building this life

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Happiness…goodness that’s a bit of a deep topic. I’ve had a whirlwind of thoughts up in my head lately about happiness, and just last night they seemed to be actually making some progress in a definite direction, so I thought I’d maybe take the time this lovely, rainy, Sunday morning to try to make sense of them all.

I am the owner of a little yellow, square magnet that was given to me as part of a graduation gift. In the absence of a magnet board in my current room, the little square sits propped up against a jewelry box on my headboard. On that little square is a quote that always seems to be relevant to whatever life-season I’m in: “You do not find the happy life. You make it.” -Camilla Eyring Kimball

I feel like at this point in time in my life, I am so crazy happy. Everything seems just about perfect, and I’m sort of sitting at the edge of my seat, almost unsure if I’m okay to settle in or not, almost wondering if it is too good to be true. I’m significantly optimistic about life, so I’m not really doubting the substance of the happiness, but it’s more of a “Holy cow, is this real? Everything is so amazing! What happened?” In some ways, I feel as if I’ve just randomly found the happy life. I’ve stumbled onto it through what seems to have been a not-quite-blind, mostly faith-filled search for light. And that search has brought me here. And I love it. 

But then on the other hand, a person can’t just blindly stumble around and expect to find happiness. Like I just said about two sentences ago, it’s a search – a conscious, calculated, guided search at that. As I look back on the past few years, it’s crazy to see how every tiny little thing has added up. I can say that I’m just living my life, but then when I think about it, that almost suggests a passive motion through this existence. It almost seems more accurate to say that I’m building this life. I’ve built this life. Am I allowed to say that I am proud of it? I look around me every day and try to take stock of my blessings and I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude that somewhere along the line I must’ve gotten something right. That sense of gratitude is coupled with a huge appreciation for all of the amazing people I’ve been blessed to know and learn from as I’ve grown up and found my way. And there’s no way I could leave Heavenly Father out of the picture – I’m beyond humbled that I am able to be so blessed. I know for a fact that I have been guided by Him, and He is the real builder behind the scenes.

I’m no expert on happiness, but I would venture to say that it’s a gradual journey. And it will always be a struggle of choice. You choose happiness, whether directly choosing to be in a happy mindset, or by making small choices taking you in what seems to be the overall right direction. Happiness doesn’t just happen randomly. The happy life is a calculated one. Happiness is a choice.

And then there’s the question, “What is happiness, even?” Sometimes I wonder that to myself – I guess I’m happy, right? This is happiness, right? This happiness thing has become much more real to me over the past few weeks. It’s probably different for everyone, and it’s far from being a concrete concept, but here’s what it is to me. Happiness is peace, and calm. It’s a pervading sense of light throughout every day – a sense of light that cuts through occasional negative thoughts and feelings of inadequacy. Happiness is assurance – assurance of the present and the future – that although they won’t always be perfectly perfect, there will be joy in the midst of the occasional clouds. And for me, happiness is the gospel of Christ. Everything that the gospel stands for and speaks of and promises is happiness. The gospel is my ultimate source of light. There is no way in the entire universe that I would be where I am today, sitting in my little apartment, typing some random words and grasping at the meaning of happiness if I didn’t have the gospel. One of the many, many things that I love about BYU is that here everything is taught with a purpose, and that the role of God’s power is able to be discussed in every class, no matter the subject.The hand of the Lord is everywhere. Nothing just happens randomly.

Knowing that every single one of my blessings – every single amazingly delightful thing – came from Heavenly Father fills me with gratitude. I think that the knowledge that you aren’t alone, and that there’s an omnipotent, loving being out there that wants to bless you as much as He possibly can, brings happiness. It wouldn’t be quite the same if you had to do it all alone – if everything you’ve earned in this life was just from your own power. How unsatisfying would that be?

So today I’m full of gratitude. I’m so grateful to my Father in Heaven, first and foremost. Everything that I have stems from Him. He keeps his promises. I’m beyond grateful for Christ, and for all that He did for me. I’m grateful to those that have gone before me that have made it possible for me to be where I am today. I’m grateful for my parents, and my church leaders, and my friends, and for the scriptures, and for music. Slowly, with help from so many sources, I’m beginning to think that I have made the happy life. Or, more correctly, I’m making it – I’m not done yet I know that there are blessings in obedience. Obedience brings happiness, as does reliance on Heavenly Father. And ultimately, the gospel is the place to make the happy life.

