God Let’s Us Make U-Turns

This blog wasn’t intended to solely be about my spiritual growth, but as a part of making myself a happier person I did decide I wanted to work on it, and thus it’s getting shared a lot. This morning at church our pastor said something that really sunk in with me. “We believe in a God who allows U-Turns.”

I had to take a moment to think about what he meant by this. Basically what he was saying was that our God knows we make mistakes, but every day is a day to start over. Yes, people do make bad decisions, really bad decisions, but they can come back from that. 

Before he had gotten to his “point” – which was that God allows U-turns he’d been talking about things like adultery, murder, addiction, and other “big ticket” sins. And I found myself thinking on a certain situation I’d been witness to and wondering, well how does that person live with themselves. I can understand that life moves on and so do people, but as a Christian how can that person not feel like God is “mad at them.” Or more than that, when they go to church and hear the preacher speaks on their sin (in general), how do they not just feel red-faced and shamed? Not that I would want them to, but how do they not feel that way

And then it kind of all clicked. They don’t have to. People do make mistakes. They can even make really bad mistakes, but it doesn’t have to define them as a person, they can move on from them. That is the power of forgiveness and God’s grace. 

That’s a tough concept to swallow.

It is very much my gut instinct that those who have harmed us, or who have done blatantly wrong things, should have to suffer a reciprocal hardship. It’s not even that we really want bad things to happen in the world, it’s just that we’re almost looking for a sense of justice. As if to say that something terrible happening to a person who harmed us would make us feel better about the whole thing. The thing is, it’s a wasted thought. Even if something bad did happen to that person, it doesn’t really make us feel better. 

When you hear that Jesus died on the cross so that we might all be forgiven for our sins, you kind of take that for what is is. You think about it in the sense that if I judge, or if I miss an opportunity to witness, that I will be forgiven for my sin. I think it’s a whole different thing to be able to see that Jesus died to forgive others of their sins. And that you really do get to start over fresh with him each and every minute of every day. 

I think it greatly helps in the process of learning to forgive others to know that God has already forgiven them. When you find yourself thinking, how do they live with themselves, you can get caught up in that and stuck on that. You really do just want to know how they can go on with their life after doing something so heinous. But the thing is, it’s just a mistake. If people never made them pencils wouldn’t come with erasers. When you drill down on it and can allow yourself that they were just mistakes they made, or even a series of mistakes it helps. When you can understand that they can live with themselves because God forgives you for mistakes, it helps. 

I’m not sure if this post is going to make sense to anyone beyond myself. I just found the simple reminder that “God allows U-Turns” to be incredibly germane to one of my biggest areas of weakness. Hopefully though, this reminder, that God allows U-Turns will be helpful to someone who does need help forgiving either them-self or someone else.  

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An Exercise in Getting to Know Myself

I was on Gretchen Rubin’s blog and found that a while ago she posted a list of questions to get to know yourself better. I thought just for fun I’d ask myself these questions, share teh answers with you, and see if I feel any more aware of who I am. Plus I am so off the blogging game that I have very little inspiration as far as where I should be going in my happiness project.

If something is forbidden, do you want it less or more?
This would depend on the context. If something is forbidden because it poses dangers to myself or others then I really don’t want it. For example drugs are forbidden but they’re dangerous and don’t really hold any appeal to me. On the other hand, if you tell me that I can’t touch an birthday present until 5 o’clock and leave it out in the open all day I’ll be dying to open it.

Is there an area of your life where you feel out of control? Especially in control?
I feel like I’m not in particularly good control of my habits. I can’t seem to act consistently at healthy eating, exercise, wake-up times, etc.
As far as things I am in control of, nothing really jumps out.

If you unexpectedly had a completely free afternoon, what would you do with that time?
Probably come home and read a book, watch TV, or go to Target.

Are you comfortable or uncomfortable in a disorderly environment?
Very uncomfortable.

How much time do you spend looking for things you can’t find?
Not very much time at all.

Are you motivated by competition?
I almost said yes. But the truth is I am mostly motivated by a fear of failing to meet expectations.

