Grandmothers are the Closest Thing to Living Angels

Dear Grandma,

They say that grandmothers are the closest things to living angels, and you know what? They’re right. There are not nearly enough words to tell you exactly how much you mean to me, how proud I am to be your granddaughter, and how much I love and cherish you. 

For the past 23 years, you have played a crucial role in my life. You helped raise me into the young woman I am today. Along with mom and dad, you and grandpa were always there for me – for everything I’ve ever done. To say a simple “thank you” will never be enough. 

Of course, I remember all of the Grandparents days, science fairs, school concerts and plays, dance recitals, sleepovers, Sunday dinners, holidays, and every special event that we enjoyed together. Those moments and memories fill my heart with lots of joy, laughter, warmth, and smiles. 

When I was little, I always looked up to you, and now, as I continue to grow older, my respect and admiration for you grows too. You have a strength in you that I can only hope to have someday. I know you might not always think or see it, but I do. Every, single day. 

I’m so proud of you for everything you’ve accomplished and overcome in your life. I don’t know many people who have the type of endurance, feisty-ness and spunk that you do. I love hearing your stories of the good old days, learning Polish words from you, and just simply spending time with you. 

You’re my biggest writing advocate, anxiety helper, favorite goulash maker, best chocolate roll baker, and so much more. You always give me confidence when I need it the most, and you always make me feel like I matter, like I’m special. But, most of all, and most importantly, you are my grandma, and my lifelong friend whom I love to the moon and back.  

All my love, xoxo

Your granddaughter

10 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

“All the things that break you, are all the things that make you strong. You can’t change the past ’cause it’s gone. You just gotta move on because it’s all lessons learned.”

~Carrie Underwood

They say some lessons need to be learned the hard way. That’s so, ridiculously and unbelievably true. Some people (bless their hearts) learn life’s little teachable moments, easily. Others, like myself, have to be hit in the head with a two-by-four in order to actually understand what the hell is freaking happening.

In my soon-to-be 23 years of young life, I’ve experienced and learned things that I never imagined that I would have to. If I knew then, what I know now, I would’ve done my life a whole lot differently. Or, at least tried to make fewer mistakes. But, sadly, there is no rewind button, no do-over option. All we can do is grow, move on, and nurture those mistakes and regrets that wound us.


Here’s the top 10 lessons that I, (unfortunately) learned the hard way:

  1. Life is short, love is sweet, time is precious. Don’t waste a single second of your life holding grudges or being upset, especially at people you love. They won’t be around forever. Choose your words carefully, and wisely, and always remember that actions speak louder than any words ever could.

  2. Always turn to your family. People say that blood is thicker than water, and you know what? They’re right! In the tough times, in your darkest hour, turn to your side and there you will see your family supporting you, lifting you up, and holding your hand. Nothing is more important than those people. Seriously, love the freaking shit out of all of them, before it’s too late.

  3. Choose your friends with caution. Friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. But, I’ve learned that not everyone you meet throughout the course of your life, will be (or stay) your friend. I’ve learned that sometimes, the people whom you opened your heart and soul to, the ones you trusted not to hurt you, the ones you thought would always care, would always treat you with kindness, will give you some of the biggest heartaches you will ever experience. But, when that happens, you somehow grow stronger.


  4. When people leave, wave goodbye and don’t look back. People blow in and out of our lives as quickly as the wind. When their part in your story is over, let go willingly and gracefully. Don’t spend your time chasing people who were never meant to stay. Be thankful for the memories they gave you, and move on to the next chapter.


  5. Never respond to cruelty, harshness, or ignorance. If someone is treating you like you’re the gum on someone’s shoe, it’s time to walk away and surround yourself with the love and respect YOU deserve. If someone continues to disrespect your sensitivity, your heart, your weaknesses, kiss them goodbye. You don’t need that toxicity in your life. Once you realize that, your life will be so much more freeing. 


  6. Respect is a two-way street. You have to give a little, to get a little. ‘Nuff said.


  7. Don’t show up to every argument that you’re invited to. Sometimes, people will be downright bitchy. And, they’ll feel like picking a fight. They won’t accept your apologies, will bring up past mistakes, and will just be miserable…for no reason (and there will be days when you’re like that too). When that happens, you don’t have to feed into it. Step away.


  8. Oral communication is better than written. This is a lesson I continuously learn over and over again. The written word is so misconstrued. Simply put: it’s bullshit. But, we still do it. Tones are easily misread, fights break out from what started as a meaningless conversation, and I don’t know about you, but I’m really beginning to value face to face time with those I care about, instead of looking at a screen, trying to interpret what they’re saying. Pick up the phone. Talk to people. Visit them. You’ll be glad you did.


