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Wow, it’s December 30, 2014.  What a year!  I am so grateful for the many lessons that I was blessed to learn this year and here are just a few that I’d like to highlight.

10. Don’t be afraid.
This sounds so easy, right? Right.  I don’t think I’ve been shy about discussing ways in which I have struggled with my personal fears and how they have, in some ways, stopped me from doing certain things in my life.  Even as recently as the past few weeks, I have struggled with fears of rejection, failure, loneliness, mediocrity, being misunderstood, and not being good enough.  I have struggled with whether I really have anything to contribute that is legitimate, powerful, and worthwhile.  But what I’ve had to realize about my fears is that they all have to do with how much power I put into others’ hands to determine my worth.  The questions at the base of my fears always leads back to what others will like or how others will accept me.  I can no longer live like that.  Since I’ve been working to process through the fears and to be less afraid (yea, even fearless) about who I am and the decisions I choose to make, there have been more doors that have opened to me and for me.  Fearlessness is not an automatic response for me so I do have to work at it.  But as I have been able to see in 2014, when I push my fears aside and walk ahead in faith (especially in matters where I’ve been reassured by the Father that He will take care of me), the results have been miraculous.  Try it.

9. People will do what’s best for them.  Don’t let that make or break you.
A big girl lesson.  This one is still hard for me since I have intimately felt the effects of people “doing what’s best for them” as late as a few days ago.  As a person who endeavors to invest much of myself into the lives of those I love, it can be super hard when people make decisions that solely have themselves in mind, and is seemingly without regard to others’ (my) feelings.  People WILL live their lives the way they see fit and make decisions that benefit themselves the most.  For you, that might mean hurt, confusion, and tears.  However, it is important that life for you does not stop when others exercise their self-autonomy.  The strength of who you are and what you stand for should not be based on anyone else to the point where it makes you or breaks you.  Acknowledge and confront the hurt and move on.

8. Be OK with messed up plans.

life not planned

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I think I could write a book on this lesson.  There are some plans in life which will not happen the way you want them to happen and within the timeframe you want them to happen, no matter how much prayer, hustle, and grind you put on them.  It’s hard not to idealize this concept on either side of the spectrum (on one end, “just work hard and all your dreams will come true” and on the other, “things will happen the way that they are supposed to.”).  There is some level of truth to both concepts and I think most people will discover that life is somewhere between those two ideations.  I just want to save people from the heartache I went through when I didn’t get my PhD by 28, or married by 26, or become a house owner five years after my graduation from Penn State.  Many of those concrete plans did not happen when I wanted them to and I honestly have no clue when/if they will happen.  However, I have, with time, been able to come to grips with the way things have happened and how my messed up plans have birthed great things in my life (i.e.- this blog).  So be at peace…and never stop working and reevaluating!

7. Push yourself above and beyond your comfort zone.
I like getting into certain patterns and feeling comfortable around certain people and living life in comfortable spaces.  But nothing about 2014, if it was going to be better than 2013, was going to be comfortable.  So I did what I had to do (and you, my beloveds, have been on some of that journey with me).  But the growth and joy that has come as a result of the stretching and discomfort located outside the comfort zone has made it all worth it.  Try it…you’ll see.

6. The power of #ThanksForAsking.

thanks for asking

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I have come to love Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks.  You wanna know why?  He doesn’t have any cares to give about what people think about him and he refuses to be bullied into something he does not want to do.  He might actually be a top contender for the position of my spirit animal.  Earlier in the season he was fined for refusing to give a post game interview.  So do you know what this dear child of God did?  He gave them post-game interviews…providing the same answer to every question, regardless of the question.  In one interview, the answer was some deviation of “Thanks for asking.”  I got a nice chuckle out of this but as I thought about this act of defiance, it gave me something to really think about.  People are always going to have questions and sometimes they will try to force you to answer to them about your decisions and your performance.  The way I see it, thanks to Marshawn, is that you can a) answer their questions truthfully, b) not answer their questions at all, c) tell them “Thanks for asking” and go about your business.  The last option is optimal for me…and so much more entertaining.

5. Give yourself time to come into your own.  It will happen when it is supposed to.
I didn’t understand this until this year.  There were so many things that I used to wish that I had experienced earlier but in light of where I am now, I am confident that my evolution into the woman that I am today happened the way it was supposed to happen, bruises and all.  My journey is my journey and I will evolve in the way and within the timing that is best for me.

4. Bitterness DOES NOT have to be your course of action.
*cues Luke James “…all I’m trying to say is we got options…”*.  Bitterness can be such an attractive option after major hurt.  I will never take that away from anyone because I know for myself! (*inserts church mother rock*).  HOWEVER, it is also the easier and least healthy way of dealing with things.  It also gives recurrent power to the situations and people who have hurt you.  For every moment of bitterness, you are giving up a moment of potential happiness and mental healthiness, you are giving up untainted future moments that can be had or made.  I just want to encourage someone out there to remember that you have options besides bitterness.  You have the options of healing and forgiveness.  And these options may not be easily attained by yourself, so you may want to consider a medium to help you work through issues (i.e. – therapy, yoga, writing, etc.).  And that is OK.  Just don’t be deceived into picking the pain over and over through bitterness.

3. Every move/decision you make should not be readily available for public consumption or approval.

silence

Everyone is not happy for you.  Everyone is not against you, either.  But practicing discretion is a discipline that is always in order.  Also, not engaging in behaviors that fuel your “need” for others’ approval is in order too,  I think that’s as deep as this one is.

2. If someone shows you who they are, believe them.
No seriously…do not pass GO and do not collect $200.  This is a little easier when we don’t particularly care for someone from the beginning.  But when we come to like and love people, it can be tempting to think that people are the way they originally presented themselves. especially when it caters to certain needs in ourselves.  This is particularly true in romantic relationships.  Most people are good at presenting polished version of themselves in the beginning and then over time, you come to see people for who they are and who they are not.  When we love people, it can be so easy for us to dismiss signs and red flags that may appear.  2014 has reinforced the words of Dr. Maya Angelou over and over and I’m finally understanding how important this is.  People are flawed so there will never be a perfect situation with a perfect partner, but wisdom is paramount in relational dealings.

1. Be authentically you and love you better than anyone else can.

IMG_0585

There isn’t much else to be said.  The world will not benefit from you being anyone but yourself.  And because you were created with love by God who is love, it is only natural that love should be something that you operate in – both with yourself and others.

Bonus points (because I love ya!):
1. Every person who has hurt you has not done so simply because he/she is evil.  Some people have only experienced hurt and therefore the norm for them is hurt.  Keep this in mind.  This does not mean that you avail yourself to be the recipient of someone’s brokenness (point them to the nearest therapist and send up a prayer).  And it certainly doesn’t make the hurt any less but it does help you keep in mind people’s humanity.

2. Don’t hesitate to laugh, dance, and celebrate with friends (and by yourself!) as much as possible.

Thank you for walking with me through 2014!  I’m certainly looking forward to what 2015 will bring.

Cheers family,

xo Ash

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