Do you find it easier to do things for other people than to do things for yourself?
It depends on what it is. Probably other people though. Unless it comes to frivilous spending. I have a hard time spending money on other people. I am a bit stingy.

Do you work constantly? or think you should be working?
I have focus issues so no I don’t work constantly. I am constantly multitasking.

Do you embrace rules or flout rules?
Embrace them.

Do you work well under pressure?
To a certain extent, yes.

What would your perfect day look like?
Sleeping in, a yummy breakfast, a quiet morning reading, an afternoon spent binge watching TV, a sunny evening to take the dogs on a walk. Candles lit, 65 degrees, and a light breeze.

How much TV do you watch in a week (include computer time spent watching videos, movies, YouTube)?
15 hours maybe.

Are you a morning person or a night person?
I am definitely more of a morning person, but only once I’ve gotten out of bed.

Do you like to be in the spotlight?
Not really. I like to be remembered but I don’t like to be the center of attention.

Is your life “on hold” in any aspect? Until you finish your thesis, get married, lose weight?
In some ways yes. I keep telling myself when my life is back in order I’ll get back into exercise. When my life is more in order I’ll catch up on my daily bible readings. I need to change this. Or at least I want to.

What would you do if you had more energy?
Exercise, clean, take up hobbies.

If you suddenly had an extra room in your house, what would you do with it?
Make it into a gym so that I’d have no excuse for not going. I already have a reading room 🙂

What people and activities energize you? Make you feel depleted?

Energize- Getting things done. Being able to check things off my list. Accomplishing what I set out to do.
Deplete- Too much forced socialization. I genuinely am an introvert and hanging out with people often, and for extended periods of time makes me cranky.

Is it hard for you to get rid of things that you no longer need or want?
In general, no.

Do you get frustrated easily?
Yes, I do.

On a typical night, what time do you go to bed? How many hours of sleep do you get?
Go to bed between 9 and 10:30 and get anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep.

If at the end of the year, you had accomplished one thing, what is the one accomplishment that would make the biggest difference to your happiness?
I think I’d like to have a consistent routine and more energy. I’d like to consistently exercise, consistently clean my house on a certain day, and just feel more energized all the time.

Ah, now where were we?

The reason I didn’t update earlier in the week that our pipe burst was because I was waiting for my blood test results to come in to do a post. I was pretty nervous that Monday I went to have my blood work done. My stomach was kind of in knots and I was just plain nervous. Again, I practiced prayer, and asked God to help me through it. I got to my appointment 15 minutes early and told the nurse I was a little nervous. She had me lay down and took my blood and it was over before I knew it. I was a little nervous during it but the nurse just kept chatting and keeping my mind focused on things. (She was asking about my vacations and it made me have to think and recall things).

When I left that day I found out that I could sign up on the LabCorp website and I’d get an email when my blood test results were in. I signed up. Mistake. I stalked the website for the next 3 days compulsively wanting to see what my results were. Thursday around 11am they came in. Keep in perspective that Thursday was the morning after our pipe had burst at 11:30. I wasn’t in the best shape mentally.

I logged on to the LabCorp website. I pulled up my results. I stalked and had a mental breakdown. I saw some numbers in bold. Were those the only bad results? I don’t really know how to read this. Oh God what does it mean. I think this is telling me I’m super vitamin deficient, well being the starting range for low. And Oh my word, is that my cholesterol. What does that even mean? Frantic Googling ensues. Oh my gosh my bad cholesterol is as high as my total cholesterol should be.

I called my doctors office and tried to play it cool and ask if my results had come in. They had and they wanted to schedule a follow up. They wouldn’t tell me anything. My heart started to palpitate. Was there a result worse than high cholesterol and low vitamins on there? Did I have cancer? Was I dying? Did they find something dangerous? (These are genuinely the thoughts running through my head).

Well, Monday came and one week after my blood work I was back at the doctor. She informed my that my LDL was 192, my total cholesterol was 292. My HDL was 90 (well that’s good!), and my triglycerides were 50 (phew! another good score). She told me that we had some options for the cholesterol. Even though I had a family history, she was a little uncomfortable with how high it was for a 24 year old. She said I could take Statins but not if we were trying for kids. She said I could take another type of medicine that is safe for when you’re trying to start a family, but is much more pill heavy. She told me I could try and add supplements like fish oil. She told me I could try diet and exercise.

