Thursday, August 29, 2013


I'm reminded.

I'm sitting in my new room, at an old desk, overlooking a large deck with some mountains in the horizon. I'm also pretty sure I saw a bear this morning. It looked like a large black dog from a distance, so I can’t be sure. 

Mostly I think…what is my life?
I’ve had this thought a lot in the last year.

One of my new co-workers asked me last night how this transition compared to my transition to Boston, and while it's only been a few hours in New Mexico… I can honesty say that this one feels weirder. Weirder because I feel like I'm supposed to know what’s going on, but outside of my house…this place feels large and overwhelming (and beautiful)…and I don’t know much of anything. 

I'm reminded.

Having worked with an organization for a long time doesn’t exactly mean much when you’re in a completely new place with a bunch of new people and unsure of where to begin. But…despite it feeling overwhelming and terrifying, it’s exciting. It’s new. It’s different. And it’s ultimately still stuff I know, and, once I get started, I think a lot more will fall into place.

Mostly I'm assured again and again that God is sovereign in all of it. That I can’t do it without Him. And that maybe my version of success and His may look different, and so I get to choose to trust Him no matter how things play out. I get to choose to remember that He is good.

I'm reminded.

Next to me on my desk is a letter.
One of my past summer staff counselors heard I was making this move and had the gumption to find my address and have mail awaiting me. A hand-written note to remind me that even when I don’t feel like I'm necessarily doing anything beneficial, good things can spring forth. A desire to dig deeper, a desire for honesty…inspired by… me?

I'm just humbled.
Humbled by this opportunity before me, humbled by the reminder that God uses even me…. even when I least expect it and even when I feel so raw and messed up. I'm glad the Lord gives us reminders of how He uses us for good, and I'm glad He gives us reminders that He is the perfect one in all of this. And because of that, I don’t need to be.

There’s once again freedom to be found in that.
I'm reminded.

But friends, I'm going to need you in this next life journey. Your prayers, support, encouragement… your reminders that even when I feel that I’ve failed, that God is still good. Because while I'm overwhelmed, I know that this where I need to be right now. Despite the questions and musings of what I’ve left behind…there’s my present to be mindful of it.

I'm reminded.
To be where I am.
That I need others.
That God is good and faithful.
That eternity is bigger than the temporary right in front of me.
That Jesus saves.

Sometimes I wonder if life is just full of reminders of things we already know…but we just need those little reminders. Those truths.

Today I'm reminded.
And because of that, I can find joy no matter how I feel, how matter how terrifying things are, no matter what goes ‘wrong’.

Be reminded.
Let yourself.
Don’t tune it out because it’s stuff you’ve heard before.

Let the simple truths change your life today...let them change your attitude, your perspective, your interactions with those around you. Don’t push them out, don’t push them away.

Be reminded.
We need it.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Uncommonly Blessed

Two years ago my first nephew was born.

His heart wasn't beating.
He was a few months early.
He had Trisomy 13...a rare chromosome disorder.

Tragedy had struck my family in a way that it never had before. In a hospital waiting room, filled with balloons and laughter as loved ones eagerly awaited the announcement of a new arrival...we waited, too.

It was a great irony.

When my brother came in to announce his arrival, I searched his face carefully. I watched as he hugged my mother, the tears rolling down his face. Colton Michael was here. Lifeless, but loved. Loved dearly.

It's been two years today.
And so we celebrated.
My sister-in-law baked a cake and we remembered Colton.

Because bad things happen.
But it doesn't mean that joy is stripped from us.
It doesn't mean that God isn't good.

Too often I fear that we demand answers. We demand understanding. We demand to have what we think we deserve. Healthy children. Well-paying jobs. Loving & faithful spouses. Security. Reliable vehicles. For things to go the way that we plan...

And when they don't?
Our response is often to be angry at God.
After all... if He is good and could He let this happen?
How could He let my nephew die?

My brother and sister-in-law continually teach me about God's goodness. They remind me that we've already been given so much more than we deserve. They remind me that we are already uncommonly blessed. That even when they know such devastating loss, they've never blamed God or been angry with Him. Instead, they've been genuinely thankful for the ways Colton's life has taught them, for the ways He has shown them more about who God is, for the ways he has changed others' lives.
Here's a snippet from their blog about Colton's story:
The other night Melissa said some amazing things. She was talking about all of the ways in which Colton's life has been a blessing to people. Not only the well in Uganda, but people have come to us and said how Colton's story has brought them closer to their spouses, their children, and to God. And Melissa said that if she had to choose between all of those good things--all of those blessings, the children in Africa who will have clean water, all of it--and Colton, she would choose Colton. Absolutely, I thought. As would I. And then, in tears, she said, "And that's why God didn't leave it up to me." 
I did not know what to say. For her to recognize God's goodness in this, even while acknowledging that it has come at the expense of the deep desires of her own heart, was one of the most touching, heart-wrenching, and beautiful things I've ever seen. I continue to be humbled by Melissa and to be amazed at her capacity to love others. I see in her the heart of Christ, who asked for the cup to be taken away, and then said, "may Your will be done."
Can we believe that God is still good in the midst of tragedy?
Can we believe that, even when our hearts are desperately aching, that He loves us...and that He knows better than us?