I hope you have a beautiful Sunday!


other places to find me (because making friends is fun, right?!):

twitter >>> @tessabrynnk

instagram >>> @tessabrynnk

bloglovin’ >>> life and loveliness

pinterest >>> tessa kohler


fixing what’s broken

les fleurs

I woke up Sunday morning to sunshine, and pink blossoms on the trees, and a sky that is all kinds of lovely blue. I woke up to my favorite kind of a Sunday – one that is equal parts lazy and uplifting and inspiring. I went about my normal routine slowly, methodically, with plenty of time to relish the feel of the fresh spring morning, and plenty of time to think. {Note: this post is a few days in the making, hence the words about Sunday, when I’m posting on a Tuesday, but the majority of it is the product of my Sunday musings!}

So today I have some thoughts for you about brokenness, and a little bit about change, and a little bit about potential. A while ago I wrote another piece about brokenness, on a night where I felt terribly broken myself. What I have to say today has a different tone than that, though, and most of these ideas have been spurred by situations I’ve seen around me lately, with one person’s situation in particular (who I hope reads this at some point).

Broken. Meaning not whole, not complete, something missing. The most basic picture of broken that comes to my mind is that of dishes. I picture circular plates, and clear glasses, and well-loved bowls lying fragmented on the light-brown hardwood kitchen floor, the result of a hastily moved elbow, or a slipping of the fingers. I picture something that is no longer fit to serve its purpose of holding food, but instead is simply destined for the trash, and an unknown landfill, somewhere on the edge of town.

And the thing about broken dishes is that no one usually breaks a plate or a cup or a bowl on purpose. Well, maybe you do, if you’re my dad and you have visions of garden mosaics in your head that your family will only ever chuckle and roll their eyes at. But not many people frequently go around breaking dishes. When these items are broken, it’s by accident. One thing leads to another, and suddenly you have this pile of colorful pieces lying at your feet.

I’m a person for finding lessons in simplicity, so I’m going to go ahead and dig something out of broken ceramic and shards of glass.

Life happens. We are humans, imperfect, and flawed, and – at times – very, very much broken. Broken by circumstances, or by choices, or by consequences, or by emotions, or by doubts…take your pick. Everyone has their own form of elbow bumps or slipped fingers that lead to those pieces on the floor. I don’t think that anyone intentionally brings something into their life that they know is going to break them. As much as trials make me a stronger person, I can’t honestly say that I’m the kind of person that invites them. Just like anyone else, I’d rather stay intact, thank you very much.

But life happens. Life brings beauty, but it also brings imperfection, and struggles, and so many, many factors that jostle us around and lead us down unwanted paths and quite often break us.

But the thing about broken is that it is a far cry from destroyed, or vaporized, or obliterated. Broken can be fixed. Yes, it takes some effort, but it is one hundred percent possible to reach down, pick up those pieces, and put them back into their proper place. Whether it’s a broken friendship, or a broken life, broken can be fixed.

I’ve heard a handful of adorable stories over my life of little children who accidentally break a parent’s cherished china dish and then try their hardest to glue, or tape, or rubber band the fragments back together again. When something that has value gets broken, you make the effort to fix it. Think about that for a sec.

Also, in order to put something back together again, you need some form of glue or something to get it to stay, so you’re not just fitting pieces back into a puzzle just so they can get dumped out into a mess again as soon as the puzzle is flipped upside down. From what I can tell, life-glue has many forms, and there are often many types of life-glue needed to fix what has been broken. Life glue can be found in the form of apologies, or confessions, or faith, or hope, or belief, or Christ, or prayer, or late-night talks, or service, or scriptures, or running, or yoga, or hot chocolate, or sunrises, or really anything.

We are all broken in some way, and we all have a go-to life-glue for whatever situation we might be in. I have my thoughts and deep-seated beliefs about what is the true life-glue, but to each his own – I know that not everyone shares the same thoughts. But find your life-glue.

