walking alone on road through forest

The More the Merrier: Why It’s Not the Case When It Comes to Friends.

Something I remember so vividly on my last day of school is that one line your friends would say: “I’m going to miss you so much!” followed by my personal favourite, “we will keep in touch”.  Yeah, we all know how that ends.

Inevitably, life happens and we get busy. Friends drift and you often find yourself spending time with other people. Can I just be super upfront and say what we all might be thinking? Friendships are hard. After school, everything changes. You have to start putting in the effort to make time to see each other.

Something I’ve noticed as I’ve grown up is that I am a full-time people pleaser. Other things I have learnt over the years is that I am extroverted, have a fear of missing out and love being around people. I often hold grudges, but I also give second, third and fourth chances way too easily. I try to convince myself that I don’t care about what other people think, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I too often seek validation from people.

GIF of Phoebe from TV show FRIENDS saying "I'm a really cool person".

When it comes to friendships, I’m the type of person who will make up excuses on your behalf. If you’ve been acting a little distant or perhaps hurt me in the past, I’ll analyse my side of the friendship and blame myself for whatever went wrong — failing to appreciate that it is in fact a two way street.

The last year or so has challenged me to determine who my true friends are and one huge lesson I have learnt is that often, ‘more’ doesn’t always equate to ‘merrier’ when it comes to friends. I’m not saying you won’t be happy if you have lots of friends, I’m saying your priority needs to lie within quality not quantity.

At the end of last year, I prayed really hard about all of my friends. I asked for clarity in determining who was meant to be in my life and reassurance, as well as acceptance for those who were perhaps meant to drift.

You see, I’m not great at losing friends. In fact, I hate it. Whenever I feel a friend becoming distant, nine times out of ten I will hold onto them with both hands, doing all that I can not to lose them. I will put in more effort, rather than realising that relationships of any sort require equal effort to work. In other words: you can’t be the only one doing it all. Perhaps some people have been placed in your life in a particular season for a certain reason.

So long story short: I kept praying. And here’s where the God-things happened. They say good things come in threes and these following three weeks definitely lived up to that saying.

god-thing #1:

A friend from university messaged me and we organised a time to catch up. We had met in our first class and ever since, our friendship had grown stronger. We just clicked; sharing the same passions, clumsiness and cheesy sense of humour.

We had lunch together and talked about our dreams for the year. Driving home that afternoon I realised that this friend had been placed in my life for a reason. I felt so encouraged and completely motivated to kick my goals. She believed in me and I believed in her. A friendship centred on empowerment, rather than competition.

god-thing #2:

I kept praying. A week later I attended a youth camp filled with amazing people and incredible programs. After one of the night programs, one of my closest friends and I were catching up. Despite a crazy nine years of friendship, we have had our fair share of ups and downs. We have experienced distance not only physically, but sometimes emotionally too, due to living so far away.

We spoke for a while about life and before we knew it we had moved away from the crowds, positioning ourselves outside in the middle of the campground. Two plastic chairs with two vulnerable women seated, placing their hearts before God. We prayed for each other. Hard. We took turns speaking words of encouragement and affirmation over one another and with tear-stained cheeks, I can honestly say that it was one of the most powerful things that we have both experienced together.

god-thing #3:

I kept praying. A few days before the youth camp a friend from high-school sent me a text asking how I was. Since leaving school, we have caught up a few times and it’s one of those friendships that pick up right where you left off, no matter how long it’s been since you saw one another last.

After a few lengthy texts back and forth over the course of almost two weeks, we figured it’d be easier to call. Fast forward two hours and we had covered a lot of ground. Turns out we were both experiencing the same period in our lives, trying to filter through our list of acquaintances and work out who was genuinely a friend. We ended up meeting up for lunch a few days later, but the entire time we both realised how grateful we were for people who put in the effort to just show up and be present.

These three separate friends and three separate events showed me that God was not only listening to my prayers, but He had in fact answered them. These friends had been placed in my life for a reason and while each person came from a completely different walk of life, they shared one common purpose in mine: they were my cheerleaders.

And no, I don’t mean they all brought pom poms and started chanting for me when we caught up (although, I’d be totally cool with that too). But they were placed in my life to speak words of encouragement, affirmation and empowerment into both my heart and mind. To truly believe in me. To genuinely care. To be accepting and open. To be authentic and real. To listen. To be a cheerleader.

two friends hugging

I truly believe that God places these people in your life to be a prominent reminder of the way He cares and loves for you. After all, life is all about people. Finding others to journey alongside through it all and experience things with. Having relationships where the effort is mutual and you are both cheering one another on. And you know what? God is continuing to show me who those people are.

