Making the Most of Memories: the benefits of Reminiscing

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Memory of going to a “hobo” party with siblings 🙂

July 4th I went to work at the campground as usual (holidays aren’t breaks for campground workers–they are busier actually). Half an hour into my work day, two guys in black ski masks and sun glasses blocking out their eyes snuck into the campground office while I was distracted. I turned around and they grabbed me, blindfolded me, and put me in a car. My mind was racing during the following 40-50 min drive and, aside from a hasty command to remain seated and just wait at the beginning of the ride, nobody in the car spoke during the whole time. 

File:Balaclava 3 hole black.jpgWhen we finally parked, I was pulled out of the car, passed around from person to person at least once or twice, and after what seemed like a very, very long time, the bandanna blindfold was ripped off; I was greeted with a chorus of “Happy Birthday” and a cake with burning candles. 

I spent the day in the company of good friends exploring the ruins of an old cement factory and biking on the North Country Trail. I had a fantastic day and know I will remember the day for a very long time.

Memories are astounding things. But they don’t seem to get the credit they deserve. Experiences that were hard work, cost a lot of money, or are long gone are easily retrievable and re-experienceable and yet we so often forget to take full advantage of this mysterious thing called memory. I would like to encourage you to go back and consider some good memories for multiple reasons:

Memories are a way to stay content

The day after that kidnapping adventure, work was especially slow and boring in comparison. But while I worked, I remembered the happenings of the day before and was forced to smile every so often. Plus, I recognized that the only way adventures like that can happen is if we go through our normal, every day lives most of the time. Thinking about that instead of having a pity party at work helped me to be grateful for what I have instead of bemoaning what I don’t have. When you are bored or discontent, take the time to consider an old memory that will make you smile. I can guarantee it will make you just a little more content in the current situation.

IMG_20170708_153310165_HDRMemories are a way to stay connected with friends

Relationships have a past, present, and future too. As explained in my intriguing post “Relationships in the 3-D,” keeping the past (good memories together) in mind helps to strengthen the present. Remembering old adventures with friends and siblings is a guaranteed way to rejuvenate love and admiration toward others.

Memories help us to keep a good perspective on life

Have you ever been on one of those vacations where everything goes wrong? Or you had an experience with a friend that was just rotten at the time? Our family once watched a terrible movie. It had a lame plot and ended with the family being broken up and doled out because the parents died and the orphans needed homes. It was such a waste of time to watch, and yet, now our family laughs whenever we remind each other of it and we use that waste-of-time experience for good now. Remembering and laughing about those Image result for hippie vankind of situations in the past helps us to keep a better perspective in the present. When you have a hangnail and your eyelid won’t close all the way and have a mosquito biting your nose (but you can’t swat it because your hands are sticky from eating spoiled oranges) and you get a flat on the side of the road and have to hitchhike with a hippie gangster (not a true story and NOT recommended), you’ll be more likely to take it in stride–recognizing in a little while it’ll be over with and just be a memory to laugh at. Rough things have to happen, but they aren’t the end of the world.

Memories are a way to keep in mind what God has done for us

In the book of Exodus we see God doing miraculous sign after miraculous sign after miraculous sign to free the Israelites from their bondage to the Egyptians. And yet, as soon as they are freed from their miserable slavery, they immediately forget God and turn to such wretched activities as building themselves a golden calf to worship. How guillaume-de-germain-303020 (1)insane is that?! And yet, I do the same thing. I am SO quick to forget what God has done for me. Taking the time to remember what God has done for you in the past is an invaluable way to keep your faith strong and to keep you well connected to your maker.

It is true that sometimes we need to leave the past behind. You’ve been forgiven for your sins and there are some memories we need to let go of in order to move on. But there are also countless memories we are way too quick to forget. Reminiscing over past joys is such a free, easy activity that can really have so many benefits!

I’d like to challenge you to remind a friend of a shared memory with him/her–just to Image result for smiley facemake the two of you smile, or to thank God for something he’s done in your past that you sometimes forget, or to wake up in the morning (and, if you’re human, you’ll sometimes wake up grumpy) and to immediately consider a good memory so that you can start the morning with a smile. Why not take advantage of the advantages of memories?

