I Am Here Now

I have had the urge to write a blog post for several days now, and no matter how many times I have sat in front of my computer or tried to come up with something to say it has failed. Even now I’m having quite the time. My creative juices have just been having some struggles the last few days. Which is frustrating, especially when I have this urge to write and get something out of my head and can’t seem to.

It has been a really wonderful week, though. I started the last semester of my undergraduate degree this week, and honestly, it has been really wonderful. I have so many stories of things that have happened to me this week, most of them a little outrageous. But it has been so much fun. I always thought that when I got to this point in my life I would outrageously scared and have no idea what to do next.

But I couldn’t be further from feeling that way.

I am so excited for all of the possibilities coming my way. Earlier today I discussed the possibility of going to London for a week with some of my best friends in May, and I couldn’t be more excited. I have been longing to go back since my last visit in 2016. It would be like going home. There are so many other things coming that I’m excited for as well. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of uncertainties in my life right now, too. But I’m just so excited for all of it.

Life has been so interesting lately.

I feel like I keep using that word, and in general when I use that word it doesn’t necessarily mean something good. But that’s really the only word I can use to describe it accurately. And it has been good. Life has been very, very good to me lately.

There have been some hard things. And if I’m being honest, how I’ve been dealing with those things and how I feel about them now has me SHOOK. (To use a modern slang term.)

One thing happened to me this week that I’ve been thinking about a lot. My sister-in-law Kaylee, whom I love dearly, has been really revamping her life recently. She’s made a lot of changes that I’m super proud of. She introduced to me an idea this week. The idea is that no matter what we’ve been through we are here. No matter what pain you have endured, no matter what mistakes you have made, no matter what darkness you have faced, you are here now.

It did not break you. It did not kill you. It did not win. Because you are here now.

I absolutely love this. I love this because there have been so many times in my life when I felt broken to a degree that it seemed I couldn’t possibly ever be whole again. We all have moments like this. But no matter how many times you have felt that way, you are still here. You are here right now.

You have not been beaten.

It is never too late to be brand new. It is never too late to start over. It is never too late to remember what you really want and to commit to chasing it. No matter what you’ve faced before. It’s absolutely incredible.

Last night as I was doing my gospel study, I decided to go with an old technique that is very tried and true for me. I’ll begin with a prayer, pour out all that I’m feeling, and then I turn to my scriptures and let them fall open. And the first thing it lands on has always, without fail, been exactly what I needed in my life.

Last night I came upon Ezekiel 22:14. It reads:

“Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.”

I absolutely love this scripture with my whole heart. It was everything I needed and more. One thing I love about this technique is that I often don’t know the context surrounding the verses I come upon. Sometimes I’ll read on and the context will help me even more, and other times it is just the one verse that makes the difference.

This time all I needed was this one verse. I love it because it reminds me that God’s timing is different than my own. His plans are different than my own. But He does not lie. Ever. Not ever. It reminds me that even when hard times come or I’m faced with a myriad of unknowns (kind of like now) that the Lord is always with me. He has a perfect plan for my life that I have always done my best to follow, and I always will.

This verse was incredible because it acknowledges that waiting on the Lord isn’t always easy. Being patient is hard. Trying to understand the twists and turns of life can be confusing. But God is always constant.

The very last phrase is the most powerful to me: I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.

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Clean

I have so much on my mind tonight. Usually, when this happens to me and I decide to blog about it, I try and bring all back to one theme. I think it’s my way of trying to make sense of it all and put it together in my brain into something that I can process. And then I just happen to publish it and let all of you read it.

But this time I just want to get everything that is on my mind out there. And I’m hoping and praying that I can communicate it in a way that conveys exactly how it is all going on in my head.

I’m not one for New Years. I never have been, and honestly, I can’t say that I ever will be. It has always frustrated me that we have this one time when the entire world decides to start over, but then none of us actually do. That’s why I never make New Year’s resolutions. Not because I don’t think I can keep them, but because if I’m going to make a life-changing promise to myself I’m going to do it whenever I please. Any day is a day when we can start over.