Life is not about being alone, but it’s also not about surrounding yourself with so many people you feel lost. There are many people who have lots of friends, and yet they still feel lonely. That’s not what life is about.

We often fail to remember that our timing is not always aligned with God’s timing. This year, trust His plan for you — including the people He is placing in your life and those He is slowly taking out.

Maybe seeking validation from others and striving to please people is actually feeding the emptiness and loneliness that we sometimes experience. Don’t allow yourself to become so dependent on other people for your happiness that your worth diminishes when those people do drift.

Here’s to few friends, but damn good ones.

Keep smiling. x

 

Fear of the Unknown: Then vs. Now

– THEN –

I sat in my bedroom thinking that this time next week, I would be waiting in a hospital room. Waiting to be put to sleep for a short amount of time so they can hopefully find out what part of me isn’t working properly. Short story: yep, I am scared as all heck.

There’s something about the unknown that is, put simply – terrifying. I am a control freak. I want to know what is happening, where, why and when. I want to know everything. I don’t like surprises – unless that surprise has four legs and barks.

My journey with doctor visits and blood tests started roughly ten months ago. I made an appointment with a GP to merely have a chat and build a rapport with a female doctor. At the time, I didn’t really think there was anything wrong with me (albeit, my family and friends like to tell me there’s plenty!) Turns out they were partially right – although, in a different way to what they suggested.

Considering I never really had any record of my health on file, my new doctor suggested I get a blood test. Little did I know that my first blood test would lead to seven more, a diagnosis of iron deficiency, an ultrasound, a brain MRI, three stool tests and (this time next week) a hospital appointment for both a colonoscopy and gastroscopy. Basically: a tube up my bum and a tube down my throat – not at the same time and not the same tube (you know, in case you were wondering). Needless to say, this was all very unexpected and I’m sitting there like:

As you can tell, I try my hardest to make light of an incredibly dull and unexpected situation. The last couple of weeks have been a roller coaster of emotion. I celebrated my twenty-first birthday and started my final semester of university, but amid the excitement and celebration, I couldn’t seem to shake that feeling in the back of mind reminding me of what was just around the corner.

Time has a funny way of slowing down right before the things you don’t want to happen are about to happen. The months before your HSC exams or the days before you have to get your wisdom teeth removed – you just want it to be over, but it tends to feel like forever. That horrible and unsettling feeling inside you starts to bottle itself up. You begin to dread the days right beforehand. No matter how hard you try to direct your focus elsewhere – on happier things, it’s so hard not to revert back to consciously thinking about what is to come.

That’s exactly how I am feeling. Putting on a smile and trying to focus my attention and attitude on the positive by distracting myself by other things. But that’s all it is: a distraction. Focusing on these things isn’t going to do anything about what inevitably has to happen.

– NOW –

I arrived back home from the day surgery not very long ago and considering I was sedated about two hours ago, I am feeling pretty good. The results showed I had a 5mm polyp that the doctor froze off and due to some questions remaining unanswered, I have to complete a pill cam endoscopy test in a week’s time. While I have been feeling fairly bummed this whole time (last pun, I promise), I have learnt so much from this whole experience. The thing that put it all in perspective was the incredible sunrise on the way to the hospital and the amazing sunset that evening. The entire day I had been dreading had both begun and ended with His promise “I am with you, always” and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

sunset 2

These last ten months I have had to do things I haven’t wanted to – time and time again. I have been pushed outside my comfort zone and boy, was it uncomfortable. I whined and cried more than I probably should have, but it all boiled down to the fact that the unknown was well and truly freaking me out.

Another fun fact about me: I overthink everything. I made up situations in my head asking questions like, ‘what if they find something serious?’ or ‘what if this isn’t the end of it all?’ The biggest lesson I have learnt is that in reality, we have no idea what the future holds – whether it be tomorrow, next month or three years from now. But God is a loving and caring God and He knows. We can’t control what happens in life – no matter how much we wish to, but we can control the way we react to situations we face. Fear can paralyse you or mobilise you – it’s your choice.

I still don’t know if this hospital visit will be my first and last, and whether this pill cam endoscopy is the end of it all, but regardless, I am holding onto the promise that God is in control. I have no idea about what is going to happen in the future, but for once in my life, I am coming to terms with the fact that I am okay with that.

