Maybe the Daniel Fast will fix my problems

Last year I spent my life unbecoming who I was. Several realizations in 2017 led me to face my problems and issues instead of pretending they didn’t exist. I wanted to stop balancing between God and the world and find sure footing with my Savior. I couldn’t pretend to be the same person anymore.

The process of unbecoming broke me.

No longer could I hold to my safeguards. My soul was laid bare in counseling sessions and I was forced to face my biggest demons and anxieties. Through small groups I let go of the shame I’ve lived with and finally found freedom. For someone who claims to be an open book, I’d never felt more exposed.

Now, more than a year into this process, I realized I broke down a lot of the pieces of who I used to be without building up anything new. I’ve left things go and now in my life is silence. Sometimes I just feel like a shell who remembers the human experience but can’t quite feel it herself.

Now, don’t be alarmed. That isn’t a statement of depression, just realization. My life was filled with facades and stripping them away left me here. At first, I blamed the medicine I had to help with anxiety. Surely it was why I felt so bland. Until I intelligently quit essentially cold turkey and after two weeks of dizziness realized it went deeper than a substance altering my brain chemistry. I had changed, I knew this, but I didn’t know where to go.

I’m reading a leadership book with a group at my church and the one question asked us to write out our goals and plans for five years. I realized I didn’t have any. It was hard enough to formulate resolutions for this year, let alone decide where my life is going.

You could argue this is a good thing. I’m learning to follow God one day at a time and trusting He is my way. It’s a nice argument, but it’s wrong.

It’s harder now more than ever to cede what little control I feel over my life, even though I know it’s destroying me. My anxiety has been so high this month I’ve spent most of the time trying to release the tension in my shoulders and breathe so the chest pain stops.

It’s like this. Imagine it’s the apocalypse and literally everything is falling apart in society. Fires are blazing, people are becoming cannibals, and gangs run rampant through the streets. One person realizes he can’t do anything, so he sits inside spraying a plastic plant with water, acting like he’s in control of at least one destiny.

It’s pointless, right? That’s me.

I’ve realized how little I can control so I’ve let the small things blow up inside of me. Growing my relationship with God has been wonderful, but it’s opened me up to so much spiritual warfare and strife that I know is part of the territory. I just hate it and want to keep watering my plastic plant.

This morning my emotions finally reached their breaking point when the scale told me once again, despite being more active and careful about what I eat, I’m still 20 pounds heavier than I’d like. This weighing followed the first day of the Experiencing God study and realizing I want to follow God, but I just can’t do it one day at a time.

Literally every part of me is standing still.

I don’t want to be here. I want spending time with God to be full of excitement and expectancy. I want to be filled with joy and look forward to things and not be so blasé about everything. I want to be a person who managers her anxiety and doesn’t let it rule her. Really I just want to enjoy my life again. And that’s when it hit me.

The Daniel Fast.

Here are three important things to know about me: 1. I’ve never successfully completed any food fast in my life. 2. I buy so many processed foods I’m practically made out of preservatives and 3. My meal prepping involves making a sandwich with white bread, meat, and American cheese, or cooking something frozen. I am not equipped to do this fast.

When I look at all my problems, I know there’s a common solution, and it’s my faith. I need to turn to God every single day, beyond just my daily reading in the Bible, and learn to depend completely on Him. Not ask Him for the big picture, but just have Him lead me today. With the Daniel Fast, I’ll need Him more than ever to give me a strength and perseverance I don’t possess. I won’t be able to do it on my own.

More than just relying on Him to sustain me, I’ll have to have faith in my financial situation. One of my biggest excuses for the way I eat is that I can’t afford to eat better, but I honestly don’t know if that’s true. I’m too afraid to change my life and try. With this, I have to rely that God will make a way even when my bank account is like whattttt.

Plus, part of being a disciplined Jesus Follower involves taking care of our bodies and I know I’m not treating mine as well as I could. Beyond the weight I want to lose, I know there are systematic issues I need to address, like the way I fuel myself.

Now, I don’t plan to do this and then never eat sugar or meat or French bread pizza again. God gave us food to enjoy, right? Physically, it will be like a reset and a way to show myself I can do better because right now it would be hard to do worse.

My goal is for this to be one big kickstart to my life before it’s too late. I don’t want to accept that this is how I’ll always feel and let complacency convince me solitude is best. I want to find joy in my relationships and have dreams again. I want to wake up every morning (or at least most mornings) excited to see what God is going to do with me that day. I want to stop trying to do everything by myself.

I want to rejoin the human experience and I hope the Daniel Fast will get me there.

[Apologies if none of this makes sense and there are typos galore. Sometimes you need to get a thought out of your head without worrying about if everything is correct.]

