Weighing in on the Value Scale: Humbly Looking to Christ

img_20180308_151333378_hdr.jpgWhen I was a kid, I was told I was fun-loving. This is a compliment–except when you’re told you’re fun-loving instead of hard-working. And when you’re told you can’t make it through life unless you learn to work hard. Then, when you’re told you’re fun loving, it ends up meaning, to you as a child, that you don’t know how to work hard.

So as a kid, I was convinced I was not a hard worker and that I was not going to make it through college–or life. But I ended up at the community college anyway. And, by some miracle, I started receiving As on my assignments. Slowly the world became a different place as my teachers encouraged me. They told me I was smart, intelligent, dedicated, and competent. They believed in me.

Slowly I believed in myself. I grasped the idea that, if I was a good student, I might be able to work hard (even if I wasn’t inherently a hard-worker). So I kept it up and put in great amounts of effort to define myself as a good student, as a conscientious individual, as a hard worker. It’s great to be confident, to believe in oneself, because we all are valuable. But recently it’s dawned on me that there are different ways to define value.

0303170743 - EditedThis semester I was offered a great opportunity with Cornerstone University: I got picked as one of a handful of students to present in front of the school in a “Celebration of Scholarship” event. It was an honor, and I was honestly delighted. I would have the opportunity to put forth a great deal of academic effort and then share something I was passionate about with others. I was excited to be granted a role in this event. It was another way to prove to myself my academic ability.

But as I prepared for the presentation, things didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped. My research got delayed, my results came back late, and I couldn’t interpret the responses. I was in turmoil. I spent hours trying to figure out the statistics part–most of which was spent figuring out how to get Excel online to work with me. I downloaded add-ons, I watched YouTube videos, I read “how-to” instructions Googled online. This was dedication. I can’t stand doing any of these desperate measures I was going to. But I was willing to put forth great effort to do well in this honorable opportunity.

But after a few hours of this, I still wasn’t getting anywhere. On occasion, actually I was making mistakes that messed up my data and required me to spend time re-entering the data. While I wasn’t moving forward, some of my effort moved me backward.

Hence I did what any desperate girl would do: cried for a few hours.

It was through all of this that I realized my pain and stress related to this project was so intense because I was using this project to define me. In fact, lately I’ve been using my academic strength to define my worth. I’d been finding value in my academic success. I didn’t think I could do well in school. When I received the pleasant surprise that I could, I put too much value in that.

While it’s great to take a healthy pride in my strengths, to let my academic strength define my worth is to cut myself short. God loves me with a relentless love regardless of anything I do. Sure, I can delight him by using my gifts and talents for his glory. But my A person's hand holding up a roll of dollar billsvalue does not come from these things. My value comes from his unchanging, unbreakable, uncomprehendable, infinite love for me. When I can learn to rest sure in this constant love, I can have his peace that surpasses understanding for nothing that the future holds can affect my value or my worth in his eyes.

What are you using to define your worth?

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Captured by Shame: A Reminder to Live Free

Image result for broken dishes

A five year-old-girl hurries forward carrying a large dish of green bean casserole toward the dinner table where the rest of the family is waiting for her before they pray for dinner. Crossing the line from the kitchen to the dining room, she trips and for a split second the green bean casserole hovers in midair. The next second, however, the casserole is strewn across the floor, an ear-splintering shattering ensues as the dish follows the path of the casserole.

The girl looks up slowly, terror painted clearly across her face, tears quickly forming at the corners of her widened eyes in the moment of silence that follows.

“Honey, it’s okay!” The mother stands up quickly and pats the daughter reassuringly on the shoulder as the family pitches in to clean up. For the rest of dinner, though, the child refuses to eat and instead hunches over, arms wrapped around her head, face planted into the table, tears rolling down her cheeks.

Related imageOr travel with me for a moment to India one hundred years ago when Amy Carmichael is devoting her life to saving Hindu temple girls from a life of prostitution. Going to great lengths, Ms. Carmichael brings a particular girl back to the shelter of her home. While the rest of the rescued girls help around the house laughing with each other, singing songs, and rejoicing in their freedom, this girl huddles in the corner so ashamed of her past that she cannot lift her face to see the opportunities around her.