“Why would I fear the future? For I am being pursued only by your goodness and unfailing love.” – Psalm 23:6

Whatever you are going through right now – a relationship breakup, hurt within the family, financial struggles, work stress, health problems, battles with your insecurities, whatever – you will make it. You have made it this far already, so I promise you that you will make it. Stop dwelling on the past or the pain that you are feeling now. Focus all of your energy on the good; no matter how small or insignificant you may think it is compared to your struggles. Don’t let fear of the unknown or your doubt and uncertainties cloud your hope or positive energy. Wake up and choose happiness. Stop letting your emotions overpower you. Instead, let God’s unfailing love and abundance of grace overpower your fear.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” – Matthew 6:34

Keep smiling. x

6 Things You Need to Stop Doing Once You’re Twenty.

In a few months, I turn twenty-one. While that is incredibly exciting, in the last year I have realised that this decade of life – your twenties – are, simply put, when everything changes. It is inevitably when life is going to throw you the biggest curveballs of all. Even though I have only really begun my journey into my twenties, I have made a pact with myself to try and change a few things about my thinking and behaviour. So, here are the six things I believe you need to stop doing once you are twenty.

1. Stop being a door mat.
Once you leave school, it’s different. It’s not rocket science – more time and effort has to go into maintaining the friendships you had growing up. Make time for your friends, but don’t forget that it goes both ways. All relationships work better when equal amounts of effort is put in by everyone involved. Some friendships are going to drift and you will feel one of two things: numbness or pain. If it is painful, it mattered. We are taught to stand up for ourselves and not let others use you. You’re not a door mat. Welcome people in to your life, but don’t let those people stand there and wipe their feet clean as they walk all over you. Be a kind person, but don’t let others take that for granted. You deserve friends that treat you right. Don’t you dare settle for less than you deserve.

2. Stop saying yes.
As you get older, you naturally accept more responsibility. Responsibility is great – it not only allows you to show others that you are mature and organised, but you learn how to prioritise and manage your time efficiently. However, don’t forget that you are also allowed to say ‘no’ every once in a while. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Don’t take on so much responsibility that you are no longer passionate or enthusiastic about a certain cause. At the end of the day, those two things are exactly what drives your motivation to do well at something. If you are lacking both passion and enthusiasm, you will find that your performance will gradually decline. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to people. If someone asks you to help them out or take on a particular role, spend some time really considering it, especially if it is a weighty decision. Often if someone knows that you are a ‘yes’ person, they will use you as their go-to person. While you should not feel obliged to always say yes, it doesn’t mean you should stop altogether.

3. Stop saying no.
If you say ‘no’ too frequently, the amount of opportunities that have the potential to come your way will diminish – and it will happen fast. If you close yourself off, then you will never gain that extra bit of experience that could point you in the right direction. Don’t be scared of stepping outside of the confines of your comfort zone. Often, that is where the magic happens. It can be terrifying, don’t get me wrong, but you will always end up better for it on the other end. Whether you have learnt something new or acquired a new skill or maybe even had the opportunity to share your talents with others, you will find that you have also had the chance to grow as well. Sometimes you will get lucky and something new will land in your lap because of a person you have met or something you have done in the past. However, this typically doesn’t always happen, so you need to be open to trying new things. You may be adamant that your internship application will just be a speck in the hundreds of others that apply, but what have you got to lose? Show them you are passionate. Show them you are different from the rest and ready to tackle new challenges head on. Don’t wait for opportunities to find you, actively seek them instead. Patience can only get you so far, but eagerness and a curious mind will always lead you to open doors.

4. Stop waiting for your family to ring you.
Make a conscious decision that once or twice a week you will take five minutes out of your day to ring your family. Whether that is a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin – make it a priority. About a year or two ago,  I realised that I was constantly leaving it up to both my grandmother’s to ring and check up on me. I quickly decided that I wanted this to change. The relationship you have with your family is something so special and I was taking it for granted. Now, I make a conscious effort to ring them both at least once every week or two, depending on how busy my schedule is and what time I get home from Uni or work. Every time I end the phone call or give them a hug goodbye after seeing them, I now make sure I say, ‘love you!’ While this shouldn’t be some crazy, new phenomenon – for some reason it often feels natural to tell our partner that we love them every day, but when it comes to family, we ignore the simple ‘I love you’. Why do we find it so awkward to speak words of affirmation to our family? You don’t want it to be too late and have any regrets, so stop waiting for your family to ring you. Everyone gets busy and fitting in time to have a decent conversation can be difficult, but these relationships are incredibly special and you don’t want to lose that, because you’ll need them more than ever. Never underestimate the importance of a quick phone call or the importance of an ‘I love you’.

