Self!

Let’s talk self-care, friends. I feel like this is the buzzword lately, and it’s EVERYWHERE. Literally. You have to take care of yourself, in any way you can, right? Self-care, self-love, etc, etc. Do you recognize the trend here? Self. It’s all about the self. Which, don’t get me wrong, focusing on yourself is great, especially when you’re stressed or going through something difficult. We all need time for “self”. But, I think this can get dangerous when we focus too much on self.

I was reading my morning devotional, and it pointed out what God says: “You’ve overcomplicated it; serve others to change yourself.” *mind blown*

I mean, in a time where the word “self” is thrown about everywhere, we have forgotten our center. Our core. What we were created for: serving others. Now, I’m not saying to just forget about yourself and just let yourself go. No way, Jose! You have to take care of yourself, take responsibility for your life/words/actions/behaviors, but the heart of all of us should be to serve others. In serving, helping and reaching out a hand to others, we in turn help ourselves.

This world has its dark side, and it’s been incredibly apparent lately. Every day my phone goes off with new updates on a shooting somewhere. Somewhere there’s someone who has so much hate in their hearts that they have turned to violence. What if we just took time each day to spread kindness and love? Maybe I’m a dreamer and naïve, but I truly, TRULY believe that could change the world. If each person felt loved and heard—that could be a revolution. If we all turned ourself into others, that would change so many things/people/lives.

I know when I’m having a bad day, when I’m crabby and just want to cry, all it takes is one person to reach out and say “hey, hope you have a good day today!” or “I’m thinking of you!” Seriously, sometimes that’s all it takes.

When we have hate in our hearts, where do we turn? I think we all could use a heart-check. Check where you turn to when you’re angry, sad, upset, hurt. If it’s taking that out on other people, take that to God instead. He will calm you and help you. That’s our center. If everyone felt that same kind of love and acceptance, this world would be such an amazing place.

What if, this week, we just took two minutes out of each day to do one random act of kindness towards someone else? Buy someone coffee. Send a kind text. Offer to dog sit so someone can have a day to themselves. Call up a family member you haven’t talked to in a while just to see how they’re doing. I promise that is one thing you will never regret. Kindness is never something you will regret. God will reward you, and you never know how a kind word can change someone’s entire day.

Ask God to give you an opportunity to serve someone, and serve Him. You will never regret being kind.

And, just so you know—I love you all!

Xoxo.

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When I’m 80 Years Old

Hey friends! So, ever since my DC trip, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about our time here on Earth. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a deep thinker. I like to read books that make me think differently, open my mind up to different ways of thinking/doing things, and just allowing me to grow. Growth. Identity. Kindness. Understanding. Love. Those are all things I’ve either talked about before, or will talk about soon, but today, I wanted to talk about growth.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am that girl in Hobby Lobby spending hours in three aisles trying to find the perfect quote painting. Then I will spend another hour trying to decide between two of them, when I usually just end up buying them both. I have quotes all over my home. I have them on my laptop background and on my phone background. I pin them, post them, share them, wear them on shirts…you get the picture. I have one sitting on my kitchen island right now that simply says “Stop wishing, start doing.” Simple, but yet it really does motivate me. I can do a whole lot of research on something, but we all know what research is code for: procrastination. (Obviously, not in all cases—hello, science—but you get my point. I hope.) I find inspiration in quotes, I push myself to color outside the lines, to open up new doors, try something new, look outside of myself to see where I need to grow and how to help myself. I know that staying stagnant isn’t what we’re supposed to do. God put us here to constantly be learning new things, helping others, loving others, understanding others. We can’t do that if we, ourselves, aren’t growing. Growth is necessary. There isn’t one person alive who is perfect, contrary to what Instagram shows.