Broken can be fixed. Never, ever, ever toss up your hands and give up. Never. 

You have something inside of you that absolutely and completely strong enough to pick up those pieces at your feet.

Sometimes this is a hard fact for me to tell myself, since it is usually about twenty-one times easier to just look at those pieces and cry and throw a pity party and then pull out the trash can and neatly sweep up the remnants up and throw them away. Despair is a real feeling. Hopelessness is a real feeling. Helplessness is a very, very real feeling. But giving into those feelings and throwing away all chances of wholeness brings a worse feeling, and a more enduring feeling, than all of those combined.

And yes, change is hard. Fitting pieces together until they turn back into a plate takes time, and effort, and patience with the methodical and often slow process of figuring out which piece goes where. Looking at the whole mess in your hands is overwhelming, but great things take time, and piece-by-piece it will come together again.

And yes, I know that there’s no possible way for me to have any idea what everyone in the world is exactly and specifically going through. But I do know that broken, in one form or another, happens for everyone. And I have no desire to streamline everyone’s problems at all – in fact, far from it. Broken hurts. But I know for a fact that we haven’t been dealt anything that we can’t glue ourselves back together from after the impact. 

I have faith in you. If you’re that one specific person reading this right now that I’m sort of halfway writing to, I have complete faith in you. And even if you’re not that one specific person, I still have faith in you. There is light in you. There are gallons and gallons of hope. You have everything in you to turn around and face that light. You know where it is, where you can find it, and you have wonderful people right behind you, backing you every step of the way.

Broken can be fixed. Messed up friendships, or situations, or relationships – whether we were the ones doing the messing up or not – can be mended. Broken can be fixed.


other places to find me (because making friends is fun, right?!):

twitter >>> @tessabrynnk

bloglovin’ >>> life and loveliness

pinterest >>> tessa kohler

to paint my present beautiful

“do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” -buddha

this made me stop and think for a minute when i read it. i understand not dwelling in the past, and making sure to live in the present moment, but not dreaming of the future? um, i pretty much exist to dream of the future. romance, marriage, kids, nyc…you name it.

but in a way, i do see the truthfulness of this quote. it’s important to be happy in the now. happiness comes in loving this journey, every inch of it, no matter how disgusting and discouraging life may seem.

i’ve found that there is a sense of peace, unlike any other, that comes from taking a moment to just sit, and be. to live for even just thirty seconds, perfectly in the present, perfectly grateful for all of the blessings around you, perfectly whole, and content, and full of compliance with the world…that’s a beautiful moment right there.

i’ve been trying to take more of those moments for myself lately. just snatches in the middle of each crazy day where i stop worrying about what’s going to come next and what else needs to be done and instead take a moment to recognize the bounty around me.

i’ve found that life becomes a little bit like a prison when all you can ever see is the future, and how the present is just clearly not good enough, since there’s this amazing future right off in the distance. happiness is so easy to just toss of to the hands of the future for safekeeping.

but the thing is, if you haven’t learned how to be happy in the gorgeous, rich present you’re living now, how is anything going to be any different when you finally reach that day, or event, or milestone that you tossed your happiness to so long ago? happiness is a choice, and it can most certainly be a hard choice, but it’s something you have to train yourself to choose. and as nice as those pity-parties sometimes feel, and although i’m far from happy all of the time, i’ve realized that the world is so, so much brighter when i choose happiness in the current moment.

yet i don’t think dreaming is altogether bad either. when you have those dreams and aspirations continually in your sights, you’re able to live your “now” in a way that will allow those future hopes to eventually become a part of your present. expectations for a better future are what keep me moving – what keep me taking steps and making the choice to keep going, every time that lovely sun comes up.

so i guess there’s an extent. when you pile up all of your stock and save it for the future, that’s a recipe for dissatisfaction and unrest. but letting the future be a guide, a beacon of hope in the distance makes for special, precious, full moments in the present.

i want more of those full moments – those moments where time seems to smile, imperfection seems perfect, and the goodness and rightness of life seems about to overflow. and i have a sneaking belief that those moments aren’t fleeting or rare. my sneaking belief is that every moment can be a full moment, if i only expend the littlest bit of effort to recognize it.