Also, I’d love for you to comment on the post with a good memory or just your thoughts 🙂

Relationships 101: It begins with knowing God

rocks people man happy worship sunset view clouds sky dark silhouette A twitter post by CommonWhiteGrl stated, “Being 18-25 is like playing a video game where u’ve skipped the tutorial & you’re just sort of running about with no idea how anything works.” Tell me about it. At this age we often feel overwhelmed, trying to figure out our lives: our educations, our careers, our relationships.

Of all of these significant aspects, I would argue that relationships are the most important. The relationships you form today are going to affect who you are tomorrow (more so, I would argue, than the career or educational path you chose). Most college kids are hungry for good, close friends. So to solve our problem, I wrote a post revealing the deepest, previous-to-now unknown, rocket-science, doctorate-degree-level, what-you-never-knew-before secrets about how to form and maintain a good relationship.

Okay, okay, maybe it’s not quite that secretive…and maybe it’s not quite that complicated…yeah…it might actually be common sense. BUT, I know this because I do it all the time: the common sense is so often forgotten. So, in this post I took up the menial task of reintroducing it–for my own sake if for no one else’s.

The Backstory

You know that passionate love and connection you feel between yourself and your best friend and/or significant other? No, seriously, think about your excitement to spend time with this person. This love and closeness is something we desire in relationships and it is delightful when we can make such connections. But, even if you think you have the closest of BFFs or the world’s best girlfriend, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

If you think you’ve felt love, passion, or belonging from any human before, I want to remind you God created that passionate love and if you think it’s strong between two humans, imagine how much stronger God feels that way toward you. As much as it means to wake up to a simple text saying “good morning” from your lover or best friend, it means so much more to God for you to wake up and say “good morning!” to him. He pursues you, desires you, and wants your love more than any human possibly could.

Therefore, if you really want good, fulfilling relationships, you have to start with getting to know God. 

I know God is so big, so unimaginable, so vast, so…everything. It seems impossible to know God and he sometimes feels so very distant. I know it. And I do not want to downplay God–he is way beyond us. I readily admit he is far too vast to understand. But, at the same time, he’s created each individual to be capable–in fact only fulfilled–when he/she has a close relationship with God. So in the face of this aspiration, I want to offer a variety of ways to stay connected with your creator.

Talk

We think we’re so technologically advanced when we can text someone anywhere in the hands clasp pray person people ring still bokeh portrait black and white world and they can receive it in a matter of seconds. How much cooler, though, is it that we can talk directly, without any time or technological boundaries, to the creator of the universe? And what kind of friends don’t talk? Realistically, how many of us, if asked about our relationship with God would have to answer–if answering honestly–“Well, we aren’t really talking anymore”? Let me tell you, in relationships, that statement is never a good sign…

Talk to God as you would talk to your best friend. Tell him how your day was. Tell him what is bothering you. Tell him what you’re excited about. Tell him why you are angry with him. Like a patient lover, he’s standing right by your side, just waiting for your attention. He wants your heart and wants your real self. Talk to him–even if you are only saying stupid things. He knows already, but he wants to hear it from you. Sometimes you and your best friend talk just to hear from each other what you already know. That’s what God wants.

Listen

But good friends don’t just talk, they listen. Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones, in their book Lady in Waiting, do a great job of describing this: “Even when someone is very special to you, you do not get too excited with a steady monologue. Listening is an important part of developing closeness with someone else. If you want to get to know the Lord, you must seek Him not only with a whole, clean, and pure heart, but also with a listening heart.”

mountain valley hill cliff rocks landscape blue sky clouds people man sitting alone mountaineer hiker hiking climbing sunny day daylight travel outdoors summer adventure Very few people would argue this point. But how does one listen to God?? One obvious answer is through reading his word. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: God’s word is a love letter to you. I bet it’s been a while since you’ve read God’s word as carefully as you would read a love letter… But you can also listen to God through a sermon, through reading inspirational books and blogs 😉 , or even through admiring creation (which he spoke into being). Sitting outside and staring up at the clouds, thinking about who God is definitely counts as listening to him.

