Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

This is what you need to do before heartache hits this year

Have you ever had a year go exactly as you planned? Or even as you hoped?

Neither have I.

We plan and prep and hope. And we’re working to become who we truly want to be.

But we don’t foresee the drops on this wild roller coaster. The twists and turns aren’t quite what we expected, so they leave us breathless and with our hearts in our throats.

Last year, I was looking forward to getting married; I couldn’t anticipate car wrecks, serious family health issues, and a trip to the emergency room.

We can’t foresee what will rock us this year. Even so, we can set ourselves up for success in the good times. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past few years that have anchored me in tough times.

Cultivate community and invest in relationships

Three years ago, I lost a job I loved. The nonprofit I worked for had lost significant funding and my position was eliminated. It seems cliché to say it felt like a punch to the gut, but the sick and breathless feeling was a close match. I found myself uprooted and adrift, moving six times in twelve months.

I had invested in a long-distance friendship with Brooke via text off and on for a few years. We had prayed together through some heartbreaking circumstances, and I’d gone to visit her a time or two.

I never anticipated that Brooke would become one of my greatest supports during that difficult season. She spoke life and hope into me, reminded me of dreams I thought had died, and even helped me find a place to land and temporary work when I felt so uprooted.

We shouldn’t cultivate relationships with ulterior motives, but the intent to walk through the highs and lows of life together. Because we had both spent time growing the friendship, we’ve both had the opportunity to support one another in tough times.

Fight as hard as you can to get healthy

I’ve always been an emotional bottler, denying feelings to the point where I couldn’t even identify them in myself. There were some broken parts of me that felt safer with walls and compartments.

You can only stuff feelings down for so long before they erupt. For me, this came in patterns of anxiety and deep, dangerous depression. After a few rounds of this, I knew it was time to coöperate with God on the hard work of healing. Yes, it was a painful process. 

But now, when I feel the bottom drop out, I can allow myself to feel sad in a healthy way like I did when I lost my job or a loved one.

I may still cry myself to sleep and cry out in confused prayers, but these are appropriate, healthy, constructive reactions to heartache. For the first time in my life, I could say, “I’m really sad about this. My heart is broken.”

It’s not always possible to deal with broken pieces when life is a bit more stable. Still, choosing to chase wholeness in the good times makes it a whole lot easier to face the tough times.

Establish habits that will carry you through

A friend once told me, “On your good days, you need to decide who you want to be on your bad days.” I love that. If I’ve already decided the type of person I want to be when things go well, I can establish patterns that will carry me when everything seems hard.

A few years ago, I started spending a lot of my morning prayer times walking around my neighborhood. Something about the sunlight, fresh air, and movement helped me focus and engage in prayer.

During extremely stressful seasons when I struggle with anxiety, this habit has anchored me. Moving my body and turning my heart toward the Lord helps me get out of my swirling thoughts. When life goes sideways, it’s the ingrained habits and patterns that remain.

Serve joyfully wherever you are

I was privileged to serve wonderful leaders through the nonprofit I worked for. I helped run a mentoring and retreat program for youth pastors from across the country and around the world. Our team had a lot of late nights and early mornings, but we tried our best to serve our participants well.

When I lost my job, the crazy outpouring of support was overwhelming. Many of the leaders I’d served tried to help find me jobs all over the country. There were offers of places to live and even places just to visit. 

One of those offers came from a couple in Nashville who barely knew me and generously opened their home for me to stay with them. By the end of that visit, they had asked so many people to help me find a job that it actually happened!

Just like with relationships, we shouldn’t serve so we can get something out of it. Still, I’ve learned that loving people well, whether they can offer anything in return, is always the right thing to do.

Facing down a new year often brings joy and excitement, but we can’t foresee the bumps and curveballs that most certainly will come our way. We also can’t stop them from coming, but the good news is that we can prepare ourselves.  

Have I missed something? What do you do in better times to help prepare you for those curveballs? Tell me in the comments or at sarah@beautifulbetween.com.

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About Sarah

Hi, I'm Sarah. I love coffee, pancakes and street tacos. I'm a learner, a traveler and a creative mess. I've got a thing for redemption and seeing broken people living beautiful lives. That's the story I've lived, and the one I want for you. Let's be friends!

6 Replies

  1. Benn

    this is a beautiful page to read. Thank you for sharing

    1. Thank you so much, Benn!! Always great to hear from you!

  2. “I’ve always been an emotional bottler, denying feelings to the point where I couldn’t even identify them in myself. There were some broken parts of me that felt safer with walls and compartments.”

    Oh, girl. This…I feel you. And I ache as a mom to be able to show my kids how to navigate this well, fearing I haven’t always done a good job of it. Thank you for your vulnerability. It’s such a needed discussion of emotional health awareness we need! Love and grace.

    1. Oh man, I hadn’t even thought about how this would impact kids. We don’t have any yet, but definitely want them and don’t want to pass on our unhealthy tendencies. Thank you for sharing that, Shelly. I’m sure you do a much better job than you realize ❤️

  3. This is great! Really, I’m so glad I subscribed. I love a good boost of remembering what is good in the world, even when it’s rough.

    1. Thank you so much, Derek! So glad to have you here!

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