  9. Opinions are like a**holes: EVERYBODY has them. No matter what you do, or how hard you try, everyone will always have something to say. There will always be people out there that you seemingly can never please. So, ignore the opinions of others, stop trying to fit into their mold, and just live your life. Do what makes YOU happy, what makes YOU fulfilled. You only get one life, live it the way you want to – with no limitations, and no need for validation or acceptance from anyone.


  10. Fear is stupid. Never let it hold you back from ANYTHING. There are things that we’re all afraid of. Things that make us queasy, anxious, and panic. But, I’ve learned that at some point, you will always have to face your fears – and by doing so, you grow stronger, you overcome what you thought you never could, and you might even gain a little confidence. It’s a very hard thing to do, and takes a lot of practice, but once you put your fears aside and just do it, you’ll be able to live your life to the fullest.

Lastly, as an added bonus, I’ve learned that optimism is everything. When you have a positive attitude, you can truly let your light shine. You were created to fulfill a purpose, and to radiate sunshine into the lives of others. It’s an exercise. Every. Single. Damn. Day. And it takes so much determination. But, being positive is worth the effort. Sure, you may fall off the wagon, and that’s okay – you are human after all, but keep working on choosing happy….because….*and get ready for the mic drop* literally everything in this life is a choice, and how you choose to react to your circumstances.

A Letter to My Single Self

This letter is for anyone who is struggling through a season of singleness right now. It’s for me, for you, the ones who are sweating the single life right now, so listen up.


Dear Allison,

The other day you were asked a question that made your blood boil and your skin crawl. “Why are you still single?” “Don’t you want to date?” “What’s the deal with that?” You felt obligated to answer. You felt obligated to defend yourself. Yet, you were at a loss for words. You smiled and said that you haven’t found the one yet, but on the inside, all you wanted to say was that it is nobody’s business, and to never ask you that again. 

You dwelled on that question for the remainder of the night and then you began to fall into that dangerous trap of self-loathing. You told yourself that you’re ugly, you’re fat, and you’re not worthy of love. You convinced yourself that nobody can love you, (never mind the fact that you’re only 23 years old.), and you have begun to resolve yourself to the fact that you will be forever alone, living with ten cats. You remind yourself that you’ve never had a real relationship, so surely, it must be too late for you. 

Seriously, what is up with those thoughts girlfriend? They’re unhealthy and they cause you so much misery. I’m here to tell you to take those thoughts of yours and put them in the garbage. For good. You’ve been telling yourself these lies for years now, and you’ve started to believe them. They have become part of your core beliefs now. Those should not be going through your mind. What should be going through your mind is: why am I not being kinder to myself?! I need to give myself a break!

Let me tell you something: you’re 23 years old. Your life has just begun. Why are you letting your relationship status define who you are? So what if you haven’t found your true love yet? Maybe you’re just not ready. Maybe he’s not ready. Maybe God has other plans in store for you before you settle down. Maybe God wants you to develop a loving, and gentle relationship with Him (and yourself!) first. 

You don’t think so, but you are in such a good place in your life. You’re learning to spread your wings and fly on your own. You just graduated from college, you’re in your first “big girl” job, and you’re just starting to settle into adulthood. You’re in that part of your life where you’re finding out who you are, and what you want. 

You have the chance to relish in your freedom, in your space. To answer to no one, but yourself  Why don’t you just simply enjoy the season you’re in right now? 

It’s okay to enjoy your single life, you know. It’s okay to live, laugh, learn, dream, explore, and create…all on your own. It’s okay to be happy on your own. Let yourself be happy.

Let’s pause for a moment: throughout your young life you have had opportunities to change who you are in order to get a guy. You’ve had many chances to compromise yourself and your values to fit in with others, but, you didn’t. And you know something? That is really freakin’ brave! Stop putting yourself down for that, and start patting yourself on the back!

You could have settled for one of those egotistical, machismo, boys in high school. You could’ve thrown yourself at the guys you worked with. But, you didn’t. Why? You had, and still have respect for yourself. You refuse to be anyone’s play toy. You know what you want, you know what you deserve, and you refuse to settle for anyone less. Bravo!

Truth is, you’re a badass. I know you rarely ever feel like one, but you are. You’ve chosen to accept the path that is destined for you, instead of rail against it. That’s something to be proud of. Walk with confidence, walk with your head held high. I know you want to hurry through this season of singleness, but remember, there is a blessing in this. 

Lean on your Faith. Focus on putting your relationship with God first, and yourself second. The rest will fall into place in due time. God wouldn’t have you in this season if there wasn’t something good to come from it. Change your perspective, change your thinking. Instead of focusing on what or who you don’t have, focus on the things and the ones that you DO. 

You’re surrounded by a great group of family and friends. Stop wasting your time looking at your Facebook page to see who else got engaged or started a family, and start being in the present moment, loving those who love you with every ounce of your soul.