Forgiveness is more than saying sorry

Earlier this year I read a book with a leadership team about trusting people. In one section, it talked about the certainty that people will betray us in this life, because Jesus was betrayed. My mind was blown. If Jesus, God’s Son/the Word at the Beginning/our Lord and Savior/the Perfect Lamb experienced betrayal, so will we.

Yet when it happens, we act as if it’s this huge scandal and we can never trust someone again. Sometimes, yeah, it’s really awful. Forgiving someone isn’t easy because of what they’ve done and trusting someone new can be even harder.

I think this is where Jesus’ story of betrayal becomes even more applicable. In the Gospels, we learn about Jesus beginning his missions and selecting 12 disciples. These men weren’t randos He found on the street; as long as it had been planned that He would come for us, these guys were a part of it.

We don’t learn about the specifics of each of them, but we do know he called Peter first. More than helping spread Christianity in the beginning, Peter is probably most known for denying Jesus three times after he was told her would do it. Peter swore he would die for his Lord, only to deny knowing him thrice to save his own skin.

When Jesus walked up to Peter in his fishing boat, he wasn’t impressed by his fisherman’s prowess. He knew what Peter was capable of and needed him to be the rock upon which He’d build His church. In that moment, Jesus knew in His hour of need Peter would run, but He still saw his potential.

Judas was recruited as a disciple at some point, too. Can you imagine knowing you had to choose the person who would ultimately cost you your life and let him be an intimate friend? During His ministry, Jesus turned a blind eye to Judas’ stealing from their funds because He knew the greater plan in place. I asked can you imagine, but I cannot imagine in the slightest. It’s mind bottling.

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Jesus knew the part each of them would play in His life and death, but that didn’t change his feelings for them. Even if their eventual betrayal hurt him, He still loved them.

In the same conversation that would lead to Him predicting Peter’s denial, He left them with a new commandment:

“Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” John 13:34

Woof. That ‘just as I have loved you’ is filled with so many emotions for me. It’s the unconditional kind of love where He’s telling them I have loved you despite everything, and it’s your job to love others that same way.

Judas and Peter went on two different paths following Jesus’ death. Almost immediately, Judas felt the guilt of his actions and hanged himself. Peter, similarly racked with guilt, had the opportunity to speak to Jesus and feel the forgiveness first hand.

You’re going to deal with Judas’ and Peter’s in your life, both literally and metaphorically (although naming your child Judas is like thinking Jezebel is a good name). Sometimes people will hurt you and the relationship cannot be repaired. But that doesn’t mean you assume every single person after him or her will do the same. You don’t close off your heart because of what one person did.

Imagine if Jesus were like us. He came to Earth, gathered His disciples, and realized how truly terrible humans are. It’s likely He would’ve ascended immediately to Heaven and left us to our own devices, avoiding the horrifying ordeal of the cross. Instead, He loved us at our worst and called us to do the same with others.

Sometimes we throw away something too quickly because we’re hurt. In this case, we could be missing out on something great because we were too scared to forgive our Peter. Or too angry and hurt. Again, if Jesus saw Peter after His resurrection and was like ‘nah, I don’t want a jerk like you to feed my sheep,’ the world would probably be different.

Amen, amen, amen to the fact that Jesus is not like us and sees past the things of this world. He sees us, you and me, and writes a brilliant story for us. He knows it will contain heartbreak and betrayal, but He knows from experience the beauty of what it can bring to our lives.

Please know I’m not saying immediately forgive and welcome back everyone who’s hurt you into your life. That’s unrealistic and can lead to more hurt. I’m simply asking that you and I forgive like Jesus, which means we love like Jesus. We might not have the same relationship with a person, but we don’t harbor feeling of ill-will.

It’s about accepting that it’s likely everyone you know will hurt you at one time. When I look at my own life, I know this to be true. And I know I’ve hurt all those people, too. But I want to love like Jesus and not hold grudges or even tiny feelings of resentment masked by pretenses of forgiveness.

I get that it’s really hard, but it’s also really rewarding.

Just a reminder that you’re incredible

I want you to know how loved you are. By me, Jesus, and everyone else in this life. You are valuable and important. This world would not be the same without you. Thank you for waking up every day and bringing your special magic into life. 

Most of us don’t like receiving an endless stream of compliments. I meant all of those words, but it’s so easy for your brains to tell you I’m just saying that because it’s the introduction to this post. Or, even worse, if only I really knew you I wouldn’t believe that.  I know that because it’s the same struggle I face.

No matter how worried we are about what someone thinks about us, it could never be worse than what goes on in our own heads. Every compliment is immediately met with either an internal or external rebuttal. We don’t want people getting the wrong idea. We’re really just a steaming garbage pile covered by skin.

For a long time, I believed I wasn’t a good or worthy person. I let the words of others define me and began to doubt every nice word. As a result, everything I did felt fake. If I wasn’t a good person, surely every act of kindness and service must be a facade to cover the stench of the garbage within. I lived in fear that someday a vent would somehow escape and someone would get a whiff, exposing the real me.