I had a lot of fear and self-doubt before my DC trip. I went back and forth with deciding about a billion times (no joke, ask my friends). But, this is life. LIFE! It’s supposed to be about adventures and taking opportunities and if they’re scary, then that’s all the more reason to do it. I pushed through my fear, jumped head-first out of my comfort zone and went for it. And you know what? I survived! Okay, well, I may have busted up my ankle (like, really, truly I did), but it made for a great story! And that’s what I crave in life. Stories. Adventures. Risks. Love. I want to live every single second of every single day. Even when I’m sleeping, I want to have vivid, crazy dreams so I can feel like I’m even having an adventure while I’m sleeping. I know that sounds silly, but that’s just me. I want to thrive! That’s why it’s hard for me to sit still, why I have a life coach to push me and hold me accountable, why I read so many books, why I am constantly trying to learn things about myself, why I pray and talk to God, and why I spend hours in Hobby Lobby. When I’m 80 years old, I want to look back at my life, smile and say “I really lived. I’m proud of my life. I did all I could do and then some.” I want to run through fields of wildflowers. Dance in the rain. Lie in the back of a truck at a drive-in movie theater. Travel. Oh, how I want to travel! Pay it forward.  Rescue puppies from shelters. Help kids. Make them all believe that they matter. And maybe, just maybe, I can inspire just one person to do the same. I want to have stories to tell when I’m 80 years old. Pictures to show. Scars to prove that I lived. But, also, that I find joy in the little things as well. A home cooked meal, white daisies, my favorite movie, fresh clean sheets, a drive through the country, the sound of rain.

This isn’t about wanting more, it’s about embracing life. Growing yourself to be the most full, and alive you can possibly be. I encourage you all to do something today that goes out of your comfort zone, that pulls you out of “settling” and throws you right into life and growth. Maybe it’s signing up for a class, trying a new workout, calling your Mom and having a heart-to-heart, telling someone you love and miss them, going on a road trip (highly recommended!), opening up your Bible and letting God grow you.

Thrive, friends! Open your heart and your mind. Jump out of your comfort zone and you can walk right into something beautiful and life-changing. You deserve to live a life of beautiful moments.

The difference between an ordinary life and an extraordinary life is only a matter of perspective. Pull the blinds. Look around you. It is a mad, mad world and you do not require ten digit bank accounts to immerse yourself in it. Travel down dusty roads without a destination in mind. Climb a mountain and scream out into the void. Kiss the hell out of a stranger. Skinny dip in a lake. Get lost and lose yourself (they are two separate things). Explore the wilderness (especially the one within). Think less of destiny and more of the moment right here. Because when you are old and ill with your loved ones around you, fame won’t matter, nor will the extent of your wealth. You are the sum of the stories you can tell.” _Beau Taplin

Xoxo.

What I’m listening to:

“Life’s What You Make It,” by Graham Colton

“So Will I,” by Hillsong

United States Capitol

Hey friends! Guess where I am right now? Give up? The US Capitol in Washington, DC. I was given the amazing opportunity to be here to speak about suicide prevention and let me tell you–this was absolutely incredible. To be here, to talk to survivors, people who lost loved ones, people who are trying to make a difference–it’s beyond words. Today, I stood up for the loss of my friend, the loss of friends’ loved ones, the survivors, the ones who didn’t survive…I’m here to speak for them. To use my voice to try to prevent this from happening to anyone else ever again. I don’t ever want another mother to get a phone call from a police officer telling her that her daughter died by suicide. I don’t ever want another brother to have to live his life without his brother and spend his life thinking “I should have called him more. I should have done something. I should have seen the signs.” I don’t want anyone to have to feel alone or that the only way out is suicide. It is NOT a way out. This has to stop. This world definitely has its problems and people divided, but here, today, I met people who share the same goal and that is to love and care about others. To remind them that you are not alone and you matter. And really, what is more beautiful than spreading that message? It’s something we ALL can do. So the question is, why don’t we? Xoxo

Anxiety

So, it’s the end of May already. Seriously, how did that happen? We are seven months away from Christmas! Anyone that knows me, knows I love everything Christmas—music, decorations, the magic of it all. I don’t really know why I’m skipping to Christmas right now, to be honest. I love summer. It’s my favorite season—bonfires, watching fireflies, driving through the country on a Sunday evening, picking wildflowers (and putting them in my hair, obvs), fishing, car shows. I love it. You know what I don’t love? Anxiety. May is Mental Health Awareness month, and I wanted to open up a bit about my own struggles with anxiety. I want this to be safe place to be vulnerable, honest and to share my stories because I truly believe that when we share our stories, we can not only heal ourselves, but we can make it so that others can feel safe to share their own stories.