Remember, this is a beautiful and messy time in your life, but that is perfectly fine.  You’re an amazing person who will one day find someone to complete you. For now, practice gratitude, practice happiness, practice kindness and compassion. Pour the love you’d be giving to that special someone, into yourself, your family, your friends, and your passions. Have experiences, take chances, GROW, get healthy, trust in yourself, and do not be afraid. 

Love,

You.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you ” Jeremiah 29: 11-12

 

My Perfect Fan

Dear Mom,

There are no words to quite describe how much you mean to me. For the past 23 years, you have dedicated every minute of your life to taking care of me, and I can’t express enough how much I love, appreciate, respect, and honor you. 

Your love is unconditional, and from day one you have always been my biggest fan, supporter, cheerleader, and inspiration. You are always by my side whenever I need a friend, a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, a shot of confidence, advice and strength, or even a simple laugh. 

I’m so honored to say you are MY mom. Some people might call us Dorothy and Sophia, “Me and mini me”, and I couldn’t be more proud of that fact. You and I have a special bond that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. What other mother and daughter duo could go to concerts together,  go driving around for an hour talking, and singing, and who else could quote “The Golden Girls” with me? Those are by my favorite moments with you. 

I could go on and on about what a strong, kind-hearted, admirable, inspirational, woman that you are. But, you know that already. Instead, I want to take this time on your special birthday to simply say thank you. 

Thank you, mom for giving me life, but most importantly, for making it terrific. You have sacrificed so much for me, and there is no way I could ever repay you, but I will always try. 

Thank you, for not only being my mother, but my absolute best friend. Some say that you can’t be friends with your child, but you showed me that IS possible. You are the one person I always confide in, always trust, and that will never change. 

Thank you, for teaching me how to grow, how to love,  and showing me time and time again, that you will always be there for me. I hope to experience that with my children someday. Thank you, for giving me so much. Not only have you given me your hand when I was young, but now, you’ve given me your heart, your confidence, your trust, and your respect. Those are the greatest gifts that I will always treasure from you. 

Thank you, for your patience and support, especially when it comes to my anxiety. I know it’s hard to see. I know it’s hard to handle. And, if I could, I would take the stress of having GAD away from you because you don’t deserve that. But, through it all, you have been my guiding light. Always having my back, always comforting me, always shining the positive in my direction. 

Thank you, for praying with me. It is such a privilege to read our devotionals, to listen to and sing our favorite spiritual songs with you. You bring tears to my eyes when you sing “How Great Thou Art”, and I will forever love hearing your powerful voice sing that. 

Mom, you are my perfect fan, and I will always love and be there for you. If you need me, I’ll be right there.  Happy 50th Birthday to you: my mother, friend, role model, and sister. You deserve the world and I will never stop trying to make sure that you get that. 

I love you,

Your baby girl. 

Dear Anxiety, Let’s Be Friends

Dear anxiety,

You and I have been together for three years now. During that time, I desperately tried to get rid of you, and I wouldn’t be lying if I said that I still want you gone. But, like it or not, you are a part of me. So, instead of fighting with each other, can we try to get along? 

I know you want to protect me and warn me of the dangers in this world. But, here’s the thing: you don’t have to warn me all of the time. Not everything, or everyone is harmful to me. You see, the stressful thoughts and feelings that you play on the movie screen in my mind are not helpful. In fact, they cause extreme stress and discomfort on my body. The physical symptoms that you bring exhaust me. They make me feel horrible. 

Perhaps, you don’t quite know what you do to me because you think you’re keeping me safe. But, you’re not. Instead, you make me hide from life, from adventure, from the normal things that make me happy. You tend to take awesome things, turn them into a million questioning thoughts, and cause me to always be on the defense. 

And, I have to tell you something. You’re wrong. A lot of the time. You don’t like to live in reality. Remember when you told me that I could never be a travel agent? That I couldn’t make it through training, and wouldn’t be smart enough to handle it? Well, guess what? I’m doing it. I sold my first Disney trip, by myself! I have a great group of co-workers who are always willing to help me when I need it. You just became afraid because this was all a new experience to you. 

Remember when you told me that I could never go out to dinner again because of that one time when you gave me a panic attack? Or when you told me that my friend was mad at me because she didn’t text me back….only to find out later that she was simply busy! See? You overreact to a lot of things. 

You’re not all bad though. You do have good intentions. Some of your reminders are actually useful to me. I love that you want me to be cautious when I’m driving. I like that you really don’t want me to make a mistake at work. That shows me that you really do care. I can handle that constructive criticism!

But, majority of the time, your endless chatter gives me nothing but heartache. You want me to spend every moment of my life with you, obsessing over past mistakes, or things that could go wrong, instead of spending time with those I love. Trust me when I say that I love the people in my life. They are beyond precious, and life itself is beyond precious. I want to start being there for them 110%. I want to give them a clear mind, clear heart, and I want to simply enjoy the ones that God blessed me with.

