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Summer is just around the corner. Spring showers have come and gone. Baseball caps and lemonade stands replace raincoats and umbrellas. Seeing as life gave us plenty of “lemons” this past year, it seems apropos that we should enjoy lots of lemonade this summer.

Things certainly haven’t gone according to ‘plan’ for many of us recently. The phrase “when life gives you lemons…” resonates with me. Though, the second part is giving me a hard time. “Make lemonade.” But, how? 

What if the lemon is really sour? Or old? Or what if you’re not in the mood for lemonade? Nobody talks about how genuinely devastating and hurtful it can be when things don’t go as planned. When you lose a friend, or the world shuts down unexpectedly, or a family member hurts you…. I really don’t think, “make lemonade’ cuts it. 

So, what do we do? The answer can’t be to wallow without expectation for a brighter tomorrow. People are resilient. We just need to figure out how to tap into that resilience when the lemons pile up, taunting us. I don’t have the perfect answer, but I do have a list of things that help me. I hope they encourage you.

1. Find some sugar and water.

Seriously… you can’t make lemonade without sugar and water. The trouble is life doesn’t seem to throw you those—you’ve got to find them. “Water” represents that which sustains you. Simple things, like getting enough sleep, moving your body, praying, etc. “Sugar” represents the things that bring sweetness to your days. This could include watching your favorite tv-show, laughing with a friend, or taking a weekend getaway. No matter what the “sugar” and “water” is in your life, find them and use them to sweeten up those lemons.

2. Enjoy the little things.

Life can feel like a never-ending race to the finish line. Just when you think you’ve arrived, you discover there’s another mile to go. If we constantly look to the horizon, not only will we miss where we’re at, we’ll also consistently be let down by our speed (or lack thereof). By taking the time to enjoy the little things, we keep ourselves from robbing the joys of today. Accept the compliment, hug longer, sing louder, dance crazier. It’s the small things that can make up for the lemonade you may not be in the mood for.   

3. Forgive and give grace.

Honesty time: More often than not, we’re too hard on ourselves. We’re not perfect, but we expect perfection. Nobody can live with that kind of pressure. The reality is, no matter how hard we try to map it out, tomorrow will always be a mystery that isn’t promised. We can’t control what kind of lemons are thrown our way. Learning to forgive ourselves and others for unmet expectations and unexpected adversity brings liberation. It’s okay not to be okay. Give yourself the courtesy of expecting imperfection and don’t blame yourself for the rotten, inedible lemons.

4. Discover what it is that you love and do it.

Life is too short to waste time doing things you don’t enjoy. Take the time to learn who you are and what you love. Once you uncover your passion, do it! When you do what you love, you live a life of purpose, regardless of which plans fall through and which ones stick. Trust me, your mental health will thank you later and maybe the lemons won’t seem as sour, too.

5. Lean on others.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last year with a pandemic-sized lemon thrown into the mix, it’s that we need people. We were not made for isolation; we were made for community. Having people there to lift you up and help you over the hurdles of life is necessary and motivating. After all, when life starts throwing you lots of lemons, you need others to help you carry them.

Whether we like it or not, walking through the hard stuff isn’t linear. It’s important to know it’s okay to take your time finding the sugar and water or to not want lemonade at all. Regardless, I hope you find encouragement in discovering who you are, pursuing what you love, enjoying the small things, leaning on others, and giving yourself grace. And when all else fails…

“Hold On, Pain Ends: H.O.P.E.”
-Shyla Holt