my goal at present is to hunt out those full moments, to open my eyes, and pull down the discouragement and the pride and the haze of expectation that i’ve allowed myself to let hover in the way of present contentment. i’m going to do my best to usher the beauty and the gratitude to the forefront, and help keep it there.

and while accomplishing my goals and living out my dreams may still be something a little ways off in time, ushering in the beauty is something i can do now, this very minute. i’m going to throw back the curtains and let beauty into my present – i’m going to paint my present beautiful.

confessions on reputations and being scared

so the funny thing is, very few people know that i blog. when i started blogging my family eventually found out, but i never told my friends. and as of today, as far as i know, none of my friends know about my blogs.

i’ll probably tell them sometime, or they’ll probably figure it out somehow through twitter or somewhere. the funny thing is that i tweet out a link every time i write a new post, but yet my best friend – the only close friend who follows me on twitter – still hasn’t figured it out. or maybe she has and there’s a reason why she hasn’t said anything haha? anyway, i’m pretty sure no one knows.

so why the secrecy among the people i know? i guess it’s not so much secrecy, just a choice not to broadcast my blogging. but why shouldn’t i be proud of what i write, and be happy to share it with people?

the thing is, i am proud of my writing (if i’m allowed to say that). if nothing else, i’m proud of it because it’s something i love to do and i hold dear this little creative outlet i’ve grown for myself.

but in all honesty, i’m terrified to share. 

and the deep down issue with all of this is that i’m honest-to-goodness scared about what people might think of me, despite how badly i want to pretend that other people’s opinions don’t matter to me, despite all the motivational messages that are shoved in our faces telling us that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about you. i know, i know, i know, but try telling that to a brain that has emotions all wrapped in it, plus a life full of conforming to the reputation the world has placed on it. it sounds so petty, but i’m scared, and it’s the truth.

with my healthy living blog, ( i’m scared that people might think that it’s silly of me to be blogging about living a healthy life when i’m not an “athlete,” or a registered dietitian, or a personal trainer, or a health coach, or anything similar. i’m just one random person out there who sees the value of healthy living and wants to share it with others.

and then there’s this blog. i can’t decide which one i’m more afraid to tell my little world about.

and to level with you, i’m scared that people that know me might read my words on this blog and find me ridiculous.

there, i said it. that, right there, sums it up. i’m afraid of the snickers, of the behind-my-back-comments, of not being taken seriously. “you wrote some stupid flowery thing on lipstick???” 

okay, i basically pour out about seven-eighths of my heart into these words. the other eighth i keep to myself, since some special heart-secrets are good for a person, but i’ve put the rest out there, for anyone that cares to take the time to read it. (which, by the way, if you’re reading this, thank you thank you thank you for sparing a moment out of your day to hear me.)

so i give a lot of myself with my writing. and with all the giving, giving, giving, i feel like the defenses i’ve had in place my whole life are going down, one-by-one, post-by-post. it’s left me feeling exhilarated, and alive, and liberated…but also very exposed, in a way i’ve tried to avoid my whole life.

and i just can’t shake this feeling of vulnerability. 

to those acquaintances that know me from a distance, even a semi-close distance, i have a reputation, and a facade, and the internal pressure to keep it up. i’m seen as reserved. i’m known for being “smart,” however you want to take that. i’m known for niceness, and i’d venture to say that i’m perceived as being passive.

and i suppose there’s some truth to those statements, but that’s not me in a nutshell – in reality, the perception is very far from the truth that i see inside myself. that reputation – that outward perception – is only lightly touching the surface of me.

and for some reason it scares me to think of taking a step outside of that reputation, which is currently operating as my safety net. “tessa kohler” is liked, and accepted, and i don’t mind that in the slightest. “tessa kohler” has friends. “tessa kohler” isn’t criticized. “tessa kohler” is safe.

but “tessa kohler” also doesn’t write fiery blog posts about chivalry or happiness or other such deep matters in life.

so to take that step, and share what i write, is – to me – the equivalent of stepping out of a plane with a sketchy parachute, where you’re not quite sure if the whole falling-through-the-air-until-you-hit-the-ground thing was a smart idea. to share what i write with those people that already know me as a certain person, who acts a certain, predictable way – that would rock the ground just a little bit and suddenly i wouldn’t be that safe “tessa kohler” anymore.

