Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Opinions are like...

In college I had a good friend named Nate who often stated this quote: "Opinions are like buttholes: everybody's got one and they all stink." This quote has stuck with me as much or more than anything I learned in any classroom. 

My heart is with an old friend who is hurting right now. She feels alone. She feels scared. And unfortunately, I think she feels judged. She's in one of the toughest situations of her life and instead of just sorting through the emotions & decisions that she is facing, she is also sifting through an onslaught of opinions about her choices that leave little room to feel supported. What she needs to feel is a level of support that will make her feel confident enough to make the choices that are right for her. What she's getting though is a chorus of "you screwed up again".

Why is it such human nature to so readily give our opinions? Why is it that without thinking, we can open our mouths and think that what we have to say in any given situation is worthwhile just because it popped into our heads for 2 seconds? How is it that we all have the same desire to be loved unconditionally, especially when we're down and yet, when it's our turn to do so for others, we so readily provide judgment and opinion instead? 

I think it's time to figure out how to close our mouths & listen. Listen to the ones who are hurting. Refuse the opinions that pop into your mind while they're talking and just listen to what those who are hurting are saying. Most of the time, they're not looking for answers. They're looking for a listening ear, a safe place, ways to build the confidence they need to make the right choices.

When I took education courses we talked a lot about the notion of a "self-fulfilled prophecy." Basically it meant that if a child was told something enough about themselves they started to believe it. Tell kids they can do anything and tell it to them often, they'll approach situations as though there isn't an option but to succeed. Tell kids they won't amount to anything and most likely, they'll live up to that expectation. This idea doesn't stop with children though: it's just plain human nature and I believe this idea applies directly to our reactions to hurting people.
  • Shut the person down, tell them what they're doing wrong, don't give them a chance to believe they can make a good choice: they'll begin to believe they're not worthy of sharing, which leads to not feeling worthy of being good and making good choices, which can lead to a "what does it matter anyway?!" mindset that brings about further choices that hurt a person.
  • OR...Listen, let them talk, show them love and create an environment in which they believe they can make the best choice for themselves: they'll begin to sense a feeling of self-worth, which leads to feeling worthy of taking the steps to make wise choices, which leads to an overall healthier mindset.
We have so many opportunities to show love & grace - let's stop giving up those chances for our own moments to spout off what we believe to be right & wrong. Especially speaking to the christian sect, it's time to start counting on God to take care of the conviction and time for us to just start taking care of his people. Often times we take the few commands to hold our peers accountable as our justification for giving a rebuke but think on this: the word "love" is mentioned 508 times (697 if you also count "loves" and "loved"). The word "judgment" is mentioned 162 times and the word "accountable" is mentioned a mere 8 times. Based on those numbers alone, it's obvious to me that more often than not, we should be choosing a path that fosters love rather than judgment.

I know in my own life, I've never learned or made a great change because someone told me what to do or directed me on all I was doing wrong. It has always been in the situations where I felt supported enough to feel okay with failing that I was able to rise up to make the best choice. I assume I'm in the majority on this. When people feel loved & supported, they tend to seek out the "advice" we're so eager to give from the get-go at a later point if they truly need it. And even more importantly, when we truly listen to people, we more often than not get the chance to learn that the situation isn't all we measured it up to be at that first point. People are complex and it's rare that there are 2 situations exactly alike. In light of this, many times our "advice" ends up being a slap in the face to what they are dealing with.

Let us choose love. Let us choose grace. And let us choose the humility that our opinions oftentimes aren't worth much more than anything else we're sending down the toilet. ;)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010



That's the word that won't get out of my mind. I can't help but feel grateful and it's for a million different reasons...

