I just turned 27. In light of a new year ahead of me, I thought I'd recap some of the nuggets  that I've picked up, most of which I've learned the hard way,  from the year behind me.  ( In chronological order!)

1) Do what you can to make peace

Ok, so maybe starting off this way is a tad grim but, I spent the first day of this past year, my 26th birthday, at a funeral, and it was rather sobering. This old friend of mine who I celebrated that day is someone who, in years past, I lost touch with due to some brokenness in relationship and the lack of desire to dive back into the mess and make things right.

On the day of his funeral, I stood with a large group of folks who had also lost touch with him.  I think all of us wondered what it would be like if things had been different. I spent my birthday singing karaoke with his closest friends and family, because it was his favorite thing to do for fun.  Suddenly, whatever drama there was disintegrated  and we celebrated together. It was beautiful, but really... deeply sad.  A few months earlier a lot of us got to hug him and say we loved him when he came and visited church, and that day I was rather grateful I had that chance before he was gone.


    I will say, that sometimes certain relationships are best kept with some separation. I do think that there are folks who are damaging to your life and I have people in my life who I have made the decision to break away from and its quite painful.  Forgive them. Forgive them and make sure there's as much peace as possible in the context of your particular relationship. It doesn't mean you have to let them into your inner circle but, at least let the last words be kind and do what you have to do to know in your own heart that you did what you could to make peace. 

 2)  Listen to yourself- sometimes pushing yourself can be damaging.

Last November I ran a half marathon. I chose to do it not because I wanted to, but because I thought it would make me skinny. I ran another half a few years back and when I was training I was essentially starving myself; eating nothing but rice, beans and veggies. So, I got pretty thin.  I went into that race feeling good about my body and I finished the race with my chin up. I actually finished this last race faster than I did the first, but I was thinking about the size of my body the entire time I trained and with every step of every mile. I finished feeling completely discouraged.  I finished with a deep disgust with myself and it was painful. Not the kind of painful that leads to some victory, either.

I decided at that point that I would do my best to listen to myself, and to treat myself with kindness. This means that I decided that I wouldn't force myself to do things with impure motives. Its a bit of  dance but, I have chosen not to physically push myself because of negative feelings about my body. I WILL push myself because of positive feelings about my body, though. I will push myself when I'm grateful to be healthy and be able to run and dance and I will celebrate this gift by taking care of it.

Sometimes taking care of it means resting it, and taking care of my heart and mind. Sometimes it means being still and letting God care for me first.

3) Get healing now

Look, I've been in and out of therapy for a lot of my life. However vulnerable it is to get help, I am a firm believer in the benefits of getting help from the right therapist, recovery group, prayer counselor, mentor... Whatever it takes.

For whatever your wounds are, don't wait. Whether it was my own healing with the way I see myself, or a friend's healing who waited until a few years into marriage to get help, or other friends who don't want it but desperately need it... I've seen this year that this is the time. Today is the day.

Because when I stop and think about it, I realize I don't want to be 50 and still letting anxiety swallow me whole, I don't want to be 60, telling myself I'm living into who God has created me to be all the while hating myself and hating the body I'm in, I don't want to be 28 and still experiencing wounds I can't put my finger on because I'm too embarrassed to ask someone to take my hand and help me out of the darkness.

4) Say yes to the gifts you've been given

Over the past year I have been meeting with a life coach/mentor named Jim. Jim is a Pastor, worship leader and by profession, is a Life Coach who specializes in career and calling- how they might intertwine and how to chase after the latter while operating in the former.

When he and I started meeting,  I told him about the way writing and performing my own music crept into my life. I told him story after story of the doors that God had opened rather miraculously. I would talk about it and repeatedly say things like "Yeahh... its kind of strange... Ehh then this happened..so, whatever ".

One day he said "STOP! Stop downplaying the things that God is doing! Stop calling it weird like its a BAD thing!  Unusual? Sure, its unusual, but its clear that God's hand is on it and that YOU ARE TALENTED and wanted! So stop cutting it down. Maybe take a step back and realize that he has been CLEAR with you, and that maybe its because you actually have something special to offer." 

At that moment something started to change in me.

I'm not sure what it was exactly but, I began to realize that dodging my giftedness isn't humble, its proud.

I used to think that accepting and believing that I'm talented was to say "I'm better than everyone else" and that if I were to really get out there and do what I feel called to do, I needed to be the best at it otherwise I'd be asking for humiliation.  But, now I see that rejecting it is wasting it. Its wasting the time I'm given in life because for some reason, I was created to sing and when I do, not only does it please God but, it allows Him to work through me as I have been designed to be worked through.

If God has given you something, favor in any way, gifts, callings, etc... They aren't for you to judge. They aren't even for you! They're for Him. They're for some purpose you may never know but rejecting them is shutting the door on God.  Its been good to say YES to them for me. Its been good to say "I'm gifted" in confidence, not conceit. Because they are gifts that HE gave me and He wants me to use them boldly for him, forgetting my own perception of if they're good or not.