Then I wrote a letter from God.

My counselor wanted me to figure out how God truly felt about me, beyond just the words I read in the Bible. Yes, I obviously believe those words are true, but do they really apply to me? I’ve done this, this, and this. I still struggle with that. God loves me, but He probably doesn’t like me that much.

I put off the assignment for weeks because I knew it would wreck me. I was about to face my Creator, and I knew it was going to be painful. I was forbidden to include anything I knew God wouldn’t say, which meant I had to erase all the negative thoughts about myself. They weren’t from God and I couldn’t bring them into the mix.

The process began with some journaling. Using ‘Who You Say I Am’ as a guide, I read specific Bible verses about who I am with God before Finally I sat down at my computer, said a quick prayer, typed a few words, and began to wail. I was ugly crying to the extreme.

What I journaled that fateful evening, March 22, 2018

When I dreamed of you, I knew what your life would look like. I saw all the joy, but I knew about the pain. It breaks my heart to see how you feel. To feel how you feel. There are reasons, of course, as to why I kept those hard parts in. I wish I could explain, but that’s not what you need. You don’t need answers. You need me. Well, that you get. What you need is to believe you are who I say you are.”

This activity brought God’s reckless love to my level and it hit me so hard. Even now, as I reread the letter, the tears begin to fall. It’s written in a similar tone to my own style because I honestly feel like this is how my conversation with God would go.

The letter continues by going over specific struggles in my life and a shame that’s followed me since childhood, but it ends with the words I know He has for all of us:

“I love you so much. I know you know that it was enough to send my son and all that, but I need you to know that that was a hard sacrifice, but when I pictured your face and you doing some sort of weird dance in public, I knew it was worth it. You will always be worth it to me. I know your dad left, but I won’t. I won’t. I won’t. When I showed Abraham the stars and told him his descendants would be as numerous as them, I knew which one was yours.

More than just love you, I like you. A lot. I never text Gabriel about how today you were kind of annoying. Every day I like you a little bit more, and I never like you less. You are special. You are known. You are understood. You are forgiven. Walk with me, and live loved.”

I share these words with you because this love and passion isn’t just for me. God sees all of your weird quirks and habits and remembers how He designed you to be that way. He thinks about how odd you are and it reminds Him that this sacrifice of His son was worth it. Anytime you think you’re less than perfectly assembled, think again.

“This is just too wonderful, deep, and incomprehensible! Your understanding of me brings me wonder and strength.” Psalm 139:6 (TPT)

Once I fully let in the love of God, these words hit home too. I never have to explain myself to God. He has the greatest understanding of me, and He knows. Whenever I think about my perceived inadequacies, I remember how perfectly designed I am, and I let them give me strength.

Friends, it’s easy to believe the lies, especially in a world that tells you to standout while constantly reminding you that you aren’t actually special. It’s easy to get lost in this confusion and assume you aren’t really that great in the grand scheme of things. I’m here to remind you that you are.

Jesus would go to the cross every time, even if it was just for you. He knew all the ways you would fall short, and He did it anyway. He died for you, for me, for everyone.

You, right where you are, are amazing. You are spectacular. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Life without you would be more dull. You shine with more colors than my glitter collection, and let me tell you, it’s extensive.

Remind yourself every day that you are perfect just as you are. God doesn’t make mistakes, especially not with you.

We love you more than you know.

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.

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.

A year of being unsocial

For almost half of my life, I’ve been active on social media. I remember getting a MySpace at age 15 and carefully taking my profile picture to show off how deep and mature I was. In case you’re wondering, I set a digital camera self-timer and sat across the room with my bangs across my face and the classic look of being misunderstood. Naturally I was wearing a Harry Potter t-shirt.

Considering it was my first journey into social media, I’m not sure how I knew that was the norm. It was before MySpace the Movie exposed the concept of using angles to make yourself look better and I certainly wasn’t a scene kid committed to that lifestyle.

In a time where your parents frequently received CDs in the mail with trials of America Online, I was just beginning my web experience. My dad had Internet before most people, meaning I was on AOL Messenger before it became the sensation of AOL Instant Messenger. ChellyBelly911, hit me up.

What did we do in the early days before social media? It’s hard to remember, honestly. For awhile I played Bingo online and did the A/S/L game with strangers. Thankfully, things weren’t as dangerous back then. GorgeousGeekyGuys.com just *understood* my obsession with the cast of Lord of the Rings and I printed pictures of all my favorite hotties.

Yes, that’s what we did. Printed pictures of hot guys to hang on our walls. What a time.

The social side of the Internet continued to blossom with sites like Xanga and LiveJournal (I had both), but it hit its stride with MySpace. I spent so much dial-up time blocking phone calls so I could pick the perfect background and song for my page. Cultivating your Top 8 was crucial and being able to add more was revolutionary.