The loss still stings.
We still mourn his absence.
Tears fell as we sang today, knowing we couldn't hug and squeeze a two-year-old little boy and rain down love upon him in very tangible way.

I think there's much to be gained when we stop blaming God for all the bad things that happen to us in life. When we're willing to admit that maybe there's a bigger picture. When we're willing to believe that God's love is infinitely greater than our own attempts of it.

I want to trust that.
I want to trust Him.
Even in the bad.
Because the bad will happen... even when I'm the best person I can possibly be, even when I try and do everything right.

I get to choose how to respond.
I get to still proclaim that God is good.
That I am blessed.
Uncommonly blessed. No matter how bad it gets here.

Because this isn't the end of the story.
And for that I am thankful.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Inappropriate Crushes

The comment: 
Ever had an inappropriate crush?  Someone significantly older (sometimes even by 11 or 12 years)? Or married? Or your pastor? All of the above? Maybe an authority figure of some kind: teacher, coach, etc?
I occasionally find myself in this awkward position. Today is one of those days. I know it's not wrong unless you act on it, but it still can feel so wrong, and can leave me feeling a little guilty and confused. Is it enough to try and forget about it and pretend it doesn't exist? Usually that works for me. But what if you see them every day? Do you avoid the person? What if you can? There have been a couple times friends have confessed these secret and odd crushes (on the same people as me!) and I just let out a sigh of relief. 
I've realized I'm instantly giddy every time I talk to this person. (Because they're funny! I thought, until I realized my mind was wandering to inappropriate places.) Can we all just admit it happens? What do we do with it? Can we live in the tension, yet still stay pure from sin?
Yes. We can admit it.  
But, 'crush' might be too strong of a word for me. Perhaps 'attraction' is better. 'Crush' can easily take on the connotation that you've allowed yourself to dabble in the feelings of attraction long enough to develop a crush. 'Crush' is admitting that not only have you deemed this person attractive and interesting, but you've gone a step further. 

While the word 'crush' can seem fairly harmless, when I think about the fullness of what it entails (especially the 6th grade version of myself who crushes on guys), it has everything to do with getting their attention, talking to them, flirting with them...and celebrating the moments of success when they give you their attention, talk to you and flirt back. 

So while I think we can definitely be attracted to people who we shouldn't be pursuing, I think harm can come when we allow it to develop into a 'crush'. When we allow ourselves to think (or daydream) about the possibilities, when our actions are clearly sprung from a place of wanting to get to know the other person for all the wrong reasons. 

There's a lot of danger in it. And a lot of necessary self-discernment and self-discipline of recognizing that you're (a) attracted to someone who is either unavailable or inappropriate for you to be in a romantic relationship with and then (b) taking appropriate measures to ensure that that attraction doesn't turn into a crush, a fantasy, or, worse yet, an affair. 

I think it's easy to convince ourselves that the attractions, in and of themselves, are harmless...and while that's true... I think it can very quickly take a turn for the worse. And very quickly one can become the seducer or the mistress without ever knowing what happened. Very quickly the interactions that are fun and easy can become times of sharing hearts and souls, times of asking too many personal questions, times of letting down guards that don't need to be let down. Times when you may, unknowingly, be filling some sort of void or playing into a struggle on their end. 

But, the attractions happen. We don't mean for them to. If I'm being honest, there have definitely been seasons in my life where I've woken up from dreams, covered in guilt that I had been, in my dream, seeking out the physical affection of married men. But they're never the things that I can dwell in or linger in. They are never attractions that I can play into or be curious about...nor do I ever want to. 

And so, yes. Boundaries become pretty imperative. If you find yourself more and more attracted by someone that you're having to spend a lot of time with (because of work or school or whatever else) and it's absolutely inappropriate? Limit the conversations, limit how much you are sharing of much you are asking about them. Be disinterested, not mean. But, try to distance yourself from the situation as much as you can. Be proactive in this, especially if you are acknowledging that this attraction has turned into more of a crush. 

I advise telling someone else, but only if they are someone you know won't encourage you in the attraction. Only if you know that you can trust them to be your confidant, to pray with/for you, and to ask you questions about your thoughts/actions regarding this attraction. If you tell someone who is encouraging you in this inappropriate attraction, you must distance yourself from talking to them about it at all. 

You're not alone. 
And you can certainly live in the tension and remain pure... but, honestly, I think you can be very proactive in making wise decisions that will allow you to not feel conflicted with the inappropriate crush. It'll be merely a recognizing that this person is attractive and cool, but 100% unavailable and that's just how it is. You definitely don't need to hold onto guilt for that. 

No need to pretend the attraction doesn't exist (in fact, I think more harm can ensue when you're in denial)...but, rather, take appropriate measures to make sure it doesn't deepen. 

Because we always have choices... even when it comes to matters of the heart. As much as we like to think we 'can't help' who we fall in love with...we can

Our heart is deceitful, remember?
Make good, wise choices.
Walk away, if necessary. 

You get to choose.

Don't forget it.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Love at First Sight?

The comment:
Love at first sight? What do you think?
Oh boy... 
I can't very well tell someone who has experienced this that it doesn't exist... but I guess I'd still question the 'love' part.

Immediately attracted to, drawn in, interested in at first sight? Sure. Absolutely. It happens almost daily for me. But love...? Eh...... better not.