Hang Out

The intense desire you have to spend time with a best friend or significant other is the way God feels about you. He looks forward to shared time and loves for you to be aware and accepting of his presence even in menial tasks. Just as even washing dishes is more fun with a friend, being aware and accepting of his presence in any circumstance can count as “quality time.”

And just as you enjoy spending time with your BFF or significant other in groups, you can hang out with God in groups–that’s what churches, discipleship groups, and worship nights are for. These are marvelous ways to celebrate God with other friends. mountain nature sky sunny sunrise summer sunset sunlight sunshine green grass sea water ocean lake man people reading book bible sitting alone bench But, also as you enjoy spending time with that one friend one-on-one, so you ought to spend time one-on-one to really connect intimately with God. Set aside some alone time* to talk with God, to listen to God, and just to sit silently with God. You’d do it with your boyfriend/girlfriend/bestfriend. Do it with God.

*Are you really alone if you’re chillin’ with God?

Become Obsessed!

You know how lovers are obsessed with each other and simply can’t get that special someone off their minds? Well, God’s obsessed with you and would love for even a small portion of that obsession to be reciprocated. Thinking about someone is a way of bringing that relationship into the present (see my post: Relationships in the 3-D). Randomly thinking about God throughout the day is a way to evoke passion in your relationship. Take your prayers before meals more seriously, place Bible verses in obvious places to randomly get your attention, think about a time when God has come through for you.

Many of us feel so overwhelmed about deepening our relationship with God that we tend to simply push it off. Or we forget how desperately God is pursuing us, waiting for so much as a little awareness from the humans he created in his image to share his love with. Or we get so caught up in life that we get distracted. But life is short and unpredictable. And God is waiting. So please, don’t let God’s greatness be an excuse for starting or growing deeper in the best relationship of your life.

In Honor of Sang Yoon: What are You Living for?

19756847_10158820639760391_7935453298698112723_n.pngLast semester at Cornerstone University I was working in a morning psychology study group and brought an omelet for breakfast (because it wasn’t ready until after we were supposed to meet–darn kitchen crew 😉 ) so I could eat and study at the same time. However, upon meeting with the group, Miles, the fellow on my right said he’s allergic to eggs and the smell makes him nauseous. At the same time, Sang, the fellow on my left said he hadn’t had breakfast and the omelet smelled SO good! Awkwardly I offered the plate to the Sang, but he turned me down, despite the fact that his mouth was watering. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, I had little to no interest in finishing my omelet in these conditions so I set it aside and tried to push it away so neither classmate would have to smell it. When we took a quick study break later on, Sang Yoon decided to take up my previous offer and finished my omelet for me–providing a relieving answer for everyone.

Two months after finishing that exam, I get the news that Sang Yoon, my omelet-eating study buddy, drowned in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This news forced me to do an overhaul in my thinking. I mean, I go about my day; I wake up, I go to sleep, I work, I Image result for omelet pictureskeep up on chores, I fit fun in where I can. So far I’ve been able to keep going through my everyday experiences. I do life somewhat thoughtlessly. But Sang Yoon’s death stopped me in my tracks. His death reminded me of how short and unpredictable life is. He reminded me of the bigger picture out there–and how despairingly small is my vision of life. How differently would I live, how differently would I communicate, if I could keep my eyes set on the bigger picture?

As a Christian, I believe God places each of us on earth for a reason. I believe life on earth is only the beginning and that the best is yet to come. I believe God has a purpose for what happens and can bring glory to his name through anything–even a 24-year-old man drowning. So, while I am upset that Sang had to die, I aspire to respect both Sang and God by challenging my way of thinking because of it. I want to recognize how short and unpredictable life is and I want to live my life for others and for the glory of God.

What have I been saying with my life? The mundane: the dish-washing, floor-sweeping, dinner-making, bathroom-cleaning can communicate a love for your housemates, a good stewardship of the things you have. Your attitude at work communicates. Your time on Facebook and Netflix communicates. Who you talk to and where you spend your money communicates. What has the past hour said about who you are and what you live for?

If I could regularly keep this perspective and purpose in mind, would I be so selfish? Would I complain if I had to stay late at work? Could I see it as a chance to serve more? Would I be so judgmental? Would I do the once-over on the girl with the short shorts? Would I be so impatient and so self-centered? Would I whine about leaving later than I wanted to for an event? Would it matter if I were a few minutes late?  Would I argue with my siblings as much? Would do more to show them that I love them?

