Prioritize Yourself: A Lesson From My 23rd Year

August 1 is always a day of reflection for me. It’s the last day of whatever age I’m at, the day before I start a brand new chapter. With that comes the anticipation of what’s next, as well as the sweet melancholy of looking back at what has passed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my birthday and I am happier than ever to see this next one come. So far, my twenties have been some of my favorite birthdays, earmarked by celebrations full of bubbles and love and milestones in my career and my life. Honestly, it’s been a wonderful handful of years and I can’t wait for what’s still to come.

That said, I like to look back at the past three hundred and sixty five (366 on a Leap Year) and consider what the world has taught me.

This year, the lesson is quite simple.

It’s okay to prioritize yourself.

This one took me a long time to learn. I’m a born people pleaser. It’s difficult for me to let go of the idea that something I do might let someone else down. In some ways, this has greatly benefited me and strengthened my relationships with my friends and family. I like to think of myself as reliable, as someone that will always be there if needed.

But in other ways, this has resulted in me neglecting my own self care, and as I navigate through adulthood, I’m realizing that self care is not selfish.

If you aren’t okay, how can you help anyone else be? 

In particular, I learned this lesson after my grandfather passed at the end of last year. It’s the first time I’ve experienced that sort of loss in my immediate family, and it was the second loss of someone close to me within the year. It wasn’t easy, to say the least. And while I remain bouyed and grateful that he left the legacy of an impeccable family behind, I’d be lying if I said I bounced back right away.

During that time, I had to say no to a lot of things, just for the sake of taking care of myself. I didn’t reply to texts as quickly as usual, I didn’t go to as many holiday happy hours as I may have liked. I needed time to be alone; I needed time to be with God; I needed time to be with my family. I just needed time, and for the first time, I recognized how important it was to put that time ahead of something, or someone, else.

Learning to be with yourself is an important part of learning about yourself.

When I emerged from my hermitting to rejoin the real world, I had a new perspective on putting yourself first.

Mainly, I finally decided to dub time spent with yourself as equally important to time spent in community.

It goes beyond that, though, of course, because we’re never truly alone these days, are we? That little thing in our pocket is always buzzing and beeping and tweeting and posting. I’m a huge fan of social media and an even bigger fan of messaging apps that let me keep in contact with loved ones who are flung across the world, but it is just fine to shut off sometimes. It is just fine not to reply to a text that is not urgent. It is just fine to laugh at the meme you’re sent, give it a little like, and then be on your way.

That is just fine. And no one should make you feel guilty for disconnecting.

It’s perfectly okay for work to be important. Just remember, your personal life is, too.

Now, I’ve always been a huge proponent of working to live rather than living to work. Admittedly, that’s a hard thing to do in my industry. PR is always on, and the deeper I get in my career, the harder it is to fully “switch off.” In fact, I was talking to my cousin last night and she asked what my schedule is, and as I rambled on about the hours I’m in the office vs. the hours I’m checking email, I realized how ridiculous it sounded to say, “Oh, but I make a rule not to scan too much on Saturdays.”

Alas, that’s the industry I’m in and, for better or worse, I love it.

But I’ve been better at setting ground rules. I only work late when I need to, and that’s usually just within the first couple of days of the month when all the reports are due. I try not to send emails after 6 p.m. or before eight in the morning. I try not to open my inbox on Saturdays at all, and on Sunday evenings it’s only to clear out the junk mail and get a footing for Monday. I turn off my email app on vacation. I try to be as present as possible at work so I can be as present as possible outside of it, too.

And so far, it’s working out pretty well.

Granted, there’s so many more lessons that you learn within the span of a year, but this one stands out to me as the most important. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by all of the stimuli in our lives. It’s so easy, especially in our twenties.

So, as I enter my twenty fourth year (ack! Writing that out makes it feel so real!) I pledge to myself to prioritize myself when I need to. I pledge to switch off when I can, and be present as much as possible. I pledge to do these things in order to make myself the best that I can be, but also to make myself better for those I love.

And with that said…

Bring it on, 24.

ps: happy birthday, J. thanks for always looking out from that giant cloud trampoline in the sky.

Unexpected

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If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that we don’t get to plan life’s twist and turns. We can try, sure, but trying is one thing — life actually going that way is an entirely other, and you’re a rare breed of lucky if that actually works out for you.

