The Meaning of Life

It’s easy to wander aimlessly in life. We lack goals, clear vision of what we’re meant to do, or sometimes question why we’re even here. If you’re like me, you’ve asked yourself the following questions numerous times:

Why am I here?
What is my purpose?
What is the meaning of my life?  

Obviously I don’t have the answers to these questions, but here’s my take on it:

We’re all gifted with certain talents, passions and skill sets. It took me a while to realize my own specific talents, because I often thought of talents as tangible. “I can dance” was the only thing I could ever come up with. However, talents extend far beyond physical capabilities (thank God). With many meaningful conversations with my Father (and my actual father), I’ve come to understand that my talents lie in writing and my ability to love and care for others. I have such a deep, deep love for other people and I’ve never really considered it a “talent.” But if you think about it, it is. Because what is the most important thing that we’re put on this earth to do?

Help others.

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Finding a place where our gifts meet the needs of the world allows us fulfill our purpose in life: helping others. How many times have you done something for someone and got a MUCH greater reward than what you gave? Knowing you did something kind for someone, knowing that your words have the power to heal a wounded heart, knowing that you’re helping others who may not even TELL you that you’re helping them…. That’s what life is all about.

Sometimes you’ll never know you’ve changed someone’s life.

I think about the people who read my blog. Some people leave comments; others don’t and never will, and that’s perfectly fine! I would keep writing even if I received NO comments at all because I know along the way I will help someone, somewhere. That’s what fuels me. That’s what lights me up and makes me all giddy inside. That’s why I keep writing even though I have 89 jobs (exaggeration) and no social life right now.

I also think about the people who come to my group exercise classes. I LOVE feedback (positive and negative) because it helps me grow. But what about those people that always return to class but never even say a word? Have I affected their lives at all, positively or negatively? I know it’s hard to keep pushing forward in certain areas when you don’t receive feedback, but the ONE comment or the ONE person who tells you you’ve affected their life makes it worth it. 

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Our words, our thoughts, our actions have the power to change the world. When we bless the world with our gifts and talents, we’re helping others, even if it’s behind the scenes.

I surely don’t have life figured out, and I never will. Life is about constantly changing, growing, and evolving into the people we’re destined to become. People will come and go, you’ll switch jobs a few times, you’ll probably live in a few different places… but there is one thing that is constant: our ability to help others.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

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Dear Graduating Semester…

Dear Graduating Semester of Senior Year,

If you were a person, you’d be quite the frenemy (friend/enemy).

You’ve caused me more stress than you can imagine. You’ve diminished what little was left of my social life.

You’ve made me work weekends to make ends meet. You gave me the choice to live at home to save some money, which gives me an hour commute to both school and work. You’ve made me spend countless hours devoted to my textbook in lieu of going out with my friends. When I have time to go out, I’m weary because I can’t afford to waste the whole next day in typical college hangover style.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had breakdowns because I don’t think I can handle it all. School, internship, group exercise instructor, news station, blog, my personal workouts, studying… I don’t even have time to breathe. *cue anxiety attacks*

However, you’re also one of the greatest friends I’ve ever had. You’ve presented me with countless opportunities and have shown me that God doesn’t give me anything I can’t handle. You’ve taught me to embrace this season of busyness (insanity) in my life, for one day it will pass and I will most likely be wondering what to do with my free time.

You’ve given me a hectic but rewarding school schedule. Although my internship at the advertising agency is unpaid, you’ve provided opportunities for income through my new group exercise job and working at the news station.

You’ve cured my loneliness by giving me the opportunity to work the Wiggle Waggle Walk and adopt Cocoa, who has brought me more joy than I could ever explain in words.

You’ve taught me who my true friends are — the ones who understand that I’m busy, yet are still SO encouraging and accepting. You’ve given me a passion and fire to continue writing this blog, which has rewarded me with friendships that extend beyond a computer screen.

Turns out you’re not a frenemy at all, but one of the greatest challenges and blessings I willingly accept.

Eternally grateful for you, my friend.

Julie

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We Want What We Can’t Have

Confession: I haven’t been getting as much sleep as I should. But I’ve been having way too much fun and sometimes (most of the time) the two just don’t go hand in hand.

Confession: I’ve been drinking too much Diet Coke and chewing too much gum. I’ve actually cut way back on the amount of gum I chew, thanks to some wise words from my friend Sydney that went something like this: “STOP SMACKING YOUR GUM. YOU SOUND LIKE A HORSE.” I totally see the resemblance:

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Confession: My mind has been all over the place lately. I’ve been getting lost on regular routes that I travel every day because I’m so lost in my thoughts. I guess you could say I’ve been in a “funk” lately and can’t pinpoint the exact reason. Perhaps it has something to do with the topic of today’s blog post.

