Christmas is gone and with its swift departure an unsettling reality lingers – the New Year.  Its impending arrival looms in these days after Christmas and many (or maybe just myself) become introspective as we reflect on the past year.  While definite excitement accompanies the arrival of a new year and fresh start, there is also fear.  I hate fear, for its debilitating effect.  Its tendency toward resistance.  But I appreciate fear too.  I value its warning.  I have learned that whenever I fear something, I’m usually on the cusp of something big and good.  Growth.  If I only knew exactly what that meant. You see, I’m in the throws of major life changes and for someone who always has “it” figured out I find myself really uncertain about what 2015 will hold for me.  This makes me uncomfortable.  As I’ve been working this out within myself the past few days (okay, the past few months) I thought I’d share with you because maybe you find yourself in the same place and reading this post will make you feel less alone.

I haven’t been in this space of professional uncertainty in a long, long time.  What is my next move? What will I be doing in 2015?  I have no idea.  But what I do know is that most of us hit a crossroads in life, be it professionally or personally.  We all come to this point where we ask ourselves Who am I?  What do I really want?  Am I doing what God created me to do?  When that impasse arrives and those big questions present themselves, how do you manage the weight of it all?  Below is how I navigate seasons of uncertainty.

One of the most difficult things for me to do when I don’t know which direction to move or what opportunities to say yes (or no) to is to just be still.  Instead, I want to do the exact opposite of stillness.  I want to stay busy and I am easily distracted, especially by social media.  So what does being still mean? Well for me, it has a lot to do with prayer.  When I’m still, I am usually in my favorite chase lounge by the fire, no music, no TV, no phone, no distractions.  It’s an opportunity for me to intentionally pray and listen, to receive clarity from God.  Sometimes I’m only still for 15 minutes, other times it’s an hour, but when I invest time into unplugging from everything I always walk away refreshed and free of the mental clutter I so often wade through.  I may not have any definite answers immediately (oh how I wish God would just TELL me: Alison, this is your purpose, this is why you are here.  Go do that.) but being still coupled with being in the Word always helps me gain perspective.

Social media can be such a blessing, but it can also be distracting and discouraging.  When you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious do you distract yourself by mindlessly picking up your phone to see what everyone else in the world is up to?  Checking to see how brilliant and successful everyone else is doesn’t help you get any closer to solving your own personal uncertainty, especially if  you’re constantly comparing yourself to others.  Their journey is not your journey and you don’t know the whole story. As you’re seeing everyone else gear up for the new year – especially if you are entering 2015 feeling less than certain about the trajectory of your career, relationships, and other endeavors – it might be easy to believe that everyone else has it all figured out and you don’t, so something must be wrong with you.  I assure you nothing is wrong.  Everyone thinks I have it all figured out.  I don’t.  You have your own story to write and this chapter of uncertainty is only a small part of it.

Whenever I feel lost and unsure of what’s next, I learn.  Learning inspires me.  Whether it’s reading (my go-to avenue for learning), enrolling in a workshop or class, or learning a new artistic or musical skill, absorbing something new helps me out of seasons of uncertainty by inspiring new thoughts and ideas. My 10 year old daughter has an adorable art space in our garage, complete with an art desk, an easel and canvases, paints, and all these different brushes.  I’m just as excited as she is about this creative space because I have never attempted to paint something artistic…on a canvas…you know, to like hang on a wall or something.  It’s one of my goals this week and although it may turn out hideous doing something new is exciting.  (I’ll Instagram the results of my painting project – @thealisonhoward) : )  As da Vinci said “Learning never exhausts the mind”.  Ain’t that the truth.

Intentionality always serves me well.  I am intentional when I choose how my days will look.  We can’t control everything, but we can control a lot.  Just because I don’t know what I’ll be doing with myself professionally in 2015 does not mean I will sit and lament and do nothing.  My career is (was?) a piece of me, but not the sum of me.  I will choose to be intentional with my time.  I will still make videos because I love sharing what I’ve learned over nearly 8 years and 204 weddings and events with aspiring planners. I will still blog, but I’m excited to blog not only about wedding-related topics but other things I love like cooking (and eating!), the Lord, entertaining, reading, traveling, parenting, fitness, marriage, etc.  I will be intentional about spending time with people I love and admire.  I will learn.  I will try new things.  I will seek God daily and trust that He’ll show me, direct me, and provide opportunities.  And I will share my journey with you because maybe that will help someone feel less sucky, less alone.

Wherever you are – in a season of uncertainty like myself or in a season of knowing – I pray that you’ll be blessed these last few days of 2014 (and beyond).  Friends, know that it is okay to not have it all figured out.  Know that it is okay to change your mind and choose a new course.  We have this one sweet, messy, beautiful life.  Let’s use our gifts and passions to love and serve and make it as good and meaningful as we can.

Shine On,