5. Stop worrying about what others think of you.
You know what they say – us ‘Millennials’ are experiencing the most severe identity crisis of all. Due to the emergence of social media within the last two decades, it’s pretty damn hard to argue against that. We constantly compare ourselves with the lives of those we may or may not know that appear on our screens. We pick and choose the parts of our lives that we showcase to others and we get so caught up on following the latest trends. We are growing up more socially awkward than ever, because we aren’t used to holding conversations that are not requiring us to only move our fingers and thumbs. We have become one of the most narcissistic generations in history – spending our own time (and sometimes money) trying to acquire people to be interested more in our lives rather than their own. Welcome to 2017! Placing your worth in the values that society has created will do nothing but feed the voices telling you that you will never be enough. If you keep seeking validation from people or things that don’t have the right to be dictating the way you live your life, then you will never be happy. You will find yourself temporarily happy until someone else tells you there is ‘just one more thing’ you can do or change to be even happier – it’s a never-ending cycle. Stop constantly trying to please other people rather than doing things for yourself.

6. Stop thinking you have to ‘do life’ a certain way.
It’s not hard to see why we are so easily falling into the trap of an identity crisis. Individuals asking themselves why their lives don’t quite match up to where it’s “supposed to be”. For starters – that’s a load of poo. The values and ideals that society creates to be ‘normal’ is not reality, but rather an augmented version of it that is unattainable. Stop comparing yourself to where others are in life – whether they are financially stable, have moved out of home, are in a relationship, have an amazing new job, or ha, just have a job. It is completely normal to freak the heck out when you reach your twenties! You not only have a slight existential crisis, but suddenly you realise that oh, this is where it gets real. Society tells you that in the next ten years you should basically have checked graduating, getting your first real job, finding a lifelong partner, moving out of home, potentially moving to another job, getting married, travelling and having kids, off the list. Sounds ideal, right? But who says this is the way it has to go? Set goals and have dreams that you aspire to achieve, but don’t freak out if it’s not all happening the way you planned – because, spoiler alert: it probably won’t.

While I am only skirting around the borders of turning twenty-one, I still have so much to learn when it comes to growing up. All I can say is, every year brings more opportunities to do just that and I will continue to use what I already know to help me become the best version of myself as I work through my twenties. So, to all my twenty-something year old friends out there, this one is for you. Let’s do this crazy decade together.

Keep smiling. x

stop being comfortable

Once I graduated from high school, I stepped outside of that Christian bubble that I had been sheltered by all of my life. I started meeting people at Uni and work who didn’t know God and I was often the only one who did.  It took me a while to understand that this difference facilitated a space for powerful opportunities to take place.

I have realised over the last few years that knowing Jesus and having a relationship with Him is important, but keeping it to yourself has very little impact. I have decided that this year, this is something that I want to change. I am a firm believer that neither your presence nor your absence within the church defines your relationship with God. Rather than solely focus on building and maintaining my current relationships, I want to actively and intentionally seek opportunities to create relationships with people that may not know God yet, so they too can find Jesus.

Personally, I find it easier to talk to strangers about my faith than to my close family or friends who do not share my beliefs. We tend to not only receive more judgement from those who we surround ourselves with on a regular basis, but we also value their opinions so much more. We have always been taught that ‘sharing is caring’, but how come we are so hesitant when it comes to sharing our faith?

I want to challenge myself this year to stop being satisfied with my current position; stop being comfortable. I want to challenge myself to reach beyond my comfort zone. It takes courage and a whole lot of faith, but if I can conquer that fear, then I am sure that amazing things can and will happen.

Keep smiling. x

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Take Two: The Maze

I was asked to write a script for a video that would open the Week of Worship at my old school. The theme was Take Two, reflecting the idea that God is a God of second chances. It took a while, but after a lot of inspiration and work, the Chapel team created something so beautiful with the script, that I wanted to share it on here. I hope you are not only blessed, but encouraged by the words and video below.
– – – – – 
Life is full of crazy things; distractions, temptations – you name it, she’s got it. Sometimes she’s on the highest of highs, but almost just as quick, she can hit her lowest of lows. She had many problems, but she has messed up really bad this time.
Life is confusing, she’s like a maze. Trying to find the way out can be hard and when we hit the dead end more than once, we eventually just give up trying altogether. We get lost, confused and plummet down the spiral, thinking there is no way out of the mess we have landed in. Questions can be difficult to answer and when we can’t find the answers after a lot of searching, the dead ends lead us to nowhere and we think she’s won the game – the challenges life threw got the better of us. What’s the point of trying anymore?
Everything happens, but then everything finishes. So when you feel like your world is on a downwards spiral, remember that spirals eventually get smaller and smaller and when they reach the smallest point, they stop. The struggles you’re going through, the constant disappointment, the fear of not being good enough, the group of mates you thought were your friends, the dead ends you’re facing,- these feelings won’t last forever. You just need to find another path through the maze. Second chances might not make things right, but they help prove that we could be better even after we fall.