That’s why I’m choosing not to believe you anymore. I’m choosing not to listen to you all of the time. I’m deciding how I want to live my life now. I want it to be filled with fun, adventurous things. I want my life to be completely overwhelmed with love, laughter, and faith. When your thoughts come into my mind, I’m simply saying to you, “thank you for your concern, but I am FINE.” I’m choosing to stand up to you. 

I’ve finally realized that no amount of worrying or obsessing with you can change the past or the future. You don’t hold that type of power. You don’t actually prevent bad things from happening. All you do is make me depressed, weary, and stop enjoying the good things that life has to offer. You make me dim my light when all I want to do is shine it for the world to see. 

It’s likely that you will be a part of my life forever. So, to make it easier on both of us, why don’t we just stop the panic, stop the worrying, and let’s be happy together? I understand that you will show your face from time to time, but let’s not make it so often. Let’s relax together, take some deep breaths and be brave. When you don’t fill my mind with anxious thoughts, you allow me to be creative, to be excited, to be the REAL me. You allow me to dream, and to work on that dream. You allow me to take chances, tap into my faith, and think positively. I want more of those moments. 

When you cooperate with me, and stop being in the driver’s seat, you and I can do wonderful things. Maybe things that will inspire us, or others. Maybe things that might change someone else’s life. Let’s shake hands, call a truce, and let me & God take the wheel. 

With lots of gentleness and love,

Your person. 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to My Mentor

You know who you are,

There are a lot of things that I wish I had the confidence to tell you in person, but I wouldn’t know where to begin, and knowing me, I’d probably stumble over my words. The only thing I can think of right now is to tell you….thank you.

Thank you, for letting me be brave and allow myself to open up to you. Being open and honest and letting you get a glimpse into my life has been anything but easy. Explaining myself, and who I am has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if I didn’t do it. You know 99.9% about me, and that’s so unnerving, but thank you for not betraying my trust, and keeping the my failures, my weaknesses, and my mistakes in a safe place.

Thank you, for the times you encouraged me and believed in me. You made me feel special, valued, and important. Your support helped me through a lot of rough days, and you were there whenever I needed a venting buddy. I appreciate that, and I appreciate you for listening to my dramas over & over again. To you, they may have been pointless or silly,  and if you felt that way, you never showed it. Instead you exercised patience with me – which is something I definitely wasn’t used to.

Thank you, for reading the seemingly endless amount of articles that I’ve sent you. Whether they were to help you better understand the feelings I was going through, or whether it was something that I wrote and anxiously awaited feedback. Your editing skills helped me grow as a writer tremendously, and your opinions have allowed me to work harder and dig deeper.

Thank you, for all of your advice and guidance. You are by far the most logical person I’ve ever known and you always help me see things in a more rational and calm manner. I know it hasn’t been easy for you. I know you have had your fair share of annoyances with me, but I’m grateful that you always continued to let me come to you with questions.

Thank you, for the times that you DIDN’T encourage or believe in me & let me work through my anxiety or depression on my own. Because of that, I learned to stand on my own two feet & lift myself up. It still is a daunting task for me at times, but I know now the limitations and boundaries that we have.

Thank you, for being harsh with me, and occasionally hurting my feelings. I know how to be strong and I know how to better manage my sensitivity and emotions because of that. You never tell me what I want to hear, but always what I need to hear, and while I may not always be receptive to it at first, I always reflect on it, and come to the realization that you’re probably right.

Thank you, for allowing me to be negative when I had to be. Because of that, I realized the power of my own thoughts and why positivity is so important. I know we’ve gotten frustrated and annoyed with each other. I know we don’t always understand each other, and I know we are completely different people who see the world (and life) differently. But, despite our disagreements and sparring matches, I still – and will always appreciate each conversation with you, both good and not so good.

Thank you: for not filling up my bucket anymore. At first, I missed it. I missed your encouragement – and sometimes, still do. BUT, you’ve taught me to do the job of filling my own bucket and I couldn’t be more grateful. You forced me to grow, change, and stretch out of my comfort zone. In other words, you forced me to make an effort to improve my life. Who wouldn’t be grateful for that?

Most of all, thank you for being a friend and an extended part of my family. I know I might smother you, and I know you never need my help or my encouragement, but I like to show it to you anyway. It’s just me. It’s who I am. I could change that, but I don’t want to. I like being sensitive, and open, and I like showing people kindness – whether they need it or not.

I don’t know if you will remain in my life down the road. I truly hope you do. But, no matter what, I will always carry the lessons you have taught me. You have a great heart that shines through you, and wonderful values that I will hopefully be able to teach someone someday, and I sincerely thank you for being such an inspiration and a ray of hope for me.