If I could remember how little control I have and how each day is a gift, how each hour is speaking something, would I not pray more sincerely, live more boldly, act more purposefully, love more unconditionally? Would I not see how each day of my life can make a difference–even in the most minuscule, boring tasks–for better or for worse? Wouldn’t I take more risks in witnessing, wouldn’t I take more joy in little things, wouldn’t I be more thankful for what I have?19693630_1527121214013347_4089569426993532852_o.jpg

How one communicates depends on the perspective one takes. In honor of Sang, in honor of God, I aspire to embrace the perspective that God wants me to have. I want to live my life with purpose and to be used for God. Even if you aren’t religious or don’t have similar opinions about God, I would like to challenge you to consider what you are living by. What will people say about you when you are gone?Why do you do what you do? What motivates you, really? What perspective are you taking? What is your life communicating? What have you said with the past hour of your life? 

Goals don’t get accomplished on their own. It might sound cliche and overrated, but stepping back for a moment to consider what is motivating you to live as you do and what you are communicating with your life is a decision that, if taken seriously, I can guarantee you won’t regret.

And to Sang, I want to thank you for being the good-natured, patient, intelligent person you were. …and for finishing my omelet to relieve that awkward situation 🙂

 

“Don’t ask if you don’t like what I have to say!”: Relationship-oriented vs. task-oriented comm

Image result for chicken noodle soup

When I lived at home, all the kids in the house had one night per week where they were assigned the task of making dinner. One of my sisters was always looking for suggestions. I remember one day when she came into my room and asked, “BethAnn, what should I make for supper?” “I don’t care,” I responded, looking up from my homework. “I love your chicken noodle soup and rolls.” “No, I don’t really have time for that.” I made another suggestion, “Your Stromboli is great…” She looked a little annoyed, “That’s a lot of work!” “Okay, well…I like your meatballs in cream sauce.” At this point she was definitely flustered, “Why do you always expect me to make all the hard meals?” My expression changed to annoyance as well, “I don’t care what you make; make whatever you want!”

For Pete’s sake! I hadn’t cared in the first place, I was just offering suggestions so that she had some ideas to brainstorm from. It’s what I would’ve wanted. And I was even complimenting her and her cooking left and right, for crying out loud. If she didn’t want suggestions, why in the world did she ask?!

Most of my regular readers are familiar with my favorite Deborah Tannen quote: “What seem like bad intentions may really be good intentions expressed in a different conversational style” (p. 151). This episode between my sister and me demonstrates this quote to a “t.”

I really hadn’t cared what my sister made for dinner. No matter what she made, I knew it would be good. But if I had just said, “I don’t care” and went on with my homework, it would look like not only didn’t I care what we had for dinner, I also didn’t care that she was struggling with the decision. Therefore, I thought I was showing love by offering suggestions–and especially in my compliments. I had great intentions. But they weren’t communicated in my sister’s conversational style.

I was focused on the task: we need ideas for what to make for supper. My sister was taking a more relational approach: find out what the other person is in the mood for, and how much he/she is feeling up for before actually worrying about. While my way of making suggestions was to offer very specific options and branch out from there, my sister was expecting very generic suggestions–getting a notion for how she was feeling, which could then be specified. She would’ve felt the care I was trying to offer had I instead started with, “Well, how much time do you have?” or “What do you think of something with pasta?” because these questions would be focusing on her before focusing on dinner. With this being her expectation, my specific suggestions came across as demands–and high demands at that, which is why she felt offended by what I had meant in love.

Task-oriented or relational-oriented communication can be something as simple as starting with specific suggestions and branching out or starting with general suggestions and narrowing in. And yet even this which sounds like such a small deal can cause quite a mess! It is these sort of small variations that I didn’t recognize until I started studying communication. Which is part of the reason I feel studying communication is so worthwhile and so applicable.