♥ a sinkful of dirty dishes gone because my boyfriend just did them for me (even after doing 6 hours of maintenance on my car) ♥ a progress report that's full of C's & B's rather than C's & D's ♥ a baby that I got to see flipping back & forth on an ultrasound just days ago ♥ getting ready for our own Christmas Eve/Day with all of the kids together ♥ a God that loves us so much that he was willing to put his own son on earth here with us ♥ Christmas presents bought solely on cash for the second year in a row ♥ getting to wrap all of those presents as "prettily" as I possibly can ♥ getting to give those presents at Christmas gatherings with family this weekend (come on...get here already!!) ♥ knowing I'm with the love of my life - my soulmate ♥ a passion to continue to learn more about God as he continues to open my eyes to his possibilities ♥ a son that is finally starting to understand respect ♥ it finally being the season that I can listen to Christmas music non-stop and no one can tell me it's too early! ♥ same goes for Christmas movies ♥ a reason to celebrate this season beyond the presents, music, and movies ♥  a renewed understanding of God - one that shows his immense grace towards us ♥ a burden for those who feel hurt by "Christians" and don't want anything to do with God as a result ♥ experiencing pregnancy - I truly love every moment ♥ learning how to slow down enough to really enjoy life ♥ finding joy in every day ♥ learning to treat each day as a gift ♥

Saturday, December 11, 2010

24 Ways I See Things Differently Now

  1. Grace really is "amazing"...the song had it right all along. It's taken me a long time but I finally get it. You can tell those that have truly experienced it themselves - the petty, the trivial...they just don't matter because grace is bigger than that.
  2. I can spy the church culture in a person from a mile away.
  3. I no longer believe that the contemporary conservative white suburban church culture is the ONLY way.
  4. People different from me are not wrong; they're just different...and there's beauty in that.
  5. Grace is actually a 4-letter word to some people. 
  6. I am doing a million things the "wrong" way yet, I feel closer to God and finally understand what the bible means when it talks about having freedom in following him. 
  7. I also feel like for the first time in my life, I'm actually learning how to love as Christ intended. 
  8. Since not being so closely involved with the church, I spend less time watching TV, judging people, worrying about materialistic things and feeling like I don't measure up.
  9. Since not being so closely involved with the church, I spend more time thinking intentionally about how I treat people, being a better, calmer mom, enjoying people rather than judging them, spending time with those closest to me, feeling better about myself and learning & thinking critically about how God loves and wants me to love.
  10. Being around someone that can easily quote scripture (and does so in a nearly be-littling way) doesn't make me feel like less of a Christian anymore; now I'll just admit that it annoys me. 
  11. Thoughts only in black & white leave out sooooooo many colors. Too many people ONLY think this way and they also think their black & white thoughts are rules.
  12. God is a creative god and we diminish that every time we refuse to believe that he may do something outside of those "rules" we so adamantly believe in (nevermind argue about).
  13. Not only are things not always what they seem to be; I am cementing my belief that they are almost NEVER what they seem to be. 
  14. Just because I don't keep up with [insert local Christian station here] doesn't make me a bad person. It makes me someone who can appreciate good music. I can hear God in most any music.
  15. And for that matter, just because I don't keep up with [insert latest Christian fad here] doesn't make me a bad person either. Jesus has been reaching people well before we had The Purpose Driven Life, WWJD, The Prayer of Jabez...I can't tell you what the latest thing is b/c I've been working hard to distance myself from it. It's just a marketing technique and we Christians are the biggest suckers around. What's worse is we make each other feel badly when we hear they're not on board.
  16. I don't know that I believe in a big church anymore. I'm not sure...jury's still out on that one.
  17. When faced with "challenging" relationships, (i.e., being friends w/someone who makes "questionable" life choices according to the conservative church), I no longer feel that being friends with them means that their choices must always be up for debate. Nor do I wonder what my role should be "as a Christian" in the friendship any more. If we have been fortunate enough to form a friendship, then I only want to be concerned with that.
  18. Feeding off of the previous one, I don't believe in the "targeting" methods of current evangelism. This whole notion of taking basic sales techniques and applying it to sharing about God is nuts. In sales, what happens when the economy takes a dump?!? That's right - your sales plummet. Those techniques only work when your customers have nothing to lose. Sales skyrocket when people have a need though and you've got other people who've found something to meet that need that they truly believe in. Hmmm...could it be that simple with telling people about God?
  19. I cringe at the church's ability to blend with suburbia. A suburban mindset is ruining America and ruining our churches.
  20. I remember in high school not feeling like I fit in with any one clique. I somewhat felt part of each and every one of them but there weren't any that I truly said, "THIS is me." Knowing how very much I loved God, in my 20's I tried desperately to find that home in the church. All I've decided is that I still in many ways feel just like I did in high school. I can easily be a part of it but I don't fit in.
  21. I can't care about what other people think. This is such a "duh" statement that we hear all the time but seriously, it took me til now to get it to sink in. I cared so much of what everyone else thought of me that I gave little to no credit to what I thought of myself. No matter how lofty your aspirations, if they belong to someone else and what THEY want for YOU, you'll feel forever lost and empty; even if you've gained the world in the process.
  22. Perfectionism is ugly. People say they use it as a tool for "excellence" but really it's much more about judgment and whatever race is in the perfectionist's mind. I'm done racing. I'm ready to start living.
  23. There are people out there that you can trust. People that will love you for who you are, no matter how that looks. The key is that they're not always where you expect to find them and you sometimes have to look very hard.
  24. I've spoken in a lot of generalities and not covered for any exceptions that popped in my head. My perfectionism would've held that back before but now, I'm hoping that people see my heart and know that I know there are a lot of exceptions to nearly everything I've said. And if there are people that don't, for the first time in my life I can say I simply don't care. Actually, it's more like I can't. Too much of my life has been given to those who won't look at the hearts of people and I'm moving on.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Miracle