So let me ask you again. What is the point of trying anymore? Because although she’s a maze and with a maze comes dead ends, if you keep searching, there’s always a way out. God is the way out of your maze. He will show you forgiveness and give you not only a second chance, but another chance at trying, because when you hit a dead end He wants to turn you 180 degrees and say “Take Two”. 

Keep smiling. x

HSC? Done.

Oh hey life, I’ve missed you. 15 days, 7 exams and 17.5 hours of writing. That’s it. Done. HSCyaLater. 

The stress; the nerves; the last minute cramming; the messy bedroom floor; the endless supply of black pens; the constant struggle of only highlighting the “important parts” but rather making it a challenge to see how little words can be left untouched; the countdown to freedom that feels like it’s taking forever; the past papers and of course, the tears. 

I honestly can’t believe that it is over. It came and it’s gone and it all happened so quickly. I have this theory. You’re either really good at Math or really good at English. And if you are lucky (or not so lucky?) to be blessed with the brains of both, then you have just proven my theory to be wrong. For me, I am definitely not a Math person. Give me words any day, but numbers, no thanks. The only numbers I like to see is your mobile number 😉 *insert cringes and nervous laughter here*. (I know what’ you’re thinking – that was brilliant. You’re welcome). 

It’s funny though, the day before my Math exam I was outside studying in the shade. At one point, I began to feel really overwhelmed with the content I wasn’t confident with. The questions were too hard and I was freaking out. I couldn’t do this. How was I supposed to survive the 3 hour exam tomorrow? I was outside for about two or three hours and during that time the sun had moved (hello captain obvious) and I was now sitting in the sun, getting a mean-as sock tan mind you. 

The simple shift from shade to sunlight made me realise that time doesn’t stop for anyone. Those three hours of absolute hell tomorrow would be over in less than 24 hours. We have to make the most of the time we have right now, because we will never, ever get it back. This motivated me to continue studying and do my best, because in a couple of days all of this would be over. And here I am, out the other end of the dreaded HSC month. 

Everyone has days where we are just sitting in the shade and it is not until the sun moves that we realise time keeps going. Make the most of the time you have with the people you’re with. Enjoy the little things. Simplicity is what reminds us that life is beautiful, despite the HSC exams, the tiring work, the relationship issues…whatever you may be struggling with. Everything happens, but then everything finishes. So when you feel like your world is on a downwards spiral, remember that spirals eventually get smaller and smaller and when they reach the smallest point, they stop. The sun will move soon and the shadow keeping you down will shift. Trust me. 

Keep smiling. x

Flying high.

I was sitting at the park by myself the other day (I have friends, I swear). I was about to open up a book to read but was distracted by a little girl laughing. I watched her as she ran as fast as she could to allow her kite to rise off the ground. Once she had reached top speed the kite started to lift itself into the air. A short time later she began to get tired from running and her run turned into a jog, which quickly converted into a walk then a complete stop. Meanwhile, the kite was losing all its motivation to stay off the grass.

Just before the girl collapsed to the ground exhausted, an older boy, who I assumed was her brother, came to her rescue and collected the kite in his hands. He began running at full speed and with a face full of determination, it was clear that he wasn’t giving up anytime soon. The little girl looked at her brother smiling and found the energy to get up and run along behind him. 
If someone was to ask me what I did at the park that day, they probably would think I am a total creep watching children play. All I know is that those kids taught me a lesson. There are things that are challenging me in life at the moment and sometimes it feels like flying my kite is getting tiring and honestly, it is exhausting. Constantly running to keep it in the air can be difficult and just when we lose all momentum and start to fall behind, our kite begins to drop. The best part is that right before we collapse and feel like we will never get back up again, God comes along and picks up the kite in His hands. He holds onto it and never lets go, running full speed and not losing sight of where we need to be.

So if all you get from this is that maybe watching little kids at the park isn’t all that weird, that’s okay (unless you are a middle-aged man, then that’s not okay). The point is, maybe we can learn something from other people and their actions. Trying to keep your kite off the ground gets difficult sometimes, but we need to remember that just before we give up and it falls, God is there to fly our kite for us and He never lets go. We just have to get on our feet again and run with Him, because when it comes to flying kites, He is the expert.

Keep smiling. x