Hope

Twenty Things I Learned in My Twenties

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Photo by Charles Etoroma on Unsplash

Today I turn 30. The ‘big birthday.’ When I started this blog I was 23, unmarried, and unanchored. A lot has changed in the last seven years and I’m eager to see what the next decade brings. Thank you, dear readers, for watching me grow up.

Reflection brings its own kind of wisdom and before I dance into the next new decade, I’m sharing my love letter of lessons I’ve learned about myself in the last ten years. Enjoy.

  1. Career may not fulfill your soul.
    I spent my early twenties bouncing from job to job searching for the perfect fit. I had nine jobs in ten years. There will be conflict at work. There will be days that feel tedious and boring. It is important to find people you can learn from and environments to push you out of your comfort zone. It’s ok to make a switch, and ok to fail. At least you tried. There’s more to your worth than what you do from 9-5.
  2. Ask for that raise sooner than later. 
    You’re worth it. Practice negotiating and communicating how your skills bring organizations different value. It takes practice and it pays off. The least they can say is no, not right now.
  3. New paint makes a big difference.
    Make your spaces your own. Your house can be a reflection of you. Paint is affordable and it takes just a few hours to reclaim space for rest and rejuvenation.
  4. Planning a wedding is fun. Planning for marriage is improbable.
    I got engaged at the age of twenty three and walked down the aisle at age twenty five. That was young. We did marriage counseling, had dated for six years, and talked about many things. We weren’t prepared for how unemployment, unexpected death, and financial uncertainty would change and shape our young marriage. You can’t plan for all of the scenarios. You can, however, pick a partner who will fight for you and hold your hand when things fall apart.
  5. Pick up those shoes.
    Really, I leave them all over the house. Weekly shoe round-ups should be a thing. I’m messy. Tough.
  6. People will die.
    Yes, your people. They will die. Before your heart is ready with things left unchecked on bucket lists and words left unsaid. This is the worst truth of the universe. Surviving the death of my dad has rearranged me leaving gaps for compassion, empathy, and tears. Death sucks. Grief sucks. People die. It sucks so frickin’ bad.
  7. Say I love you every chance you get.
    The last time I saw my dad, he left my house without me saying good-bye. I just assumed I’d see him the next day. I didn’t say ‘I love you’ and I regret that. Life is short. Tell people how much you love them every chance you get.
  8. Friendships change.
    As you grow and change, so will your friends. Give others grace, stand up at weddings, cheer when they announce they are going to have a baby. Honor the space of sadness when the people you could always count on don’t respond as much as you’d like. Hold space for new relationships. Be the friend you want to have.
  9. Metabolism slows.
    Damn. Buy bigger-sized pants. Eat a few less french fries. Get back to the gym and love your body.
  10. Stop resisting when they offer to do the dishes.
    For a long time, I’d be mortified when my mother-in-law would do my dishes. It made me feel like a horrible host. She’s not silently commenting on the state of the kitchen. She’s instead using her gifts and sharing her time. People will show you their love in all kinds of ways. Stop resisting and say thank you.
  11. Having a dog is beneficial.
    They’ll pee on the carpet and destroy a few of your favorite things. But the little creature will warm your heart, absorb your tears, and take up space on the bed when you’re cold. Eye contact with an animal will soften your soul.
  12. Get a few stamps in your passport.
    Planning a trip and traveling abroad will give you confidence and joy in unimaginable ways. Gelato in Paris is delicious. Kidney pie in London is not.
  13. Graduate from an amaretto sour.
    Try different alcoholic drinks and explore how your tastes evolve. Know a few classic cocktails to ask for in a bar. When you order a shot of Fireball with your brother’s friends, they will laugh at you. Don’t let shame shape your choices. It’s ok to like what you like.
  14. Softball is not fun.
    I’d just rather not spend my summer evenings on the ball field. Practice saying no to the things that don’t bring you joy so you can say yes to the things that make your heart beat a little faster.
  15. I’m sensitive. So be it.
    My awareness of others suffering is a gift, not a weakness. Refuse to let others squash the sensitivity out of you. Continue to give the homeless woman a granola bar, make donations to charity, and cry at the news.
  16. People want to read these words.
    I must believe this every time I click publish. Your voice matters and you have every right to share your thoughts. Not everyone will resonate and likes and comments don’t qualify my words as worthy. Keep typing. It doesn’t have to make you money … though that would be nice.
  17. Family is complicated.
    It gets tricky when pain trickles through long-standing relationships. Keep trying. Keep praying. God’s grace can fix holes in family tapestries. Where we come from matters. Hold onto the good stuff, let go of the crap.
  18. You can take care of yourself.
    Of course I want others to take care of me. Bring me soup, vacuum the dirty carpet, offer tissues for the mountains of snot grief creates – yes please. More empowering though? Learning how to care for myself. Take space to sit and be sad. Invest in good shoes, honor your body with clothes that fit, and pay for a therapist to help process. Accepting help is self-care. Putting things in place to meet my own needs – even better.
  19. Money is a tool – let it flow.
    While I prefer to sit on my savings account for fear of not enough, I’m learning money is a tool for joy. Using funds responsibly can create positive, life-changing experiences. Travel. Save for the car. Get a haircut. Sponsor a child. Trust you have the capability to make more money and believe God provides.
  20. Hope lives in the relentless search for beauty.
    The gifts God gives are in the small and ordinary. Keep seeking good and you will find beauty. Clean water, fresh flowers, a kiss on the nose. Bubbles in sparkling wine, puppy breath, baby toes. Suffering and beauty co-exist. We won’t live in a world without both.