Met someone and immediately known that they were 'The One'? Eh.... I know quite a few people that claim this has happened to them, but I think it's the exception, not what we should expect and be waiting for. Mostly because I'm hardly convinced there even is 'The One'... but also because I think it creates a faulty hope for single people.

Love at first sight...? The premise of it is based solely on physical attraction. And as much as I want to be physically attracted to the man I spend the rest of my life with... and as much as I want him to be physically attracted to me? It can't be all there is. There has to be more. The looks are fleeting, temporary, promised to fade into wrinkles, bags and sags no matter how hard we try to fight it.

I can't count on my hands and feet the number of times that I've met someone, been immediately attracted to them (and hopeful that this might, indeed, be love at first sight), started talking to them and quickly lost interest. More often there has been the occasional interest peaked and as we started conversing, the interest would grow. They may not have caught my eye based solely on looks, but something about them had been intriguing, worth getting to know, worth investing in. No where close to love... but more of a curiosity.

I don't want to say it can't happen. I'm just skeptical that what we refer to when we say 'love' is actually love... especially at first sight. I think the love takes time to grow and develop, especially as we learn more about each other. I think the initial attraction at first sight sometimes grows and works out for people... and those are the people who would say it was 'love at first sight' for them, but... more often than not, I think the initial attraction fades as we get to know someone and realize our incompatibilities far outweigh our similarities.

Maybe it'll work out for you, though.
Just don't get all set on that being the way it's 'supposed' to work. Recognize that your story is going to look far different from anyone else's.... and it may be immediate attraction from the beginning that keeps growing and working out as you learn to truly love each other, or it may be some person you've known forever that you never even considered a romantic possibility. Who knows...

But love at first sight...?
It's a fun idea, but doesn't really seem to fit reality.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Tuesday, August 20, 2013



It's a buzz word in Christianity.

"Have you surrendered that to the Lord?"
"Are you living a life of surrender?"

We use it in the broader sense of our entire lives, but we also use it in the day-to-day. And sometimes I wonder...what does it even mean?! When we tell someone to surrender something, when we ask them about it, when we think we need to... do we even know what we are saying?

I'm guilty of it. Guilty of suggesting it, guilty of thinking it needs to happen...but sometimes I think we forget to explain what it means, as if we assume it's just a given.

I think I spent a lot of my life thinking that I needed to surrender this and surrender that... but I had no real idea of what that actually looked like. The things weren't always giving them up wasn't this easy ordeal.

Because surrender is complicated. More complicated than we make it. But it's also simple. Simpler than we make it.

To Surrender: to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; to give (oneself) up; to give up, abandon, relinquish... 

It's a letting go, of sorts.
It's a giving of yourself.
It's an admitting that there's One more powerful who not only we ought to yield something to, but our whole being to.

But what does that actually look like?
How does that become something that we aren't just saying, but actually living out of? How does it become tangible and real and not just this Christian word that rolls off our tongues?


It can truly change everything. If you're willing. If you let it.
If you surrender.

In our day-to-day lives, it can look quite different...depending on the person. Perhaps it's certain habits, sins...things that we know we need to abandon. Maybe that's what surrender looks like. Actual things we do that aren't good... that aren't glorifying to the Lord. Things that often have earthly consequences. Surrender means stopping.

Sometimes they are thoughts. Sometimes it's a need to let go of the things we worry about that are out of our control. Someone recently reminded me that the only thing in life that we have control over is our actions...and yet so much of the time we're still trying to fix things, make things happen, prevent things from happening. So much of the time we are worried about all the things that could happen. So, surrender here actually looks a lot like trust. Trusting that the One who is in control has got it all figured out. Trusting that He'll be faithful in what He promises.

Thoughts can manifest themselves in so many other ways that can be detrimental, too. Whether it's lust, or greed, or jealousy, or hatred, or unforgiveness... and this is where surrender becomes more challenging. This is where it becomes blurry... and this is where, I think, surrender is a daily (and oftentimes moment-to-moment) battle. It's something we have to fight to do. We have to fight to continually release, to let go, to walk away, to abandon... and because it's all inward, we find it comes creeping in when we're unaware. Before we know it, the jealousy that we thought we were rid of is growing darkness in our heart...again. Sometimes the surrender feels defeating... sometimes it feels impossible.

Day-to-day, moment-by-moment... surrender. Continually letting go, continually relinquishing, continually battling to be freed from the sin that so easily entangles.

And all of this day-to-day stuff is only possible when we've surrendered our whole selves. When we've fallen flat on our faces, admitting that we can do no good thing, recognizing our need for a savior. When we believe what Jesus has done for us on the cross and in the resurrection and we will do anything with our lives for Him.

Here...? At this point...?
Surrender means following.
It means matter the cost.
It means total abandonment.
It means giving up, letting go, leaving behind what you thought you wanted for your life and admitting that it's probably going to look a lot different. It may mean being a pastor when you thought you'd be a lawyer....or being a lawyer when you thought you'd be a pastor. It may mean getting married when you thought you'd be single....or being single when you thought you'd be married. It may mean living overseas, it may mean living in a city. It may mean mean being poor... it may mean being rich.

But it means doing whatever it takes...while falling down and relying only on the grace of Christ to get back up again... because He is worth it.

