I don’t have all the answers

I like knowing things. Fortunately, I’m alive in a time where I can just ask my phone a question and learn the answer. I don’t have to wonder how old an actor is or when a book was originally published. The Internet is an information super highway that takes the wonder out of situations. Curiosity is cured with a quick visit to Google, with more than 5 million results in .04 seconds.

It wasn’t until a year ago I really began to think about how frequently I let myself live in a world of knowledge vs wonder.

One of my goals this year was to do a fast each month, and surprisingly I’ve been mostly successful. Naturally, I turned to the internet last year for ideas, and came out with some like Netflix, complaining, and social media. One of the strangest suggestions I found was curiosity.

What does it mean to give up being curious? Why is having questions a bad thing? In theory, a healthy sense of curiosity is the foundation of learning. Much smarter people than me have asked the right questions for centuries and solved problems and cured diseases. That’s the good kind of curiosity. I’m talking about the dark side.

With social media, nearly everyone in the world is accessible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a name and immediately began an in-depth online investigation. I’ll go through tagged photos and end up traveling through five people’s accounts across three social networking sites and realize I’ve reached posts from 2004.

Did learning any of the information in my creep session actually benefit me? Of course not. It just means I’m a creep who probably knows more than she should about a stranger.

Consider these common situations. Maybe you’re watching a movie and want to know the ending or who an actor is. Without thinking, you’ll pull out your phone and do a search online. When you’re with friends and you’re debating something, you’ll make someone look up the answer to determine who was right.

Technology like this is a gift that I think our culture abuses. In moderation, it’s an incredible way to learn more about what you don’t know and become a more informed human. In excess, it’s a way that we remove all the mystery in our never-ending quest for knowledge and control.

Solomon didn’t live in a time where he could Google everything, but the guy had a lot of answers. God gave him the gift of wisdom, so people came to ask him questions and he always had the right response. Turns out, knowing everything isn’t necessarily the key to being fulfilled.

“Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.” Ecclesiastes 1:8

After a long life and 1,000 women, Solomon was tired and a little cynical. The summary of the book of Ecclesiastes is ‘everything is meaningless.’ He married foreign women and followed their gods and the more he learned, the more he lost focus.

Even though it’s unlikely any of us will have 700 spouses and 300 concubines, we have similar opportunities to be distracted by the things we can know. Instead of wondering about something and let it go, we close the gap and solve the problem that likely wasn’t even important.

In my own life, I know this search for knowledge is because I have such little control over everything and like Eve in the garden, I want to eat from the tree of knowledge so I know things, too. This problem is about more than internet searches for me.

I’ve watched the finale to a show I’ve never watched just so I knew how it ended. I’ll watch award shows I don’t care about just so I can be a part of the conversation. I’ve binged shows I didn’t love so I could have conversations with people who are fans.

Perhaps my worst curiosity flaw is needing to know the end of a story. Most people are appalled by my lack of concern over spoilers. Regrettably, I’ve ruined movies and shows for people because to me it isn’t a big deal. I want to know how it ends so I can enjoy the ride. The moment-to-moment anxiety is gone because I know what’s going to happen.

Even this morning I went to Wikipedia to read a plot of a movie to make sure the dog didn’t die. It only occurred to me after I began writing this that I clearly broke my ‘no idle curiosity fast.’

We all want answers for different reasons, but I believe endless searching can put us in the same place as Solomon. Even when I know more, am I any more content or satisfied? Definitely not.

“The Lord our God has secrets known to no one.” Deuteronomy 29:29

We are never going to have all the answers. Even if I can Google most questions and learn the correct responses, I’m never going to be fulfilled by my knowledge. There will always be more.

This is why, October and beyond, I want to be more intentional about what I learn. It doesn’t mean I’ll never Google something again, only I’ll think ‘how important is this to know?’ and ‘what will I gain by learning this information?’

I don’t have all the answers, and I never will. I’m going to stop trying to know everything and enjoy the ride as it comes. Even if it means I have to sit through an entire movie and not know how it ends. Yikes.

#noidlecuriosity

That feeling of impending doom

Recently I was talking to a friend about anxiety and how we were currently feeling. She was in the process of getting on medication while I carefully weaned myself off* (*I cut it to half dose and then stopped cold turkey after three days). As we sat there comparing our reactions, she told me she was in the ‘impending doom phase,’ and it immediately made sense to me.

My entire life I’ve dealt with feelings of impending doom. As a child, something in me snapped too early and I realized just how fragile human existence is. Literally anything and everything can kill you. It’s horrifying.

One time I was going to take a bath as a child but stopped because I was sure lava was going to come out of the faucet. I’ve set alarms for various points throughout a night because I was sure the strange pain in my chest meant I was going to die. Sometimes I would go into my parent’s room and sleep on the floor because I was too afraid of everything that could happen.