Friends, we are freed. The God of the universe sent his son down to earth to die for our freedom. For you and for me, Jesus died. Like the girl who broke the casserole dish, we are forgiven. Like the Hindu temple slave who was rescued by Ms. Carmichael, we were once slaves, but now we are free.

Galatians 5:1 states, “ It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” How very much I struggle with shame. I am so ashamed of the kind of Terra Firma freshman-orientation leader I’ve been this year. I’m ashamed of the not-joyful attitude I’ve had lately. I’m ashamed of what I haven’t been and done with my time.

These things may be legitimate. The five-year-old did break the dish. The Hindu was a dino-reichmuth-85708temple slave. But we are changed. We are no longer slaves. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, italics mine).

Just as it pains the mother to watch her forgiven child cry in shame at the dinner table, and just as it stabs Amy Carmichael’s heart to see her freed daughter still living like a slave, so it hurts our Father when we let shame beat us even though he has sent his son to die for our salvation.

Friends, hear this: when you allow shame to define who you are, you are not practicing humility or giving yourself what you deserve. Instead you are scorning the death which has set you free and rejecting the joy that the Lord desperately wants you experience. 

Maybe you’re like me and would immediately claim that you aren’t letting shame define you. But, unless you’re awaking every morning with the realization that you are truly a son of God, an heir of the Creator of the universe, and that you are no longer a slave (so long as you are truly saved), then you are still cutting yourself short.

How readily we forget that God can use broken people, and, so long as we are handing our brokenness over to God, let me remind you wholeheartedly, you are doing something right. Be confident in who God made you to be.

“So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:7

New Blog Title: HELP!

0611171320a-1.jpgOkay, so what began as a class assignment with a focus on interpersonal communications has now become a heart-felt blog focusing more on my adventures of being a Christian. This being the case, I believe it may be time for a blog title change.

Unfortunately y’all, my dear readers, don’t realize how much say you have in my blog (what I write, how often I write, how confident I feel, what tone of voice I use…). But now is your time to shine! I’d really appreciate some help in coming up with a new blog title. Listed below are some options I’ve brainstormed, but I’m open to new suggestions as well 🙂 PLEASE comment on which title you like best/or any suggestions you have.

Possible titles:

  1. The Adventurous Life
  2. Adventurous Living
  3. Living the Dream
  4. Experiencing Adventure

Possible subtitles:

  1. Finding Joy by Keeping God at the Center
  2. Experiencing Joy with Raw Faith
  3. The Adventures of Following God
  4. Living with a Faith-Focus
  5. Living with Raw Faith

I like the word “Adventure” and in some shape or form I should probably declare my faith-focus.

While you’re at it, feel free to comment about anything else as well!

P. S. the picture of me and my fish has nothing to do with a new blog title, but I’m proud of my catch and thought this may be the only appropriate time to showcase it…

 

I don’t want to be afraid; A desperate cry to the God of the Universe

Children's Eyes, Eyes, Blue Eye, Emotion, Feelings

“I don’t want to get stitches.” Pupils dilated with pain, my six-year-old little brother lay tense on the couch while we waited for my parents to take him to the hospital. I gently pressed a rag to a gash on his chest that had long ago bled straight through his shirt. The tough little guy hadn’t shed a tear, but his shaky breathing declared his pain. I looked down into his pleading eyes. He could be a man through the pain. He could be deal with a trip to the hospital. But the one thing he asked was that we protect him from stitches.

My little brother is a beast–he doesn’t let fear stop him and, at the age of six, he had the pain tolerance of an adult. But this attitude landed him in the ER four times between the ages of four and six. By the time this episode happened, he was familiar with stitches. But I had witnessed his blood-stained shirt when my little sister brought him up the stairs, saying the boards he’d been playing with had fallen over on him and gashed him with a 0824172031 - Editedprotruding bolt. I knew what was coming. No matter how much bravery and pain shown through those six-year-old eyes, I couldn’t lie by telling him he would avoid stitches this time.