My sister-in-law was trying to explain it to my nephew on New Year’s Eve that the next day was a new year. And his little five-year-old brain could not fathom it. He just couldn’t understand what that meant. So much so that later that night at our family party he remarked to my sister, “Hey, Aunt Jamie, did you know that tomorrow is a new day?”

And while that story is incredibly adorable, it is also incredibly profound.

He couldn’t understand the idea of a new year because in his mind every day is a new day. Every day is the beginning of something else. I think we should all have this perspective in mind. And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a New Year’s resolution or anything like that. It’s a great time to start over, and I’m starting over in many ways. But every day is a new day. Every day is a moment when we can make new promises to ourselves.

We’ve been doing this thing in my family, and by that I mean it’s been my mother, my sisters, and I, where we have been choosing one word for our 2019. The word that is going to be our year, the word that is going to define who we are and what we do and how we feel going into a year that promises a lot of change for all of us. It has been really fun to hear everybody’s different words.

My younger sister Josie burst into my room last night – I’m still home for the holiday break – and roused me from my almost-asleep state to inform me of her word. It came to her in the shower, as all good ideas come to most people, and it was my privilege to be the first person she told. She turns 18 this year and is going to be starting all sorts of adventures. It is only fitting that she chose the word: Fearless.

What I love about this choosing a word exercise is that it hasn’t just been something we all decided. It has taken prayer and meditation and thought. It has been a process of figuring out where we are and where everything is going to take us. My word wasn’t something I decided or came up with. It came to me and felt right and perfect for the year ahead of me.

Clean.

This word came to me because I have had so many incredible experiences this last year that have seemed to cleanse me from several years of very hard experiences. For the longest time, I felt like all of the hard things I’d been through, all the pain and suffering and personal trauma, had made me somehow dirty. I felt used. Broken. A patchwork of parts that somehow still had a heartbeat.

But that is not me anymore.

I had an experience several weeks ago where my emotions did this crazy thing and it felt like I was literally walking through a freezing fire. And when I came out on the other side I was completely clean. And I felt powerful and fierce and free. Free in a way that I had never known I could feel.

And so here I am. I feel completely new and different, and yet I am exactly the same. I am still so much me. So completely myself.

I realized that I still want all of the things I ever wanted before I walked through that fire. But it all feels different now in a way that is hard to explain. I do not need things like I did before. I have always been one to hold on to things so tightly. I have depended on things and people. I have needed them. But I no longer feel this way.

In my head, love has always been tied with need.

I realized that this is not right. That is not the way love works. No matter what kind of love you are talking about, love is not about need. When you love somebody, anybody in any way, it is not about you needing them or them needing you. Now the bottom line in life is that we do need each other. We can’t survive this life without each other. That’s why we have friends and family and significant others.

But saying that you need somebody takes away your own ability to be there for yourself. It takes away your own strength and power, and it puts them in a position that they can never fill. They can never fill this position because it isn’t their job.

The only one you really need is God.

He is the only one who can fill that position. He is the only one who can be there for you all the time, 100%, completely and truly. It is far more important that you keep people in your life not because some part of you thinks it needs them, but because you want them there. Because it makes sense. Because it feels right.

Life is such an interesting thing.

It is so interesting because it is so short. It goes by so incredibly fast. And yet everything that happens is so important. Crucial. When you believe in the afterlife as I do, you have to understand that the things you do every day, the decisions you make, impact your eternity. And it’s crazy because this life is just a blink of an eye, really. And yet we have all that forever. It’s a little bit scary but also so amazing. It means that any hardship, any struggle, any black moment will not last. It can’t. Our souls are much bigger than that. It’s incredible because it means that no matter what complications or hardships arise, we are capable of making the correct decisions that will bring us true happiness literally for eternity. It’s an absolutely spectacular thing.

I hope that at least some of the things I’ve written about have made sense. Whoever you are, reading my blog, thank you. Thank you for reading it. Thank you for being here if you’ve been here for a long while. Thank you for being here if you’ve only just arrived. Thank you for reading my words.