These are just a few of the many ways I let this kind of anxiety get in my way. For a while, I believed this gut feeling of something bad is coming was a sign. Like maybe God was trying to warn me so I could be okay if I just listened.

This thought is reinforced by stories you hear of people who die tragically after telling someone they have a weird feeling. Relatives and friends will say they told someone to not do this or that because they felt it was a bad omen, and then the worst happened. We’re taught to believe in these feelings of impending doom.

What I’ve learned in 28 years of being afraid is that it doesn’t matter what that feeling tells me. I’ve stayed home from outings because I was sure I would die in a car wreck and I’ve fought through the fear and gotten on a plane. I have no control either way and my anxiety isn’t based on anything real. It’s my lack of control sending me spiraling.

As I write this, I’m on a plane from Pittsburgh bound for LAX. After five hours in an airport, I’ll take a quick flight to Vegas to celebrate my brother’s birthday. I picked a bad time to stop taking my Lexapro, let me tell you. I also just moved into my own apartment. Naturally, I was sure my plane would crash and my apartment would burn down. Plus, there was a guy at my gate who kept suspiciously staring outside and I’m still not convinced of his innocence.

Granted, in this moment, all of this could still happen, but I’m being optimistic.

If I listened to all the lies filling my head, I would never have boarded a plane. I wouldn’t leave my apartment because of what could happen in my absence, not to mention what will happen to me in the world.

As my faith has grown, I’m able to recognize that God doesn’t have a special button He pushes to keep me safe through these feelings. Jesus is sneaking a text to my soul while God and the Holy Spirit are talking. God’s plan doesn’t depend on my interpretation of feelings. Can you imagine if that’s what we had to rely on? That living or dying was all a matter of properly discerning a feeling of impending doom.

It’s absolutely nuts.

I believe you can have a feeling about something and that something can happen, good or bad, but it’s probably just a coincidence. I’m not sure statistics for this exist, but I will reasonably assume that the impending doom feeling to actual doom ratio is pretty low.

The feeling of impending doom is like a cloud of dread that fills your body and sends little cloud tentacles into your brain to reinforce the idea that the worst is yet to come. It can and has been paralyzing in my own life. I don’t know if I’ll ever live without it, but I know I won’t let it keep me from actually being alive.

That sounds cheesy, I realize, but it’s true. If I do end up dying and this laptop/story is recovered, please read it aloud at my funeral for inspiration and then play ‘Ironic’ by Alanis Morrisette. Lighters in the air are encouraged.

Anxiety is a real mental illness. I have a real imbalance that causes my emotions to malfunction and send me over the edge. Recognizing this is empowering. Even if I can’t stop the feeling of impending doom, I can remind myself it’s nonsense and get on the plane even with the guy who might be a terrorist.

There’s always a herd of pigs for you

Have you ever watched a movie and noticed a lingering shot on a seemingly inconsequential object and immediately thought ‘that’s going to be important later?’ Or maybe it had the opposite effect where you didn’t think about it until suddenly it all made sense.

In the 2009 reboot of Star Trek, we get a shot of James Tiberius Kirk staring at the U.S.S. Enterprise as it’s being built. For those who know the story, you understand the importance of this moment because soon James T. will become the famed Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. We’re shown the ship because it will play an important role in the story later.

Sometimes a director can cleverly insert details that seem normal until the end when your mind is blown. Let’s consider Signs. If you haven’t seen the M. Night Shyamalan classic (yes I’m sticking to that description), I’m going to spoil it for you. Throughout the whole movie, we see Mel Gibson’s daughter Beau reject glasses of water because they’re contaminated. His grief over his wife’s death apparently makes him a terrible housekeeper because these full glasses are left all around the house.

It’s likely some people immediately predicted the importance of these glasses, but I didn’t. On some level, I knew it was more than a quirk, but I didn’t anticipate that Mel’s wife’s dying words telling Merrill to “swing away” would lead to defeating the aliens as Joaquin Phoenix knocks one around into the glasses all around the house.

I still get chills when I think about this moment in the movie. Suddenly, as an alien is holding one of the Culkin’s, everything for Mel focuses into place and we see how all these conversations happened for this exact situation. For me, it was just a powerful reminder of that’s how life actually works.

It’s easy to be cynical in movies when people keep colliding in random places or someone has a conversation that somehow solves the whole problem. Maybe it’s not quite as obvious in our lives, but it works the same way. I believe that things fall into place in strange and unusual ways if you just take the time to think about the details.

In the Gospels, we learn about this demon-crazed man who lived naked among some tombs outside of the town. Turns out, this guy didn’t just have one devil on his shoulder convincing him to live wild and naked. He had a whole gang of bad guys named ‘Legion’ using him as a host. As soon as they see Jesus, they panic and ask that they aren’t thrown into a bottomless pit. That does sound awful, tbh.