Coming Back

I’ve been practicing telling my grief story out loud. To people using their ears and their eyes.

It’s easier for me to type my story. I’m more comfortable when you’re just reading what I write.

I’m dreaming of new ways to bring my speaking voice to my experience and sent an email ask to Shelby Forsythia if she would be willing to host me on her podcast Coming Back.  She lost her mom when she was in college, and dove right in to learning more about grief, healing, and the power of owning one’s experience.

Shelby describes herself as an intuitive grief guide and works with people struggling with grief and loss. In her interviews with others, she offers refreshing perspectives on the way our culture handles grief, and focuses on real experiences with real humans as we continue to live with loss.

Her tagline, “because even through grief we are growing” pinched my heart and said, ‘pay attention to this’ – she’s on to something.

I’m thrilled to share our conversation here and am very thankful to be in her group of people growing with grief. We talk about introversion, a little bit of Jesus, and how searching for beautiful things informs my process with loss.

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Shelby is also looking for new folks to interview on her podcast for her FIFTH(!) season.  If you are interested in sharing your experience with grief, send her an email and tell her I sent you.

Happy listening.

The 2018 Give Light Giveaway Winner Is …

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Remember those embers? We’re starting a little fire. Thank you to the following folks who entered the Give Light Giveaway. The winner is announced at the bottom of this post and will be contacted shortly.

What gives you hope?


My hope comes from my kids and I hope I can give them the best life possible.

– Alice V.


A darkened church filled to capacity being infused with light one candle at a time while everyone sings Silent Night.

A third grade boy filling the heart of a child with special behavioral needs by asking him to be his twin on ‘twin’s day’. He remembered that they both had the same Christmas shirt in second grade. He also ate lunch with him.

Brilliant sunrises, amazing sunsets, crystal clear blue skies.

– Cathy H.


I am hopeful for good things ahead because I survived this past year without losing or compromising my integrity, patience, curiosity, creativity, willingness to try, or ability to love. I look forward to using these as guideposts and inspiration in the coming year.

– Laura G


Besides my faith in God, new life gives me hope: A precious baby, a wobbly-legged calf, or a tiny green shoot popping out of the brown dirt.  New life is such a miracle!

– Cathy P.


What gives me hope:

My children give me hope every day. And every child that walks into my life and shares their unfiltered joy with me. As long as new life keeps bringing new joy to the world I am hopeful.

– Christine C.