I don’t like change. Like, at all. Which is weird, because I also don’t like being stagnant and I love trying new things. But, when there is a change happening in my life, I resist…big time. It causes anxiety within me, and it just plain sucks. Not feeling like I am safe or supported in certain situations, also cause anxiety for me. If I’m meeting new people, trying new things, or if I’m trying to tell someone how I feel and I don’t feel like they’ve got my back or have empathy—I either give up or just let myself sit with anxiety alone because I don’t feel safe. Safety is key when someone has anxiety because when it hits, there’s really no stopping it. I had a recent experience with anxiety. I was out with friends at a musical and all of the sudden, the walls started closing in, I was sweating like a pig, shaking, couldn’t breathe and right in the middle of the performance, had to be practically carried out because I passed out. Um, yeah, yuck. Usually, something triggers it but this time, I was relaxed, calm and having fun, and then wham. Afterwards, I told my friend who didn’t know I even had anxiety, what happened. Their response was something I wasn’t expecting: “how can I help you in the future if this happens again? What can I do next time to be more helpful? What did I do that wasn’t helpful? What can we avoid that might trigger it? How can I help you?” They said it in such a calm, comforting way that actually floored me. I didn’t know what to say at first. Then I responded, “I don’t really know. No one has really ever asked me that in that way before, so I honestly don’t know how you can help me.” They actually took notes on how to help: water, fresh air, cold towel, affirmations, not making a production out of it, not yelling or getting angry, being patient and staying calm (because that keeps me calm). I was so grateful in that moment. I was expecting judgments, frustration or the usual “I guess I don’t know what that means.”

The other day I was researching anxiety, and came across a blog post and it was so perfect and so beautiful that I have to share the premise of it here. It’s called Validation and Hope vs. Toxic Positivity. I think we’ve all said at some point that we’re struggling with something, and have had someone say “just be happy!” or “you’ll get over it eventually, think positive!” While that’s nice and all, it doesn’t really help the person struggling. It honestly feels like a brush-off, like you don’t really care and you’re just trying to help in the quickest way possible. Because, really…if it were that easy to “just be positive,” don’t you think we’d be doing it already? Yeah. Exactly. The chart below is absolutely perfect. Thank you, Whitney Hawkins Goodman for this. Every single one is perfect, but my favorite is “good vibes only!” as if to say, “well, if you’re not chipper, then you’re not welcome here.” I thought this would be a good thing to maybe print out and keep as either a reminder to yourself in how to respond to someone struggling, or to give to someone so they can see what’s helpful and what’s not.

 

I really believe that if we share our hearts in a loving way, we will all feel a little safer to struggle. Because, it’s ok to struggle. It’s ok to not be ok. And it’s definitely ok to ask for help. Check up on friends who you know are going through something. Take a chance and have a real conversation with them about mental health and how you want to help them. Ask them how you can help and actually listen to them. Sometimes they won’t know how you can help, but if you can be a safe place for them that might be all they need. Believe in yourself, but if you can’t right now, it’s ok! What steps can we take to help you get there?

You’re not alone, trust me.

Xoxo.

What I’m listening to:

“Rescue Me,” One Republic

“The Joke,” Brandi Carlile

“Desiree,” Keith Urban (this song is so old, but it’s been in my top ten all-time favorite songs)

“Maybe It’s Time,” Bradley Cooper (from A Star Is Born)

What I’m reading:
My Story, by Elizabeth Smart

Quick Update!