The next verse is a lot like story foreshadowing:

“There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby, and the demons begged him to let them enter the pigs.” Luke 8:32 (NLT)

Imagine if you were watching this story play out on screen. It would show Jesus and his disciples walking outside of town, with a sweeping view of the tombs and the herd of pigs standing near a cliff. You’d probably think ‘what a strange place for a herd of pigs.’

Jesus lets them enter the pigs and then the “entire heard plunged down the steep hillside in the lake and drowned.” (Luke 8:33)

We need the clever cinematography of movies to show us what’s important and what will have consequences for the plot. It helps tell a better story and keep the viewer engaged. In real life, we don’t get these zoom shots or dramatic pauses to tell us what’s an important detail or person or situation that will affect us later. We don’t see everything, but Got does.

He’s our master Director, orchestrating every scene of our life and placing everything we need if we don’t notice it. He hasn’t forgotten a prop or detail that’s going to keep you from reaching the end of your own story.

Think about your own life. Trace every decision back a decision. Consider every encounter you’ve had. I guarantee in most cases, you can see some movie-like situations. The difference is we don’t see our resolution in under two hours.

Maybe you have already met the person you’re going to marry, but it’s going to take a few years for both of you to figure out. Maybe he or she is just a scene change away. It could be you’ve already made the connection with someone that will lead you to a dream career some day. Or maybe it’s as simple as one person speaking life into you and helping you realize all that you’re capable of.

This is a big area of struggle for me. I want a montage, movie life. I want to get through the awkward times with a humorous combination of scenes featuring an upbeat song. I want the sad times to pass with some Sia song playing overtop so that in two minutes I’m all better. I want to meet someone and know within two hours that he’s the man God set aside for me.

God is the greatest storyteller of all time, and Hollywood is just a cheap imitator of what he does in all our lives. Movies show us a glimpse of the magic and convince us what we think we need, but we’re already living something so much more amazing than any story humans can create.

Even when it feels like you’re story isn’t moving along, remember God has set the scene. Your herd of pigs is waiting to come into play. I hope someday we can all look back on the details that didn’t seem unimportant and thank God for the way he placed everything we needed in our lives.

When I try to control my own life and make things happen in my time, I want to remember my plot is written. Taking control is a disaster. Think Suicide Squad level of disaster. God is my director and writer with the best vision possible, and I’m pressure from the studio to create something entirely different. Together, we just create a hot mess.

I want my life to be the story God wrote when he told Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the stars knowing I would be one and knowing how important my story would be.

I want that for you, too.

An alternate title for this post is “God uses the unexpected around us,” but I felt the one I used was more mysterious.

Wanting vs. Lacking

When I picture the Israelites who fled Egypt with Moses, they remind me of children in the back of a car during a long road trip. Just unbelievably obnoxious. It doesn’t matter how many times they’re told something, they still complain. Basically Israelites in a nutshell.

If you’re unfamiliar with their story, let’s recap. Moses, a Hebrew boy who floated down the Nile to royalty, returned to Egypt to set his people free after God told him to via a burning bush. Pretty rad so far. Pharaoh said no so God sent a series of escalating plagues like frogs, locusts, blood water, and then killing first-born sons.

Finally Pharaoh says ‘fine, go’ and they leave, but then he changes his mind and pursues them. God then parts the Red Sea and His people walked across on dry ground. As soon as they had safely crossed, he collapsed the water walls and all the Egyptians drowned.

Once they were free, they began approaching the Promised Land, but then got scared of the current inhabitants and were doomed to wander the wilderness for 40 years. They followed a cloud around what I believe is about an 11-mile distance during that time and were just constantly awful.

That’s like three books of the Bible and a lot of laws and lineages condensed into three paragraphs, so my apologies to the scholars out there.

The foundation of following Jesus is faith and believing in the miraculous. I’ve seen some incredible, life-changing things in my life, but I’ve never seen God part a body of water. He’s never sent me a cloud that helped me know where I needed to go. The Israelites witnessed these miracles. And within days they complained. About everything.

So here we have these Israelites traversing the wilderness with God and Moses in the front seat. Several times God was literally ready to destroy them all for their lack of faith and obedience, but Moses would intercede and convince Him to calm down. This analogy basically writes itself.

Within one chapter of their Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites are complaining. They want to know what they will drink, so God provides. They want to know what they will eat, so God provides. Every time something went wrong, they immediately starting remembering their slavery fondly. Yep, you read that right. Despite being provided everything they needed, they still wished they were slaves when they “had it made.”

Like Moses and God, I’m so annoyed by the Israelites. They have so little faith in a situation where they’ve been rescued time and time again. How could they be so foolish? They were never satisfied as a people, always searching for something better and believing the grass was greener before being freed. They constantly sought new idols despite worshiping the living God.

I’m so annoyed because I’m just like them.

Sure, God’s never let food rain down from Heaven for me, but I’ve never been hungry. I might not always eat exactly like I want, but there’s always food in my kitchen. I can’t afford a new wardrobe every year so maybe my fashion is lacking, but I have clothes and usually look like a presentable human. But my thoughts are always filled with how much I want and how much I lack when in reality, I lack nothing.

