The Big Ones: Major Lessons Learned in 2017

I’m not sure where I’ll be by the end of 2018. John will get his graduate degree in May, and while we are dying to stay in Nashville, it all depends on his job offers for now. With that uncertainty (which, to me, is actually kind of fun and thrilling) in mind at the close of this year, I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on where 2017 has taken me.

We’ve been in Nashville since July of 2016, and even though I’m freelancing and nannying, I’ve never felt happier or more stable in my career. Even so, there has been a bunch going on. After turning 26 in November, I’m now officially past the mid-20s mark of 25; John and I have taken some huge relationship steps; I’ve traveled more than ever before; and HGTV has become one of my staple channels. I feel like I’m growing up and finally adopting this whole adult state of mind. (HGTV is obviously the biggest indicator.)

Life is in a really sweet spot right now. I know it absolutely won’t stay in this place, but for now, I’ll plan on savoring it. Here are some of my biggest takeaways from this year (and not all of them are pretty).

Things that I really, really want usually take time, persistence, or self-control. But usually, it’s all three. Yeah, yeah, I should have already learned this by now. I did, but I felt like this was the year that I’ve really began to apply it regularly, especially since I’ve had so much more freedom and flexibility in my schedule. You’d think that would make getting things done easier, but really, it’s just highlighted my lack of time management skill. But, alas, I have gotten better! Small shifts help…

It’s giving up an extra hour-and-a-half of sleep some mornings to get to the gym because I’m working toward a goal of becoming stronger, and I know I won’t have the energy or drive to fit in a solid workout at the end of the day. It’s pre-making and packing lunches so I don’t Postmates a quesadilla and chips from down the street (although, some days, that’s just necessary). It’s forcing myself to brainstorm story and blog post ideas because I love to write and share stories, but I realize my consistency could use some work. It’s purposefully sharing compliments and kind words with strangers and people I love alike, since words of encouragement aren’t my strong suit but I know how powerful they can be.

I’m pretty horrible at handling conflict. Obviously no one is GOOD at conflict (unless you’re a lawyer or therapist, in which case that’s sort of your job to handle conflict well, or at least strategically). But I’ve always thought I’m more low-key and removed when it comes to conflict. It turns out…and this is embarrassing to admit…I can be a bit of a conflict instigator and very much so a passive aggressor. Ugh. I’m not saying I crave drama (unless it’s in a Bravo show, that is) in my life, but when there are bumps in the road, I’ve learned I’m not first to apologize or fix it. But I also don’t like things to fester.

So, instead of having a mature conversation with my conflict comrade right away, I dig in and direct subtle jabs their way (or go radio silent, another winning gem of a conflict tactic) until they’re forced to instigate a little chitchat with a not-so-fun version of me. I’m just going to chalk up this horrendous habit as something to recognize and work on shifting as we enter a new year.

Ideas that I create about my life will sometimes end up being so hilariously and completely wrong. I was once marriage’s biggest hater and naysayer. My parents had a gnarly divorce, so to save myself from what could be a similar fate, I decided marriage was not for me. A life partner would be cool, but I also figured I was pretty self-sufficient and independent enough to do this whole life thing on my own. And maybe, if I look extra deep inside my heart, I was also a little bit terrified that I’d never find anyone who would love me (and who I’d reciprocate those feelings for!) for an entire lifetime.

Low and behold, three-plus years into my relationship with John, I’ve learned I can be independent in a relationship, and also complement someone who is my equal, all at the same time. I haven’t made a true announcement on my blog yet, but we’re getting married next year! (CRAZY, right? Engagement story blog post, including all the mushy details, to come sometime in the near-ish future.) Five years ago, I would’ve laughed if God came down to tell me this would all happen. But I am so, so happy it has, and truly, I can’t wait to see what other things He proves me wrong about.