Hey friends! Just a super quick update here for those following along. I was just informed that the House of Representatives just passed nine bills addressing the Veteran suicide, transition assistance and housing! This is big news! Our voices ARE making a difference!

May is Mental Health Awareness month, so please, if you are suffering from anything–ANYTHING–please reach out to someone. I know it’s hard to do, but believe me, it can save your life. I am not a trained professional by any means, but I am here to listen if you feel sad or lonely. If you are depressed and/or feeling suicidal, please call this number immediately: 800-273-8255. You can also go to this website and chat with someone online: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Remember, you are not alone. You don’t have to face anything alone. YOU MATTER.

Xoxo.

Hey friends. I was hanging out with one of my best friends the other night, and our conversations usually go from totally random to totally deep and introspective. That’s exactly what happened this time, and it’s one of the (many) reasons why I love her—she seems to always pull things out of me that wouldn’t normally go through my mind, and then when I say it out loud, it’s like total mind blown moment. Like, “whoa, Aly. Why didn’t you come to that realization before?!”

So, we were talking about life and people in it, and I said “you know, all I ever wished and prayed for was for him to see his own potential and how beautiful he is at his core. I wanted him to believe in himself as much as I believed in him, and to see his own worth. I think I will pray for him for the rest of my life, regardless of what happens.” My friend just looked at me and said “Alyssa, do you realize what you just said?” Of course I didn’t. “You just said what me, all of our friends wish and pray for YOU. That you see how beautiful your core is. Why don’t you pray that for yourself, too?” Why don’t I? It’s so much easier when I pray for other people than it is to pray for myself. When I help other people. When I try to encourage and lift others up. Why is it so dang hard for us to see our own worth and beauty in ourselves, but so easy to see it in others? I feel like this is an age-old question that I will never fully have the answer to. Ever since I was little, I’ve always been the helper, the picker-upper, the soother, the listener. I always took pride in that. When someone in the family was sick, I would make them tea, bring them soup, and clear my schedule to take care of them. It’s easier to believe in others, than it is to believe in ourselves. Our negative self-talk is damaging on SO many levels.

Truth is, people can tell us for days how worthy we are, but if we don’t feel it in our own hearts we’re never going to fully believe it. I don’t know the secret to believing it/feeling it, but I do know that, for me, it starts with identity. I know I’ve talked about this a lot lately, but it’s because I am so passionate about it and truly, truly believe in it. It is literally one of my top priorities lately in prayer, meditation and study. I can find confidence in who I am at my core, how I was created, and can accept myself. It’s a learning process, and I don’t know if there is anyone on the planet (well, maybe Oprah) who has achieved full, complete acceptance of themselves.

In order to understand who we are in Christ, we have to learn who He is. His attributes. What His incommunicable traits are, and what traits He passed onto us. Trust me, it’s hard! Okay, maybe it’s not that hard for some people…but, it is for me! When I want to do ALL THE THINGS, thinking I have unlimited time, I have to shake myself into reality and remind myself that I am only human. As much as I want to do it all, see it all, say it all, I simply can’t. And that’s okay. If you want to read a great book on learning about God’s attributes, check out my recommendation below. Read along with me!

May is Mental Health Awareness month, and I want to let you all know that if you’re struggling, reach out for help. Whether it’s a friend, family member, teacher, neighbor, co-worker, therapist, pastor, whoever…there is power in asking for help. It’s a sign of strength and courage. You don’t have to go it alone. Oh, how I wish I could throw my arms around each one you and tell you that you are loved and cared for! Want to shoot me a message? Do it! letsallbefriends1@gmail.com

I just want to encourage you all to take a minute to tell yourself you’re worthy and your past doesn’t define YOU or your future, unless you let it. When you finally learn who you truly are and what you’re truly capable of, you can be unstoppable. Let’s be unstoppable together.

Xoxo.