It’s easy for wanting and lacking to seemingly overlap. We can let what we want overpower our better sense and seem more like a necessity than it actually is. The desire for more in any area of our life is common, especially in a world full of Instagram aesthetics and unobtainable Pinterest boards.

We’re told how much we lack every day. I don’t just want a boyfriend, social media shows me how much I’m missing out on because I’m single. I don’t just wish I had a nicer bedroom design, social media tells me what I should have to make my room cool and modern. Ads tell me I should cook more and buy this latest style of shoe.

No matter where you look, it’s clear you don’t have enough to reach your peak in this world. You’ve never quite attained enough to achieve the perfect aesthetic we all want. That’s all our lives become is wanting.

Generations after the Israelites settled in what would become Israel and Judah, they were exiled because they still hadn’t learn to trust God. After 70 years, they returned and rebuilt the wall under the leadership of Nehemiah. Once the work was done, they praised God and said

“For forty years, you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing.” Nehemiah 9:21

What was once a source of annoyance for the Israelites became a point of praise in recognizing how God had never left them. Hindsight, am I right?

In reality, most of our wants don’t matter. When I die, I’m not going to care about whether I had the right throw pillows or the most current style of booties to wear in the fall. We get so caught up on these things of right now that in 20 years we probably won’t even remember we wanted. We’re only going to remember what we had and how we were sustained.

I’m not writing this as someone who has mastered understanding wanting vs. lacking. I usually view the two as equal which is why I’ll be paying a hefty monthly fee for the next four years to pay off a consolidation loan I received for my credit card debt. When I think about everything I purchased with my credit cards, like makeup, clothes, and cheap Ikea furniture I threw away after a year, I’m so frustrated. I remember certain things I had to have, but not $30,000 worth of things. Because yes, that is where my wants got me.

Fortunately, I am better than I used to be. But I have a long way to go. I want Nehemiah’s words to remind me that even when it seems like I don’t have enough, I don’t actually lack anything. My God will sustain me and I’m learning to be content with what I have, not wanting more.

The moral of this story? Don’t be like the whiny Israelite children in the backseat complaining about what you don’t have. Graduate to the middle row with mature, teenage Nehemiah and remember how God will get you through.

And thank God that He sent Jesus to intercede for us just like the Israelites had Moses.

Why I can’t forget when it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day

It feels like every single day there’s something to celebrate on Instagram with a hashtag

#nationaldogday

#nationalmuttday

#nationalsiblingsday

#nationalsistersday

#nationalbestfriendday

#nationalbffday

#nationaldonutday

#nationalpizzaday

#nationalwallowinselfpityday

You get the idea.

There are a thousand nonsensical holidays that none of us will ever actually remember, but there’s one I’ll never forget. Talk Like a Pirate Day. To understand why, we need to travel together back 11 years ago.

The year was 2007 and I was a junior in high school. It was my second year of braces and just two days after I passed my driving test. Here’s a 17-year-old me to really set the mood.

10400543_22064111394_9616_n.jpg

Just so you know, I have like 20 other pictures of me and my friend Brittany wearing tubes and being weirdos. Teenagers are weird.

It’s important to note that at this time I was obsessed with High School Musical (2 to be exact). I believed the music was actually quality and spent time trying to convince my mother of its greatness. I remember this because one of the songs was my ringtone.

This one to be exact.

All I want is for Zac Efron to say that I’m the music in him.

So obviously this is embarrassing for several reasons, but it gets worse. It was the morning of September 19 and I was in my first class of the day, AP English. This year we focused on rhetoric. I remember this because I still don’t understand rhetoric. It won’t surprise you to learn I didn’t get a high enough score on the AP Exam to count as college credit.

It’s just a normal morning with my wonderful instructor Mrs. Sherman trying to teach us something. I’m sorry Mrs. Sherman. I even remember some of the summer reading books like The Scarlett Letter and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. I didn’t read them, but I remember. Did I mention you’re a great teacher?

All of the sudden, I hear my current favorite song come blasting out of my pocket. Oh no. I didn’t turn my phone down. The literal horror. Quickly I open and close my pink Razr (still my favorite phone) and pray to God my teacher didn’t notice.

She did.

As I’m fumbling to turn it down, it rings again and I realize it’s my mother trying to call me. The chorus to ‘You Are The Music in Me’ fills the classroom and Mrs. Sherman, fortunately amused, tells me to answer.

At this point, I’m nervous. My mom never calls us during school. She didn’t even like texting us during school hours because we should be paying attention. To get a call during class time must mean the apocalypse was upon us or I forgot I needed to catch the Braces Express for an orthodontist appointment.