What gives me hope? Prayer gives me hope. When I pray for peace, faith, forgiveness or love; I’m given hope. When I pray for meekness, strength, comfort or mercy; I’m given hope. When I pray for courage, compassion, patience, and self-control; I’m given hope. When I pray for a sense of humor in a dark place, for listening ears when I want to scream, for self-love when I’ve made a mistake, for acceptance instead of judgment; I’m given hope.

For me, prayer is more than an expression of thanksgiving or a plea for help. Prayer is hope eternal.

– Suzanne M


There are two things that give me hope:

Seeing glimpses of how God has been preparing me and working behind the scenes for this season of my life.
Seeing the good that is still in the world.  I am reminded of friends giving gifts to their friends who are differently abled.  Giving baby dolls or stuffed animal dogs to those suffering from dementia to help make them feel purposeful and needed.  It helps remind them even subconsciously of previous times in their life when they were a caregiver for pets and / or children.
– Stephanie S.

Hi all,
I admit that it was hard for me to write a submission for this and I searched my brain and heart as to why. I realized that it’s because I don’t feel particularly hopeful this season. It’s definitely not like good things aren’t in my life right now, but it’s been a strange, quick, busy season where the gifts were unwrapped before I could say “it’s Christmas already?” My feelings seem to be echoed by everyone I talk to. I also feel like I’m in a strange limbo where I want to be working towards something but I haven’t figured out what.
However, there have been a few things that make me want to break down in tears just from the pure thoughtfulness of them, and they all have to do with children. I dropped by for a surprise visit to my friends’ house to visit with them and their kids on Christmas Eve. They were so welcoming and the kids were so excited that it immediately brightened my day. Not only that, but their daughter wrote me such a sweet note; I included pictures of it below. This is the same daughter that once picked the cheese out of the last cheddar biscuit for me just so I could have it (I’m lactose intolerant). Her kindness, uninhibited by motive or obligation, floors me every time.
katiem1  katie M 2
The second thing that has brightened my days are the spontaneous hugs of my niece. My brother and his family are visiting from Mexico for the holidays and I don’t get to see her very often, but she seems to revere me like one would a big sister. Every time I’ve seen her over the last few days, she just randomly runs up to me and hugs me. It’s an expression of joy that I feel so grateful to be on the receiving end of.
The third thing is my tiny 1.5 yr old nephew diving in for a cracker crumb-filled kiss before he left my parents’ house last night. He has been so hesitant around me the past couple of months and I cherish those moments of closeness.
What do these all give me hope for?
The next moment.
– Katie M.

Thanks to my husband’s helpful selection, this year’s winner is Suzanne M. Here’s to hoping in 2019.
I’m also hoping to have more guest bloggers in the year ahead. If you are interested in contributing new content, let’s connect!

Let’s Create a Flickering Fire

“Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The week between Christmas and New Year’s always finds me feeling a little deflated. Like the giant blow-up characters sagging in lawns, folks turn out the lights and lay face down on the grass. We’re a little tired and need another burst of air to fill up our fragile skins. We require breath in the hope of new, good, and better in the year ahead.

For me, 2018 was packed with new things as I pursued a list of 29 things to do before I turn 30. I made big resolutions and dipped my toes out of my comfort zone.

My resolution for 2019? Just eat breakfast.

Sure, I’ve got big dreams waiting in the wings, yet I bat my hands at the spidery myth that living in the space of ‘next’ will be better than whatever this season provides. I know I never arrive.

I believe beauty in the imperfect will serve our messy world right here, wherever you sit or scan and read. I also believe in the tiny, magical glow of hope. Like a little ember on the edge of the fire ring, small sparks can turn to a flickering fire. Without holding space for fresh air of peace, we ache and crave and miss out on magic.

Thank you to the following folks who’ve entered the Give Light Giveaway and answered the question, ‘What gives you hope?’

They’ve started with small sparks. Add your input by tomorrow evening.

Let’s create a flickering fire of hope for the year ahead.

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Photo by Hannah Troupe on Unsplash


Besides my faith in God, new life gives me hope: A precious baby, a wobbly-legged calf, or a tiny green shoot popping out of the brown dirt.  New life is such a miracle!

– Cathy P.