Prayer: God, I know everyone has walked through my life for a reason. And, I know they are always either a blessing or a lesson. But, with this friendship, you gave me both. I feel so lucky to know this wonderful person and I ask that you bless them with your grace, love and peace, all the days of their life. Amen. 

Stop Chasing Happiness

If you ask me what is missing most in my life, often times I will respond “happiness.” When I’m asked what I want most out of life, the typical response to that is “to be happy.”

Happiness. It’s such an attainable goal; one that we have the power to reach every day. But, we’re often so focused on capturing it, chasing it, and keeping it, that we often forget that the simple concept of happiness only leaves us, if we allow it.

That is what my life has been like lately. A quest to find “happy.” A long, seemingly endless search to find contentment again. So, I began to chase the concept of happiness, mistakenly thinking that it would actually work. Forgetting that happiness can’t be pursued.

My thinking started going in all sorts of directions. “If I buy this book on how to be happy, maybe I’ll be happy.” “If I take a vacation to Disney World, maybe then I’ll find my happy place.” “If I land my dream job, then I know I’ll be happy. If I write this widely successful article, then I’ll be happy.”

Looking around, it appeared as though everyone had some form of happiness in their lives, and that was great, but what about me? Was I doing something wrong? Did life forget to tell me something? Nope.

Along this emotional journey toward happiness, I learned tons of lessons. First, happiness is a choice. It’s a state of mind. Every day we are given the opportunity to radiate positivity and happiness. It’s all in what we choose.

Secondly, and most importantly, I learned that happiness comes when you stop trying to chase it. Ultimately, happiness comes to you when you stop looking, stop thinking about it, and stop complicating it.  Happiness can also be found in the most unexpected places, with the most unexpected people.


I went for a nice 2 mile walk with my mom today. It was so refreshing, so relaxing. The sun beating on our backs, the wind blowing through our hair, the birds singing, the smell of freshly cut grass along the way. Everything was perfect.

While we were walking, laughing, talking, and simply enjoying nature, I felt an overwhelming sense of happiness.  In all of my crazy pursuit to “find” happiness, I realized that happiness never left me like I thought. It’s been within me all along.

Happiness is in the times when I hug someone I love.

It’s when the sun shines its glorious rays of warmth on my face.

It’s when I’m gazing at the stars after a night ride of just singing and venting with my mom.

It’s when I’m having a heart to heart with my dad.

Or when my dog is simply laying on my chest.

It’s the energy from a concert that I attended.

It’s the inspiration from my favorite book.

It’s the unforgettable times shared with my grandparents.

It’s late night writing, even when I have to be up in two hours.

It’s coloring with my seven-year old cousin, and soon to be five-year old godson.

It’s seeing (or chatting with) people who I care about; especially when I haven’t seen them in a while.

It’s those times when I sit in silence and feel the love of God all around me. Or when I laugh so hard my stomach hurts. It’s when my heart is so filled with love that I think it’s going to burst. It’s realizing that there’s always, always someone out there who loves me as I am.  

It’s recognizing all of the beauty around me. The sight of a rainbow after a storm.  The shadings of orange, red, and yellow leaves in autumn. The magic of the fresh fallen snow on Christmas morning. Or sharing inside jokes with my co-workers. And SO much more. And it took a simple walk to shed light on that fact. 

Because the truth is: happiness cannot be bought, worn, traveled to, or chased. Happiness is not one gigantic thing, it’s a million little things. A million moments that we gather up from every day and collect in our hearts, souls, and memories. A million smiles.

Sure, happiness is different for everyone. But, this is what it means to me. So, by being still and quiet, (and filled with an enormous amount of gratitude!) I’ve stopped chasing happiness and instead, let it land upon my shoulder like a butterfly. And, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.


 Prayer: God, I know that I may lose sight of happiness every once in a while. I know I may get caught up in the every day stresses and anxieties of life. When I feel those weak moments coming on, help me to fight them and remember the blessings that you have so generously bestowed on me. Help me to realize that the life You have given me is beautiful, and forgive me for the times I don’t love it enough. 

From Broken to Warrior

“But my dear, isn’t it through the cracks how the light comes in?”

~ Unknown

I once heard a story about a woman who had two buckets. Every day she would fill them up and go water all of the flowers in her garden. One of the buckets, looked absolutely perfect. Shiny, strong, and didn’t have a single crack in it. The other bucket however; was filled with cracks. It leaked, it shook, and it often spilled the water.

The leaky bucket felt inferior to the other one. It felt inadequate, and worthless. What good could a cracked bucket do? The other one held its water flawlessly, while this bucket would lose half of the water before even making it to the garden. It was then that this broken and bruised bucket told its owner that it was not good enough for her. 

“I’ve been leaking water every morning” the bucket said.”I’m so sorry for making life more difficult for you. I’m so sorry for being broken. It’s time that you replace me with a new, better, and more efficient bucket” it said to the owner. 