At age 17 I made my Facebook account. My sister was in college and guaranteed me it was the site all the cool college kids preferred. Twitter came at 19 with Instagram following shortly after. I guess YouTube happened somewhere too along with a million other sites that tried but couldn’t compete with the big guns (looking at you, Google+). And yeah I know there are more popular sites like Tumblr and Pinterest but I’ve got to get the point of this post soon.

Now as an almost-28-year-old, it’s interesting to look at the evolution of social media use. For some kids, Facebook has always been around. They can get tagged in baby pictures and have their own account. They missed the years where it was cool to poke people and the question wasn’t ‘what’s on your mind?’


It began as a simple way to stay connected and share funny images. Writing on Walls to say you missed someone’s face was the norm. Is it even still called a wall? I wrote that instinctively. No, now it’s a Timeline. I lived through the crises of our generation when the layouts would change and everyone would like pages that served as petitions to bring the old way back. Surprisingly, this never worked.

You posted a status to actually update someone. When I look back and see everything I shared, it’s frankly embarrassing. I would update like five times a day and most of the time no one even liked my statuses. This is when my life with social media starts to take a turn.

At some point, those likes began to mean something to me. Maybe it was learning more about the platforms through my public relations major that made me want to perform better online, but I think it was a cultural shift.

Here social media went from a simple way of staying connected to being unique and heard. Slowly, we began to cultivate our images online. Not everyone, mind you. Some people probably share things today and don’t care about likes. Even writing that I think, then what’s the point of sharing?

And that is my problem.

My family is very smart and funny and fortunately I have received a fraction of both these features. As a result, social media became a good outlet for me. It took time, but eventually I found a way to combine my talents with a way of entertaining people online.

Listen, I don’t write that because I think I’m so amazing and everyone loves me. Then again, Jimmy Fallon did say my name several times on television because I am so creative and funny so you be the judge.

It really started with Twitter. I barely passed 500 followers and didn’t get a lot of retweets, but got told just enough I was funny that I kept tweeting. I began to share less on Facebook and focus my updates on things I could make funny. When Instagram launched the Stories feature, it was over for me.

By this time I was deeply invested, committed and reliant upon social media. It felt like as long as people liked me there, I was good enough. I wanted to keep pleasing people. When a post didn’t perform well, it would make me second guess everything about myself.

If I’m being honest, it felt like my social media persona was a version of myself I could control. My entire life I’ve known that I’m kind of a divisive person. I’m overall likable (she said modestly), but I’m also a lot. I’m intense and not really great at keeping my opinions to myself. In real life, you never know what I’m going to say. I never know what I’m going to say. With social media, I could select the best parts of me and give them to the world. It made me feel liked and good.

Naturally, it also made me feel more insecure.

When you present a controlled version of yourself, you can’t help but worry about all the untamed areas someone might encounter. The way friendship works in this online world only made it worse.


Fasting social media isn’t a new concept for me, but this year it held more weight. As my relationship with Jesus continued to grow, I made decisions focused around following wholeheartedly and several times I knew this meant distance from online communities. It was then I realized so much of my online communities are my real communities.

People told me they missed seeing me online. Others said I seemed like I was disconnected. This online version of me had become a substitute for real relationships. Sure, I saw my friends IRL, but so much more of our communicating was done online. People didn’t miss hanging out with me, they missed seeing what I shared online. I was disconnected because I wasn’t engaging online.

To be clear, I’m not saying this as a slight to my friends. In fact, their words were an eye opener for my relationship with social media. What their words told me was without social media, I didn’t really know how to stay connected.

Even worse, my actions have led social media to be a part of my identity.

Around Easter of this year, I decided to take an extended hiatus. This is where I learned about my problems with community, but I also learned something incredibly valuable. Social media does not have to be a part of my life. Even of people expect it or say it’s sad that I’m going, it doesn’t mean I can’t leave it behind. It doesn’t define me.

Eventually, I came back to it slowly, but as the weeks rolled by, I found myself becoming more and more dependent again. I unfollowed a lot of accounts that brought nothing to my life, but spent more time watching Instagram Stories as a distraction. I’ll scroll Facebook for hours, even if most of my time is just spent unfollowing video and meme accounts that I don’t want to see.

When I was away from social media, I read a lot. Now, I can’t keep my attention long enough and always find myself picking up my phone to distract myself. All I want is to be distracted, to see if my photo received more likes, to see if I’ve received any messages. I’m so tired of it.

I just need to limit myself, you say, and I get the suggestion. For many people who can casually browse and don’t live for the applause, it’s great advice. In my case, it doesn’t matter. I start with a spade and say I’m only going to move the dirt a little and soon enough I’ve dug my own grave where my phone has again become my most important relationship.