This one is for all of you:

I hope that your 2019 is a spectacular one. I hope that you break free from any chains that bind you. I hope that you find the strength you never knew you had. I hope you become clean from any parts of the past that haunt you. I hope that anything that you have lost that is meant for you comes back at the perfect moment. And that it is more perfect than it ever was. And it isn’t something you need, but something you want. I hope that you always remember that anything worth having in life, any happiness worth achieving, is worth working for and hoping for. I hope that great things flow into your life. I hope you have wonderful adventures and so many laughs.

Bless you.

What Shuffle Said…

My younger sister Josie is easily one of my best friends on this earth. I might even go so far as to say that she is my #1 best friend on this earth, but then I’d have to do a post about alL my beliefs on best friends and that’s nOt why we’re here. The point is that Josie is one of my best friends, we’re Very close and wE have been for quite a while.

Before I moved out to go to college, Josie and I didn’t really get along very well. But after that, we got closer and closer as the yearS wore on, and now there usually isn’t a day that we don’t Talk even if I am away at school.

IMG950845What’s fun about my relatiOnship with Josie is that she and I veRy, very, very different. And at the same time, we are so, so, so similar. It’s absolutely hilarious to hang out with her because we find ourselves doing and thinking the same things one minute, and then being completelY opposite the next.

One of the things I love most about my relationship with Josie is that we have very similar taste in music, so we bond over that a lot. And though there are some differences, in general, we like all the same tunes and have so much fun jamming out together.

So yesterday we did a thing.

We’ve been thinking about the New Year since… well, you get the point. (Though usually, I try to stay clear of all the New Year stufF because it’s so maInstream and bleh, but I digress…) So we’ve been thinking about the New Year. Yesterday I decided to make homemade bRead because in our family Christmas Break means that we wear our Christmas pajamas for two weeks, get all of our sleep schedules thrown off, and all around party. So I thought that maybe making brad would be the way I contributed to society for the break. But again, I digrEss.

As I was making bread, Josie came uP to me and showed me the music on her phone. Our two favorite playlists, to be specific: One Direction and Taylor Swift. (Now I don’t have time to justify why I like these people and it’s my blog anyway to suffice it to say, I love them. A LOT.) AfteR letting me view these playlists, Josie said, “I’m going to hit shuffle on each one of these playlists, and whatever song cOmes up is what your 2019 will be like.”

She hit shuffle on each playlist twice: once for me and once fOr her.

And I mean this with all of the seriousness and sincerity with which it can possibly be meant: but I firmly believe that the songs that came up or us mean something. It isn’t just because some great songs came up for both of us or anything like that, though that is certainly the case, it is that I had this feeling that I get sometimes when I know I’m living in a signiFicant moment. Time slows down just a little, a thick feeling enters your chest, your mind gets incredibly clear: and you know that what is happening means something very important.

I have had the very strong feeling for several weeks now, and still do, that 2019 is going to be out of this world. I’m so incredibly excited.

Now you may say that it’s just a feeling and that it means nothing. But I will tell you right now that when it comes to my feelings about things that are coming I am very, very, very rarely wrong. It’s my superpower. I’m not kidding even a little bit. Even if things are surprising or shock me a little when they happen, there is always this little thing inside of me that goes: yep. I told you. You absolutely knew that this would happen.

And it’s true. I always know.

Like I said, it’s my superpower. So, when it comes to the very special moment that I shared with my little sister yesterday, I’m ecstatic. Don’t get me wrong, 2019 holds A LOT of unknowns for me. There is so much that is going to change this year and if I’m being honest I’m not completely sure where everything will take me. But I know it will be fantastic.

Oh, what were the songs?

Wouldn’t you like to know.

At The End Of The Day

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!

Hello, everyone! And Happy Christmas Eve! If any of you have been around my blog for a while, you understand how I feel about Christmas. I love Christmas so much. And this year I am actually more excited for Christmas than I have been since I was a little girl.

Every year I try to write a Christmas post about what Christmas means to me and how special it has always been for me and my family. And every year I do this and it’s great. But this year I want to do something a little bit different.

I have had so much on my mind lately, and a lot has happened in my life very recently. And if I’m being completely honest, a lot of it has been shocking and also exciting. I discovered recently that I am more than my fears, even my very biggest ones. I also discovered that no matter what, at the end of the day, God is always, always, always in charge. We may not understand the twists and turns that He puts into our lives, but He has a purpose always.

