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About Allison Vesterfelt

Allison is a writer, managing editor of Prodigal Magazine and author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage (Moody, 2013). She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband Darrell. You can follow her daily on Twitter or Facebook

Allison Vesterfelt

Allison Vesterfelt
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Allison is a writer, managing editor of Prodigal Magazine and author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage (Moody, 2013). She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband Darrell. You can follow her daily on Twitter or Facebook

You Don't Always Have to Take the Advice of Others

Have you ever noticed how, at an engagement party, or baby shower or graduation party, people tend to give all kinds of advice?

“Start investing now—you won’t regret it.”

“A water birth really is the way to go.”

“Whatever you do, don’t go to bed angry!”

advice

This is all well-meaning advice, of course, and some of it actually pretty wise. But I guess the reason this has been rubbing me the wrong way lately is because I’ve learned the hard way that giving someone advice is a lot different than actually doing it.

Telling someone your advice is much easier than living it out.

“Don’t go to bed angry” for example, sounds nice until you’re four months married and it’s four in the morning and you’re still awake because you can’t resolve a fight.

When I think back to the advice I’ve been given in my own life—about college, about career, about marriage—I’m grateful for some of it. But some of it I also think took me off track. When I was choosing a major in college, for example, I had several people tell me, “it’s nice that you want to be a writer, but choose a major that is going to get you a job.”

I took the advice. After all, it was practical and smart. But because of that advice I paid a lot of money for a degree I’m not using.

So was this good advice for me? Maybe not.

All is not lost. My skills and expertise have gotten me to where I am and I’m finding innovative ways to put my degree to work. But sometimes I wish someone would have just looked me in the eye when I was in college and said: forget what everyone else tells you should “should” do.

Do what you want to do.

Do what you think is right. Trust your instinct.

Do what works.

I used to read a lot of self-help books. I liked them. It felt comforting and nice to have someone tell me exactly how things were supposed to be done, to give me a list of all the steps. And, hey, when my life didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, I could blame the books. After all, I followed the formula. I worked the plan.

I didn’t have to blame myself.

But these days I’m realizing: while there is a lot to be learned from those who have gone before me, there are also many things I have to learn myself.

After all, life is not black-and-white and my life is totally unique from anyone else’s life and most of which way I go depends on who I am and what I want.

There really are not shortcuts. No amount of good advice can save me from the inevitable pain and obstacles of life.

There are many “right” answers to most problems and the best answer is usually this:

Do what works.

Be willing to try and fail and try again. Be humble and learn quickly from your mistakes. Pay attention and be agile and adjust quickly. Don’t let insecurity get in the way. Figure out what works for you and then do it.

Trust your instinct. Trust your gut.

So if you’re feeling lost in your marriage or your career or as a parent or just in life—or if you’ve just graduated or are about to have a baby or are newly married and you’re getting a bunch of advice—remember this: advice is much easier to give than it is to execute.

Don’t dismiss the advice. Give it a try. But if the advice isn’t working, try something else.

Don’t worry about finding the “right” answer or the best answer or the most impressive answer.

Just do what works.


It’s Not What You Write, but How You Write It

#writing #grace

This blog post first appeared over at www.allisonvesterfelt.com - you can read more about Allison there! 

Have you ever come across an article that made your skin crawl—with its unfair judgements, its black-and-white way of thinking, or its sweeping generalizations about a complex topic?

Have you ever realized, quite suddenly, that the author of the article was you?

I have.

Several months ago I was reading through some old articles on my site and I stumbled across something I wrote several years ago. I was only about three sentences in when I got that sinking feeling you get when you suddenly realize your dress is tucked into your tights, or your fly is open.

I was exposed.

The article was irritating, arrogant, unfair, and just plain lazily written.

Here’s the thing. What I was saying wasn’t necessarily wrong. I was engaged at the time and talking about how the transition from being single to being married can be really hard. I was listing all the ways it was hard: I was transitioning friendships, moving to a new place, combining finances with my husband, etc.

write

But rather than leading with vulnerability and telling my story, I did what many people do when they’re feeling afraid and want to gain a sense of safety:

I categorized, sorted, judged and made things black-and-white that are, for the most part, grey.

Rather than talking about my fear, I told people what they “should” do and what they “shouldn’t do”. I wrote about what the transition “should” look like. I made it sound like I had it all figured out. Meanwhile, I wasn’t even married yet.

Who did I think I was? Who made me the expert on the subject?

I can see now my feigned certainty was a coping mechanism, so I can have grace for myself in that.

But I can also learn from my immaturity and choose to write in a different way next time—not from a place of fear (which leads to control and manipulation) but from a place of love.

I can choose to write in a way that honors my own experience but that also honors experiences of others—some experiences I know or understand and others I’ve not been able to conceptualize yet.

I can be careful with generalizations, gentle with suggestions and gracious with grey-areas.

My words do a beautiful job of reflecting the uniqueness of my particular space in time, and at times they transcend, but never because I force them. Only when they are received as such.

Writing is, in many ways, like a relationship.

Speaking of which, one of the best pieces of advice I received when I was getting ready to get married came from one of my favorite people in the world—who rarely, if ever, uses the word “should”.

His advice was this: It’s not what you say, but how you say it.

Familiar, right?

As a writer, moving forward, I’m trying to think less about what I’m saying and more about how I’m saying it. In the end, honestly, it’s better for me, better for my readers, and cultivates a healthier relationship.


Good Things Take Time

#waiting on God #patience

This blog post first appeared over at www.allisonvesterfelt.com - you can read more about Allison there! 

Not too long ago, a friend and I visited a brand breathtaking winery in Oregon’s incredible wine country. As soon as we arrived in the tasting room, a nice man at the counter poured us some wine and explained to us a little bit to us about how the winery came to into being.

I wish I remember all the details of what he told us, but the truth is that the first words out of his mouth distracted me.

photo: mikeshelby, Creative Commons

photo: mikeshelby, Creative Commons

“Ten years ago…” he began. And I couldn’t help but think to myself: Ten years? As in…yearsTen of them?

That is a really really long time!

It made me think about the patience and gumption and diligence and commitment and persistence that it takes to propel us in a single direction—despite resistance, cost, investment, or setbacks. It made me think about how good things, like the really satisfying, mouth-watering, soul-warming Pinot Noir I was enjoying, take time.

It made me think about how sometimes we have to wait a really, really long time to see the “fruit” of our labor.

I don’t know what your dream is but maybe you’ve been waiting a long time for it to come true.

Maybe it feels like forever. Maybe you’re waiting for a relationship to begin or a career to begin or a relationship to change or a career to change. Maybe you’ve been waiting to adopt a child or to finish a degree. Maybe someone you love is sick, and you’ve been praying for him/her to get better.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that most things that matter take time. Most things that are good don’t happen overnight. And most of the time the things that are worth waiting for really will require you to wait, to persist.

Don’t give up. Don’t walk away. If you don’t tend to your vines who will?