Since I turned 25, I’ve themed every year of my life, and 28 will be no different (in a sense). Following the transformation I’ve experienced over the last year, this year is Dedicate 28. It’s about not living for myself, but always pursuing Someone Higher. I quickly realized I needed to use this year to leave social media altogether.*

*so altogether means personally because I’m in digital marketing so obviously I have to use it for my job

In the days leading up to it, it feels like more people have reached out to me saying I’m funny and they love my stories and I’m just like GET BEHIND THEE SATAN! Jk, but really. I keep going back and forth wondering if this is the right choice and then I realize how tightly I’m holding onto something that I only really use to glorify myself. Sure, I share about God, but I know those likes aren’t for Him. I only want them for me.

Then I think about this site and the platform I’d like to have. It seems foolish to abandon social media if you want to grow something in 2018. First, I have social accounts for my blog and never use them. Second, if God wants this to go somewhere, He doesn’t need a Facebook account.

So I’m doing it. September 10, 2018, will be my last day until September 11, 2019. Usually I just quietly take a break, but I wanted to give people a warning in case they try to reach me. If you want to be my friend and continue our relationship, we have to do it the old fashioned way, meaning we’ll text each other about hanging out but never actually have time to do it. If you tag me in things, I won’t see it. If you send me a message on social media, I won’t see it.

You can text me screenshots, though. I do love some of the funny things that can be found online.

With this, though, I’m also challenging myself to be a better friend. Instead of relying on seeing your updates, I want to actually engage with you.

This is going to be a challenging year and prayers are obviously appreciated. I know God is going to use this time to help me refocus and continuing pursuing Him more without the distractions of glorifying myself.

See you next year, friends.

Except not if you read my blog. I’m going to keep doing this.

I am in the 92% of those who fail at their resolutions

I almost started this by saying ‘like most people, I make New Years resolutions,’ but it turns out most people actually don’t make them. In fact, some statistics I found on the Internet claim that while 41 percent of us always make them, 42 percent NEVER do. NEVER?

It’s hard for me to imagine that almost half of people don’t resolve to change their life, lose weight or make better financial decisions. What is New Years for if not the fresh start?

But maybe it’s because of the crazier (but not unbelievable) statistic. Only 8 percent actually keep their resolutions.

Maybe these non-resolution makers are the ones who realize you don’t a new year or even a Monday to change your life. Maybe they’re the ones who wake up on a Thursday and decide today’s the day and actually make it happen. Perhaps they don’t want to set themselves up for failure and instead pretend there’s nothing they wish to improve.

Either way, I am not in the 42 percent. I am part of the 41.

I can’t make a good life decision if I’ve already had a day of bad ones. If I decide to stop using my credit cards, I live it up until the next day when the ban officially begins. If I realize it’s time to eat less, I eat everything I can today so I can ‘start fresh’ tomorrow. Although tomorrow turns into Monday, and Monday into next week, and next week into next year, and I’m still here wondering why my life hasn’t changed.

I am part of the 92 percent who fail every year.

While cleaning my room last week, I found a misplaced notebook filled with my resolutions for 2017. Excitedly I scanned the list to see what I had actually completed, but then my enthusiasm waned almost as quickly as it began.

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I’m pretty sure I didn’t do any yoga last year. I managed to rack up a lot more credit card debt instead of paying it off. Lol still a lazy a sloth and still have a lot of room to grow as an employee.

I did move out from parents’ so that’s probably a win.

Surely I’m done, you think. Maybe this is the year I just accept life as it comes and try to be the best version of myself as life happens instead of overthinking everything. I’ll switch teams and join the 42 percent who don’t play the resolution game.

Nah.

This year feels different, not because I’m so full of hope, but because I feel so defeated. I’ve pushed myself into this place where if I don’t make the necessary changes, I’ll drown. This is God working in me – instead of the pride that carried me for years, I’m accepting my way sucks. It SUCKS. And I’m ready to rebuild my life and finally address my problems.

So because I’m sure you’re overwhelmed with curiosity, here are my resolutions for 2018.

 

  • Grow my faith

 

This looks like reading the Bible in its entirety for the second year in a row and fasting one thing every month. I already have a prepared list because too often I think I should fast something and then I never know what to do. I’m trying to take away every opportunity I have to make excuses.

 

  • Take care of myself

 

Basically this starts with counseling. I can’t keep denying I have real issues that I need to address, and I’m going to struggle in a lot of areas if I don’t take care of them. I usually say I want to lose weight or be healthier, but I really want to care less about my weight and more about why I am overeating and being lazy.

This is also about saying no and accepting my limitations. I often say because that person can do it, I can too, but that’s not a healthy way to live. I need to go only as far as I can and not be afraid to admit when I need to stop.

Maybe I’ll try to do more yoga.