That was more than five years ago, and yet I still remember the sincere, helpless way he pleaded to not get stitches. In past blog posts, I’ve admitted my fear of the future. I’ve admitted my insecurities and my irrational worries. I can deal with not knowing what’s coming. I can deal with a change of plans. But one thing I am so tired of carrying is my dreadful fear of the future.

Tenth Avenue North wrote a song called “Afraid” which has really spoken to me. Since hearing it, I’ve taken the words on as my own and cried out to God in a helpless, pleading, painful voice: “I don’t want to be afraid!”

“When the world shakes
Feel my heart race.
When the voices start again
Oh, the panic’s creeping in
Who will I listen to?
Fear never told the truth.

“So I’ll wait on You tonight;
Worry’s only wasted time.

“I don’t wanna be afraid
I don’t wanna be afraid anymore
Not like before, oh
I don’t wanna be afraid
I don’t wanna be afraid anymore
I’m safe in Your love, oh, Lord

“…This world cannot take my treasure
This world doesn’t own my tears
My hope is alive in heaven
I will not give into despair!
I don’t wanna be afraid
I don’t wanna be afraid anymore
I don’t have to be afraid
I don’t have to be afraid anymore”

And, despite my struggle with fear, I know my God is real and I have experienced that inexpressible peace that he offers me when I am most desperate. Don’t be afraid to cry out to God, even if all you know how to say is, “I don’t want to be afraid!”

 

Journalling 101 (don’t you dare skip this one just because of it’s subject!)

IMG_20171004_221824757 - EditedNovember 19, 2016 “…yesterday, I had a pleasant coming-in with cement…I may have been riding my rip stick while uploading a video on YouTube and carrying a water bottle with a backpack on. But then again, I may not have been; who does that? If I may brag a little, skinned elbows hurt a whole heck of a lot more than they look like they are going to hurt…”

Journalling is a form of communication that I believe everyone should try (men, don’t ignore me: this article about journalling is in the blog “The Art of Manliness“…). There are countless resources describing why journalling is a good habit. Let me explain a couple of my own.

Journalling helps me unwind

September 18, 2017 “Considering all, today has been a marvelous Monday…”

Nearly everyone will admit that life in the twenty-first century flies by and we don’t give ourselves a lot of opportunity to decompress. Journalling is my way of giving myself that chance. It allows me to take a breather, rethink my day and calm my mind (This is perfect for helping me to fall asleep 😉 ). Journalling reduces stress. Also, because I can be completely honest with myself, I can have a good sense of humor with myself, and I can talk about literally anything I’m in the mood to talk about, I normally come out of a journalling session a little more confident about myself and/or about my situation.

Journalling helps me think logically

Related imageAugust 20, 2017 “So often (well, maybe not, but definitely overwhelmingly right now), when I’m thinking big picture thoughts (i.e. moving to college), I think about how scary life is. Then I go curl up in a ball, pulling my knees against my chest (I wish I were that flexible), and crying hopeless, helpless tears alone in the night. I forget to look at how big my God is…Oh Lord, wrap your arms around me. Remind me that you love me through and despite my failures…that your strength and love is enough.”

Similar to talking it out with a friend, journalling forces me to rethink my emotions. Why am I upset with this person? What exactly is stressing me out? What about the day disappointed me? A journal is a safe space to think and vent (honestly, I could write my deepest secrets). Plus, as I write out my thoughts, I begin to see circumstances more objectively. When writing in my journal, I give myself lots of room for personal pep-talks (and, since communication forms reality, these can do great things for morale). Similarly, when I read past entries and see I was completely freaking out about a “massive problem,” I can gain encouragement by seeing that, as bad as it felt then, I did overcome the issue–and am likely to do so again this time.

Journalling teaches me about myself

18447672_1209095852549509_4222890287560671535_nJune 2, 2016 “If I had to use one adjective to describe myself, I find myself caught between ‘active’ and ‘adventurous.’ …recently I have discovered that I appreciate being hands-on outdoors…I also love people. I get no small amount of amusement from watching folks interact. Quirky people amuse me more than annoy me…”

Whether it be through reading old posts and seeing patterns in my behavior, or through stopping in the moment to consider why I’m feeling what I’m feeling, my journalling experience has taught me a lot about myself. Having a more accurate sense of self-concept, I can proceed to make wiser decisions as well as combat my weaknesses in a more educated manner.