What gives me hope:

My children give me hope every day. And every child that walks into my life and shares their unfiltered joy with me. As long as new life keeps bringing new joy to the world I am hopeful.

– Christine C.


What gives me hope? Prayer gives me hope. When I pray for peace, faith, forgiveness or love; I’m given hope. When I pray for meekness, strength, comfort or mercy; I’m given hope. When I pray for courage, compassion, patience, and self-control; I’m given hope. When I pray for a sense of humor in a dark place, for listening ears when I want to scream, for self-love when I’ve made a mistake, for acceptance instead of judgment; I’m given hope.

For me, prayer is more than an expression of thanksgiving or a plea for help. Prayer is hope eternal.

– Suzanne M


There are two things that give me hope:

Seeing glimpses of how God has been preparing me and working behind the scenes for this season of my life.
Seeing the good that is still in the world.  I am reminded of friends giving gifts to their friends who are differently abled.  Giving baby dolls or stuffed animal dogs to those suffering from dementia to help make them feel purposeful and needed.  It helps remind them even subconsciously of previous times in their life when they were a caregiver for pets and / or children.
– Stephanie S.

Hi all,
I admit that it was hard for me to write a submission for this and I searched my brain and heart as to why. I realized that it’s because I don’t feel particularly hopeful this season. It’s definitely not like good things aren’t in my life right now, but it’s been a strange, quick, busy season where the gifts were unwrapped before I could say “it’s Christmas already?” My feelings seem to be echoed by everyone I talk to. I also feel like I’m in a strange limbo where I want to be working towards something but I haven’t figured out what.
However, there have been a few things that make me want to break down in tears just from the pure thoughtfulness of them, and they all have to do with children. I dropped by for a surprise visit to my friends’ house to visit with them and their kids on Christmas Eve. They were so welcoming and the kids were so excited that it immediately brightened my day. Not only that, but their daughter wrote me such a sweet note; I included pictures of it below. This is the same daughter that once picked the cheese out of the last cheddar biscuit for me just so I could have it (I’m lactose intolerant). Her kindness, uninhibited by motive or obligation, floors me every time.
              
The second thing that has brightened my days are the spontaneous hugs of my niece. My brother and his family are visiting from Mexico for the holidays and I don’t get to see her very often, but she seems to revere me like one would a big sister. Every time I’ve seen her over the last few days, she just randomly runs up to me and hugs me. It’s an expression of joy that I feel so grateful to be on the receiving end of.
The third thing is my tiny 1.5 yr old nephew diving in for a cracker crumb-filled kiss before he left my parents’ house last night. He has been so hesitant around me the past couple of months and I cherish those moments of closeness.
What do these all give me hope for?
The next moment.
– Katie M.

Submit your entry by Midnight on 12.31.2018

Details on how to enter here.

 

I’m Inviting You

I have the day off. For most folks in Colorado, sunny trails and crunching snow beckon on days gifted outside of the office. I see your pictures, your snow shoes, your athletic pants.

Here’s the thing. It’s cold out, there’s no snow in my neighborhood, and I don’t see myself leaving the house.

Instead, I’ve spent the morning reading Bob Goff’s book Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

I kept my butt in the chair and my fingers clicked the pages – next, next, next. I devoured his stories and my heart beat quicker with the amazing possibilities he bravely steped into in his life.

If God makes ordinary people move, why can’t God move Bob? Bob kept saying yes.

Why can’t God move me too?

Or you?

I’ve been a little disheartened this season as only one person has told me what gives them hope in the Give Light Giveaway. I find myself asking, ‘Are we so battered and tired, sitting slumped against walls that nothing feels hopeful?’ I’ve been there.

Or are we so busy and bustling we don’t have a quick second to answer the question, ‘What keeps us going despite all this mess?’

Maybe you’re in a better headspace than me and living anxiety-free comes easier to you.  Maybe you live boldly with ease and march into new spaces and sit at all the tables with confidence.

I’m unlearning the practice of waiting to be invited to participate.

Bob’s book invited me to be brave.

I’m inviting you to be hopeful. 

The Give Light Giveaway runs through Monday night. I hope to hear what gives you hope, wherever you sit, with whatever reverberates in your heart this season.