I answer anxiously and then I hear her enthusiastic response. Okay, so no one’s dead. That’s a plus. I tell her I’m in class and ask why she’s calling. She then asks why I would answer and I let her know my teacher said I could. Finally, after what felt like 20 minutes, she gets to why she called me.

It’s National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Knowing my deep love of Will Turner aka Orlando Bloom from Pirates of the Caribbean, she thought I’d really like to know.

September 19 is a day that will live in the infamy of embarrassing moments that shaped my youth.

Moving away from my embarrassment, I really love this story. Sometimes when I talk about JT (my name for my mom when I’m referencing her stern side) I worry I give people the wrong impression because of how she sounds. My mom is the greatest. I wouldn’t trade her for any mom in the world, even Meryl Streep. Yes, she was strict and expected a lot from us, but she also called just to tell me it was Talk Like a Pirate Day because she knew I liked pirates. My mom has always been the Hannah Montana* of parents, the best of both worlds between fun and strict.

*I had to fit one more 2007 reference in there

Some days, you know?

Today was one of those days that makes me wonder why I try to human instead of just hiding in a cave all day. Not because I’m depressed or sad, but because it’s filled with setback after setback.

Yesterday was a good, productive day and twice in 24 hours I told people I loved my job. And then everything fell apart.

Now, I still love my job, but today really tried to convince me otherwise (thanks Satan).

Some days you just feel like a bumbling fool. I was so bumbling that in an attempt to explain a situation and insult myself, I managed to seem critical of something much larger. That was the cherry on top. It came after the release of leaving the office. I thought I was done but the Day was like we’re not finished yet and BOOM.

Several times I’ve questioned my profession and felt like do I even do marketing? Because that’s the kind of day I’ve had where I feel like Mr. Bean trying to write blog posts and design emails.

Now I would like to hide in comfy clothes and pretend like life doesn’t exist, but instead I’m going to go work some more and then wake up and do it again.

I’m an optimist. Tomorrow is going to be better. My brain will remember how it works and I’ll be able to think clearly and respond to emails in a way that isn’t perceived as problematic.

As for everything else, I’m not going to think about it now. Just like the great Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll think about it tomorrow because tomorrow is another day.

And tomorrow (God-willing), I’ll kick some serious marketing butt.

A week of being unsocial

One week ago I turned 28, but more importantly I stepped away from social media. Like I didn’t even check my birthday notifications stepped away from social media. Because I’ve been asked a surprising amount of times how my week without these online platforms has been, I decided to write about it. You’re welcome.

  1. It’s really helpful to tell people you’re taking a break

Pretty much as long as people have been taking breaks from social media, I’ve been judging their decision to let everyone know. I thought it was just for attention so people would ask why and say I’ll miss you. Maybe it was for some, but I’m off my judgy train.

Frequently, especially in this past year, I’ve fasted from social media for a time and I never posted about it. Honestly, it’s like being self-righteous in reverse. Maybe the long con of being self-righteous? Instead of looking all high and mighty in a post, I get the privilege of telling people when they asked if I saw something ‘oh, I’m fasting from social media right now.’ Barf.

I decided to tell people to avoid a year of people asking if I saw someone’s post. Because then it’s a million ‘I’m not on social media’ conversations I didn’t want to have. This is one decision I’m so grateful I made. It’s a rare feeling for me.

While people have asked how my week has been and we’ve talked about my time away, no one has assumed I saw something online. No one rolls their eyes when I talk about my break because they already know. It’s actually been kind of magical.

2. You have to work harder to distract yourself

I wish I had a nickel every time I picked up my phone and just stared at it, begging for it to entertain me. In reality, I’ve deleted most gaming and social apps that distract me for this reason. Just because you cut the bad boy from your life doesn’t mean you don’t wish he’d text you now and again.

Sometimes I put the phone down and realize it has nothing for me, or I browse my apps and open something random to entertain myself. I’m really into browsing Amazon and checking for weather pattern changes.

3. Social media sites are all like ‘I just can’t quit you’

Turns out leaving social media isn’t super easy. It took me four days to unravel all of its hooks in my life, like links to other accounts and notifications on my laptop. At one point I thought I had them all and then I still received more.

Instagram has been the worst. Every couple of days it sends me an email with posts I’ve missed since being in my account. How creepy is that? I’ve unsubscribed twice. Hopefully it will stick this time.

This is why we need some time apart, social media.

4. Taking pictures is a different experience

I’m not saying I solely took photos to share online. I just mostly took photos to share online. Going into this, I knew I’d have to find a balance between visually documenting my year and knowing I wouldn’t have a place to showcase my happenings.

I decided to create a Flickr account, which feels very 2003. This way I can track photos throughout the year by date to remember everything (without having 10,000 photos on my phone [I’m already halfway there])

If you’re ever like ‘I wonder what Chelsea’s year looks like, check out my page yo

So there you have it. I haven’t missed it yet, but then again going a week without is nothing new for me. We’ll check back in a month.