It's a life of sacrifice.
A life a surrender.
A life that's not about us...but points directly toward the Creator, the Sustainer... the Father.

Surrender changes everything.
In the day-to-day... and in the greater picture of eternity.
Because, in the end, a life of surrender reminds us that we can do nothing...even when we do whatever it takes. We can't earn our rescue...and we'll still give into the day-to-day battles occasionally. Surrender is the continual admittance that we need Jesus over and over again. It's the living in the grace that He provides when we mess up while simultaneously still striving for the better.

It's not a one-time thing, friends.
And maybe that's what we forget most about surrender.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Monday, August 19, 2013

To the Matchmakers

Matchmaker, matchmaker...make me a match...

Sometimes it seems like if you're married, you feel the immediate desire/need to put on the matchmaker hat. After all, you have found the man or woman of your dreams and you just want all of your single friends to have what you have.

Or something like that, anyway...

I recently had another single person tell me how terribly awkward it's been for her lately as she navigates through newlywed interactions...which often consists of her being the third wheel and receiving sympathy glances when the waitress asks how to cut the check at the end of a meal. "I'm alone..."...which is then met with some sort of assurance that soon, and very soon, they will find the man of her dreams.

I don't believe our married friends mean any harm with such statements, but it leaves us wondering if we are incapable of finding love on our own. It can leave us feeling like there's something wrong with being single. It can make us feel as though we are missing out on something that's always wonderful...which, honestly, probably always gives us a faulty idea of how any real relationship works.

I've been fortunate enough to have a few married friends/family who, while quite happy in their own relationships, have reminded me of how awesome it is to be single. They remind me of all the things that I can do that they cannot. They remind me that relationships are hard... that marriage is harder....and once you have kids, it gets even more complicated. They remind me that even when two people are in love, it doesn't always turn out like a Disney feature film....your days aren't always filled with happily-ever-afters.

And while it's okay and they wouldn't change their lives for the world....they also encourage me to not want to change mine. To not wish away my days of being single. To not feel like I'm flawed, that something is wrong with me, that there's a problem...but to recognize the opportunities. Opportunities that I can have that they do not.

These friends, when I struggle with being single and lonely, aren't the ones who tell me the solution is online dating, or putting myself out there, or to just be patient. They're the friends who know the solution isn't to be found in a romantic relationship.

So... married folk...
I guess I'd just urge you to be cautious of how you interact with your single friends. Don't play matchmaker (unless they directly ask you to or you know them well and actually have a person in mind...don't go searching for one!). Don't make your single friends feel like what you have in your marriage is better than what they have being single. There are pros to both and cons to both...and for the season that they are single, it does them a greater service if you are supporting them exactly where God has them instead of making them feel as though they are missing out.

We, as single people, don't need matchmakers in our married friends. We need friends who are going to give us honest looks at what it means to be in relationship with someone else...imperfections and all. We needs friends who are going to support us, encourage us, and push us on toward what the Lord has for us and what He has called us to....even if it means we are single the entire time. We need people who aren't going to continually remind us that we are single, but people who are going to remind us that we have a greater purpose that cannot be fulfilled through marriage.

There's a greater Love to be concerned with. A greater Love to be focused on. A greater Love that should drive our entire lives.

So put down the matchmaker hat...and just be our friend.
Lots of us are struggling to trust the Lord with all of it already... and it's much easier when you're there to remind us of His faithfulness, of our purpose, of the opportunities we have in this season.

We love that you care about this for us, but we need you to care about all the other stuff we're chasing after, too.


Your entries will remain anonymous

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Breaking Up

"Are you.... breaking... up... with me?"

Is that my voice? You wonder as you choke back the tears.
Has it really come to this?
The words that had felt so unspeakable before seem to be tumbling out without you being able to stop them. Somewhere in you, you know that the moment you utter the words... that it will be the moment nothing is ever the same. Because as soon as you ask the question, you get a response.

It's a defining moment in the dating relationship.
A defining question. The question you can't ask too many times because, if you do, the percentage rate of being met with a 'yes' seems to go up drastically.

And so as you mediate through relational conflict, you can't help but wonder....will this be the night I have to ask? You argue, you fight, voices are raised, fists are clenched... you can't possibly see any way that the two of you will ever agree on this. Trust has been broken, lies have been told. Insecurity pulls you in tighter as you wonder if they still even like you or if they just feel stuck...

But you don't ever want to ask the question. If you leave things ambiguous, albeit tense, perhaps it means you can drag it out a little bit longer... perhaps it means that they aren't really sure and so there's still time to prove that you can change, still time to prove that you two can make this work... that you're 'meant to be'....that you really do love each other.

Isn't it better to live in the shaky stability that a relationship provides?
Isn't it better to not have to go stag to weddings?
Isn't it better to not be the fifth wheel on a double date?
Isn't it better to have someone that's supposed to be there as you navigate through life?
...isn't it better?
I guess that depends..

In an ideal situation, I don't think we'd ever have to ask the question. Ideally, if someone is breaking up with us, they'd do it in such a way that there's not ambiguity involved. Ideally when people break-up with someone, it's something that they've prepared for and have known they want/need to do for more than the length of a conversation. Ideally it isn't an emotional, irrational decision. Ideally people don't break up because someone asked the question.... and answering 'yes' seemed like a better answer in the moment.

