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.

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