Force Quit on your Losing Streak

Almost a month in, and I’ve stuck to the most important of my new year resolutions: to grow in faith. At the end of last year, I was at odds with relationships in my life and wanted to turn everything over to God. Not only would dedicating the New Year to God bring me closer to Jesus, I felt doing so would also give me the answers I needed to mend the troubles I was having.

2017

In order to hold myself accountable, I made a list of 12 people in my life I wanted to either improve my relationship with or needed to forgive; I make a similar list of 12 topics I wanted to focus on, in order to be a better Christian. I decided I would consciously pray each day for the person I dedicated that month to, and would read specific scripture each day addressing the topic of the month.
The list included subjects such as my parents, my sister, specific friends, my desire for a boyfriend, and working to overcome the negative perception of news. Topics included forgiveness, jealousy, worry, judgment, and being enough for myself.

What I’ve learned in my first month is that both mending and growing relationships, with people and God, takes time. I approached the resolution with optimism and was quickly rewarded with lines of open communication between me and the person I chose for January. But praying and reading the Bible does not automatically grant me positive mending every day. I’ve learned this is a process – there will be days I feel I’ve taken a step back. Yet, overall, I feel more complete. In just one month, a peace has overcome me. While I know there will be days and months full of ups and downs in 2017, I also know I have a God that I can always turn to. And as I grow in this journey, I hope to learn how to better listen and hear His voice, in all the times I turn to Him.

 

Disclaimer: I have not stuck to my resolutions to practice French twice a week or practice piano three days a week.

Make Following Your Heart the Whole Point

Dropping to my knees, I cried out to God, “What do you want from me?” Physical heartache is a real thing, except, at the age of 23, it wasn’t a boy I was sobbing over; it was a different type of soul mate.
My new year resolution was to look toward God for an answer: where did He want me? Driving to my third-shift schedule each day, I began listening to Christian radio stations. Truthfully, it was because they were one of only a few stations I could count on to have music, rather than commercials, as I drove through the dark. But they also became a source of answers. I asked God to tell me where He wanted me – and hoped He’d reveal the answer through one of the song

When Nothing is Sure, Everything is Possible.

In the five months that lead up to the moment I found myself crying on my bedroom floor, I felt His guidance answer both “go” and “stay” in nearly every aspect of my life: through the songs on the radio, through discussions with friends, and through readings at church. Yet on that day in May, with each new breath I drew in, the only thing I felt was defeat.
I had been striving to get a job in my dream city, Austin, for nearly a year. And for nearly a year I’ve been faced with one rejected application after another. I was often asked why I loved Austin so much, and I never had a good enough answer for even myself. I didn’t know what drew me to Austin, but I knew I had to get there.
After the failed application in May, I began to think more heavily about leaving my current life, and simply moving to the Texas capital, without the means to pay for rent. Without a clear answer from God through music or prayer, I simply thought, “He wouldn’t give me this desire without a reason. I must need to be there.”

Be Fearless in What You Want.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend quitting a job to move to a city without another job to most anyone. But I didn’t feel I had any other choice. It wasn’t just that I wanted to be in Austin; I was so unhappy where I was living and felt my life had no meaning. Time after time, I tried to make the move, and for one reason or another, the efforts never worked out.
Hunched over my computer with an Excel spreadsheet open, I crunched the numbers another day. I did everything I could to save up as much as I could, so that I could pay rent for as long as it took to stand out to an employer – at least enough for one to say to me, “You’re hired!” Even as my savings grew, stress poured from every pore on my body.
But as always, God had a plan. He never leads us where He can’t provide.

When You do Things God’s Way, You Get God’s Results.

On August 19th, 2015, I pulled away from my friend’s apartment, where I had been staying for two weeks until I could move into my apartment in Austin, and left Lubbock in my rear view mirror. I moved into the cheapest apartment I could find, with three randomly-selected roommates. And as God would have it – it was one of those roommates that would help me land a job.
Twenty-two days after driving six hours from one end of the state to the other, my phone rang. I got a job.

Everything You Are Going Through is Preparing You For What You Asked For.

Looking through my phone a few months ago, I stumbled upon an email draft for a blog post I later wrote. Instead of deleting it, I kept it as a nice reminder of how quickly God can turn seemingly hopeless situations into moments of joy.
Dated September 25, 2015 – one month after I moved to Austin and days after I started my new job – I wrote, “If you are wondering if it will be worth it, it will. If you question if you can do it, you can.
At my lowest point, I told myself, making it to my goal and living out my dream would be great, but it wouldn’t be worth the pain in that moment.
I was wrong.
All the pain, all the doubts, all the worry that haunted me, day in and day out, vanished with the call that I had gotten a job. The next time I drove down the road and turned to see the Austin skyline paint itself across the sky, I thought: ‘I live here. This is my life.’
And just like that, a year worth of desire was satisfied.”
It’s amazing to me, when I look back on the last year of my life. There are so many moments I reflect upon and think, “If I took control of my life, rather than hand it over to God, there’s no telling where I’d be.”
If I had moved any of the given times I tried to, I wouldn’t have met my roommate. If I moved into any other apartment complex, I wouldn’t have a stranger-turned-friend to thank for my first job in Austin.