But... we don't often live in ideals.
We are people who often live emotionally, who make impromptu decisions, who are scared of confrontation, who avoid having to be the 'bad guy', who grow weary and frustrated. And so we drive people to ask the question. Isn't it easier to say 'yes' than it is to say, 'I think we should break-up' and then give an honest explanation? Isn't it easier to say, 'I can't do this anymore!' while the other person asks a million questions in order to clarify just what exactly 'this' is and what it means for your relationship?

So, here are some thoughts on breaking up:
  • Don't break up in the heat of the moment. If you think, during an argument, that you want to break up with someone, give yourself some time to process through a weighty decision like that before reacting emotionally. Sure, you may have been considering breaking up for a few days (and while you're fighting, those contemplations suddenly feel a lot like concrete facts)... but give yourself at least a few days to know you want/need to break-up before actually doing it. This can hopefully help you avoid breaking up and getting back together multiple times as you live life based on your emotions. It may also help you approach the break up in a way that's more thought out...which hopefully means better for you and your partner (Here are some other thoughts on when to break up with someone if you are trying to figure all of that out.)
  • If you know you need to break-up with someone, do it. Don't leave it ambiguous or confusing for them.... and don't drive them to do it for you. Be straight-forward, be honest... but be kind. Don't leave open doors, don't leave future possibilities.... just let it be over. Let them say what they feel like they need to say, but be direct in making sure they know that it is over. Answer their questions...but don't stay in the conversation too long. Get out before you end up back in the relationship without knowing what happened. Don't ever make someone ask the question 'are you breaking up with me?'! 
  • If someone seems like they are ambiguously breaking up with you: don't ask the question, unless you really feel like you need/want to be out of the relationship right then, too. If they're breaking up with you, let them clarify what they mean/what they're trying to say without you filling in the silence for them. They'll get there... and if they aren't there yet, you don't want to push them there. Perhaps they're just questioning things and confused and need to sort through stuff and their intent isn't to break up with you, it's just to figure it all out. Don't ask the question, especially in the midst of an emotionally challenging conversation/conflict as it might spur them on toward something they weren't necessarily considering before. 
  • Don't ask "Are you breaking up with me?" anytime you feel like things aren't perfect. They will break up with you for this reason alone if you are that paranoid of a boyfriend/girlfriend. 

It's messy.
It isn't easy.
Broken hearts seem inevitable... but they aren't irreparable.
That's the good news.
Even when you break up, there's hopefully a freedom to be found in knowing that it's never your responsibility to fix, or to save, or to solve all the problems of the other person. You never could. You were never meant to.

So sometimes you just have to let go...
And trust that somehow, even through all the pain, that it can be better.

Be wise.
Be rational.
Set aside your fleeting emotions and pray for great discernment.

And.. let's keep those emotional, desperate questions to a minimum... yes?

Your entries will remain anonymous

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Silent Conversations

Do you ever have silent conversations with people?

You know, the type of conversations where you're not actually talking to the person, but you create all sorts of theories and ideas about what they probably would say if you talked to them about a particular subject? And from that 'conversation' you base your decision act or not act.

It's actually pretty fascinating to see what conclusions we draw based on the different variables. If it's someone we haven't talked to in a long time (perhaps an ex or a friend we had a falling out with), we may have a silent conversation with them that looks like this:

Me: Hey's been a while...
Them: Yeah...
Me: So, how are things?
Them: Good. Why are you talking to me all of a sudden?
Me: Oh. Uh. I just... you know... wanted to check in.
Them: Oh.

And then you anticipate that you'd feel like a complete moron for having said anything, and so in order to avoid any possibility where you're putting yourself out there... you leave your silent conversation silent and stay far away from having an actual conversation with them. Because, you already know how it's going to turn out, right?

Or, maybe it's someone you're really close to but have gotten into an argument about something. You visualize the way it would all go down if you were willing to bring up the conflict again... and it just doesn't seem worth it. Suddenly you have some unmentionable barrier in the midst of your relationship... but, better to not bring it up than to have that conversation... right?

Sometimes the silent conversations go alarmingly well.
Sometimes the silent conversations go so well that we bulk up on courage and decide to have an actual conversation. I can usually get behind this... unless we're living in denial and have very false illusions for how something is going to go. Then it can just be a disaster.. (like the times my silent conversations lead me to believe that confessing my love to a guy is a good idea...).

What I can't really get behind is the time we spend dwelling on the silent conversations. The time we spend weighing out all the possibilities of what someone might say if we were to approach them. So often we are pretending like we truly know what the other person is thinking, how they perceived a situation, how they will respond to us... and so often we are wrong. And a lot of the time, I'm not sure we ever even know we are wrong...because we've never tried to find out. The silent conversations have silenced us, and so we live life not knowing... because we are scared.

I guess I just don't want us to be people who presume to know what other people are thinking... so much so that we are unwilling to actually find out what's going on in their head. I don't want us to be people who exist with broken relationships because we assume that the other person wants nothing to do with us anymore. I don't want us to be people who over-think and over-analyze to the point where it becomes detrimental in our communication with other people.

At this point in my life, I recognize that too much conflict is a direct result of miscommunication. Too much division comes out of the things we convince ourselves in the silent dialogues.