My journal is always there

August 3, 2017 “Long time no see, dear!…I’m especially desperate to journal when I am lonely, in pain, and detesting life…[so today] I made a “B” line (why a “B” line? “B”s are not straight!) for your company.”

Ever get lonely and just need a friend to talk to? Your journal is always there for you. ‘Nuff said.

18451333_1697170693629944_1680720937309472440_oJournalling is just plain fun!

June 23, 2017 “BethAnn feels pretty moody…perhaps it’s just the bee poison that entered my blood through a still-stinging attack in my right, middle-finger, upper-knuckle. Yeah, that’s what I think of you bees: middle finger.”

Sometime my satire of the moment causes me to laugh. Not only is the calming experience of journalling enjoyable, reading past posts and reliving old experiences is a treasure. Often the best times of my life are recorded in my journals. I now have the opportunity to re-experience that joy and excitement and thrill all over again. It’s a sure-fire smile at least 🙂

You should definitely give journalling a shot; it’s super cheap and really easy. Let me know how it goes and be sure to leave me a comment! 😉

Why Sarcasm?

Screenshot 2017-03-29 at 6.36.47 PM - Edited.pngI love skiing. I’ve had the opportunity to go quite a few times and have seen the slopes at their busiest. One day, when my friend and I were going through the rental system, the place was just the opposite–it was practically dead. As the woman handed us our skis, my friend stated sarcastically, “Wow, it’s really bustling here!”

The employee’s response made my friend and me want to laugh. “No!” She exclaimed passionately–perhaps with a tad bit of annoyance–“You should see what it’s normally like. We aren’t busy at all right now!” As soon as we both stepped outside we chuckled at the fact that the sarcasm hadn’t been picked up on and, thereby, how stupid we must’ve looked to the employee.

Sarcasm has a bad rap. It can be seen as disrespectful, and has been stereotypically assigned to the rude teen who rolls his eyes at his parents and responds in some snarky way to some wisdom they offer. For the record, I am not condoning this sort of behavior. I believe that–especially those of us who call ourselves Christians–should always, always portray respect, even when you don’t necessarily admire the other person. Just like every other aspect of communication, sarcasm  is a tool and needs to be used responsibly. That being said, in the right circumstances and used appropriately, I think that sarcasm is a creative way to engage with communication. I feel that understanding what sarcasm is and why we use it can help to present sarcasm in a friendlier perspective and admire it when it it’s worth being admired.

Why do we college kiddos enjoy using sarcasm? For inspiration on how to address this question, I turn back to my favorite communication expert: Deborah Tannen. The first thing Tannen brings up is how humans like to challenge themselves. We like to create more and more elaborate skills, inventions, and ideas. Life gets more exciting when we embellish what would otherwise be the same old, same old. We do this in communication too. When skiing, the emptiness of the rental building was so pronounced that my friend wanted to say something. But why state the obvious, boring fact: “this place is kind of empty”?

So we use sarcasm to add a little style to the statement. It gives communicators a bit of a challenge and adds interest. Tannen explains it metaphorically, saying, “The speaker feels clever for having pitched a curve ball, the hearer for having caught it” (p. 71).* If sarcasm can be pulled off like this, the game is well worth the effort. Of course, there are times, like my example, where the trick isn’t pulled off so cleanly. “But if the curve is not caught–if it hits someone in the head or flies out of the ball park–no one is happy. The communication ball game is temporarily brought to a halt” (p. 71).*

Recognizing that sarcasm can be taken the wrong way, I would encourage responsible and thoughtful use of this form of communication. But, when used appropriately, I believe we can have a greater appreciation for sarcasm by understanding some of the nuts and bolts of it.  When you use or hear sarcasm, admire the puzzles we can make out of every day communication. Recognizing what is behind sarcasm can make it that much more interesting to those of us who use it (and perhaps that much more understandable for those of us who don’t).