What I’m listening to:

“Lebanon,” J.S. Ondara

“More Hearts Than Mine,” Ingrid Andress

“Dreamers,” Jack Savoretti

“A Letter To My Mama,” Vince Gill (have a Kleenex for this one)

What I’m reading:

In His Image, by Jen Wilkins (amazing book!!)

Why you gotta be so judgy?!

Ok, that’s not a real word. I made it up, what of it?!

We all do it. There isn’t one person on this earth that hasn’t done it. Sometimes we feel guilty afterwards, sometimes we feel it’s justified. Judgments. We weren’t born with this trait, just like hate, it’s something we learn. It’s a yucky trait, but some people don’t really do anything about it (or even notice they’re doing it) because this is just how society is these days. Turn on the TV, you’ll hear lots of it in shows, movies. Listen to the news and it’s all about what politician is judging another politician.

We post pictures, quotes, diatribes about how we need to let everyone be who they are—110%, but yet we judge others for not believing what we believe in. We attack them. You’re not a democrat? Shame on you. You’re not a republican? Peace out. You don’t believe in same-sex marriage? Well, we need to protest this. You donate money to rebuild a cathedral? Well, they have enough money, so let’s protest that, too, because other things need your money instead. I mean, it’s constant. It seems like people can’t really seem to do anything anymore without backlash from someone, somewhere. You’re told to embrace who you are, but then get judged for the way you cut your hair or the style of clothes you’re wearing. We’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. It seems like we’ve fallen so backwards that we can’t even notice a good deed when it hits us in the face. Sometimes I get fed up, thinking what’s the point of even trying? Is this even helping anyone? Does anyone even read this?

What is judging someone accomplishing for us? Is it adding to the quality of our lives? And yes, I’m speaking to myself, too, because I’m just as guilty as you are, as everyone is. But, where is the line? People get bullied so badly every single day that they are taking their own lives. Let that sink in. They are ending their lives because they don’t feel good enough…because someone judged them. Or they’re judging themselves. Whatever the reason, I spend a lot of time thinking and praying about this lately. Like, a lot of time. Ok, so it consumed me. But, I just felt like this was something that has been on my heart lately and I started to let it make me so frustrated (which totally defeats my point, actually). We are not called to judge or hate others. We aren’t even called to do a certain specific job here on earth. We were created to love one another. LOVE. That is, really, God’s will for us. It isn’t a career, a location, a specific house. It’s love. Love doesn’t include making fun of, laughing at, calling names, judging, asking someone to be something they’re not, asking someone to change who they are just because it will make you feel more comfortable. Love is accepting others as they are. Not tolerating disrespect. Loving yourself. Respecting who someone else loves, regardless if it is what you believe in. We don’t get to decide who we should love. We are called to love everyone. Just think if everyone just loved one another. Smiled at a stranger. Gave compliments to someone. Helped someone without expecting anything in return. Listened without responding. Talked without anger. I mean, realistically, we are human, too. We all get angry. But it’s what you do with that anger. Which is another topic I won’t get into. But, really. Think about what this world would be like if we just loved instead. I mean, dang!

Judging others is just perpetuating the problem. It isn’t solving anything. Seriously, you guys. Just let people be who they want to be. I’m sure you want people to let you be who you are, right? Extend that same courtesy to others. You may not agree with everything they say, do, believe in, but everyone deserves respect. You can still love people and not agree with everything they say. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but just show them respect and love. Kindness. Gentleness. And you need to love yourself before you can ever love anyone else. Spend time with yourself, and extend grace, compassion and forgiveness towards YOU. You deserve that. Everyone does.

If you’re reading this (anyone? anyone?!) I want you to know that I love you. Whether I know you, we’re strangers…whatever. I want you to know that you matter. Your opinions matter. Your heart matters. Your core matters. Don’t be afraid to let your inner light shine. The world needs you and your heart. Reach out to me. Seriously, shoot me a message. I love you. Always.

Xoxo.