But we don't know what someone else is thinking, feeling, believing until we ask. We don't know how someone else is perceiving, hearing, receiving until we're willing to have an actual conversation with them about it.

It's unfair to have a conversation with someone when they can't talk back. When they can't speak for themselves. When they can't tell you what's really going on with them.

So, before we go assuming that we know how someone would respond if we were to talk to them about that...or if we were to talk to them at all... let's be willing to actually talk to them about it. Let's be willing to find out what they think. Let's spend less time worried about and making up the silent conversation and let's spend more time invested in the actual conversation (and better yet, the person on the other side of the conversation).

Spend time thinking about the best way to clearly articulate what you are trying/hoping to say, praying for a loving attitude and kind words and pure motives... but don't waste any time creating expectations for how they are going to respond.

Be open for anything.
Be ready for anything.
But don't kill the conversation before it ever begins.

Face the unknown confidently, ready to say what you feel like you need to say and ready to listen to what they feel like they need to say.

Replace the silent conversations with actual conversations... and may reconciliation come.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Does Gender Matter?

"I should not talk to a woman unless I'm sure she will be my future wife, or I might be distracted from my relationship with God."

Someone actually said this. I imagine that lots of people are saying things similar to this, actually. It was a quote I heard in a presentation this past semester and it stuck out to me...because I fear, too often, this is the mentality that we adopt as Christians. This mentality that the opposite sex only serves to distract us (unless they are our spouse) and therefore we need to keep our distance.

My freshman year of college I was tempted with this as the solution to my boy-crazy tendencies. I knew that I was someone who was more likely to spend my time figuring out how to masterfully manipulate all the cute boys into being my closest friends which would inevitably lead us into a deep and meaningful dating relationship (this never worked for me, by the way). Knowing I was prone to spend more energy on guys than I was anything else (especially the Lord), I felt like it might be better to ban them from my life.

I actually had a friend who had successfully accomplished the feat and I watched in admiration as she followed through with her goals. She had set up boundaries to not talk to guys at all and anytime she thought about guys, she was to immediately pray and 'take those thoughts captive'. The self-discipline was inspiring... and it was just what this holding-two-guys'-hands-at-the-same-time-girl needed.

But, I wanted to be realistic about it. Not talking to guys for a certain amount of time? It was laughable. Especially her two month goal. I'd start off with the praying and 'taking thoughts captive' thing and see how that went, first. It went. Sort of.

I tell you the story to show that I get it. I do. I get the motivation behind why we often do the things we do...why we often try to completely separate ourselves from the opposite gender...but I don't always think it's the correct response. I don't always think it's the solution. I think, oftentimes, it's us trying to control the situation, trying to protect ourselves, our attempt to co-exist with fear.

But, is it good?
Is it true?
Is it right?
Is it necessary?

When I look at what the body of Christ is in Scripture, I don't see the gender barrier that we so readily create. Sure, flee from prostitutes and temptresses...but to not talk to a fellow sister in Christ because you're not married to her?

I know that male-female friendships are risky and complicated and weird at times. But, I can't help but think that too often we establish rules and boundaries for ourselves because it seems easier than existing in a world where bad things could happen. It seems safer for the married man to never talk to another woman, just in case they have some sort of chemistry and are unable to control themselves. It seems safer for the two singles to avoid each other because if they form some sort of friendship, one of them may like the other and it may never be mutual and then one gets hurt.

Why even bother talking to the opposite gender when there's so much room for pain and destruction to occur? Hurry! Guard yourself! Stay away! There is room only for your spouse!! Possible distractions=bad form.

What kind of community does that create? What kind of church? What kind of neighborhood? What kind of family?

We need to be people who are wise in our decisions and in our interactions with the opposite gender, but we also need to be people who can recognize the value that can be had with them. To be open to the Lord using men and women alike to speak truth, encouragement, love into our lives. I'm not even saying they need to be deep, intimate friends... but I am saying that we need to exist in community with all believers (not just same-gendered ones).

And, we need to be men and women who allow our significant others to have interactions with the opposite gender (especially in group settings)... instead of being controlling, jealous, threatened and fearful that one interaction is going to lead to an affair.
It feels risky saying that, honestly.
I get that Scripture tells us that in order to resist temptation that we must flee from it. I guess I just think it's unfair to think that all interactions with the opposite gender is filled to the brim with temptation (unless you know that for you it is).

I think it is possible to maintain friendships, to have interactions, to truly love others in a way that isn't determined by gender. And I want us to get there. To exist in community with each other in ways where we can be vulnerable, authentic, encouraging and filled with the Lord moving powerfully.

Because I don't see the segregation as part of how it was intended to be.
I need men in my life to share their opinions, to speak truth, to challenge me, to encourage me, to protect me... in ways that no woman ever could. I need older, wiser married men to give me advice. I need single men to go on adventures with. I need engaged men to help me write blogs.

The design is bigger than our fears of what could be. Male and female, we are created in God's image. All the things that make men different from me are all the reasons I need to interact with them, I need to get their opinions on things, I need to have them in my life. Together (not solely in marriage) we make up the image of God.

I want to be open to that.
I want to exist in a place where I view people as people, and not by their gender and how I 'should' interact with them. It's a hard shift for me, honestly... but, I think it's better. I think it's more true to how community should be.