What are your experiences with sarcasm? You readers from the younger generations, when do you use sarcasm? Do you appreciate it or find it too dry? I’d love to hear any thoughts.

I’d also be especially interested in hearing from those of you who are past the college-age audience that I typically write to. Could you see yourself admiring sarcasm or do you view it as always disrespectful? When is sarcasm appropriate and when isn’t it?

I don’t feel like this topic is addressed very often and would be happy to write a sequel if I receive enough thoughts from you readers 🙂

*Tannen, D. (1986). That’s not what I meant: How conversational style makes or breaks relationships. New York, NY; Harper

Apologizing 101

 

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This post may feel a little different, but sometimes we just need to go from theoretical posts to highly-concrete immediately-applicable posts about communication. That’s what this one is here to do.

I wish I could honestly say I have never had a reason to apologize. But goodness knows I can’t. Last summer I thought I worked out a balance with one boss where I could work a second job. I thought we’d discussed it clearly and that this job would be perfectly acceptable. My second day back from the new job, my boss was shocked to hear this was a six week commitment. It wasn’t a good time.

I felt terrible. In retrospect, I could see how poorly I had described the commitment the second job would require. I suppose the commitment was so obvious to me that I hadn’t given a full description, and the one time I had, it was rather in passing. Oops. Months later, I still feel bad about it–I had, in a way, betrayed my first boss. An apology was owed.

There are good ways to make an apology and there are bad ways to make an apology.

Rule #1: Use “I” language (take responsibility).

Instead of making accusations, “I didn’t realize you didn’t understand what I was saying,””I’m sorry you didn’t know what this second job would look like,” or–worse yet–“I’m sorry you don’t pay me enough for me to only have one job”; use “I” to take responsibility. “I’m really sorry didn’t explain this well,” “Sorry, recognize wasn’t being clear,” “I’m afraid wasn’t thinking this through enough.” The moment you start accusing the other person, they will likely be very opposed to accepting your apology and you’re likely to make matter much worse. If you don’t remember the other two tips, I’d claim this one is the most important.

Rule #2: Acknowledge how you hurt the other person. 

When you can demonstrate to the other person that you recognize you’ve caused them pain, they can understand that you’ve been thinking about them. Be very specific: “I know that I’ve really inconvenienced you, I’ve committed myself to being elsewhere in the mornings–which is the time that you really need me the most,” “I understand that, now that I’m not here as much, you’ve been left to carry more than your weight,” or “I realize that this wasn’t fair to you–I fell short of offering sincere loyalty” (notice how I didn’t say “you probably think I betrayed you”). When the other person recognizes that you are thinking about them too, they are more likely to take you seriously.

Rule #3: Express remorse and ask for forgiveness.  

Arguably, you could do the first two steps without acknowledging that you regret what you did. And, to be honest, in some situations, you may not regret what you did. What you did may have been the right thing to do or you may be in the position that, if you had to do it again, you would. Still, you can still recognize that you were responsible and you can still acknowledge that you caused pain, and you can certainly still be sorry that the other person was hurt. “I am very sorry that I caused you so much trouble and that I interrupted your summer plans. I feel terrible about this and I would like to ask for forgiveness.” Do recognize, however, that forgiveness will not always be offered. Nor will it necessarily be offered immediately. But that part is up to the other person.

A good apology, then, looks like this (bonus points if you use the person’s name): “Deb, I’m really sorry that I’ve broken your trust when I took on this second job. I recognize I wasn’t being clear and I certainly didn’t give you fair warning. I know this has been harder on you and made you carry far more than your fair share of the burden. I know it has hurt you and I regret that I had to play a major part in that. I’d like to ask for your forgiveness and let you know that I’m trying to use this experience to make me think through things more thoroughly before I make commitments.”

Make it sincere–not sappy. And know that sometimes a good apology is exactly what it takes to heal things, but more often, a good apology is only the very first step on a long road. Extend grace, don’t speak poorly of the person behind their back, and give it time. Unfortunately, knowing how to offer an apology is something you’ll need throughout your life. Knowing how to offer a good, sincere apology can make a heck of a difference in the midst of the tense position.