 

 

All the small things

The idea of writing devotions is one I’ve toyed with for several years now. I’ve gotten as far as developing a schedule, but something always stops me. Usually it’s that voice of doubt I’m sure all of us know all too well.

“Do you think you honestly know enough to write about the Bible?”

“Who would want to read your interpretations?”

“What happens when you inevitably get some theology wrong?”

And so on.

Eventually I give up my plans and decide to pursue writings like this when I know my Bible better. The problem is the more I read my Bible, the more I realize there’s still so much I haven’t grasped or fully understood. So if I wait until I’m comfortable, I’ll be asking Jesus after year 7967993 in Heaven if He thinks blogs are still relevant.

When I decided to leave social media, I wanted a way to share my writing with anyone who was interested. Surprisingly, people signed up which created a whole new problem: I actually have to write regularly. Suddenly the devotions idea was back on the table.

The morning of my birthday, my first official day off of social media, I found my mind wandering while I read my Bible. I was fixated on what I would write and only half paying attention. Don’t judge me – the part where the people of Israel and Judah are exiled from their land is interesting but very long and usually it’s just prophets prophesying. I know it’s all God’s word but I’m a human and I will freely admit that sometimes I can’t stay focused.

Whatever. Suddenly my attention snapped back into focus in Zechariah 4. The Lord’s chosen people have moved back into their land and King Darius gave them permission to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. An angel appeared to Zechariah through a vision in the night and showed the future prosperity of Jerusalem. One of his messages from the Lord about rebuilding the temple was:

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”  – Zechariah 4:10

If you’re like me, you despise small beginnings. It’s not that I don’t understand that sometimes you don’t see the whole picture and sometimes you have to just take the first step and then the next and the next. I completely get that. I just don’t like it.

I want to everything everything for my blog mapped out. I want to know what everything is going to look like. But that’s not how God works. If he showed me everything beyond the small beginning, why would I need His guidance?

No, He rejoices in the small beginnings because they are a step toward following what He’s got planned. Zechariah 4:10 is about the large task facing the Israelites, but I think it applies to all of our lives as well.

Change happens in the small victories. It’s not that big moments don’t matter, more that we deal with the small ones every day. We need the small beginnings to get where we’re going. Without them, we either take too large of a step and lose our footing or we never get started at all.

As we enter the last week of summer and approach hibernation season, think about the small beginning you need to make in your life. Don’t belittle it like it doesn’t matter or let it loom too large in your mind.

God rejoices in our small beginnings because He knows the fantastic ending. Let that motivate you today. We’re all moving toward something great.

I’d love to pray for you! If you’re attempting a small beginning or dealing with anything else, let me know

28 Things about me I’ve accepted after 28 years of being me

Five years ago I wrote about the lessons I had learned after 22 years of life. I remember feeling like I had turned a curve of adulthood at 23 and everything seemed to make sense. I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn that two months later I quit my job, moved home, and realized 23 is actually the worst year of life.

Now at 28, I know my life is one big disaster in thinking I can do it on my own. There’s a lot I don’t know, but I’m confident in who my Creator designed me to be. It doesn’t mean I’m not still insecure at times. I’m still me, after all. It just means I can take an honest appraisal of myself and accept all the strange and unavoidable facts about me, like:

  • I have a weird hairline

In eighth grade a boy asked me if I had a receding hairline. After this, I took a vow to the gods of old to never show my forehead again. Despite having a luxurious head of hair, what lies beneath my bangs and at the base of my skull is a weird terrain of baby hair and awkward patterns. These days I’m slightly more confident about letting it all hang out, but understand that bangs simply frame my face better.

  • My palette is unrefined

To be clear, I’m not someone who orders chicken tenders at every restaurant. I’m not a barbarian. I can appreciate good and exotic food with the best of them. I’m just not good at discerning between flavors. My favorites are all basic dishes because my mouth can wrap its tasty brain around the classics. Don’t ask me to tell you what flavors are in something, either. Unless I’m eating a strawberry, I won’t be able to tell you it’s strawberry flavored.

  • I can’t really tell if something is good

Similar to my poor palette is my inability to really judge and compare things like food, books and movies. With age, I’ve gotten better at admitting what I liked best and offering my opinion, but I still worry immensely no one will agree with me.

  • I am not good at finding things

Have you ever seen the GIF of John Travolta in his character from Pulp Fiction opening his arms and looking around puzzled? That’s basically me. Whether it’s an Easter basket hidden the house, a file on a computer, or something on a table you’re pointing out to me, I probably won’t find it. I promise I try. I really do.

  • I’m a really poor communicator

As a writer and communications professional, this is a little embarrassing. For most of my life, I would explain or say something and be misunderstood. I’ve often found myself explaining things several times. Until a few years ago, I thought it was everyone else’s problem and I was the superior being. Nope. Turns out I have a lot of words but no clear understanding of how to use them to explain a point properly.