To be completely honest, I never expected that my life would offer the path that it has thus far. I didn’t expect myself to “settle down” — for lack of a better, if terribly overused, phrase. 

My disclaimer now, and perhaps the point of this post, is that I hardly view myself as settling. Instead, my life was rocked by a totally changing, overwhelming, incredible love story. I have said this countless times, and I wholeheartedly believe, that the reason the Lord called me to stay rooted in Phoenix was to find this love.

And my, oh my, am I so grateful for it.

I think about this sometimes. I don’t think I’ve ever told the boy this much, in as many words, but he really has changed my life, in the most cliche and the absolute best ways. The future that I once saw as an endless string of running — off to the next city, the next place, the next opportunity — has slowly molded into one a bit slower, a bit more intentional.

If I’m being completely honest — and again, that is the point in all of this — I think the future I once envisioned for myself involved a lot of running. Not in the literal sense, but rather the figurative one. I’d be lying if I didn’t look at a vagabond-type lifestyle as one that offered a route for escape whenever the going got tough. It may have been hard in some ways, but it certainly felt easy in others.

I no longer have the option to just run. If I did, I’d lose the very thing that has become most important to me.

And you know what else I’ve realized?

That’s not a bad thing.

I am by no means stuck. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. The Lord called me to grow roots, and now, I am blooming. My heart blooms with the possibility of love and a future that I never imagined wanting but now I deeply ache for (eventually); my career blooms with opportunity and growth; my own sense of self blooms with peacefulness and presentness.

If I’ve ever had a true testament to my faith, this realization has absolutely been it.

In actuality, and according to one of my dearest friends, I’ve “always been that type of girl.” The type to fall in love fast, hard, quickly, and long for something lasting. It’s just been that previously, nothing has lasted.

This one has. This one took a trial of faith and blind optimism, as well as a whole heck of a lot of trust in the urgings of my own heart.

And, of course, guidance from the Lord.

To say that my trust in my relationship and my trust in the Lord go hand-in-hand probably sounds naive, or love blinded. But I truly believe that. I believe that the Lord offered me this relationship as a way to prove that He does provide, and He provides so abundantly, so long as you trust and obey his will and his Word.

He called me to stay put.

So I did.

And, without looking, He offered me the most wonderful love I could have ever asked for… the sort of love I didn’t even dare ask for.

I remember reading an article one time about how the butterflies went away for one writer’s relationship after a while, and how that was okay because they were replaced with an overwhelming sense of security and love and warmth.

I’m proud — or maybe actually humbled? — to say that I feel the same way, but I do still get those butterflies when the boy walks in the door every night. But when I think of him, it’s not the same heart-pumping, nervous anticipation I’ve felt before. It’s calm. It’s comfort.

It’s wonderful.

I apologize, truly, for what is essentially a rambling love letter. But I just so deeply hope that you, dear reader, understand that this is more than just about my abundance of love for my boyfriend. That’s well and good and so very true, but this is about more than that. This is about giving into the unexpected and getting what you never knew you so deeply longed for as a result. This is about trusting what you are called to do, even if it goes against every other desire you thought that you had. This is about believing in the surprised that life has in store.

It’s infinitely better than anything I could have planned out for myself.

Building Balance

I’ve been staring at the blank page of this blog post for a while, wondering where to begin. (Update: I wrote this post and then let it sit in my drafts for a while, that’s how unsure I was of posting it.)

When I dove back into the blogging Instagram world, I was quickly reminded of the effect that it can have on one’s psyche. There’s so many pretty pictures out there of pretty people doing pretty things, and it can, sometimes, be a bit overwhelming.

It has gotten me thinking a lot about balance. And, in honor of National Mental Health Awareness month, I thought it best to share a bit of my own story. Forgive me if this is rambling, or redundant, but this is also a little leap of faith as I open up about something I don’t often do: namely, my relationship (or, my previous one) with food.

Trigger warning: this post deals with eating habits, restrictions, and dieting.

Now, there’s obviously a lot of different types of balancing acts. It seems like these days, we have to juggle so much, whether it’s our health, our jobs, our social media usage. Where is it that you find the sweet spot of feeling like you’re doing enough, but not too much? How do you know when to take a break, without doing too little?

