can curl up with a blanket, a book, and a cup of coffee by the window so I can enjoy it. It doesn't take much to please me, and this is one of those ridiculous things that I love. It does something to me; I can't quite explain it. But it makes me feel very happy. Try to find peace in moments like these instead of complaining about the dreary weather. It's there.
True best friends are an absolute gift from God.
I've only had a few; and because of life, miles, and hectic schedules, I really don't have any the way I'd love to have them right now. Those of you who have that best buddy in the world that you can call literally day or night, 24/7, and never worry about a thing—someone who knows your mind and heart inside and out, someone who absolutely loves and looks for ways to make you feel special, someone you can hop in the car with on the spur of the moment and go have a fun day together—you've been blessed. Truly blessed. Please don't ever take it for granted.
I guess I've rambled on enough for one blog post. Maybe there's some nugget in here that will do someone out there some good. I truly hope so. Even better, if you have a blog and you've posted such things that you have learned, please leave me a link in the comments. I'd love to read it. Like I said earlier, the older you are, the more I think you actually know something. :) Have a wonderfully blessed day, my friends.