Worship is a necessity for my happiness. Whether it’s sitting in church, listening to God’s encouragement and words; laughing and coming together in prayer with my small group; or driving in my car, singing along (badly) to Hillsong United, there isn’t much that makes me full to the brim of pure bliss than soaking in God’s love. My small group was talking about love languages one night — mine is acts of service — and someone mentioned that, a lot of times, your love language can be applied to your relationship with God. I thought that was such a wonderful thought, and I realized it’s actually true for me.

Anytime one of my favorite songs comes on in the midst of a bad day, or a particularly stunning sunset makes its way through the clouds, or even if I happen to hit a bunch of green lights when I’m running late, I take those as little acts of kindness from God. They could simply be coincidence, but I don’t really think there’s such thing with Him. We’ll have to ask one day, but in the meantime, I always try to send up a little “Hey, thanks” to Him in those moments. Praise, mindfulness, and worship have shifted my life so much this year.

What were your biggest takeaways from 2017? How have you shifted and grown? I’d love to hear your stories from this year!

It’s All Good

Summer is here and good things are happening, friends. One not-so-good thing to get out of the way before the good things: John is in Austin all summer for an internship. I mean, it is really good that he has a wonderful internship that could lead to a career of his dreams and everything, but I miss him, you know? One more not-so-good thing: that thing I wrote about last week that I really don’t want to talk about again because I drained all my emotions into that one post and now I’m working on the healing stuff. So, let’s keep trekking along.

Good things. There are so many, but let’s start with this week — or this weekend, more specifically. This weekend marks the third CMA Fest in a row that my sister and I will attend together. This festival has all the things: FREE country concerts all day long for four days straight; beer; and my favorite city (which is also where I now live), Nashville.

The fact that I live here for this year’s fest may be what I’m looking forward to most. Last year, we stayed in a friend’s ex-boyfriend’s one bedroom apartment (there were four of us), and I slept on a chair — not a couch, a CHAIR — with an ottoman to support my lower half. But the ottoman would slowly slide further and further away as I slept, and I’d wake up with a foot of space underneath my lower back. Let me tell you, a chiropractor would have been a good idea after that trip.

And the year before that, we stayed in an Airbnb that, granted, was a great deal, but I’m pretty sure the rickety mattress we slept on was 80 years old, and we still had to take 20-minute Uber rides anytime we went downtown. (Chiropractor would’ve been sweet after that one, too.) So, to be in my own bed every night after standing in 90-degree heat for 12 hours every day sounds majestic. (Yeah, I’m basically 25 going on 87 years old.) Plus, I’m only 10 minutes tops from downtown! Bingo.

If you like country at all, I recommend this festival because you can go to free concerts all day, and you don’t have to camp (unlike several *cough* or all? *cough* other country festivals). If you want to see bigger-name artists, you can buy tickets to the nighttime concerts for a couple-hundred bucks, but honestly the day ones are more fun (again, grandma over here), you can get way closer to the performances, and you’ll still see performers you recognize.Read More

for my girl

Dogs are heroes. My border collie, Charlie, was my hero. She saved me. My mom got her for my birthday one year—I think I was turning 12 years old. It was in the middle of my parents’ divorce, and I remember coming home from celebrating my birthday with my dad and feeling sadness in my whole body. The weight hit me that I was now celebrating my birthday with my dad, and then I was celebrating my birthday with my mom. It would never be just one celebration, all of us together, again.

That day, I plopped on the couch and started telling my mom what we did at my dad’s. Her face was so lit up as she listened, and I remember thinking that there was no way she was this excited about me recounting the Dove ice cream sandwiches we ate and the video games we played with dad.

Then she asked if I noticed anything. I looked around our family room—a place I’d grown so used to that I suppose I didn’t even notice its details any longer—and against the far wall I finally saw a small crate with a teeny black and white ball of fluff.

My life changed instantaneously.

In the middle of what felt like the end of my world—our family was being ripped in half in actual slow motion—I had this wild, sweet animal to call my own. I called her Charlie. Today, Charlie passed away. She was 13, a year older than my age when I got her, and she lived the happiest and the quirkiest life.

Those early days with her are difficult to remember, but the day she became mine, the feelings I had that went from despondent to ignited are clear as glass.

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