Because life can be chaotic and peaceful all at once

Life can get chaotic and doesn’t always pan out the way we thought it would, which can sometimes feel downright disappointing.

But the changes of plans are often for our own good and lead to much more than we could have imagined.

One day last week, my coworker Martin told my friend Megan and me that there were cookies downstairs in the lobby of our building. Because of my deep love for cookies (I might be my own special version of the Cookie Monster), I wasted no time in making Megan and Martin rush down there with me so that we could all enjoy some sweet treats together. I was really excited about those cookies. I even grabbed a paper towel to bring back some extra loot.

When we reached the first level and exited the elevator, though, we found a completely empty lobby. Martin swore that there had just been an entire tray full of cookies, but there were zilch in sight—not even a single human was in the area. As we turned to go back upstairs with empty stomachs (well, except for Martin, since he had already gotten to devour his fair share of cookies), we spotted it sitting on top of the concierge stand: an empty tray with nothing but scattered cookie crumbs so tiny that they would probably even be passed up by ants.

That paper towel is too empty.

Needless to say, Megan and I were highly disappointed. Martin had gotten our hopes pretty sky high, but we walked away from the situation with unsatisfied cravings and sullen hearts.

Later on, I began thinking about how expectations can sometimes turn out differently than what we originally hoped, but it doesn’t always end with us holding empty paper towels and staring at cookie-less trays. There are so many areas of life that we can’t control, but we can control how we react to the situations we encounter and how we adapt to the adversities and unexpected path diversions on which we find ourselves.

I recently went to one of my favorite spots in Orange County: The Wedge. It’s a place in Newport Beach that’s on the far end of Balboa Peninsula where the waves are typically more ginormous than most other areas. I love walking a nice distance out onto the jetty and staring out into the ocean as the waves come crashing against the rocks and the shore.

It’s chaotic and peaceful all at once.

As I was walking out onto the jetty, I had to be very cautious of where my feet were landing and on which rock I was choosing to step next. It’s a jaggedy surface, and slipping and falling would be a very disastrous and painful situation. After I sat out there for a while and then made my way back toward the shoreline, I realized that I probably wasn’t taking the exact same path I took out there—I hadn’t memorized which rocks had been my go-tos, and I didn’t have a plan of any sort. I was simply jumping from one rock to the next with the hope that it was the right decision. There was no overanalysis or great deal of thought put into any of it. But I liked it that way.

Because it was chaotic and peaceful all at once.

Since I’ve been out in California, my life—in particularly, my heart—has changed in tremendous ways. The path I took to get out here and the reasons I was led out here aren’t necessarily the same path and reasons that are taking me back home. But, just like when I moved out here more than a year and a half ago, I don’t know what God has in store for me. I just know that He’s calling me to do something, and I want to follow His calling. At times, that looks and feels like jumping to different rocks without knowing exactly which one is the next one but simply leaping to it as I get there. My life feels like it’s all over the place right now, and half of the time I have no idea what day of the week it is, but that’s OK.

Because life can be chaotic and peaceful all at once.

This is the face of a girl who has no idea what’s next.

There are many unanswered questions that I have and that other people have asked me. I’ve let go of the anxiety, though, because I know that this isn’t a cookies-all-gone situation. Yes, I have some pretty lofty expectations for my future and goals and dreams I want to achieve, but I believe with all of my heart that the same God who has never let me down won’t fail me now. That doesn’t mean that I’ll always get everything I want to go my way, but it does mean that He has a plan for me that I’m going to trust and follow—I want my dreams to align with what He has in store for me.

We’re going to face major letdowns and dashed hopes that hurt the heart. We’re going to experience failures. We’re going to go on journeys that we might have never seen ourselves taking and encounter unknowns that make us uncomfortable. But one thing I’ve learned over the last year or so is that sometimes the only way to grow and achieve great things is to become completely uncomfortable.

Don’t be afraid to take chances and let your heart make the decision to leap to the next rock without overthinking it. Don’t be afraid to love in big ways and take risks on people—people are worth love and worth risks. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and do the things that you know in your heart are right for you to do.

And don’t be afraid to live your life with passion and spunk as you walk into the unknown with complete confidence in who you are.

Don’t let flour defeat you

There are a lot of things that are more challenging than they seem.

Like baking cookies.

For the first time in my life last Wednesday, I made cookies from scratch. Like, actually from scratch. I bought eggs. And flour. And sugar. And baking soda. And baking powder (apparently there’s a difference). And vanilla extract. And icing. And sprinkles. And butter (I even had to stop a random stranger in the grocery store to ask if butter and Crisco sticks are the same. They aren’t. I did enjoy her facial expression when I asked her if she had ever baked cookies before, though.) I also bought mixing bowls, measuring cups and a whisking set. It was an expensive grocery trip.

I had found a recipe for sugar cookies online, but I was slightly concerned about attempting this feat without an expert supervising me. The prep time in the instructions said 15 minutes. It took me 45. I don’t really want to talk about my dislike for you, flour—just know that my kitchen and my clothes are not thankful for your excessive need to go everywhere. I have a new respect for pioneer women who churned butter with nothing but their brute strengths. And can I just point out that cookie dough gets stuck in a whisk really easily but then doesn’t get out of it as easily?

This was a lot different than making break-and-bake cookies.

These are obviously cookies.

I made a gigantic mess in my kitchen, and I set off zero smoke alarms. I ate way too much raw cookie dough and only slightly burned my finger once. I spilled vanilla extract on my hand and licked it off, and that was a HORRIBLE idea. But somehow, someway, little balls of fully mixed cookie dough made their way onto those cookie sheets and into the oven.

And they turned out to be real cookies—edible ones.

I was in a bit of pain during the baking session. The day before, I had gone to the hospital right after work because of a ruptured ovarian cyst and had gotten home rather late that night. I was pretty drugged up on pain killers at work on Wednesday and was able to function (though I’m pretty sure I said some strange things), but I didn’t want to try to bake cookies for the first time with hydrocodone keeping me going. Tylenol is kind of wimpy and didn’t help much, so the baking thing was probably a little less enjoyable than it would have been under more normal conditions.

I’m not the next world-class baker woman (I could Google to find out some actual names of examples, but I’m not concerned enough), but it was fun to make something for not just me. Other people got to enjoy them, and I think they might have actually enjoyed them. I know I didn’t solve some world issue or cure any diseases. In fact, I did something that more people than I could ever count have already done a great number of times. But it was a challenge for me. There was a process that I didn’t necessarily like that had to be completed before the icing and sprinkles could make their appearances.

And I guess that’s a lot like life.

Sometimes what we have to endure along the way to better things is not as enjoyable or as easy as we would like it to be. There might be messes. There might be pain. You might get burned. You might use the question “WHY?” way more than you thought possible. You might want to set flour on fire before realizing that’s probably not a wise decision.

But then when a good thing comes out of it all, you realize that whatever came before was completely worth it—especially when you get to enjoy that moment with people you care about.