In the end we settled with I would take fish oil and try and modify my diet and add more exercise (hence why I’m a bit bummed that I haven’t worked out in 3 weeks). I’ll be honest. It’s not easy. I thought I ate somewhat okay (sans for the sweets and the cheeses) before my cholesterol test. But it turns out when it comes to healthy eating there are so many different ways you can eat healthy. So I am working on it. Any advice anyone has would greately appreciated. I know that loosing 10lbs and consistently getting exercise would go along way. For now I am just trying to add more fiber, whole grains, fruits, and veggies to my diet.

The other issue was I had incredibly low vitamin D. I was put on a supplement of 50,000 units (I forget what the unit is) once a week. I’m not that upset about that. She said some people just need more, but when I saw the result online it genuinely freaked me out. Mine was pretty deficient though and she said after a week or two I’d probably notice I was less tired and even might have a better mood. We’ll see.

Anyway, that’s where that saga left off. 🙂 If you have any advice on better eating for lowering LDL please feel free to leave it!

 

Be Emily

One of the biggest tenants of The Happiness Project book, was to be yourself. The author constantly was reminding herself she just needed to be herself, do her thing. Well here’s a confession. I have no idea who I am. I spent most of my life trying to make other people happy and make friends that I’ve never really felt like I knew who I was. I am super pale and have a visiion problem and so I think I’ve always been too afraid to be myself because I already stood out enough as it was.

Over the last few months I have come to realize though, that I want a baby. Bad. i want a family. I am probably romanticizing it but I really, truly, want to start my family. A few months ago I went off birth control and added short term disability coverage at work. Basically that protects me from having to go on maternity leave without pay.

I find myself being held up by what other people will think. My husband and I are definitely going to “try” this cycle. I am current on the 2nd day of my cycle, and we are hoping that either this cycle or next I will get pregnant. I know it’s not realistic to think it can happen in two cycles but I’d love to have a baby in October and November so I am praying. I have been so much trying to focus on God and hearing His message, and just praying that if it is meant to be I will be a mommy in 2014.

I am only 24 (I’ll be 25 next month), and I feel as though my parents aren’t ready for me to have kids yet. And here’s the thing, that shouldn’t have any bearing on what I want, but it does. I love my parents, and I want to always make them happy, and so I worry that if I have kids before they’re ready, that on some level they will be disappointed in me.

My parents have never been the type who were excited by those milestones in their children’s lives. They weren’t excited when I had my first boyfriend, or when I announced (at the age of 20) that I was engaged. I think by the time I was 23 and got around to having my wedding they were happy- but it felt forced on some level to me.

My sister is four years older than me. She hasn’t had much luck in the dating world. About a month before I got engaged her and her boyfriend of about 3 years broke up. I think in some ways my family is still grieving (five years later) for her and that loss. But at the same time, we have to move on. Just because I’ve gotten married before my big sister and will (God willing) have children before her, doesn’t mean that we should all go around walking on egg shells.

I still can’t help but feel as though this would be so much easier if I wasn’t upsetting the natural order of things. My sister should have gotten married and had kids first, and if all of that had happened it would be so much easier on me. The truth is I’m scared. I’m scared I’ll be pregnant and won’t feel the excitement from my family. I’m scared that it will hurt. I’m scared that I’ll always remember it.

When I got engaged I remember how happy I was for myself, but it was shadowed by the fact that I knew my “best friend” would be supremely jealous and wouldn’t actually be happy for me. I still remember that, even more than 4 years later. I just don’t want something like that to happen with my pregnancy too.

I think I am ready to be a mom. I still have a lot of learning to do in life. But I am ready to experience pregnancy, and growing a little baby inside me. I am ready to learn the patience that only motherhood can teach. I am ready to get up at three in the morning and nurse my baby quietly in the dark. I am ready for the dark circles that tell the world I was up all night nurturing a life that might some day cure cancer. I am ready to teach my baby to view the world as a blank canvas. I am ready to cultivate a love for life. I am ready to teach a little girl how to tie her hair up in bows, or a little boy how to make racetracks. I am ready to read to my little darling every night before bed. I am ready to look my husband in the eye, and proudly say, “We made that.” I am.