 

  • Spend money on ONLY what I need

 

I have a real spending problem. I’m in an embarrassing amount of debt and I keep pushing myself down further into the whole. For a number of reasons, I’m sick of it. I should be clear when I say what I need is like a First World need, not the basics of food, water and shelter. More on that later.

 

  • Write one thing a month

 

Last year I wanted to write a book proposal. This year I thought about a themed series each month. For where I’m at now, that’s way too aspirational. If I can consistently write one thing a month, I’m already a success.

 

  • Read 50 books

 

Before a world of texting, Instagram and Netflix, I used to read. A lot. And I still do, but only sometimes. My goal is roughly one a week because I feel like the old me would scoff at that because she could read like 50 in a month, but I’m out of practice.

So here they are. Five resolutions. Two days in and I’m doing great, so we’ll see how the rest of year goes. It doesn’t necessarily feel like a fresh start, simply the end of my pretending I don’t need to change my life. They’re different, I promise.

Perfect should try to be you

This is a hard topic to try and talk about, because sometimes it’s really difficult for me to see my worth, and I know I’m not alone. Even my most confident, beautiful and wonderful friends struggle at times. You can’t blame us, not in a world constantly saying you aren’t good enough.

While I could spend hours writing about the negative effects of advertising and the media on how we perceive ourselves, that isn’t the focus of this post. It’s more in how let others treat us and how that affects our value.

I think too often and without realizing, we let the opinions of others change the opinion we hold of ourselves. For some, it happens when you’re too young to realize you deserve better and for others it happens so slowly over time until you don’t believe there’s anything different.

To really summarize this idea, I’m going to borrow a quote from the brilliant Stephen Chbosky:

We accept the love we think we deserve.

Now, before I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I saw this quote circulated around social media so frequently I wrote it off in my brain as a silly way “edgy” girls romanticized their poor dating choices. Please know I’m not proud of this judgment I so easily passed.

I didn’t read the book until they started filming for the movie in Pittsburgh, but I’m so glad I waited. The first time I read it when I was very early into my 20s, it hit me like a welcome train of awareness. Yes, the characters were teenagers and going through things I couldn’t even imagine, but the truths were there waiting for me. It made me think about how I let people treat me and my motivations and through it, I began to confront some demons.

Another book, The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler, taught me the important lesson surrounding this idea of ‘deserving.’ We go through life telling our friends they deserve better, but at the root, they (and we) don’t. Yes, this sounds crazy and no, it doesn’t mean you should let everyone treat you like garbage.

Love is a gift we give and receive, and we learn to love because our Father loved us first. At no point have we ever deserved that love. I mean really, read pretty much every Bible story ever and you will see a people continually falling short. None of that matters, though, because of His great love. He created us, knowing we would never be enough. He continues to pursue us, knowing our hearts are wicked and prone to other gods. Nothing we do can change His love either way. We can’t deserve more by good behavior and we can’t deserve worse by bad behavior. This is such a powerful truth.

It’s not about deserving better treatment, but realizing we’re worth more because we’re children of God. We aren’t designed to let people treat us poorly because that’s not what Love is about. This is so much harder to actually follow, I realize.

Getting back to accepting the love we think we deserve, I think in some concepts deserve is used very well. When we accept the love we think we deserve, we are accepting imperfect love. Love that is flawed and conditional. Love that only works on the terms established by someone else. We are failing to see the beauty of love because we’re so blinded by the things within ourselves that make us feel less.

In my life, this lack of self-worth is related to my father, which is tragically far too common. Despite being a Christian all my life with a good stepfather, I was still trying to earn the love I never received from my father.

Because I never loved him as well as he thought he deserved, my father made me feel less and like I had to continually work to gain anything from him. I would go out of my way to see him and talk to him until it was me initiating every conversation. This pattern is one I can spot in almost every romantic relationship I’ve had.

Until I paid attention, I didn’t realize this was a problem. I assumed it was just guys and I really didn’t know what it was like to feel wanted. I questioned everything about myself and changed trying to find someone who would actually love me.

Because I didn’t see my value, no one else did who I was pursuing. It didn’t help I pursued men I could see weren’t good for me in any capacity, but their slight interest was all I needed to give up my ideals and compromise to make them happy. I was trained to work in exchange for fake love that never lasted.

When I couldn’t see my value, I accepted less than the love God intended for me to have.

Our need for companionship can be so strong it leads us down paths we know we shouldn’t travel. We pick people we know aren’t good for us but we tell ourselves lies like it’s nothing serious anyway or it’s just fun or this is just how guys treat us (and reverse for men, obviously). Or we even think that somehow we can change them and then they will love us in the way we want.

Think about some of the incredible married, engaged or in a serious relationship people in your life. Do you think they got where they are by making their significant other feel less or like they don’t really matter? Do you think the strong couple foundation is built on belittling or neglect?