Here’s a reminder on how to share your answer to the question, ‘ what gives you hope?’

2018 Give Light Giveaway

It’s Back!

The 2018 Give Light Giveaway starts today and runs through December 31st.

“Give Light and People Will Find the Way” – Ella Baker

As you know, I believe hope floats on whispers and healing can be found in the pursuit of beautiful things. Join me this season to share hope, love, and light. This year’s theme is a bit different, so read the submission guidelines on how to play. 

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Give Light Giveaway Submission Guidelines

  1. Answer the question – What gives you hope? 
    I love creative answers and want to make this as easy to enter as possible. You can write one or two sentences, make a list, or snap a photo. Sing a song, send a video, draw a picture.
    We live in challenging times and I simply want to know What gives you hope in this messy, beautiful world?
  2. Let me know how you’d like to be recognized. Please tell me your name and how I can best contact you. Optional – include a photo of you, your website, and/or social media handles.
  3. Ways to enter:
    – Send me your entry via email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com
    Send a tweet to @52beautiful with your answer and the hashtag #givelightgiveaway
    Send me a story with your answer on Instagram (@52beautifulthings) with the hashtag #givelightgiveaway
  4. I’ll share your responses periodically over the next few weeks. Email me if you have any questions.

This year, I’m really excited because two artists, Lynne Schwebach and Laura Romberger have joined me and will be donating their artwork as part of the prize pack for the winning ‘giver of light’.

On December 31st, I will put all the names in a hat, and draw one winner who will later be contacted. You need not live in Colorado to win. Winners must respond to notification within two days or I will draw another name.

**Please keep content appropriate – I reserve the right to refuse to post if I feel content is offensive or could cause harm to others. By submitting your materials, you give me permission to share your responses on this blog and on social media. I appreciate when you share your contributions with your networks, but this is not required.

 

They Changed His Whole Night

From the busy highway, a long line of vehicles keeps turning left into the crowded parking lot. Every day of the week headlights beckon us in to come, sit, and eat pizza. Massive, Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Have you tried Oreganos? When I noticed the Arizona pizza chain was opening here, I was skeptical. For mysterious reasons, whatever joint went in the vacant restaurant on the busy corner seemed to fizzle and fade away. I’m pretty sure the last restaurant in that space mysteriously caught fire. Nothing seems to stick.

Now freshly opened, the cars keep turning and the parking lot is always full.
We had to know what we were missing.

We’ve been twice now and we’re hooked. Delicious cheese, buttery crust, drinks the size of your face – diners beware – they serve family style meals and when Dylan and I went just the two of us we came home with leftovers for twenty.

So there we were, Friday night, joining the stream of eager eaters. We put our name on the list and we waited. And waited. And waited.

Across the room, perched on a black barstool, was an older gentleman. Wearing a suit, worn leather shoes, red suspenders and a dusty grey Fedora. His aged hands sat folded in his lap, and another couple my age were chatting with him quietly, shoulders leaning in to cut the noise around them.

Many moments past. The waitress called the woman’s name, and the couple stood and said their good-byes to the man as they were led to their table.

And then, moment’s later, the woman my age was back.

“Would you like to eat with us?” she asked the older gentleman leaning gently towards his ear.

I don’t know what he said, but his face magically morphed.Have you seen faces change when loneliness turns to light?

The waiter walked their new guest to the table and he placed his hat on the coat rack near the booth before taking a seat.

I only watched the last few minutes of the exchange. I don’t know why that man was there by himself, dressed up fancy on a Friday night. I do know his eyes looked sad and the invitation from another added just a tiny bit of sparkle.

I started tearing up standing in the foyer.

“You gonna be alright?” Dylan asked, gently poking my side.

“Mmhmm” I nodded with my hand covering my mouth.

As we waited, fires burned, politicians scrambled, hearts broke. Fear and uncertainty abound. But in the busy Italian restaurant, one brave woman asked a simple question and connections were formed. One beautiful gesture.

Those people asked a stranger to eat with them and it changed his whole night. Seeing people need not be difficult.

I hope they had a delightful dinner.