Getting Started

When I started reading The Happiness Project, and knew I wanted to start my own I decided that I needed something tangible to get more excited and invested in the project. Something of a simple craft almost. I decided almost immediately that I wanted a binder to keep track of my happiness project. Yesterday while the hubby and I were grocery shopping I ran to the office supply section and picked out a binder and some markers to start my project.  Currently my plan is this, get the binder set up and start planning.

Since my goal for January is getting organized, my first order of business is to plan the month, and each day try and plan my day out. Often times I personally feel like I can get nothing accomplished because there is so much I want to do that I assume there is no time for it.

My first step is going to be to plan out my hours for work for the month. I am a CPA and as some of you may know, January starts our busy season. At my office we gradually work into the work weeks extending by doing something like 40, 45, 55. I believe this past week was our 40 hour week, and next week we’ll be asked to do 45, and then I believe after that we are in full swing and asked to do 55 hours. I know 55 hours sounds like a lot, but when you think that you stretch that over 6 days (normally Saturdays are half days) really, you’re working only about 10 hours of your day. That means, that even once you consider that you might sleep for 8 hours, you still have 6 whole hours to yourself. And sure, some of that time is spent doing things like getting ready for work, making breakfast, commuting, and making dinner but if you’re honest with yourself normally those things take up no more than 2 hours, and you still have that 4 hours left. And when you think about it, four hours is a big chunk of time that you can dedicate to doing things that make you happy and energize you. So in short, my first goal is to look at my month and decide how I can structure my days so I don’t feel the weighed down under the burdensome sound of 55 hour weeks. Because yes, it is a lot of work, but there are a lot of hours in each day.

To aid me in these projects I found some really cute tools that I think will be pretty beneficial. The first is a calendar (reusable really) for each month of the year. One that I’ll write down important things that are going on in our lives (anniversaries, vacations, weddings) and roughly schedule out my work week hours. If you’re interested in doing the same I’ll link the calendar template I used here. I like that this calendar is blank and could theoretically be used again year after year. If you aren’t planning on keeping yours in a binder you could actually slip it in a page protector, put it on your fridge and use a dry erase marker on it and recycle them for a couple of years.  I like that it will give me a big picture view of the month so that I’ll realize that yes, even though I’m busy, I will have time to accomplish things.

The second tool I am going to take advantage of, for a trial period of one week, will be a daily time blocking sheet. I like this idea because at the beginning of each day I can sit down, map out the day, and find time to do the things I want to do. When you give yourself a schedule you are much less likely to waste time. I know I personally waste an enormous amount of time on my smart phone refreshing apps like facebook, twitter, and instagram. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t, or you shouldn’t, use those things but if I give myself a schedule I might check them less frequently. I don’t really need to know immediately that a friend’s toddler has the sniffles. Sure, it is nice to know those things and keep up with people- but it’d be a better use of my time if I looked less frequently. The daily planner template that I am using can be found here. I like that it prompts you to start with your to-do list too. It’s hard to plan your day if you don’t know what you need to do.

This is still the very beginning phases of my project, but this is my start. When I’ve got my notebook a little better underway, perhaps once January has really been started, I’ll do a separate post exclusively on that. Best wishes to anyone else on their happiness projects!

The Rainbow at The End

This is a story that has defined who I am. It’s a story I need to share.

I’ve always been the type of girl who seemed to only be able to maintain one close friend at a time. I’ve never been incredibly close with my sister, so I think I always seek a sister in my closest friend. From probably about the age of fifteen until about eight months ago I knew who that sister-friend was.

About eight months ago though, my husband got a call that ultimately changed our lives. My best friend was leaving his best friend literally months after we stood beside them at the alter saying their vows. What exactly transpired is not meant to be discussed over the internet, but the short of it is that my best friend had done something very wrong.