The answer should be no. If we see healthy relationships, why do we assume we can’t have it, too?

On the other side of this, I can tell you the behavior justifications won’t hold up once you begin to really look at your life. I can’t excuse those pieces of my past, like staying with a guy for too long because it was fun and a distraction, because now I know better. All of these experiences shape who we will be, both alone and in relationships.

Now I have a hard time believing men are actually attracted to and interested in me. I doubt their motivations when they’re nice to me and convince myself they’re like this with everyone. If they stop talking to me, I assume it’s because they are like all the rest.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking yeah, but it is nothing and just fun, and I really hope that’s true for you. What I know is it isn’t true for me, and every bad experience lowered how I valued myself a little bit more.

When we say yes to people we don’t really like or go back when we say we’re done, we’re showing them how we value ourselves. I know these are generalizations, but that’s where I’m focusing and I want to acknowledge I know there are exceptions. But on the whole, when we give in, we basically tell that person I don’t really value myself at all.

The other side to worth is thinking you aren’t good enough because of something in your past or where you are. We diminish ourselves because we aren’t exactly where we should be or we’ve made mistakes in the past and can’t believe someone could see past them. We carry that weight like a sign around our neck that says ‘I’m a crummy person and not good enough for you.’

Please know that’s nonsense.

Worth is tricky, isn’t it? The power we have to affect how someone views themselves and the impact we can have to make them see they are worth more. It’s hard to convince people of their value, but all we can do is try. And try and try and try because this is a fight you shouldn’t give up on, no matter what.

Even though I’m better than I was, my best friend still needs to remind me of my value when I start to doubt. I can still lose my mind over texts without replies and delays in conversation. The difference is now I’m more selective. I don’t just let anyone in. Conversely, I’m learning to tear down the walls I built to protect my heart and realizing not every man will hurt me. The way I guard my heart now is by reminding myself of how I am so loved by God, and that is the person I want to keep safe so no human can make me feel less.

So what can you take from all this? Remember that while we don’t necessarily deserve anything, we are worth way more than the way we let people treat us. I don’t know what happened in your past or what you did or how they hurt you, but I know restoration is possible. It will never be about finding the right person who will love us the right way, but by learning to love ourselves first and recognizing there is a Greater Love at work within. Completion comes from God alone and successful relationships happen when you can look at every piece of you, whole and broken, and realize how valuable you are.

Maybe you will get to a point where you know and feel this and don’t need reminders or maybe you will still need a daily check in with yourself to see how amazing you are. Either way, you are amazing and valuable and loved just as you are right now.

I will end with a poem by Bo Burnham, called Perfect:

I love you just the way you are

but you don’t see you like I do.

You shouldn’t try so hard to be perfect.

Trust me, perfect should try to be you.

Maybe 2016 wasn’t so bad

Like most, I went to bed last New Year’s excited for 2016. Sure, you can make a fresh start any second of any day, but something about a new year feels like the real deal. You leave behind the pain and drama and failure of the past and have 365 days to find a brighter path. New year, new you, new opportunities, right?
Wrong, according to 2016.


I’m not sure when we all began to realize this wasn’t going to be our year. More memes began to pop up blaming 2016 for all the horrible things happening and collectively we agreed 2016 was to blame. My favorite memes involve children in the future asking about 2016 and parents grabbing alcohol before discussing the clustercuss we all experienced.

For some, it was the never ending string of celebrity deaths. Alan Rickman. David Bowie. Prince. George Michael. Carrie Fisher. Debbie Reynolds. All the others I don’t feel like Googling because it will just remind me how bad it actually was.

Maybe it was the fact that our country is clearly divided and not ok with our president-elect, Donald “I don’t actually know how to be president” Trump. Like more than 50 percent of the country, I did not vote for him, but in a year of constant misfortune, I don’t know why I’m surprised he actually won. Perhaps you’re still amazed that we learned Russia hacked our election and people aren’t really talking about it – you know, not like it’s a big deal or anything.

Ok, I’m done being political.

For too many, 2016 hit us personally. I lost two of my grandparents. With my grandfather, we didn’t want to say goodbye but we knew it was time. My grandmother, his wife, was a total shock to our family, and one we’re still feeling more than month later. My beloved Gomer, the alien dog who brought me so much joy, died the day I returned from a business trip.

Realistically I know 2016 isn’t to blame. It was simply a bad year and 2016 is our scapegoat. We can’t explain why so many tragedies occurred, so we attack the common denominator in every situation.

But was it all bad?

Being perhaps an overly reflective person, this is the question I’ve been asking myself as we finally approach the end. Surely there were bright spots we’ve lost in all the darkness. Inspired by my best friend sharing her favorite memories of the year, I decided to write down some of mine and realized maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.