The owner simply smiled and said: “Do you think I haven’t noticed your cracks? I see them, but I look past them.” “Look at all of these beautiful flowers” the owner said. “I may have planted the seeds, but you are the one that is doing the watering each and every day to make them grow tall and strong.”


 

How do you view the cracks in your bucket? Do you nurture them with tenderness & loving care? Or do you judge & shame them for being there?

I think we’re all a little broken. We get hurt, we make mistakes, our hearts break, our flaws show, and we begin to shame ourselves.

So often we beat ourselves up for our weaknesses and shortcomings. We’re not tall enough, we’re not skinny enough, we’re not pretty, or strong, or brave enough. Maybe we have something that embarrasses us. Maybe we’ve made mistakes and can’t even begin to forgive ourselves. Maybe we’re allowing ours or others’ opinions of us consume & define who we are. 

Can you relate? I know that I sure can.

My biggest toxic habit is putting myself down. I look at my flaws, my imperfections, and my mistakes, all as failures. I constantly punish myself for not being like everyone else. I constantly second guess my value, my worth, and my “lovable” factor.  I deal with insecurity and confidence almost on a daily basis. *Seriously people, self-depreciation is not a healthy trait to have.*

After hearing that story – or parable – above though, something changed. It was like a switch flipped in my brain. I had the absolute wrong perspective about myself and my flaws.

Instead of drawbacks, what if these annoying imperfections are really blessings in disguise? What if they really make us shine? What if they give us a purpose? What if our brokenness, our cracks, all water a trail of flowers that we didn’t even know exist? Or a trail of flowers that we were too blind to appreciate?

Drop the mic. Let that sink in.

I have a beautiful piece of cracked glass in my home. When the sun shines upon it, it brings out the most breathtaking colors. It fills the room with shades of green, blue, red, and yellow. It’s like a rainbow burst and landed right in my living room.

That too, got me thinking.

If light can shine through a cracked object such as that, and make it so beautiful, what makes me any different? Why can’t light shine through our cracks and bring out our own unique and timeless beauty?

Big news coming….are you ready? It can. Our greatest strengths can come from our greatest weaknesses. But, we have to allow it. We have to be receptive, open our hearts, open our minds, and allow that energy in.

We have to be warriors and stop shaming ourselves. Instead of judging ourselves, lets dig deep inside and gently love those flaws that we were once so ashamed of. Instead of hiding them, lets embrace them. Embrace what we think is undesirable and thank the good Lord for the path that we are on.

Because…there’s a reason for it. So, I am making the declaration today to start letting the light in through my cracks. To start seeing the flowers that are growing from my own leaky, crack filled bucket.

So what do you say? Would you join me?


 

Prayer: God, thank you for creating me as an imperfect vessel. Thank you for my flaws, my mistakes, my cracks. Thank you for the wonderful lessons that have come my way because of them. Help me to continue to always see me as YOU see me: your blessed child with whom you love unconditionally. Help me to recognize that you are with me every step of the way, holding my hand, and guiding me down my own path. Amen.

Calming Anxiety By Finding My Paradise (And How You Can Too!)

We’re all on a journey toward finding our paradise. What makes us happy? What brings us joy? What fills our lives with purpose? That’s what I have been longing to find.

Most people would say that their paradise is a place….perhaps, a beach, their home, a cruise ship…but, to me, it’s more of a state of mind.

When I think of paradise, I think of a place of pure happiness. Bliss. Where I feel free. Relaxed. Joyful. Energetic. At Peace. It’s a feeling that warms my heart.

Living a life with GAD, and constantly being on an emotional roller coaster is anything but peaceful and easy.  It’s chaotic, frustrating, and often, weary. I’ll admit, it really is difficult to find a place of clarity and joy, but, through all of the muck and gunk of GAD, I’m learning to slowly find my paradise & what that means to me. 

My paradise happens when I’m not thinking about it, chasing after it, or obsessively searching for it. It happens in the most unexpected, unplanned, spontaneous moments.

love a good vacation. I love to be cozy on my couch in my PJs with a cup of Andes Mint Coffee or tea when winter brings an icy, snowy blast.

I love my private time when I can blast the music and let my voice echo down my hallway, or in the microphone of my karaoke stand. How I absolutely adore singing!

I love going for quiet walks on a sunshine filled day – observing nature and all of its magnificent beauty.

I love those sweet, sweet moments driving around with my mom. Playing our favorite songs, windows rolled down, (or heat on high), talking, and singing. I love our girl’s weekends in Boston, and quoting “The Golden Girls” on a daily basis. (Yes, my mom and I are today’s Dorothy and Sophia. No, we’re not one bit ashamed!)

I love watching “Last Man Standing” and “Duck Dynasty” with my dad & laughing non-stop through it all. Or, laughing at my incredible ability to mispronounce the names of old 70s and 80s bands! 🙂

I love the sound of a cricket choir in the background on spring and summer nights. Gazing up at the stars in amazement. The glow of fireflies.

