I met our first contributor on the internet. Okay, that sounds weird. Let me back up. We originally came to know about each other through a blog post that I wrote last summer in response to Anne Rice’s public decision to quit Christianity. Soon after, Ally and I began a conversation that led to a friendship, which led to a conversation about raising girls over Mexican food, which eventually led to a business partnership. And they say internet relationships don’t work.
While I’ve only known her for five months, I have already come to appreciate Ally’s boldness, love for others, love for running and her insane ability to communicate truth through the written word. These reasons, and several others, make her a great contributor for this project. I think you’ll love what she has to say.
You can follow Ally on twitter at www.twitter.com/msspotts and read her reflections on 2010 below. - Eric
I spent the majority of this year traveling around the United States with my friend Sharaya, living in a car and out of a suitcase, hammering away on my laptop writing about our experiences. Here were some of my most memorable lessons from the road.
10. I learned to see obstacles as opportunities.
Sharaya and I encountered several obstacles during our six-month adventure that could have derailed our journey – not the least of which included our car breaking down in Larmie, Wyoming. I doubt that many people would have blamed us if at that point if we had called it quits – cut our losses, sold the car, caught a plane home. But life is full of obstacles, and obstacles give us an opportunity to build resilience and our character. And the way we respond to obstacles is in direct correlation to the unfolding of our story.
9. I learned to ask and answer the question: what do you need?
I used to think that asking for things I needed made me seem weak, so I would just pretend like I never needed anything all. But, over and over again, as we were traveling, we were asked the question “What do you need?” and I was moved by what a powerful question it could be. Asking it – both of ourselves and of others – forced us to admit and articulate our needs; and as it turns out, admitting our needs doesn’t make us weak. It calls us into relationship with other people; which in turn makes us stronger than we could ever be on our own.
8. I learned that I don’t always want what I think I want.
I am really good at getting what I want. Usually. So when I don’t, I tend to throw temper tantrums – the grown up kind. But I am learning that I am rarely in control of what I get and what I don’t get, and as much as I think I know what I want, I worship a God who knows better. Sometimes God gives, and sometimes he takes away. I am learning to be equally grateful for both.
7. I learned that the world doesn’t revolve around me.
Psychologists say you’re supposed to learn this in adolescence, which means I’m a little behind, but at 27 I’ve officially learned that I am not the most important person in the world. The best part about it is, I’m so much happier knowing that my life isn’t all about me.
6. I learned that Mark and Donnie Wahlberg are brothers, and that the lead singer of the Eagles is Don Henley.
Lots and lots of time in the car and I was a sheltered child. Just getting caught up.
5. I learned that God is on the move.
I have a whole new understanding now for why Jesus tells the rich young ruler that, in order to be a disciple of Christ, he must sell everything he owns. It isn’t because Jesus hates stuff. I doubt Jesus has any strong feelings about our stuff – it’s just stuff. It’s because Jesus is on the move, and if we want to be a disciple of him, we have to be on the move too. Jesus asks us to give up our stuff (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively) because he wants us to be mobile. If I am attached to something, I am not able to move.
4. I learned that less is more.
The ironic part about giving up stuff is that we’re actually happier without it. We don’t think we will be, but we are. See, if my heart is wrapped up in my things, then my mood is contingent on the state of those things. That means a flood or a fire or a burglar or a water ring on a brand new coffee table can steal my joy. Jesus reminds us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also, knowing that if our hearts are with him, our joy cannot be touched. The less we have, the happier we are.
3. I learned that everyone wants to be happy.
It seems so simple, but here’s what it means for me. When someone does something that irritates me or makes me furious or hurts my feelings, I remind myself of this simple fact: they just want to be happy. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t express my hurt or frustration, or that their behavior wasn’t wrong or shouldn’t be confronted – it just means that their actions have nothing to do with me, and everything to do with them. And since I can identify (I kind of want to be happy too) it helps me to be graceful in my response.
2. I learned to make an 8oz bottle of shampoo last four months.
This lesson may have involved pilfering hotel shampoo and not washing my hair for days at a time, but an important lesson nonetheless. For those of you who don’t recognize this as an incredible accomplishment, count your blessing that you’ve never had this much hair.
1. I learned how to power across the finish line.
You only have to run one race to know that the last mile really sucks. You’re out of energy and out of resources and out of motivation. But you have to run a few races before you learn (or can remember) that the finish line never feels less exhilarating. A strong finish is always worth pressing through that last difficult stretch. In fact, when it hurts the worst, you can pretty much assume that you’re just about to the good stuff. Hang in there. Finish strong. The reward is coming.