As you can see, I have a lot to celebrate, from late nights to good movies to musicals to everything in between. I made new friends, said goodbye to old friends and continue to grow into who I really am. Two of the biggest reasons I still think 2016 was a success comes down to my relationships and the changes happening in my professional life, as weird as that sounds.

Relationally

“No man is a failure who has friends” and my relationships are a great reminder of this (thanks It’s a Wonderful Life). My life has kind of been all over the place this year, literally and figuratively if you consider my move and all the places I’ve traveled. Throughout everything, my friends and family kept me sane.

Moving to a new state is challenging, even when your family is close. I left a lot of great people in Pittsburgh and spent a few months thinking I would never find people in Buffalo. Little by little, I built a great roster of new friends who continue to add so much to my life. Thank you, Buffalonians, for welcoming me and loving me and being awesome.

My family’s glee that I moved to the Buffalo abruptly turned to horror as I started to make some questionable (in their eyes) decisions. Yes, I quit my full time job and a profession I had a master’s degree in to pursue ????? I put the question marks because I’m still unsure. Now I work at Sephora and I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT IT – from my coworkers to the company to my discount. But I still know there’s more to come, I just don’t know what it is yet. I understand their concern and belief that maybe I should’ve stayed at my well-paying job until I figured everything out, but where’s the fun in that. Don’t worry guys, 2017 is going to be lit professionally for me.

Finally of course, we have the great support system I left in Pittsburgh, most notably my best fran and favorite human bean Samantha. I think it’s rare to have someone like her in your life, and if you are lucky to have one, don’t ever lose her. She stood by me through every step, from the tiniest step to largest jump, asking the hard questions and calling me out when I needed a reality check.

As long as I continue to surround myself with better people than myself, I think every year is good.

Professionally

I just mentioned it, but I kind of threw everything away this year. I spent two years at my last job in Pittsburgh, and I felt a restlessness I then attributed to needing a new job with different challenges. When I received the job that allowed me to move to Buffalo, I was elated. I knew it would be a lot of work and I was ready.

Looking through my planner, you can see my excitement wane over the months as my entries become less and less detailed to the point I’m basically begging myself to do work. I decided to fast, feeling my problem was a lack of focus. I prayed for God to calm my restlessness and allow me to see this work was necessary and I could find fulfillment in other areas. The result? It just made me more restless.

When I realized what the solution was, I didn’t want to tell my family. You see, to them I am flighty, chasing something I will never find because I need to find it where I am. Maybe they’re right, but all I know is I have to try so in 20 years I’m not in the same place because I convinced myself I had to stay.

My original plan was to ease away from everything. Get a second job to help pay off my debt (Sephora) and continue looking for what I should actually be doing in my life. After deciding this, the gnawing didn’t go away. This is the hard part of faith. No one else knows what God is doing in your life and it’s likely it won’t make sense to you either. All you know is you have to follow, so I did.

Without a job, I knew I had to quit mine. I called Sephora, even though I still didn’t know if I was hired, to let them know my availability changed from evenings to open. I sent my two weeks’ notice via email and silently panicked and begged my friend Sarah to meet me for dinner (and likely a drink or two). While I was on my way, I received a call – Sephora offering me a job. Not quite full time, but better than part time with guaranteed hours and benefits. I tried to remain calm and cool on the phone, but as soon as the call ended I screamed with joy and praise to my God who never lets me fall. I immediately called Sam and then my dinner with Sarah turned to one of celebration. Still afraid to face my family, I sent them a text the next day.

There is a bigger thing at play here as well. I have felt for years God calling me into ministry. I remember being at a youth camp and when asked to go to a separate room if we felt the call, I inexplicably stood up and went. I’ve always told God no, I wasn’t anything special, my life had to be simple and safe. I’ve tried my hardest, but God continues to call me into the unknown.

2017 remains more of what I cannot fully grasp. I know I need to make more money. I know I need to find my next step. I know I need to break ties. But I don’t know what any of that looks like. So I will keep praying and trusting.

If you’re reading this, you’ve done it! You’ve basically survived 2016. I know the new fear is what if 2017 isn’t any better? Like the DC Cinematic Universe, the trailers look so good but the movie disappoints. What if we’re so excited for next year we’re ultimately let down?

Here’s what I will tell you – more people we love and cherish will die, whether we know them personally or adore their work. You will have bad times in 2017 and it will seem like things are just going to get worse. If you keep thinking this way, you’ll inevitably be right. Life is as bad as we let it seem.

Next year, believe in the best instead of expect the worst. Even when the world seems to be falling apart, remember it’s always darkest before the dawn. In life, we choose to find triumph in tragedy and joy in misfortunes. Having a life that hits the notes you want isn’t the key to happiness, but remembering you have the power to find the good.

My prayer and wish is that we all believe in the best for 2017 and keep seeking what is good. Love your neighbors fiercely and never stop fighting for what is right.

Happy New Year!