It’s taken me a while to figure it out, and I won’t even pretend like I’m an expert at it. I think that balance comes as you grow and get to know yourself better, and I also think that balance can mean different things at different stages in our lives.

For example, once upon a time (aka, my freshman year of college) I decided to go “healthy.” I was determined to avoid the Freshman 15, so I rerouted that determination towards only eating healthy foods, work out regularly, etc. The only problem is, I went way the other direction. I skipped eating mindfully and started to pay too much attention to what I was eating, and working out regularly became like a drug: if I didn’t get my run in that day, I felt miserable, and not due to lack of exercise. If I didn’t get to work out and I ate something “bad for me,” I felt worse than miserable. Granted, I did indeed save myself from gaining the Freshman 15… I lost it, instead. And then some.

Needless to say, I wasn’t so healthy, even though, in my mind, that’s all that I was. Ironically, it was my mind that wasn’t.

I remember coming home from school that summer and my mother reminding me, gently, to be careful. I knew what she meant, and though I was stubborn at first, I eventually eased up a bit. I started being okay with the extra slice of cheese on my sandwich, with not knowing what I was going to eat for dinner until I ate it, with skipping a day or two at the gym. Eventually, I found my true balance again, and by the time I went back to school, I regained my balance with food again.

Besides, that sophomore semester, I had a goal, one I needed to be happy and healthy for: I was going to England.

I left for England the January of my sophomore year of college, and I spent the next seven months having the literal time of my life. (I’ve written, talked, and reminisced on that time more often than not, so there’s no need to rehash the wonderfulness of it now, just know that it was incredible.) It was the first time in a long time that I literally did not think about food or worry about how I looked. I just wanted to experience everything, and experience I certainly did.

I came back from being abroad heartbroken to be home, and upset with the number on the scale. But I was so afraid to fall back into my freshman year habits, so I took it one step at a time. I started junior year with a resolve to be better about exercise, but maintain my England-driven attitude towards food. And it worked, at first, but as all exercise-only diets do, I plateaued after a while. Then I dropped the exercise and started to only eat “healthy foods.” That, again, worked for a bit but stalled after some time. I couldn’t seem to get back into healthy habits I had once had.

The rest of college was a struggle to get that balance back. I’m not saying it was an unhappy struggle, though there were times where I would get discouraged or upset. But who doesn’t? I tried to make the most of my junior and senior year, because if England taught me anything, it was that the time spent in that atmosphere was short, and I didn’t want to take it for granted.

The idea of true “balance” came when I was out of college, as I think it does for many of us. Suddenly, I no longer had the excuse of too many classes or a looming thesis deadline. At the same time, I was living completely on my own, for the first time ever, and learning so much about myself in the process.

And of course, lot of my story is, of course, so strongly about faith. Don’t think for a second that I think I could have gotten to where I am today had I not unrelentingly turned to God for guidance. I have Him to thank for the courage to get through it, the support He put in my life, and the strength to find that balance. In fact, I can honestly say that I didn’t feel the full power of regaining my own balance until I fully pulled Him into the equation, and for that, I am incredibly grateful. He showed the true force of His stable, loving hand as he guided me through this journey.

This journey that, in time, helped me figure out what balance means to me.

Balance, to me, is working out 4 days a week and being an utter slug the other 3. Balance, to me, is eating eggs for breakfast and a salad for lunch, and pizza for dinner. Balance, to me, is a hard workout followed by a bagel breakfast. It’s running 3 miles one day and just weight lifting the next. It’s having a wine night only to wake up and hike the next day. It’s putting a stone in the “healthy” side and a stone in the “happy” side at the same time. It’s making sure the scale stays even.

That said, I’m not saying that this is what balance looks like for everyone. For some, maybe it’s a daily workout and a strict vegan diet, because that’s what makes them feel their best. Because, really, that’s what it’s all about. Once you figure out what makes you feel happiest, and feel healthiest, then you’ll be able to get into that cadence more easily. If I’ve learned anything as I built my own structure for balance, it’s that there’s no one way to do it.

Balance looks different for everyone, and everyone has their own story for getting there.

PS: If you’re struggling, please don’t be afraid to reach out for help. The National Eating Disorder Awareness Helpline is a wonderful, life saving resource.