Take Every Risk. Drop Every Fear.

Though my mother came to Texas to help me move in, I never truly felt full support from either of one my parents to quit a job and move somewhere without one to replace it. While growing up in a loving and supportive household, I’ve always had different dreams and desires than my parents. After each phone call home filled with tears, I wondered if they truly understood what this dream meant to me. Three days before I received the call that I was no longer unemployed, I sent this email to my mom.
“Thought I would share this happy thought with you…
I knew moving to Austin would make me happy eventually, but I didn’t know how happy it would make me, or how long it would take. Aka, how much moving was the “fix” I needed in my life.
A couple weeks ago in church, after the sermon when they stand up and list off prayers (“Lord, hear our prayer”), the last one is always ‘and for those intentions held in the silence of your heart.’ For more than a year I asked for a job in Austin, to move to Austin, for a way to get to Austin, etc. For the first time since I can remember, I literally stopped because I didn’t have a prayer. In the moment of silence, I could not think of one single thing to ask God for; I had it all. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I could not have even imagined what it would feel like. Pure happiness. Knowing I made the right choice; that I’m in the exact place God wants me.”

I still struggle to explain it to people – when they ask me what it is I love about Austin so much – but I no longer struggle for an answer myself. I call Austin my soul mate because it is for me exactly what I always imagined a spouse would be. Austin makes me what to be a better person; the city makes me what to go out, experience live, and fall asleep happy. In a way, my heart was broken a year and a half ago, just as in a breakup, when yet another rejected application meant at least one more day away from the place that makes me feel most authentic.
Going through the unhappiness and the struggle of trying to figure out what to do with my life and where to live it, brought me closer to God. In an effort to know all the answers, I developed a new relationship with The Lord, like one I hadn’t experienced before.
I still don’t have all the answers. I don’t know God’s plan for my life or why He put this desire and love for Austin on my heart, but never before in my life have I ever felt as if I was any more in the right place at the right time, as when I drive by the city’s skyline. Whatever His plan is, I know that I am living it out.

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Collect Moments, Not Things.

Indulge endlessly in all that inspires your soul. You’ll never get bored.

“When we submit to God’s plans, we can trust our desires. Our assignment is found at the intersection of God’s plan and our pleasures… Each of us has been made to serve God in a unique way… The longings of your heart, then, are not incidental; they are critical messages. The desires of your heart are not to be ignored; they are to be consulted. As the wind turns the weather vane, so God uses your passions to turn your life. God is too gracious to ask you to do something you hate.”

As Christians, we are taught to follow God’s Plan for our lives, and ask for His guidance when we feel lost. Mere months after getting the promotion I asked and worked hard for, I found myself, instead, being pulled down a different, but old and familiar path. So I prayed, asking God for a sign. Days later, I read the devotional above, and knew the path I felt compelled to walk again is exactly where God was leading me.

A year ago, I left my news job in Lubbock to live out my life in Austin. “You’ll miss it,” one coworker told me my final day. Though the possibility of that becoming truth couldn’t formulate in my mind at the time, his words never left me. Now, just 12 months later, I was feeling pulled back into the newsroom. I did miss it.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift; the purpose is to give it away.” I’m not sure whether to attribute the quotation to Pablo Picasso, William Shakespeare, or some other person, but it seemed fitting, reading it the same week I was offered a job back in news – this time where I feel most at home, in Austin. The process of applying, interviewing, and accepting the offer went so quickly, I knew I was not only following the desires of my heart, but also the path God created for my life.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

God wants us to thrive, so everyone sees the beauty of Him, through us. I left the news industry because I felt discouraged and distraught, but that doesn’t mean being a part of the industry wasn’t part of God’s Plan; it just wasn’t His timing. I believe God puts passions on our hearts as signs, leading us down the path He has mapped out for our lives. If you wake up each morning and ask yourself what God’s Purpose is for your life, take a moment to think about the scenarios you daydream about, what inspires you, and what persuades you to be a better version of yourself. I truly believe living in Austin and working for the news are two passions God placed on my heart for very deliberate purposes, and at very deliberate times.
And I couldn’t be more grateful that He did.

God Bless Texas

“I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study, and the passionate possession of all Texans.”

– John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

It’s been six months since I’ve moved to Austin, and I’m more in love with Texas than ever before. When I moved to Lubbock 5 1/2 years ago, I questioned why all my classmates were obsessed with the state. I didn’t have anything against Texas, but their obsessive love made me defend my belief that it was “just a state,” as was every other state. Nothing special.

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At work a few weeks ago, my boss interrupted me to point out, “the girl from Ohio is wearing a Texas necklace.” The tables have turned.