  • I don’t have any exciting hobbies

When people ask what you like to do for fun, I’ve always wanted to say something interesting like climb mountains or learn Mandarin Chinese. Sometimes I say travel because it is something I enjoy, but I don’t view it as a hobby. At the end of the day, I like reading and taking walks. And learning. I love gaining new knowledge and then sharing it when anyone will listen. I’m a huge nerd, but we can’t all be thrill seekers.

  • I will never have a large group of best friends

I remember going to college and assuming I would meet all these people with similar interests and we would all be best friends. Movies and television taught me that you need these large friend groups to get through every phase of life. Sure, I had a lot of friends in high school, but it was different.

Being only two years shy of 30, it seems unlikely that I’ll ever have a monster group, but I left college with something even better. My heterosexual life partner, Samantha. No offense to all my other friends because I like you guys too, but if I was faced with choosing between losing her and having other friends or only having her, she would win without a moment’s hesitation.

  • I am a great aunt

Not like a great aunt like a great grandma. That would be weird. Nothing makes me happier than my nieces wanting to cuddle with me.

  • I am weak when it comes to my mouth

I am the epitome of a big mouth, although mercifully it’s been shrinking as I’ve matured. It seems like my mouth and my heart are always after two different things and even when I know I shouldn’t say something, my mouth barges forward because it knows the reaction it will get.

  • I will always prefer sweatpants

I wish I was someone who changed into jeans after she takes off her work clothes, but that ain’t me. If I’m going somewhere after work, maybe. If I’m just home, heck no. I am in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, no bra. Sometimes I just skip right to pajamas. I have this great balance between looking good and enjoying the reward of looking like a bum at the end of the day.

  • I am responsible

There was a phase in my life where I somehow lost sight of the old woman I truly am and assumed I wasn’t a responsible adult. I let this idea grow until it became how everyone viewed me. But 28-year-old Chelsea is here to set the record straight. I’m responsible AF, y’all.

  • I am opinionated

If you don’t want to know how I feel about something, just don’t speak in my presence. I have feelings about basically everything and usually have zero issues with sharing.

  • I’m not political

There are things in this world I care about (people mostly). My politics come down to loving people no matter where they are or what situation of life they’re in. I don’t care about parties or policies. Nothing else in this world matters to me except for loving people.

  • I’m hairy

Remember when I talked about my weird hairline? Yeah, turns out I’m hairy all over. I used to be super self-conscious and think about shaving my arms but now I’m like nah. It’s cool that my hair grows down my neck. I have a cute little ‘stache that creeps in now and again.

  • I’m not super fashionable

I’m not saying this like I don’t care how I like or I look like a bum. I’m aware that 90% of the time in public I look nice. Usually my look is more classic instead of in style. Sam, for example, is always wearing things that are trendy. I used to pin looks on Pinterest and decide now was the time I would buy more fashionable clothing. Occasionally I stumble into something on the cutting edge, but usually I’m just low key me.

  • I have nice hair

This isn’t one I’m going to go on and on about. It’s just a blessing I’m aware of. So many people complain about their hair not styling or holding, and mine does both. I don’t need to use products and it will look good all day. It’s a nice balance between of thickness and softness and the color isn’t bad either. This has gone on too long.

  • I hate classification labels

Virgo, ENFJ, INFJ, 4, Introvert, Extrovert

These are all ways you can describe me and there are levels of truth in all of them; however, I HATE how people think they can understand you just by asking what your Enneagram is or if you’re an extrovert.

Now that I’m thinking about it, my frustration comes down to our quick intimacy culture. We’re obsessed with knowing how you’re classified because it helps us immediately understand someone. We think it gives us a deeper access into who they are. Just like how we present ourselves on social media. I want someone to learn about me not because they know my Myers Briggs rankings, but because they just know me.

Despite these labels, they can never fully capture the uniqueness of a human. I am Chelsea. A child of God. Lover not a fighter. Hufflepuff. These are the only classifications I like.

  • I’m bad at doors

I just don’t get locks and handles. I never turn, push or pull the right way. In defeat I usually walk away and have someone help me. It’s a major weakness I can’t overcome.

  • I’m a really lazy go-getter

People meet me and listen to me and assume I’m like the crazy proactive person. This is sometimes true. Because I am frequently a ball of energy that is literally bursting with enthusiasm (probably because I’m a Virgo, jk), I go through phases of intense activity and profound laziness. I have yet to find a way to balance the energy with the relaxation, but I’m always optimistic.

  • I’m an unshakeable optimist

If you ever hear me unsure if something will work out (outside of professional work opinions), it’s usually because being an eternal optimist can drive people crazy. I believe in seeing the best in people and believing in what will happen. Sometimes I hide this to commiserate with people so they like me more. I wish I didn’t do this.