Understanding how these small expectations can upset whole conversations helps us to extend grace to others and calm ourselves down. Especially when we learn to see the good in both, it can also help us to understand the other person and to communicate better with him/her in the future. Obviously I’m not always going to remember that my sister might prefer general suggestions before specific suggestions, but when I start to sense her growing tense, I’ll remember and because I understand this facet of communication better, I’ll be able to speak in her language. I’ll remember she might be asking more for the relational connection than for literal dinner suggestions. And this is fine too, because I love my sister and would be happy to show her this 🙂

What experiences have you had where you had good intentions but the other person didn’t seem to sense that? Do you know someone who asks for suggestions or advice and then gets angry when you offer it? Could the differences be attributed to something as small as task focus vs. relational focus? Could you re-asses the situation and see some of this principle at play?

Leave me comments or suggestions! I want to hear from my readers 🙂

Relationships in the 3-D

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The summer following my freshman year in high school, I went and volunteered at Center Lake Bible Camp on the summer missions team. Coming from a home school background, friend choices were very scant  (and don’t get me wrong–I’m so glad I was home schooled). Imagine my delight when I found myself surrounded by a whole swarm of similarly-aged high schoolers. I finally had the choice of who to befriend and that summer I made the closest, bestest friends who I thought would last forever.

But when camp was over, after exchanging contact info, we parted ways and, despite my desperate attempts to keep in contact, I discovered the brutal reality that not all good things last. For the most part, I lost touch with those friends.

Even though I am not still interacting with most of those friends, I do have marvelous memories of my time with them. And memories–the past–is one dimension of relationships. So in a way, even though I lost my friends, I didn’t lose them completely. However, just having memories doesn’t make the dimension alive, you have to actually consider these memories from time to time for this dimension to be active. It’s only when you are conscious of the past that it counts as being there.

The second dimension is the present–which is made active when I am currently friends with the person, keeping in touch, interacting. You can even bring a friendship into the present dimension just by thinking about the friend–since doing so is keeping the person and the relationship current.

The final dimension is the future. This dimension is made up of any plans or expectations for future relationship. For example, I had met a girl on campus and saw her every so often and, in passing, we would converse. But the relationship never had the future dimension until she said one day, “BethAnn, we should hang out!” When we both had expectations of a lasting relationship, the future dimension was activated.

While there is obviously more to any relationship than these dimensions, a general rule is that if you add a dimension, the given relationship is strengthened and if you take away a dimension, then the relationship is weakened.

Even when I am at college and away from family, I can keep my relationship with my sister strong if I make the conscious decision to, every so often, reminisce about (preferably with her) memories from the past with her. I also have to keep the relationship alive in the present, maybe calling, emailing, or visiting her every so often (or even just texting to let her know I’m thinking about her). The last dimension can be strengthened by reminding my sister that I plan to be her friend for the rest of our lives. I expect to keep in touch and I want our relationship to continue.

So what do you think? Have you experienced these different dimensions? Can you think of ways you’ve applied these? Do you have relationships with just one or two dimensions? Who are those people with whom you have 3-D relationships?

Nonverbals: How to Accurately Read People’s Thoughts and Determine Their Subconscious.

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This is the post everyone’s been waiting for (who am I kidding? Nobody has even thought about asking me to write about this topic–but nonetheless, it’s the topic everyone should have been waiting for!): the post on nonverbals. Nonverbals, it seems, are a hot topic related to people-watching. This is because nonverbals allow us to learn so much; through nonverbal reactions in those around us, we can discover what they are thinking and feeling, what they believe, what their reaction is to us, what their parents were like, who they have as friends, what socioeconomic status they are from, how many pets they have, who they want for president, their true birth date, their place of origin, what kinds of food they eat when they are alone in their bedrooms, and, among others, their subconscious and their motives.

That is, anyway, what we like to read into people’s nonverbals.

In all seriousness, nonverbals do speak volumes. The disclaimer, however, is that these communicated volumes are vague and ambiguous at best. Attempting to put interpretation to nonverbal behaviors is a risky business that can end badly for all involved parties.

Despite this dire warning, I don’t want to spoil your fun. Watching nonverbals is one of the absolute best parts of people watching! And I don’t mean to discourage it.

Yesterday I was filming B-roll for my upcoming blog video. Because my topic is people-watching, I needed lots of extras to walk by. Instead of attempting to organize a bunch of extras, we just determined to use footage of random people walking out of class. Playing my role, I sat there and watched them. It was a hoot.