A week before receiving the gold chained state with a heart precisely where Austin resides, I gushed to my cousins about how great Texas is, in an attempt to get everyone to move to my oasis. The truth is, I’ve become that boastful Texan, proud to flaunt my license and ready at any moment to talk about my Lone Star home.

But I don’t think the expansive landscape is what caused me to fall head over heels; it’s that, this place I call home, is what shaped me into the woman I am today. Stepping out from everything I knew at 18, to come to Texas for school, alone, forced me to define who I wanted to be.

Now, more than five years later, I can look back and see the transformation and growth my life has lived. I am proud of whom I’ve become, what I stand for, how I present myself, and where I foresee myself going next. Discovering myself has brought happiness to my life, and recognizing that happiness makes me want to help others find their happiness, which, spoken like any good Texan, means moving South.

You can’t stop being who you are because you’re afraid, right?

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit how many life lessons I’ve learned from Sex and the City. While I don’t claim to have any of their lives, those four girls have been through as much with me as my real friends.

Promise

This week, I needed those girls. After months of trying to move to Austin because the city is everything I love, I had two potential job offers. I wasn’t crazy about either one, but was overly excited about the possibility of calling one of my favorite cities, home. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t share those same feelings of excitement, when I shared with them my future life plans. So… breakdown. Or a reconsidering of life; whichever you prefer.

Unhappy with one aspect of my life, I was ready to throw everything away to satisfy it. In my mind, Austin could fix all my problems, when, in reality, the city itself can only fix my address. After reading the article “When Risking it All for God Means Staying Where You Are” (among a number of other “signs” I purposely ignored thinking I knew better), I realized I was going to lose who I was, for a life that wouldn’t necessary make me happy or anymore “me.”

While I am afraid the unhappy aspects of my current situation will become my “forever life,” I know deep down they won’t.
You’ve heard it before; life is too short to settle. So, I’m going after what I want. And ignoring the things I know won’t bring happiness or purpose to my life.

There’s more to life than being happy

Having it all. A lot of people think it’s this balancing act. Great job. Perfect kids. Gorgeous husband. Money. Vacations in The Hamptons.

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I’m a little simpler. I thought having it all meant being happy. Whatever makes YOU happy. If what makes you happy is that balancing act, great.

For me, dreaming about moving in Austin, Texas where I can live an active life and try new things every weekend makes me happy.

But constantly searching for happiness left me discouraged with ever roadblock and challenge that came my way. Then I stumbled upon an online article at The Atlanic that changed my mind. It’s not happiness you should search for, it read, but meaning.

I used to think the two basically meant the same thing. If you’re happy, you probably have some feeling of meaning in your life, and if you feel like you have meaning in your life, you’re probably pretty happy. I now see how the two are different, but I still think they go hand-in-hand.
Finding meaning can lead to a fulfilled life, even though it requires sacrifices that may not always make you happy. Living a meaningful life means giving, which may include giving up sleeping in on Saturdays to volunteer somewhere. But I think in time, the sacrifices won’t seem much like sacrifices. And you can find happiness in the giving nature your life becomes.

So I’m going to start searching for a meaning instead of simply happiness. Go along with where I’m being lead and what I’m being dealt. I don’t know what sacrifices I’ll have to make, but I hope in time, even they will bring meaning and happiness to my life.

Strive each day to become a better person

One of the ongoing assignments in a journalism class of mine is to write a blog with two posts a week, on a single topic. Sounds easy, but it is not as easy to do on top of many other obligations.
A classmate and I were discussing our distaste towards our blogs as the end of school nears and other things seem more important. She said to me, “I don’t even read blogs.”

As any working or studying individual, I know how busy life can get and how easy it is to get overwhelmed. I currently am a full-time student, working part-time, looking for a summer internship, setting up housing for next year and a way to pay for my study abroad trip this summer, while making myself stand out to employers in a year when I will find myself as a college graduate. It is a lot. But isn’t it better to work hard now, and be happy with your situation in a few years, than just meander through?

It is important to strive each day to become a better person, student and potential employee in my mind. It is necessary to stay up late reading the news and subscribing to blogs, as a journalism student. It is important to experience the world as a study abroad student, regardless of the money right now, as an aspiring travel writer.

It is important to look around at others and empathize with their situation, as we are all struggling and tried at times, but it is also important to keep in mind the reason we all experience this mutual feeling: To get to a happier and more successful state in life. We can do it!

Here are some blogs that I like or have liked in the past. Most of them I knew the people writing them and was introduced that way, but there are so many interesting blogs out there.

Food: http://culinarycreationsfromlakeclearwater.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/grilled-chicken-and-fresh-fruit-salad/

Travel: http://worldtravelerkp.blogspot.com/
http://baystultz.blogspot.com/
http://laurenlppetersen.wordpress.com/

Fashion: http://www.collegefashionista.com/author/sydneyspaulding/