One thing I love about Christmas is how absolutely magical it is, and that we get to end the year with that magic. I think it’s a way of reminding us that no matter what we’ve been through and experienced that there is always magic at the end.

Looking back on my 2018, it has been incredibly amazing. I got to travel to many different places, visit old friends, go to concerts, and overall: my life completely changed. It was a phenomenal year. I’ve loved every second of it. There have been some lows, and they have been hard, but the good has outshined them so spectacularly that I can hardly remember what they felt like.

I know that we have all had moments in our lives where we think, “If only I would have said this…” And that’s an idea I want to touch on for a bit. I find that every single time I have a very serious conversation when I look back on it I realize I said everything I meant to. But there are bits and pieces that were the most important, the most from my heart, and those are the bits and pieces that I hope that person remembers the most.

You see, I think we have it in our minds that if we would have just said whatever it was we felt like we didn’t say then things would be different. But that isn’t necessarily the case. I have learned that you can say everything in your head and in your heart, and even though it might mean the world to somebody else, it isn’t always going to change anything. Like I said before, God is in charge, and even though we don’t always understand the paths He puts before us, one day we will.

I also learned this year that hope is never, ever lost. I went through several experiences this year, some of which are ongoing, in which it would have been very normal for me to feel like all of the hope in the world was lost.

But I don’t feel that way.

In spite of everything in these situations with some very important people in my life, I am thinking of two in particular, I have come to feel that there seems to be even more hope than there was before. In fact, I will even confess to you that I actually feel closer to these people now than I did before.

You know how we have emotional connections to people? I feel mine in my heart, almost as if there is a rope that connects my heart to the hearts of the other people in my life. For one specific person in my life, this rope should have been completely severed about two weeks ago. And for reasons I don’t entirely understand and therefore cannot explain, the rope feels stronger than ever. It feels like I could reach out and touch them. For whatever reason that this connection still exists, I know that it does.

I know that the future is bright. And I know that no matter what happens, there is always hope. I know that we are bigger and stronger than our worst fears. I know that there is a plan for each of our lives, and as confusing as it can be at times, it will bring us ultimate joy.

God bless you all. Merry Christmas.

when the sun came up

it all seems so simple
As human beings, we are completely obsessed with endings. We are constantly asking about what is going to end up happening when we will reach a sometime we’ve been waiting for, or what tomorrow or next year brings. I know that I do this. I am always wondering about what’s around the corner. And as we spend our days obsessing over the future and wondering about the ending, we forget one very, very important thing.

It isn’t about the end.

Life is made up of seconds, moments, hours, days. Life is made up of each angle that creates it all. And ultimately, life is about the process. People are always saying things like, “When you are on your deathbed do you want to look back and think…” or “Twenty years from now do you want to be able to say…” These phrases capture just. Just a little. It is not about the end.

It is about the process.

And sometimes the process of life is messy and dark. And it hurts. And other times it is clean and bright. And beautiful. There are times when you understand the things that happen and times when you don’t. But that’s only normal because you are, after all, a human. And no matter where life takes you there will be never, ever be a moment when you understand absolutely everything.

One day, we will all die.

And depending on your beliefs, it will be an end in some way. If you believe that there is no life after death, then it is the ultimate end. If you believe that there is life after death, then it is the end of your life on this earth. Either way, it is an end. Death is inescapable, but it isn’t the purpose or the point. Isn’t the point to become something? It isn’t about the fact that you got from Point A to Point B. It is about how you got there. That is life.

the monsters turned out to be just trees
We spend a great deal of our life in fear. And that’s because life is scary, and there is so, so much about it that is totally unsure. No matter how sure we are about anything, there is going to be insecurity. In fact, the times in my life when I have been the most confident about what I was doing have been the times when I was the most frightened.

I think we all have one thing we the most terrified of.

I am deathly afraid of spiders. And most insects, really. I don’t do well with scary movies at all. I’m also very, very afraid of pretty much everything to do with the ocean. And space. There’s too much just … something out there and the expanse scares me. You probably couldn’t pay me enough money to go into space or on a boat by myself in the middle of the ocean. Really, I’m absolutely terrified of it. And we all have these things. And we have things that we are most seriously afraid of. Like ending up alone. Or never knowing love. Or going without. Or any number of countless things that are completely real and so, so scary. But what if you were to face this thing, this great big thing that scares you the very, very most? The thing that you are sure would end you as you know yourself. What if it was there? Happening right in front of you?