5) Friendship is hard. Give thanks when its easy

I feel like in the past year my friendships have changed dramatically. I've found myself broken several times by the ways my relationships have shifted. Whether the people needed space from me, whether they got new friends that pushed me to the outer corners, or whether one of us changed and it made the relationship feel different, its been a year of ups and downs.

I've tried to adopt an attitude of "This friendship is not for me, its for them", so that when they do something that is painful for me, I can step back and try to see it another way rather than taking everything so personally.  But, the truth is that some things just suck. Yeah, I know that sounds bleak but, I feel like its realistic in the context of seasons of friendship.

I used to feel like I could fix things all the time, like I knew what was best in all my friendships and if I could just help the other see that what they're doing is straying from the terms of the relationship, maybe things will get better.  In some cases, that has worked over the years but, in others, I've just had to accept that things might never be what they once were.

However, I have been so convicted that I too often miss out on the amazing friendships that are right under my nose.

Even last week, I was bumming out while looking at my instagram feed. I kept seeing this group of friends with one another that I introduced a few years ago, and since then I've felt left out and am constantly wishing I were invited into that mix. I was looking at my feed feeling sorry for myself all the while I was hanging on my couch with one of my dearest friends. So I deleted my instagram and gave thanks for my friggin awesome friend who I was NOT appreciating at that moment.

I'm trying to let go of the need for things to be a certain way in my friendships, and learn to REALLY celebrate those who DO love me and want me around. Also, to know that all relationships have seasons, and when the seasons shift, to trust in the process of things rather than resenting the present reality.

6) Healthily adjust your expectations of your biological family

I think there's a tendency, a necessary tendency, when you're early on in your adulthood (especially if you're in therapy) to resent the ways in which your biological family does not love you like they are supposed to. Everyone has a story. Parents and family members who are alcoholics, workaholics, distant, emotionally unstable, emotionally unavailable, hyper critical, maybe even mentally unwell... Everyone has a story, and those stories are important.

Its important to face the wounds of your childhood and to really recognize the things that weren't right, or as they should have been. Its crucial to face those things and to heal from them. However, its UN-healthy to have the expectation that those relationships will ever be what you idealize. Its just not fair for anyone.

There are a lot of things that I wish members of my family were.  And when I went through a lot of personal healing, there was a period there where I really resented them for not being what I needed as a kid, and even as an adult. But, as I've grown, I've chosen to try to celebrate who they are ( and create really good boundaries with those that aren't so healthy for me).  It might sound cold but, there are ways that ( this is just an example) I am mothered, fathered, and loved like a sibling by people in my life that aren't biologically related to me- and whats more, I've been cared for by God who is a perfect parent.

This has freed me up quite a bit to allow my family to be themselves, and to enjoy who they are rather than always holding them to an unrealistic standard.

7) Present over perfect. Present over perfect.

I've written about this before and I'm sort of obsessed with this concept. I know that I have a lot to learn in this area but, my husband told me that I've grown here, and it feels damn good.

Basically, I've been trying to ask myself in moments of chaos " Would I rather be present, or perfect?" and trying my hardest to choose PRESENT.

There have been several times recently that I've meditated on this concept when we've had guests over and its made things so much more beautiful for me.  I'm finding myself more and more comfortable with imperfection in my own home. If the house isn't spotless, if the meal isn't a 10 out of 10, if there's awkwardness in conversation... I'm trying to breathe and remember that most people aren't looking to be impressed. Most people are looking to feel loved and welcome. I am the most loving and welcoming when I am less concerned with what they think of me and more concerned with how they feel around me.

8) Don't serve fear. It takes more than it promises to give and it will ruin your life.

Really. Fear is my achilles heel. Its that thing that, if unchecked, will creep into every nook of my life and take me out completely.

There are many reasons I am the way that I am but I've realized that it really hasn't gotten me anything good. All of my paranoia has only ever gotten me isolation, fights with my husband, frozen states of anxiety and embarrassing displays of panic that I always regret.

Not only will fear ruin my life if I give it any of my heart or mind, but I am going to have to push through it if I'm going to do ANYTHING I desire to do in life.  Every good thing will kick up fear in me. Everything. Getting close to people, using my gifts, trying new things, traveling, and just about all the other things I dream of doing in my life come with a long list of things that could go wrong.

But again... I don't want to be an old woman who lived an incredibly long story of submitting to fear. "Oh sure, I could have sang some songs in front of people, made some life long friendships, seen the world, had children, who knows!? But, it was all too scary." !? No. I refuse!


All in all, its been a good, rich year. Though there have been many painful moments, I am so deeply thankful for the past few hundred days of life, and look forward to the next one ( by grace).

May I look back on 27 and be more like Jesus than right now. May I look back on 27 and lose track of how many ways I saw these lessons put into practice.

Hope this post finds you well, friends.

Until next time, 

Carly Calmes the First