Understandably, some people don’t like to walk past recording iPads. Some of them gave the camera very odd looks before walking past, some gave odd looks and cut through the grass, and some people ignored it completely. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there were some people who decided to make a big show out of passing in front of the camera.

The faces some people made when they looked at the camera did communicate something. I can state pretty confidently that their nonverbals announced that walking past a recording camera isn’t a normal occurrence. I could tell some seemed rather nervous about interrupting something. Some were happy to be in the spotlight for a few seconds (see pictures at beginning and end of post). I could get a general feel for how comfortable they were with walking by because of the nonverbals they expressed while doing so.

However, what I couldn’t get from their reaction was their specific thoughts.

Take another example: I am leaning far back in a chair, my feet crossed and propped up on a table in front of me. I could be expressing power (with perhaps an air of haughtiness). Or I could simply be expressing a level of comfortability with my situation and surroundings. As I sit here, my arms are crossed. This could be demonstrating anger or disinterest in what I’m listening to. Or I could be cold and attempting to warm up a bit. Squirming could be a sign of boredom–or the opposite: excitement, or even nervousness.

When you are people watching, don’t ignore the nonverbals. Arguably watching reactions and silent messages is the best part of watching people. But at the same time, however, remember that, while much is communicated, the communication is very vague. Don’t jump to too many conclusions based on nonverbals alone. Nonverbals can shout out that a person is alive, awake, and thinking about something, but they can’t accurately, and with certainty, cement what color  toenail polish the person would’ve used on his or her grandma, had he or she had the opportunity.

Let me know about the experiences you’ve had with nonverbals. Do you have any good stories where you read someone wrong or they read you wrong?

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Of Weather, Vacuums, and Other Irrelevant Stuff: Does Small Talk Matter?

1016162247-editedYou know that piece of advice regarding small talk: when you don’t know what to say, talk about the weather? It sounds cliche, but it can work pretty well. It’s shallow, non controversial, always existent. And it can be just enough to keep away that awkward silence when you are stuck in a position with someone you don’t really know (and sometimes really don’t care about). But what a lot of people don’t realize is that good friends talk about the weather too.

When I people watch, I get such a kick out of hearing the random things friends talk about as they walk past. Much of these conversations consist of stupid, shallow, insignificant topics. The other day I called my little brother and asked him what he was eating for lunch. That topic actually constituted the majority of our conversation. But you know what? I didn’t really care what he was eating, it certainly wasn’t important, and that was so shallow I could’ve discussed it with a stranger. Similarly, a few nights ago, I texted my friends to let them know the vacuum on the third floor of my dorm was missing. Real relevant, right?

But, to those of you who have an aversion to small talk, I have a claim to make. First of all, I want to admit that I understand your viewpoint. At one point, I, too, thought small talk was an irrelevant, painful mistake that society demanded. Why carry on a conversation if the topic isn’t worth conversing about? Why waste my energy talking about or listening to someone’s story about their grandma’s favorite color? What is the value in having to act interested in the mundane story of how someone couldn’t decide which clothes to wear that morning? I get your point.

And yet, the problem with this argument is that it’s only taking into consideration half of the equation–and the less important half at that. Small talk isn’t just about what’s being said; it’s about what is being communicated. It’s about the relationship behind the words. When I called my little brother, it wasn’t to talk about food. It was to hear his voice, to let him know I was thinking about him, to remind him that I love him even though I don’t really see him anymore. It didn’t matter what we were talking about–it just mattered that we were talking.

When I sit at the table long after dinner is done talking about how I detest clothes shopping, it’s not because that matters inherently, but because I am spending time with my friends and laughing together. When I text my friends to let them know the vacuum is missing, it’s not because this information does them any good, but because they know I am thinking about them and I know they will be thinking of me. And we think about each other because we care about each other.

So what do you think? What are some of the amusing small-talk conversations that you’ve heard (or been involved in) when people-watching? What do you talk about with your friends/family most of the time?

Additionally, I know I only addressed one angle of small-talk importance. If you are still averse to the idea of small talk, what are your reasons? I’d love to hear them!