and sometimes i can’t decide how badly i really want to share this with everyone. sometimes i really love coming here to write, and knowing that i can write whatever i please, because no one who reads this has those preconceived notions that terrify me so much. in those cases, my outward reputation is something i can hide behind, so while i stay safe and predictable in the real world, i’m also safe and free in the writing world that i adore.

but then again, sometimes i want to stand up in front of everyone i know and do some legit heart-and-guts-spilling, like i do here, in hopes that maybe i’ll actually be understood. and on those days, my stable reputation in my own little world doesn’t seem to loom over me as something that’s keeping me from expressing myself.

and yeah, i’ll probably end up sharing this completely unknown side of me someday. it probably won’t stay a secret forever. a friend will finally look at my tweets, or maybe i’ll drop a hint in a conversation, and people will figure it out eventually.

but for now, this is my place to be the real, legit, unrefined tessa, as cheesy and idealistic as that sounds. conquering those fears of altering the perception and the reputation is my mental and emotional work in progress at the moment. i’ve come to the realization that the more i write, the closer i draw to accomplishing that goal, so you can bet that’s what i’m going to keep doing.

here, i’m writing my heart, and my life. here i’m writing my true story.

here, i’m writing my reputation. 


this post was inspired by the wordpress daily prompt: 

the existence of goodness

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“every day might not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

goodness exists. oooh you better believe it does. goodness exists in abundance.

think of how truly wonderful our world would be if everyone chose to focus on the goodness and the happiness and the beauty instead of the negatives and the sadness and the ugly.

so i guess that’s what i’m trying to do with this blogging thing. i’m trying to highlight the small, oh-so-good things in life as they exist amidst the troubles and turmoils that are equally present. i don’t want this to be a perfection blog. there are numerous blogs out there that portray life as if it is pure perfection, with perfectly decorated houses and perfect outfits and perfect vacations and, sorry, but this blog just isn’t like that. i love reading those blogs and being creatively inspired by whatever perfect things they feature, and i do believe that perfection is present in life, but i also understand that life is much more than that continual perfection, and i want to make sure i show that.

again, i want to portray the beauty and the perfection of life and highlight its existence, while at the same time recognizing that tears and hardships and the days where very few things seem to go right do happen.

and if you stop to think about it, those things that are perfect and beautiful and good are that way because of the things that are less than such. they go hand in hand. if everything was always top-notch, how would we be able to tell? it’s when life throws in some bad stuff that we’re able to truly appreciate the good.

so i’m going to say that life as a whole is wonderful. life is wonderful because of not in spite of – the bad times. the good and the bad fit together in such a way that is beautiful and inspired and necessary. that being said, it is when we praise and glorify and celebrate the good that we’re able to recognize the bad, and accept the bad, and keep it from steamrolling us quite so much. amidst darkness and troubles and living where it feels like a struggle to keep going until the next hour, or even the next minute, seeing the goodness can be our saving grace.

maybe this is all just nonsensical rambling. if it is, then oh well…rambling is what i tend to do best.

and if this is getting too deep, then i guess what i want to say, in more simple terms, is that you. can. be. happy. don’t let your bad circumstances define you. instead, acknowledge them, nod to them, recognize their importance and how necessary they are, and then promptly turn to the goodness and cling to it with all you have in you because that is what will get you through.

yes, this is hard to do, and i am a far far cry from being a master at it and always looking for the good 100% of the time, or even 75% of the time. life is hard. sometimes things come along that totally and completely knock you off your feet, and when you’re lying on your back it’s a tricky business to start looking for all the good around you. but! i speak from experience when i say that looking for the good makes all the difference.

so today, i’m reminding myself to search out the good, because i definitely need as much of a reminder as anyone else. i dare you to to join me. i dare you to be grateful for the storms and the tears, but i also dare you do search out the sunshine and the smiles and the light.

let’s celebrate the existence of goodness together.


whew! i don’t usually get so wordy, so if you are reading this and you stuck through to the end, hugs and kisses and lots of love from me. thank you for humoring me and reading my rant/ramble/combination of the two!