I love the feeling of holding a newborn baby. The unexplainable joy I get from simply coloring a picture with my four-year old Godson, or from spending time in imagination land with my seven-year old cousin.

The quiet times spent in meditation and prayer. Drawing nearer to Jesus. Following the path that He designed for me. Resting in the secure knowledge that He loves me unconditionally. Just the way I am, flaws and all. 

The laughter and time spent overnight or at lunch with my grandmother. The memories, wisdom, love, and stories of the good old days shared by her.

Those precious times when I’m hugging someone I’ve missed incredibly. The moments of chatting with a friend.

Reading a book that is so powerful that it takes my breath away. (Thank you, Mandy Hale!)

The first few moments of a thunderstorm, followed by the beauty of a rainbow symbolically showing that no matter what happens, everything will be ok. 

All of those are my happy places.

But, there’s one thing in particular that is my number one form of paradise.  My paradise is found through surrounding myself with animals.


There is nothing in this world that I love more than cuddling with my precious dog. When he sits gently on my lap, sleeps soundly at the foot of my bed, and licks away the sadness and tears off of my face.  THAT is unconditional love. That is my paradise.

Advocating for them, is what I’m meant to do.

When I volunteer at our local Humane Society and am surrounded by the hundreds of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats; I feel at home.

When I blog, to spread awareness of adoption, fostering, spaying, and the tragedy of abuse and neglect – my heart and soul fills with a fiery burst of goodness.

When I read a story of a life that is saved, of a happily ever after for an animal who got a much deserved second chance, there is a joy that comes through me in a way that nothing else can.

That is my paradise. 

Four-legged friends running, jumping, snuggling all around me – there isn’t anything much better than that…in my book, anyway.

When I look into the eyes of my pets, or of any animal, I see a soul. I see love. I see happiness, and gratitude. I see myself in them. 

God has given me a very special gift, a love for these creatures in my heart. He has placed a dream that’s so big, and so powerful in my heart that I would reach for the moon to achieve it.

I consider myself very blessed to have this passion, this form of paradise in my life. And, while I’m still learning to fully appreciate the beauty of having this gift, I will never take it for granted.


How To Discover Your Paradise:

Think about it. Write it down. Then, LIVE it. Make time for your paradise!

Prayer: God, I thank you for blessing me with these fiery passions. Thank you for allowing me to experience the beauty in all of these things – even when I’m sometimes too blind or stubborn to see and appreciate it. I know all things work together for your greater good. Amen

The “S” Word: Why I’m Choosing to Speak Out

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

– Psalm 147:3

Suicide. 

It’s an extremely sensitive, heavy subject that I’ve been debating about touching on for a while now. This is definitely a difficult post to write, but it is oh so necessary. Too often I’m seeing or hearing about adolescents and even adults who take their own lives. That breaks my heart beyond belief.

Why? Because I’ve been there. I am there. I have felt those feelings of wanting to end my own life. It is the scariest feeling in this world. Instead of continuing to silence myself about this topic, I’ve decided to share my story.


I was fourteen years old when I first contemplated suicide. I was a freshman in high school, and I was getting bullied severely. It wasn’t physical bullying, but verbal. The kind that feel is the hardest to deal with.

It all started when I decided to befriend another quiet, introverted, and intelligent soul like myself. People had been making fun of her and her lifestyle since 7th grade – myself included. I’m ashamed to admit that now. Hurting someone in order to fit in with the crowd, to fit in with my so-called “friends.” Ick. 

After some time of getting to know this girl, I discovered that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her. She didn’t party, didn’t compromise her values – or her body – for a one night stand with a boy. She didn’t hurt others in order to lift herself up. She was a straight A student who knew who she was and stood boldly in her confidence.

We’ve lost contact since the good old days of high school, but back then, she really was a beautiful person on the inside and out.

Slowly, but surely we became friends – which meant that I was now part of the “freak show duo” as we came to be known. Every morning I would walk into school to hear a crazy rumor about me that my former “friends” were spreading. I’d find little notes inside my locker that reminded me of how “weird” I was.

I’d receive instant messages from my classmates making empty threats to “beat me up in the parking lot.” I’d log onto Facebook and see my profile picture all “colored” up and spread on my classmates’ public pages. I was called ugly, fat, a dyke…pretty much every cruel name under the sun.

I had the honor of having old, beat up cars named after me. My classmates would frequently pass around pictures of their cars all decorated and captioning them “trying to make Allie look girly,” “dressing up Allie to make her pretty.” They said it was no easy task.

Every day felt like survival of the fittest for me. Everyone told me to ignore the hateful comments of my peers, and I tried. Hard. But, the more that I didn’t stand up for myself, the more I pretended not to hear what they were saying about me, the more they did it.