But, recognizing that we're still all broken and live in a fallen world, I think we need to be wise and conscientious of our interactions with the opposite gender. I don't think we need to live in fear of how those interactions will inevitably be distractions from the Lord. Instead, may we believe, regardless of gender, that as we interact with one another that we would be people who continually push each other on toward Jesus.

All the believers were one in heart and mind...

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dark Clouds of Jealousy

For the last few months I've had a dark cloud hanging over me.
The cloud of wanting and not having.
The cloud of feeling like almost everyone else has something I want.

And, let me tell you, it's sometimes hard to see much else with that dark cloud overhead.

The cloud emerges as I scroll through the newsfeed on Facebook. It feels like everyone else has the seemingly wonderful boyfriend, fiance, husband... or the blonde-haired boy or the smiley, witty little girl. The cloud emerges as I walk through public areas. It feels like all other women are equipped with size 4 waists, bouncy hair, professionally done make-up, and a classy wardrobe. The cloud emerges as I drive on streets. Cars that look shinier, newer, better than mine.

The cloud emerges when I hear about people I know being super successful in something they're passionate about... or something I'm passionate about. When people get opportunities to write, or take pictures, or play sports, or sing, or travel, or go on incredible adventures. When people do what I've done, but are doing it better and different and bigger.

The cloud emerges when I realize I can't be in India, Africa, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, North Carolina, New England, Missouri, Texas and New Mexico all at the same time... because it means that other people are living life without me, that I can only be a part of one of those at a time and so the rest of the time, I feel like I'm watching others have what I no longer do...watching them engage in a life that I could, if I weren't somewhere else.

The cloud emerges when I interact with people who are great at maintaining eye contact while they're talking, when they are warm and inviting without having to think twice about it, when their ability to love others surpasses anything I could ever try to fake. It comes out when I see true selflessness, humility, joy... all accompanied by rawness and honesty and a desire to know truth and live by it. It comes out when someone else can cause everyone else to erupt with laughter, hold them captive as they tell a story, or entertain simply by being so contentious of everyone else's needs. It comes out when people are incredibly intellectual and know what they are talking about.

The cloud emerges when I hear about incredible communities, when I see relationships forming between others in ways that I never had, when I just feel like everyone my age is passing me by.

It happens when I'm so focused on what I do not have that it's all I can seem to see around me: how everyone else has something I lack, is getting to be a part of something that I am not, is something that I can only wish to be.

And the darkness sets in, the storm brews, and my heart still yearns for my very own rainbow as the dark interacts with the light all around me.

It's a pitiful place of comparison, a dark place of only acknowledging what isn't mine, a black hole of jealousy and destruction.

Maybe you've been here, too. Maybe you're here now.

It's a place of limited vision. A place where we forget that we don't see the whole picture. A place where the grass always looks greener on the other side. A place that quickly turns rational thought into irrational feelings.

I've been reminded lately that my jealousy is often unwarranted. In fact, it's more often sprung from a place of assumption. Assuming that the pictures and posts I see, the few moments of interactions that I have, the people I see from a distance, the polite conversations... that those are depictions of entire lives. Assumptions that relationships are perfect, that children are easy, that jobs are never stressful, that following dreams is easy, that people are always how they seem, that no one is ever fake...

When I'm so honed in on what everyone else has that I do not, I lose sight of what matters. I lose sight of what I already have been given... what I've been given in abundance.

But I think, more importantly, I lose sight of eternity. I lose sight of how all of my needs have already been met and everything else I think I want is often just broken shadows of what it was supposed to be. None of it is perfect. None of it truly satisfies.

I've been looking in the wrong place.
It's been a season of dark clouds because what I want to fulfill me doesn't sustain me. And even the cliche 'Jesus' answer doesn't always seem to do the trick, like most Christians might tell me. Because we still live in this weird tension of our brokenness and our wholeness, our old flesh and our new flesh, our hearts of stone and our hearts of flesh.

Sometimes I turn away, sometimes I seek other things, sometimes I build idols, sometimes I hope for more here on earth...
And then, I return.
I remember what matters.
I remember why Jesus is worth it.
I remember the price that has been paid.
I remember that I already have been given far more than I deserve.

It's a back and forth existence.
I don't know how I can make it look any different. Then again, I wonder if that's where the problem lies... in my own striving to change myself.

But, sometimes.... sometimes I just think that's the way it is here and it's okay. That even in my battles, in my doubt, in my jealousy and wishing for all the things I don't have because I get lost in the dark clouds...that God is faithful in my cyclical return to Him. He rescues. He redeems. He forgives. He loves. He sustains. He provides. He fulfills... perhaps even all the things I think are lacking sometimes. He takes me back again, and again, and again, and again.

May we find our wholeness in Him... if not fully on this side of eternity, may we trust in the promises that await us and live accordingly. Imperfect, unfaithful, sinners saved by grace. Not by anything we have done...

I think the rainbow comes. I think we get hints of it all the time, actually.
I just think it looks a little different than how I sometimes envision... and I think the different is much better.

I can't wait until it's all I see.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Loving through Annoyance

The comment:

I have enjoyed your blog posts, keep them rolling. Maybe you should write one on how to love people you don’t enjoy being around, at all. I used to be a lot better at it than I am now…

Dude. I hear you. This is h.a.r.d. 