  • I’m super obsessive

I literally have to limit myself on Netflix because I can binge like nobody’s business. I become emotionally invested in shows and feel out of sorts in my real life thinking about plot lines in a show. It happens with books sometimes, too. Usually I can walk away and give myself space. Usually.

  • I am not polished

Don’t watch me try to eat or get out of a car in a skirt. Isn’t there a saying about putting lipstick on a pig? I feel like that. I can look carefully assembled, but really I’m just a slob.

  • I am goofy

What can I say? I’m a silly billy. Prone to dance and sing in public, it’s likely I’ll embarrass you at some point when we’re together. I also make a lot of weird jokes that people miss and think I’m serious. As I mentioned, I’m a poor communicator.

  • I am smart

I was raised by a mother who never let me think I was smart so to this day I’m still surprised when sometimes tells me I’m smart. Let’s be clear – I’m not Harvard smart. I stopped at Organic Chemistry because it got too complicated. My main skills are information retention. If you know me and read this and think I’m an idiot, you’re not wrong. Brains can’t help with my lack of common sense or strangeness.

Upon re-reading I want to point out my mom was careful so I didn’t become a precocious know-it-all and drive everyone crazy. Thanks to her diligence, I wasn’t a complete know-it-all.

  • I’m an oversharer

Few things bring me more joy than when people ask about me, especially after clarifying they’re not trying to be too intrusive. I don’t think I have anything in my life I will not freely discuss in any situation. I thrive on sharing too much. Be careful what you ask for.

  • I’m a good arguer

So yes, I hate to fight and will likely end up in tears myself, but usually I’m too stubborn to give up. It used to drive my mom crazy how I could basically win an argument because I could wear the other person down. Twice I won debates in high school with minimal research on my end just because of my passion. Seriously.

  • I’m always trying to do my best

This site is called Seemingly Good Ideas because I make a lot of stupid choices, but at the end of the day it’s because I’m trying to do the best I can. I’m just a human, that’s all.

  • I’m a work in progress

I’m not going to accomplish everything I want overnight and this path has shown that the self improvement and progress is worth it. I hope until the day I die I consider myself a work in progress because there’s always room to grow.

#Dedicate28

This annoying habit of theming my birthdays began three birthdays ago at age 25, after a trip to Ireland woke me up. At the time, I thought I had it all figured out. Now I know that was just the beginning of my transformation.

#QuarterLifeChelsea began with a full month of celebrations and a dedication to living as  God called me. Also just living my life in general instead of hiding from it out of fear. I initially believed 25 would be about stability. I lived in a duplex and had a car payment, steady job, and a dog. It seemed like I had my life in order.

Following God, I’ll remind you, usually means we don’t actually have it figured out. Soon it became apparent I needed to leave my job and the perfect opportunity opened up to take me to Buffalo with my family. Then a month after that my dog was killed and I was living with my parents. #Ridiculous26 began with pink hair, a nose piercing, and a new tattoo. I took the lessons I learned from Ireland and my growing trust in God and just really went for it.

I left my comfortable full-time job to work at Sephora. More than the economic hardships I obviously endured, the bigger struggle was dealing with my family constantly telling me I had made a mistake. I didn’t know where my path was going, but I knew it wasn’t wrong.

It was during this time I had my come to Jesus moment.

Well, maybe not come to Jesus because I’d been saved for almost 15 years at that point. No, it was the moment when I realized I couldn’t keep living with the world and growing my faith. The two parts couldn’t meet up – I was still chained to the person I thought I had to be while lightly grooming the one I had to be. Even though I’d been going to church my entire life, I’d never felt that desire to be different. I didn’t think it was possible.

Fortunately, this changed when I got really drunk at a boat party, someone shared pictures and then I went to church and served hungover.

It was here a dear friend spoke into my life because she saw my duplicity, but more importantly she saw my potential. Suddenly, I knew I could be different. I wanted to change. This began a whirlwind. My first decision was to stop drinking and it’s one I intend to keep for the rest of my life.

By the time 27 rolled around, I went with #27thHeaven because I didn’t really know what else I was going for. My life was still in such an upheaval and I remained directionless. I forced myself to do the usual parade of September activities assuming it would help me feel like me again.

This is where I’m going to fast forward because honestly there’s so much and I don’t want this post to lose focus. This is what happened in nutshell: it’s like suddenly I reached the end of this dark uphill tunnel and I saw a glimpse of what God had for me. All of the work I’d been doing in my life made sense and suddenly I was new.

Everything in between are stories for another day. The end result is #Dedicate28. All of those years were about me, but I want that to change. This September wasn’t filled with endless activities. I want my life to be a reflection of Jesus and everything I do to point to Him. I want His greatness to shine, and I know I can’t do this if I keep putting myself at the center.

It’s not going to be an easy year. I mean, living without social media is challenge enough, not to mention everything else going on. But I’m confident in what God is doing. He’s shown me His faithfulness time and time again and I don’t want to lose sight of that glory for my own.