The hatred I felt toward them burned so deep. The thought of seeing those people made me sick to my stomach each morning. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. My self-esteem was gone. I had nervous breakdowns. I would sob into my mother’s arms after school.

I became severely depressed, dejected, and hopeless. I was rejected, lonely, hurt, and I didn’t want to live anymore. I didn’t want to have to deal with my peers anymore. I wanted to escape, and I wanted to escape badly. That’s when the suicidal thoughts began rushing in my mind like a flood.

One evening, when my parents weren’t home, I paced back and forth with a bottle of pills in my hand. I was too afraid to physically harm myself, so I figured that was the best option. I wrote out a note to my family, apologizing for who I was and how much pain I caused them. I apologized for being abnormal.

And then….I cried. Big, heavy sobs. Because I realized that I didn’t want to end my life. I didn’t want to die. I tore out the note and threw it away. 

When I finally told my parents how I was feeling, it was like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Granted, they were scared. At that time in my life, the only people who knew about my suicidal thoughts were my parents and grandparents. And thank God they did. They protected me when I couldn’t protect myself.

With their help and their immense love and support, I made it through that incredibly difficult period in my life. I slowly overcame the suicidal thoughts, and was sure that I would never have to deal with them again.  And, I didn’t. For a while, at least.


I’d be lying if I said that I don’t struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts anymore. Because, I do. It’s not an everyday occurrence, but lately I’ve been catching myself in the midst of these dark thoughts again. And, instead of fighting them, I feed into them. Thus, strengthening their powers over me.

I’ve discovered that those feelings are always a product of my reaction and attitude toward circumstances around me. They present themselves the most when I compare myself to others, put myself down, or when I set unrealistic expectations for myself and fail to achieve them. They destroy everything around me – including my friendships and relationships.

This week I had one of my lowest days that I’ve had in a long time. Nothing went right that day. I woke up in extremely depressed, barely having the energy or desire to go to work. My workday was horrendous, my self-esteem was as dry as the desert. I was in a turmoil of self loathing due to obsessive scrolling on Facebook looking at everyone’s picture perfect lives, I could not keep the pesky tears from falling, and I could not find a way to climb out of the endless black tunnel I was in.

My family tried to encourage me, tried to help me get through the day, and in the past, it worked. But that day, I simply wasn’t receptive. I didn’t want to be. Someone would try to light my candle, and I was right there to extinguish the flame. That’s when I realized that I hit rock bottom. My family and friends could no longer “cure” me and I certainly couldn’t cure myself alone anymore. Nothing that anyone was saying was helping me. I didn’t feel human, and for the first time in a while, my own feelings started to scare me.

It was a turning point. I honestly believe that day happened for a reason. I needed it to happen. With a tug on my heart from God, and advice and care from a friend who is one of my biggest inspirations, I decided it’s time to hang on, hold on, and get healthy. 

For the first time in my life, I am seeking counseling. 

While I used to be incredibly embarrassed about that, I’m not anymore. I can’t be. By being ashamed and embarrassed, and living in denial that I don’t need professional help, I’m only contributing to the stigma that I definitely want to end.

Because of all this, I’ve made a decision to pursue my Masters degree, and eventually, my PhD in Christian Ministry and Counseling at Liberty University in Virginia.


I’m sharing this because there really is such power in vulnerability. It is extremely difficult to talk about mental illness, and it can be nerve-wracking to confront the reality of this issue.

However; in my opinion, the thought of other people like me who are suffering in silence is heartbreaking. So, when I invade my Facebook friends’ news feed with mental health articles, when I talk about my own struggles and victories, it is with these hopes:

To reach out a hand to someone, anyone, and let them know they are NOT and NEVER will be alone. 

To tell them over, and over, and over again how beautiful and purposeful their lives are. 

To have a chance to introduce them to God, and build a special relationship with Him. 

To show them love, compassion, and acceptance for who they are. 

To bring back joy and freedom to their lives. 

To help them heal – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

To tell them to NEVER give up. Never give in to darkness. Because it WILL be okay. You WILL get through this. 

and…

To educate the public that mental health is a real and important issue in today’s world, and the stigma against it, needs to stop. 

So, I will be writing about my journey. I will be reaching out, and hopefully, just hopefully, touching a few lives and hearts in the process.


Prayer: Lord, I know you created me, and every human being in your own likeness. I know that nothing in my journey will be wasted. I trust there is a purpose for my struggles. Please help me be a beacon of hope to someone out there. Help me to spread the Word of Your unfailing and never-ending love. Help me to do Your work, and to use my story for Your greater purpose. I pray for those who are struggling in darkness right now. Show them your brilliant light. Wrap them up in your humble and most Holy arms. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


If you or someone that you know is having suicidal thoughts or are in crisis, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or visit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.