We always want what we can’t have. I think it’s an innate part of human nature. We’re born with this constant craving for more, more, more. All the time. Even kids recognize it:

“We want more, we want more. Like, we really like it, we want more!” <– So stinkin’ cute. 

But if we really got what we wished so badly for, would we even want it any more? There are many times in life I’ve fanticized about having something. That thing is the key to my happiness. Once I have it, I’m set. Life will be perfect.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In the past when I got what I so desperately WISH I had, it wasn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be. Once the newness faded and the excitement was gone I thought to myself, “This is IT? This is what I worried/stressed about/wanted for so long?”

We can see how this easily applies to our relationships. We’ve all been in the beginning stages of a new relationship. You go on a date and almost immediately start worrying when to call, if they’ll call you, or what you’ll even say when either occurs. Of course, this is only to realize two weeks later you’ve already completely lost interest. What made you want them so badly before? Because you couldn’t have them. It was the chase.

When I first became interested in eating healthy, I just wanted what I didn’t have: a toned physique, skinny legs, collarbones, defined cheekbones.  I must say, they aren’t all that glamorous when you have to take dangerous measures to achieve them. Once I became more toned (which, by the way, didn’t happen over night), it’s not like I woke up one day with 15,000x more confidence, guys lined up at my door or 15 new job offers. <– I got all those because I’m awesome, not my biceps 😉 HA, I wish. 

If we focus on what we don’t have, we will be stuck in the past. I watched an online streaming church service last night and, as always, it’s like the big man upstairs knew just how I was feeling. The pastor said, “Whatever God has for you is not behind you.” That’s right. It’s ahead of you.

The sooner we let go of wanting what we don’t have, the sooner we will:
1. Get something better
2. Realize what we wanted isn’t even what we REALLY wanted in the first place.

All we can do is be thankful for what we DO have and stop focusing on what we DON’T have. 

[Of Possible Interest:]

Romanticism… And Not in the Way You May Think
Gratitude via Psychology Today <– one of my all-time favorite websites! I could browse the articles for days. 
Stopped Focusing on Results and Started Seeing Them 

A Movie Featuring Our Own Lives

I’m always so fascinated when I hear the stories of people who have fatal illnesses but seem to be the most grateful and appreciative of the time they have on earth. They live without fear of dying because they know they’re going to a better place. Of course, they long to be on earth for as long as possible to make memories with their loved ones, but they know that one day they’ll be reunited in an even greater place.

Why aren’t they scared to die? How can they live life on the edge? When we live life on the edge, it’s like we’re living on the edge of Heaven. What I mean is this: in those moments that we’re scared to death; when we must make a leap of faith; when things don’t seem possible in the physical realm; when we’ve been given horrible news and think we can’t recover; those are the times when we see God’s beauty.

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It’s like we’re put on the edge of a seat in a movie, featuring our own lives. We can see God’s greatness, even in the dark times.

If I were to die tomorrow, I can honestly say I would die happy. I haven’t lived a long life, but I’ve surely lived a full life. I’ve experienced love in the greatest forms because of the relationship I’ve created with my Father. He’s given me the strength to love people wholeheartedly and to be loved the same way in return: through family members, friends, significant others.

MomAndDadBaby Jules in all her glory 😉 

People are often put into our lives for a season. They’re there to help us grow, help us manifest into who we truly want to be, break us out of our shell and point out our weak points so that we’re able to become who God intended us to be. It’s almost like our life is a series of soul mates; some come and go, some stay, but each teach you a valuable lesson about yourself if you’re willing to listen.

I think so many people stray from religion because they feel the need to be “perfect.” They think in order to have a relationship with God, they must do this, this and this and check it off their checklist at the end of each night. They must pray morning, noon and night or else God won’t love them. If they miss church, God surely will not let them into the pearly gates of Heaven. If you mess up, you’ve already screwed up so why even try to have a relationship with Him? How will He ever accept you with all your faults? You’re so not deserving of His love.

Well guess what… Neither am I. I sin all the time. Sometimes I’m mean to the people I love the most. I cuss. I don’t pray every minute of every day. But you know what? God still loves me. That’s the beauty in all of this. He didn’t create us to be perfect, He loves us because we are the farthest thing from it.

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Since I’ve realized this, it’s allowed me to love without fear of rejection, take risks by trusting that everything will end up OK, and realize the good in my life that are all little incarnations of God: my family, my friends, words of encouragement from people on my blog, kind words from strangers. We can see the greatness of God in so many forms if we’re just willing to pay attention and listen. I leave you with this: What are you missing out on when your eyes are closed and your back is turned? 

Before I Die….

Yesterday, my uncle and I spent the day at the most amazing farmers market in all the land!