I will admit readily that I get annoyed really easily. In fact, I took a class in undergrad where one of the semester long assignments was to work on communications problem that we possessed and document our goals and progress throughout the months. We even had to interview people closest to us at the end of the semester to find out if we had changed, if we had succeeded in our goals. Here is a bit of my proposal:

Other people have the tendency to drive me crazy.  I would blame them entirely for the way I act in response to the annoying, frustrating habits that seem to be exhibited by everyone around me, but alas, I cannot. I am coming to realize that regardless of the fact that people behave in a manner that is somewhat maddening to me at times, I am still responsible for the way I think, and as a result, the way I communicate with them.  This is not easy for me to admit.  All of me likes to believe that if people would stop doing such dense things, my problems would be solved. But, I know that realistically I struggle immensely with continuing to communicate appropriately with those around me that have rather aggravating habits.  Thus, I have chosen to work on my communication with other people when their habits make it hard for me to want to communicate at all. 

Essentially I had labeled my problem to work on as: intolerance toward annoying behaviors. Which, while everyone has some annoying tendencies, there are certainly some people who seem to only have annoying tendencies (you guys know who I'm talking about).

And perhaps it’s during various seasons in life… maybe it’s a family member, or a significant other, or a roommate… people that you truly do love, but in your closeness during random times, it seems they can do nothing right.

But sometimes there are just people that are hard to love. Maybe they are people that have done something to you, maybe they are people that you don’t know very well but your personalities clash….maybe everything they do grates on your every nerve, for no apparent reason.

Regardless of your relationship with them, I think this is something almost everyone will struggle with from time to time. So… I’ve been pouring over my ‘progress reports’ from my attempt to not be so easily annoyed by the people that I didn’t enjoy being around and I may have some helpful hints for you in your endeavor to love them better. Check it out:
  • Keep track of your emotional reactions to specific situations that you don't enjoy: why are you not enjoying this particular person? Is it something they are doing, or is it something within you that bothers you about everyone?  If you keep track of when these upset feelings arise, you’ll be able to better identify what the agent is that is causing the negative reaction. Is it a specific person, a certain situation, a certain type of person, or something else entirely?
  • Make note of the different thoughts that you have as you experience the emotions, mostly figuring out whether or not the thoughts are rational or irrational.
  • If the thoughts are irrational, understand why the thoughts are irrational and write down an alternate way to more rationally think about the situation and then act upon it.
  • If the thoughts are rational, be willing to engage in confrontation…be willing to open up a conversation with the other person about why what they are doing is upsetting you (and potentially others).  Or be willing to just let it go and move on with your life. 

I found that in following these steps for a few months, I was able to truly take a step back before simply reacting to people/situations. I was able to think through different possibilities for why the people I didn’t enjoy were people that I didn’t enjoy… and my attempt to think about it all differently enabled me to then act different. To act in a way that exuded love instead of annoyance.

And, honestly, as I’ve gotten older… I’ve found that the less I know someone, the harder it is for me to love them. When I take the time to truly get to know someone else and to find out who they are and why they are the way they are, the things that used to annoy me about them kind of become background noise. They aren’t things that matter as much…because I’ve been willing to see and know more of their heart. When I'm willing to be vulnerable with those people and allow them to get to know me… that’s also something that brings about an ability to love them better.

I think at the end of the day, the answer to your question is just having a willingness. We have to want to love others, even if we don’t feel like we do or ever can. And, I think God changes our hearts… and I think that only He can. I think we can strive and make changes and desire an open-mind… but I think that we have to be willing for Him to transform us. I think following the steps above (no matter how ridiculous they seem) can be a great move toward progress…especially if you find yourself annoyed with all sorts of people all the time. I think when you slow down and allow the Lord to step into the irrational thoughts that you have toward people, that you’ll be surprised by how your perspective changes.

I think the more that we are willing to really talk to people and listen to them and where they come from, the more the Lord changes our hearts as He reveals His love for them as they share their stories of brokenness and hurt, and that He gives us a compassion that we, on our own, lack.

And… it’s pretty humbling when you think that you might be one of those people that others just don’t enjoy being around. But, maybe if they really knew you…maybe if they were willing to look past that nervous laugh, or the incessant talking, or the uncontrollable burps, or the one-upping tendencies that come from a deep insecurity…. That they would see a person, absolutely imperfect, but not too different from them at all.

Be willing.
And I think the Lord will take care of the rest.
Oh, and that whole Golden Rule thing, too.
Oh... and nothing about this is natural or easy. And that's why, when we are willing (even when we feel unable), we don't really get the credit for it in the end. Shoot, even when we are unwilling but we desire to still somehow walk in obedience to that whole 'loving our enemy' thing, I think the Lord is faithful in moving us to places where we constantly have to get over ourselves. 

Isn't that what it almost always tends to boil down to, anyway? 
Getting over ourselves? 

But, I pray that we'd be surprised by the people we think we are unable to love and unable to enjoy being around. That when we are willing, when we take the time, when we reach out... that we would find that our obedience moves us into a place where our enjoyment with those people is undeniable, where we aren't so consumed with what we are getting out of the experience, and the Lord would be truly glorified. 

I truly believe it is possible. 
It takes work. It takes effort. It isn't easy.
But it is possible...especially if it matters to you. 

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