26. Practicing Gratitude.

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I am about to usher in my 26th year of life. It’s a little daunting to be on this side of 25…the other side, it sounds dark and menacing, but it’s really not too bad… more days than not I am confident about who I am and who God created me to be. I understand pain in a deeper way and find immense appreciation for the sweet, joyful moments of life. I’m slowly learning to let go with each passing year and never stop embracing my quirky uniqueness. I avidly pursue living authentically in a vulnerable community and am blessed with relationships that help me better understand who God is. Twenty-six isn’t so bad.

“Gratitude. Choose joy. Be present. Abide in Him.” My little mantras for life and right now I’m focusing on practicing gratitude.

I have had 25 years full of incredible people who have provided care, support, development, and relationships. Dirty diapers, manners, Jesus, and subtraction; laughter, tears, mistakes and success; performances, car rides, the dinner table; sleepovers, vacations, late night chats; and coffee…oh, so much coffee. So many moments in life where people have deeply shaped and influenced the woman that I am today and I believe that it is time to say thank you.

I find myself scrolling through facebook, instagram, and twitter catching up on the lives of people I’ve shared a piece of life with in the past or present. My mind often wanders and I get caught up reflecting on memories and defining moments, and consider the ways that these wonderful people have taught me about life and impacted my journey forever. It’s great that I am thankful for these relationships, but what good is it if those thoughts stay in my head, my abounding gratitude never to be known. I’ve decided I want the people that have influenced me most to know just how thankful I am and why.

So I am. Today I’m mailing about 28 thank you notes and seeking to say, “thank you” more often.

Twenty-six isn’t so bad because I have so many people to thank.

Practice Gratitude.

The Lighthouse: a note to college grads

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I grew up over looking the shores of Lake Michigan. There is a remnant of an old lighthouse that used to sit out far in the middle of the lake. Each year two men would be selected to live in and run the lighthouse; they were dependent on boats to bring food, supplies, and provide transportation. During the frigid Wisconsin winters, the lighthouse attendants were surrounded by the cold, frothy whitecaps and icy, dark water. Isolated. Alone.

I was talking to a friend who recently graduated from college and I can’t help but believe that a lot of college grads share a similar experience with feeling alone, like the lighthouse.

Often for the first time in a young adults’ life the true experience of loneliness and isolation is encountered. They no longer live with their gal pals or the bros and do not have access to peers at every turn. Where did my community go and how do I find it again? I often hear people say.

This loss of community coupled with a drastic move across the country, a demanding entry-level position, feeling stagnant and stuck in the same town, or a dizzying approach to discovering and often re-discovering one’s calling can be extraordinarily discouraging. It becomes easy to hide away, order take-out, delve into Netflix making Joey, Pheobe, Monica, Chandler, Rachel and Ross your closest friends, all while scrolling through Facebook and Instagram watching your college friends live thrilling and productive lives.

Does this hit home for anyone besides me?

The lesson I learned and clinged to after college was DO SOMETHING! Do your best to be active in your use of time and place God has given you:

  • Find a church and get involved.
  • Not too happy with your job or thinking about changing directions? Network – ask people who are in your field of interest to coffee, hear their story and make a connection. Volunteer your free time in that field to build your resume. You can’t sit around and wait for the perfect job or you’ll still be sitting for years to come
  • Find a mentor
  • You want to meet people? Join a community organization that fits your interest; take a class for fun; volunteer; join a gym; choose to eat your dinner at the restaurant’s bar and get to know the person sitting next to you.
  • Find something productive to occupy your time. Most I know have a list of books they say they’d like to read when they get the time – now is your chance. Explore the place you live! Engage in a hobby or activity that you’ve wanted to learn or improve. For me it was cooking and writing, but it the options are endless. Set goals to keep yourself motivated.
  • Be intentional with the friends you want to keep, this can be a full time job by itself. Sending texts of thoughtfulness and regularly scheduling phone or skype dates is important if you expect to maintain relationships – they’ll either grow or go and this is the season that determines that
  • Don’t rush your time with the Lord. It’s okay to feel alone, tell God how you feel and ask him to remind you of His presence each day.

Make the most of where you are and expect that God will meet your needs, He has given you this season for a reason.

I am encouraged when I remember that God provides our daily bread. He gives us all that we need and we were not created to live life alone. I believe that God provides community – the key is to actively look for it and receive it with open hands. I never would have expected my most life-giving community in Los Angeles to be a young family, but it was exactly what I needed and what the Lord provided. From first glance, it looked like opposite stages of life, grad school versus team potty training, and yet life together was so incredibly impactful. Our culture and the church often categorize us according to distinct life stages, while sometimes appropriate, I think it prevents us from engaging in the everyday together. Be open to receive God’s gifts of community even if it is not what you expected.

And absolutely, I had and still do experience lonely, isolating moments mirroring that of the old lighthouse in Lake Michigan. I find myself saying, “Okay God, it’s you and me,” and that’s the beautiful thing, even at our loneliest and most isolated we are never alone. Let the Lord comfort you in your loneliness, give you strength to live this post-college life well, and provide courage to grow greatly where you are today.