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The West Side Market, right here in Cleveland! I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. I could’ve spent hours there, but it wasn’t in my cards since I have 54239 assignments due each day. (…Or at least that’s what it feels like)

I saw this wall when we were out last weekend and I meant to write on it and take a picture. I’m so so so glad we saw it again so I could share it with you guys!

Note: This blog post gets pretty deep.

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I shared this photo on my Instagram yesterday and listed my top 5:

1. Inspire others through my blog 
2. Finish my bucket list
3. Be the reason someone wants to wake up in the morning 
4. Travel the world
5. Be so happy that it makes others want to do the same

As I sat there staring at the wall trying to figure out what to write, I was at a loss for words. If you know me, you know I’m a really deep thinker, so the whole “ride an elephant” idea just didn’t suffice (although I would like to ride an elephant some day :-).) That’s why my #2 says finish my bucket list… I’m not kidding when I tell you that I have a running bucket list that I keep in my phone. I’m constantly updating it as I think of new, crazy ideas.

To share a few items on my bucket list:

  • Skydiving in the Grand Canyon – Although I’ve already been skydiving, I’m a huge nature lover. I’d ultimately love to get my skydiving license someday. World traveling + skydiving? Count me in!
  • Visit a third world country and genuinely pour my heart & soul into helping out
  • Climb Mount Everest… I dream big, huh? 😉
  • Compete in a triathlon
  • Learn to play guitar
  • Go to Mardi Gras!
  • Cruise to Alaska (and Europe, for that matter)

And a few things that I’ve been able to check off my bucket list include: Snorkeling in the Cayman Islands; Zip lining in Cozumel, Mexico; Skydiving; Country concert (checked this off about 5 times now…); Cruise

I’d really like to emphasize #3 and #5 on my list. I think it is so, SO important to give back what you were so blessed to have. I want to live a life that makes others want to follow suit. I’d like to be known as someone who is always happy, always smiling and able to carry others through tough times even when she has her own problems to deal with. I want to be the reason that someone looks forward to their day (this includes friends and family & obviously someday a significant other).

I want others to want to know Jesus because of my actions and I hope to fulfill this through integrity, respect and providing unconditional love to ALL who surround me… Friends and strangers alike. It only takes ONE PERSON, ONE WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT to make someone’s day. My goal each day is to fill others up with so much love that, in turn, they do the same for someone else. I’m not perfect, but it’s an effort I make daily. After all, this life isn’t about US. It’s about helping other people. 

What would you write on the wall?

The Place Where Your Gifts Meet the Needs of the World

This summer, I’ve been forced to make more tough decisions than I ever have in my life. It feels like life literally gave me a multiple choice scantron and keeps handing me questions to answer.

It seems as soon as I make one decision, another one comes along. Talk about overwhelming.

I’m a very deep thinker. I truly believe there is no coincidence for anything that happens in life — it’s all part of a bigger plan. Looking back on my life so far, I can almost piece different situations and relationships together to see how one led to another based on the choices I made. Am I ever sure these are the right choices while I’m making them? Not at all. It scares me to death. But I haven’t failed this far and I’m confident that through my faith, I never will.

God sends me signs to assure me that I’m heading in the right direction all the time. I actually keep all of these occurrences in the notepad on my phone so when I’m down and questioning myself, I get a little lift. Today’s was so powerful that I had to share it with you. 

I won’t get into the details, but this is a critical time in my life where I’m making decisions about my career path. I’ve had opportunities in numerous fields and it’s been amazingly difficult deciding which route I want to take.

As I sat at the kitchen table this morning planning my schedule for my final semester in college, I decided it would be easier to write it all out in a notebook. “Perfect!,” I thought to myself. “I brought my notebook with all the notes from my advisor with me.” Wrong. When I went to look for the notebook, I was literally in awe of what I found instead. 

Two years ago, my then-boyfriend and I attended a Campus Outreach conference in Chattanooga, TN. It was a series of seminars teaching us more about our faith and how to grow in our relationship with Jesus versus other worldly things. We were a bit apprehensive about going (to say the least), but it ended up being one of the best experiences of our lives.

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And what do ya know? Instead of packing my school notebook, I packed the notebook that I took notes in from the conference. And what page did I open up to directly? This one:

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“When you are doing what you were created to do, contentment follows.”

“Until you function as you were designed to function, you will feel discontentment.” (Hence the constant searching and doing what we feel like we “should” be doing, according to society’s norms.)

“Your path in life was designed for you to walk right into it.”

“The place where your gifts & the needs of the world converge is your contribution to the world.”

As always, I was reassured that I’m on the right path and today I’m thankful for that notebook. I’m thankful for that experience. And most of all, I’m thankful for the timing.

“We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us.” Genesis 41:12-13