And what if it didn’t hurt at all?

What if you realized that you are bigger than this fear? What if the only feeling was this feeling in your chest that was like the sensation of falling mixed with a very hot fire that very suddenly cooled and left you sitting on the top of a green hill? Silent. Peaceful. And clean. Finally clean.

so we could dance
I was talking with my mother recently about a lot of things. Mostly some family issues. We were talking about the concept of “letting go”. Overall, I think this concept has merit. I mean, it exists for a reason. But as we discussed it and thought it over, I had a bit of an epiphany. I’m going to do my best to explain it so that I don’t discount the very real thing that “letting go” is.

I realized that life isn’t about letting go.

First of all, if we just walk around letting things go all the time then we’ll end up empty. The point is to gather things inside of us and let them become a part of who we are. “Letting go” is, I think, more about the bad things. Let hate go. Let fear go. Let doubt go. Let insecurity go.

But please hold on.

Hold on to laughter. Hold on to sunlight. Hold on to memories. And, most of all, hold on to love. I cannot stress this last one enough. Love is never, ever something that you should let go. It is never, ever something that you should forget. It is never, ever something that you should get over. Love is the most beautiful, perfect force that we have on this earth. Don’t ever let it go.

baby, i did, too
If I stand back and look at life, I mean really, really look at it, the only thing I see is me standing before God and Him asking the question, “Do you trust me?” It may seem incredibly simple, but it’s true. Because if God is real, and He does have a very specific plan for each of our lives – which I know to be the case – then really the ultimate lesson in life is one of trust. Trust in the process.

i was looking at you
There is another thing that I think we have to learn, and again I’m going to do my best to explain it lest I lead the world down false paths. But honestly, it’s pretty simple.

I am not in charge of my life.

There are a lot of things that I can control. A lot of choices that are completely up to me. A lot of things that I am accountable for because it is, after all, my life. But I am not in charge of it. There comes a moment in the life of every single human being when they realize that they cannot control the things that happen during their own process. There is so much that simply happens to us. There is so much we are not in charge of.

you were looking at me
But along with all of this is another truth. We may not be in charge. We may not ultimately be able to control any of the things that shape our process. However.

What’s meant to be will always find a way.

God reminded me of this fact recently. He reminded me that there are things I can’t control, but that that’s okay. There are things that happen, but ultimately He is in charge. He reminded me that what’s meant to be will always find a way. No matter what that means. No matter what Point B that gets you to. It’s about the process and trust. And love. Always, always love.

If You’re Reading This At 4 A.M…

I have almost written this post probably 20 times in the last year. Every single time I have obviously not, for various reasons. I just want to tell all of you a few things that I’ve learned. And a few things I believe. And a few things I’m holding on to. And a few things I am still trying to figure out. 

I have learned that human beings are infinitely complex. And that we have the capacity for so much. Whether that be good or evil. I have learned that the older you get the more gray areas emerge. Nothing is black and white. I have learned that life is messy. And that no matter where you go or who you meet, everybody as problems. And everybody has baggage. I have learned that the worst pain in the world isn’t physical. I have learned what it is to be connected with other people. To feel what they feel. To know they are in pain that you cannot heal. 

I have learned what it is to love. To love with every fiber that makes you who you are, and every infinite thing that makes up the spaces inside you. And I have learned what it is to fear that even that isn’t enough to heal the broken pieces. 

I have learned what it is to give second chances and to be given second chances. I have learned what it is to be so broken inside that you look in the mirror and can’t believe you are still put together. I have learned what it is to be so whole that you feel as though you couldn’t possibly contain all of the joy and rightness that is bursting through your heart. 