Blogging with Purpose

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To be honest, I almost didn’t post today. I almost broke my fairly regular cadence of Tuesday/Thursday blog posts out of mere busyness and lack of true inspiration. This week has just gotten the better of me — social commitments have had me slacking on my workouts, work has me exhausted (in the good way! but still…), and I didn’t plan well for blog content. I didn’t want to post just for the sake of posting, so I wasn’t going to do it at all.

And then it struck me: there’s my post.

Diving into the blogger world, I’ve realized that it can be so easy to be insincere, not genuine. With all of the sponsored posts that keep blogs going, a battle for visibility within the algorithms, and so much more, it can be tempting to post just to post. I’ll admit — I’ve done it, and I’m fooling myself if I think I won’t do it again.

But I try, so hard, to avoid it. Why? Because that’s not at all what I started on this blogging journey for.

The other day, someone asked me a question.

“What is your blog about?”

I had to pause, for a moment, before offering a rambling response of: “It’s a lifestyle blog. Well, a faith-based lifestyle blog. Well, no. Kind of a faith-mixed-with-lifestyle blog. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

And while that’s true, it still got me thinking. What is this blog about?

I always said that I didn’t ever want to blog just to blog. I wanted to write things that have meaning to me – whether that meaning stems from pure interest or curiosity, or whether it’s something a bit deeper like faith. I never wanted to write just to spew some words out there. I live by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s motto:

You don’t write because you want to say something,
you write because you have something to say.

So as I pondered the question, I started perusing my own feeds. I started looking for the people and bloggers whose content I admire the most, who I look up to and admire in this crazy, saturated blogging sphere.

I noticed that my favorites were the ones with stories to tell. Not only stories, but their own truths. I am the biggest fan of real-life rawness, and I am so in awe of people who are vulnerable enough to share those moments with the world.

So that, I’ve decided, is what I want to tell people my blog is about:

Real life.

That’s not to say I won’t work with sponsors or affiliates. That’s not to say that I won’t occasionally post just to post — but I’m going to try to avoid it.

This is my pledge to you, my readers, that I will continue to blog with the utmost purpose. I will not hide details for the sake of making my life look more “shiny.” I will not shy away from the tough stuff. I urge you, whether you’re a blogger or a reader or just a random passerby, to live your life with that same mantra.

Can we do that, together? Can we promise to be real, and purposeful, and intentional?

I pray that we can. I pray that I can. And I pray that you continue to offer me the grace of your listening ears (or… I guess… your reading eyes?)

Testimony Tuesday: Intention

Living with intention. It seems like such a simple concept, one that we all should want to adhere to so naturally. Of course, we want to be intentional — about our lives, our love, our faith, our families. Without intention, what’s the point, really?

And yet, it feels like, so often, intention can slip through the seams, for whatever reason. Life becomes more routine, more automatic… and, in turn, inherently less intentional.

I’ve been trying to be better at this but I’ll admit that even on my best days, there are moments where I feel as if I’m on autopilot. It’s little things: driving to work each morning, plowing through some everyday tasks, putting those miles in on the treadmill. I feel myself slipping away into the obligation of life, as opposed to relishing in its glory.

Now, let me preface all of this with the notion that this is by no means a bad thing. I think we can slip in and out of intention purely out of happiness, and if I’m honest, I can attribute the sweet happiness that I’ve been filled with lately to my zoned out episodes. Life is so good – there’s not much to worry about… which, sometimes, leads to not having a whole lot to think about. That said, there’s a difference, I feel like, between zoning out and becoming a robot, and I feel as if all too often, we tread that line so carefully that it blurs.

And yet, we shouldn’t. We should look at each moment that is gifted to us as something to use, something to create with, something to glorify. It’s not complicated; in fact, it’s really quite simple. It’s our own complication that I feel leads us to that “zoning out,” that autopilot, that unintentional mode.

God calls us to intention so obviously and so simply, and yet, at least for me, it often feels like the easiest thing to overlook.

So, whether you eat or drink,
or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God.
– 1 Corinthians 10:31

It’s that simple.

Lately, I’ve tried to find little ways to live more intentionally, to be more present. I’m trying to pull myself out of my own head, my own routine, and focus on what’s given to me, what’s put right in front of me, what life should be about.