Looking back on it now, when everything was happening, I think I literally became depressed. I was hurt; someone I had considered unofficial family had been lying to me for months, who knows, maybe years. I was embarrassed; everyone knew we were incredibly close and I was sure they just assumed I had known all along what she had done and condoned it. I was confused; I felt like I owed her a chance to explain herself, I felt like I owed her  the respect of helping her, but at the same time I completely was shocked and disgusted by her actions.

At the time I told her that I was sorry that she was hurting but that I couldn’t be there for her at the time. I couldn’t, too many people I knew had been affected by her actions,  I felt awful, weak, but I just couldn’t be there for her.  I just kept seeing the quote in my head, “A true friend walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” I felt like I was the cliche horrible friend, but being around her, and hearing everything that had happened was making me sick. Not just figuratively, I was stressed, I couldn’t relax, I was unhappy.

The next few months were tough on me. Like I said, I’m a girl who has one good friend at a time. I was lonely, so incredibly lonely. If it weren’t for my supportive husband, I don’t know what might have happened to me. I knew that I had two choices; I could get over it, or I couldn’t. I chose to get over it, and let go of the anger. I’ve had people ask my since then, “How can you possibly be civil with her?”, like it was huge accomplishment. The truth was though, because it hurt me too much to be angry.

About two months ago, I asked on Facebook if anyone wanted to attend an event with me. Of course, she texted me right away and quickly guilted me into asking her to go. I told myself that I should go, that I should give it a try, we used to be best friends, surely we still had something in common and after all, it was only a couple of hours.

The day of the event came, and I was filled with kind of a nervous energy. I almost cancelled, calling my husband because our dog was sick, he told me to go ahead and go, he’d take care of the dog. Looking back from where I am now, I am very glad I went. I’m not sure that life would have presented another such opportunity, an opportunity for closure.

Looking back on everything that’s happened, I can finally see how everything that happened was genuinely a blessing in disguise.

If I am being honest, my friendship with this person was very far from perfect. I was always jealous. She had another friend who she had known longer than me. It always felt that even though I was the “better” friend, she was always the best friend- because after all- they’d known each other longer.

I always felt like she would bring me down, she wasn’t concerned about seeing me happy. When I got engaged in October 2010; my parents weren’t super excited because I was the baby, and at twenty, a little young. I called, or texted, her to tell her about it. Do you know she never even congratulated me? She didn’t fill the roll of best friend- with squeals of excitement- she wasn’t happy for me, she was jealous that I got engaged first.

There were many times where I felt like our friendship was all about her, about what would make her happy, about the places and things she wanted to do. At the time I was fine with it, but in hindsight I realize how destructive it was to me. Any sort of relationship should build you up- both people- not just one.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been really focusing my energy on being happy.  I’ve never been good at it. I’ve always been the type to throw myself pity parties and even when I wasn’t I just couldn’t truly embrace happiness. I’m learning more each day that happiness is means creating a state of mind where you build up the good and downgrade the bad. With that realization I’ve come to see just how horrible that friendship I had, was for my happiness. It was holding me back, it wasn’t nurturing me.

About ten days ago I got an email from my old friend. It was awkward. It felt like it had been written by someone else, to someone else. She told me things I already knew, and expressed sentiments that felt shallow and empty. It was then that I realized how much happier I was without the weight or her negativity bringing me down. I didn’t respond, and I don’t plan on it. As selfish as it is, I’ve learned that I need to put my happiness in front of others. It is my job to create a beautiful life for myself, and sometimes that means you need to weed out the negativity.

This post may seem disjointed, but it is something I needed to share. I needed to share how a great loss taught me to find my own happiness. I needed to share that after even the darkest storms, God will give you a rainbow. I truly believe that God gave me this trial to help me realize how strong I am, and to teach me how to be my own happiness.

Almsot every day I still miss having a best friend. I miss having someone to text silly comments to in the middle of the day, or to share my happy secrets with. I know God has a plan for me though, and so each day I work harder to put a genuine smile on my face. Hoping, beyond hope, that today is the day I’ll meet my new best friend.

If you’ve read this far, thank you so much. a you choose to comment, I’ll hope you will do so with kindness in your heart. This was a truly hard situation for me, but in the end, I know I made all the right decisions.