I believe in God. I believe that He speaks to us. And I believe that He always keeps His promises. And that He doesn’t lie. And that sometimes He asks us to be patient. Sometimes He asks us to wait. And sometimes that is hard. But He is always, always there making the same promises over and over again. Reminding you of the things He’s told you before. Reminding you that you aren’t alone. Reminding you that He is in charge. Reminding you that all things are possible. Reminding you that true joy and peace comes from Him and Him alone. 

I believe that life is different for everybody. And no story is exactly the same. But also we are all intricately connected. And it is absolutely vital that you find the path that God wants for you and stick to it, no matter what voices pull you in other directions. No matter what the world throws at you. That’s where true joy is. That’s where true peace is. 

I believe in love. That it will conquer everything if you let it. 

I’m holding on to answers whispered to me by the wind. And answers thrown in my face like a billboard. And answers spoken to me as if there was an actual person saying the words in my ear. I’m holding on to hope. I’m holding on to dreams. I’m holding on to love. Because it turns out that this love is stronger than every broken moment I’ve ever had. And it refuses to go away. It refuses to break. Maybe that’s the point of love. 

I’m trying to figure out how love really works. And how to use it to help fix the dark days. I’m trying to figure out if I really can use love like a weapon, or if it really is just a matter of feeling it and pouring it out of my heart. If it is the latter, I am more than capable of that.

I had a therapist teach me a visualization exercise once. You imagine somebody standing before you. The person in your life that you love most, or that you are having a hard time with, or the person who you want to express your love to the most. And you imagine the color pink, which represents love, pouring from your heart into theirs. And you let it flow freely, and you allow them to receive it freely. And if you do it correctly, you can actually feel a connection with that person as if they are standing right in front of you actually receiving all that love. 

And if you’re reading this at 4 a.m., please know that you’ve been that other person a million times. 

What Happens After “The End”?

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to change things. I have always wanted to be able to make the world different, or at least make somebody’s world different. And since writing has always been something I have considered myself at least adequate at, I have always imagined that it would be through my written words that I’d be able to help make these changes. 

I’m honestly not sure if this has ever been the case. 

In fact, I realized the other day that I am 23 years old and if I disappeared tomorrow it is very likely that nothing would happen. I have made no significant changes in the world. And this thought didn’t necessarily come to me as something depressing, but it did make me think. It made me think about a lot of things. Mostly, it made me think about complexity. 

Have you ever wondered what happens after you read the words “The End” on a page or movie screen? What happens after they get home from their epic journey? What happens after the guy runs after the girl and they go off into the sunset? 

Well, I’ve got a few thoughts about this. 

I recently finished a novel in which (spoiler alert) the main guy goes after the woman he loves months after they’ve been torn apart. And honestly, the scene is very sad. You can tell that even after all they’ve been through and everything that has happened, they love each other so much. But they are both terrified. And she tells him that. And he responds with, “We’ll be brave together.” 

And even though it’s true, and very beautiful, what I don’t tell you is what happened later. About how it was very hard for her to ever trust him again. About how it tortured him every day that he had hurt her like that, and how he was worried it might happen again somehow. And I don’t tell you about how even though they loved each other very much there were still obstacles to overcome. There were still moments when they fell into old patterns and she was terrified and the emotional connection between them felt frayed. 

I don’t tell you that there were moments when she wondered if he really would be happier without her. I don’t tell you that he struggled wildly, too. 

I don’t tell you that there is so much more to “The End” than we all think. That “The End” is hard. That “The End” is really just a new bend in the road. That “The End” is just another way of saying, “Let’s start over.” 

But I think that the point of “The End” is to hint at all those things the creator doesn’t tell us about. The point of “The End” is to say that the storm has passed and whoever has faced it is stronger or happier or, if the story is wildly depressing, at least this one storm is now over. 

The point of my “The End” was to tell you that both characters were very, very aware that the future before them wasn’t an easy one. But that they would rather face it together, because they have discovered through all of the not being together that they were meant to face the storms side by side. And it doesn’t mean that it will be easy. It doesn’t mean that everything is now fixed between them. It doesn’t mean that it is all riding off into the sunset. 

It means that they found what they truly wanted, deep in their hearts, and fought for it even though they knew it wouldn’t be easy. It means that they decided to be stronger, even if they didn’t feel like it. It means that they decided to be brave together because it was worth the fight. 

The End