Whether it’s putting the phone down, or making the most of my morning commute… whether it’s finding a few extra moments to speak with the Lord or an extra second spent listening to someone I love – and I mean really listening. I find the more I focus, the more I feel, and the more I appreciate.. It’s funny, really, because I feel like God’s calling to me in the simplest of ways, and yet I’m sitting here complicating everything. All He’s been asking me, I realized, is this:

Pay attention, intentionally.

Pay attention to what He provides, and how. Pay attention to His little messages and His larger signs. Pay attention to the beautiful people that He put on this earth to love and support and care for and enjoy. Pay attention to the mountains He made, the wind he whistles, the Earth He created. Take your mind out of the distractions of everyday life – focus more wholly, more intently, more intentionally on the ethereal one.

Little by little, I’ve felt myself adhere more to this simple calling He has given me. I’ve tried to be intentionally intentional, and in that intent, I’ve found so much simple happiness, simple glory.

Happiness – in life, in the Lord, in love – does not need to be a series of complications or distractions or achievements. It merely needs to be intentional.

Testimony Tuesday: Keeping Still

The Lord will fight for you,
and you have only to keep still.

– Exodus 14:14

Keeping still.

It’s never been my strongest attribute.

I fidget, constantly. I play with my hair, gnaw at my nails, tap my foot. I do almost anything to keep from keeping still, actually.

And yet, in the grander scheme of things, it has so seemed like that’s exactly what the Lord is asking me to do right now. Keep still, He whispers to me. I feel called to keep still in life, in location, in all of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see this as a bad thing. In fact, I’m fairly certain that this is the most still I’ve felt in ages… perhaps my entire life, though I only have twenty-three years to base that judgement off of.

I feel like your twenties are such an uncertain, ever changing age. Perhaps we don’t all face the hostilities of Moses and his people as they fled from Egypt, but we can all learn from it. I feel like there’s some sort of metaphor there…

As if, in our twenties, we are inclined, even tempted, to flee from our childhoods, and whatever we may associate with it. For some, that’s a town, or a mindset, or a relationship. But the Lord, ever so gently, so wisely, is urging us to keep still. Don’t be rash. Pray. Trust.

He will continue to fight for us, for the life He knows we ought to live.

I know the conflicted feeling so well – the feeling of wanting to go one way, but feeling as if you should go another. It’s in that conflict that I hear the Lord. He is the one on my heart telling me what I should do, and right now, I’m in a season on stillness. And even though I might have friends galavanting across foreign countries, or whisking away into the wilderness, or jumping head-first into some other terrifying, thrilling thing… the Lord is calling me to keep still.

To stay put.

To listen.

To trust.

And you know what?

That is perfectly okay. 

I resign myself to it, to His will, to listening, and to obeying. I resign myself to keeping still.

For all I know, stillness may end up being the best gift He’s ever given me.

Testimony Tuesday: At Peace

I have little to say today, other than I am thankful for peace. I am thankful that we are given the opportunity to find peace and love in our Savior and that there are moments, like the one I felt driving into work this morning, where peace overcomes us so fully, so completely, merely because we know that the Lord Jesus is with us.

I always hear people talk about moments when they know the Lord’s hand is on their shoulder, and how those moments are usually the big, monumental ones. But for me, I feel closest to Jesus in times of serene contentment. Perhaps it’s because I’m an inherently emotional person, and it’s in those moments of calm that I feel God urging me to be present with Him, or perhaps it’s something else, some divine reason that I don’t yet have insight to. Whatever it is, that’s where I feel most connected to the Father.

I used to look at this and worry, because I didn’t have any monumental moment to speak of, and that made me feel less than. But that’s ridiculous, I’ve realized as I’ve continued to walk through this journey with Christ. He comes to us each in different ways, which is something I’ve firmly believed since the beginning. And if He comes to me more vividly in moments of peace, then so be it.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to see Him most clearly through the fog of emotions that tends to cloud me during those big moments in life. I can only pray that I will, that eventually, I will immediately snap to Him as things happen, instead of seeing His work retrospectively, as I often do now. Or maybe I won’t, because maybe our relationship is meant to be much more calm than the rest of my life. Maybe He is supposed to be my source of steadiness.

He knows how He wants to reveal Himself to me, and all that matters is that I trust Him to do so in the right moments.

For now, those moments are tranquil, and I am grateful for them.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
— Proverbs 3:5