It's been 8 years since I started a journey towards having a child. "Unexplained Infertility" was the diagnosis that I received. No answers. No way to explain why it wasn't happening or guarantee that it couldn't happen. A permanent limbo of sorts that created more heartache than I understood. I learned a lot in that time: how taboo the topic of infertility is, some hard-learned lessons about control & God's timing, what NOT to say to people in tough situations. In finding the emotional & spiritual health I have in the last few years, I was just starting to make peace with my body and to let go of what hold it still had on me...

And then, with all of the other new beginnings I've had recently, this little miracle has been the biggest surprise of them all! My amazing fiance and I are pregnant - due June 12th!

I couldn't be more grateful that God has blessed us with this baby! I'm enjoying every second of the pregnancy and have been so thankful for good health for us both so far. To think I was already overwhelmed with the joy I was experiencing in my life - to add this little bundle makes it that much richer!

God Loves you - Even If You're Divorced - Part 2

Disclaimer: I put this on Part 1 as well but assuming that some may not have read that one, I'll place it on here too...Apparently after my initial posting of this, some felt it was my cryptic way of telling the world "what really happened" in my own divorce and in turn, have taken it upon themselves to create drama and spread lies. the ones this applies to: don't give yourself that much credit. This was written with the intent of supporting many people who I know that are wrestling with the struggles below - NOT of spilling the sordid details of my life or to be a cryptic tell-all. This blog will never be used for that intent. I have more class than that and I have no use for those who don't. If you've come here with that intent, please don't come back.

I left off from the last post with this: "You want to worry about where the sin is? It's believing so little of how God loves us that we put His law above His grace and in turn encourage people to stay where an emotional cancer will continue to eat away at them." This gets to the heart of my next point: BELIEVE in the fact that God LOVES you beyond our American type-A, do XYZ and you'll be the perfect Christian ways. God's law is important and I am not trying to de-value it in any way. However, I do think that the current vibe in the white American, evangelical, conservative Christian church is to put the law on such a pedestal that, to me, it often-times looks no different than what the Pharisees were doing to the law in biblical times. (If you do not know what a Pharisee is or if you just want to read a thought-provoking article, I suggest this:

Some will instantaneously believe what I'm about to say is heresy but I say this from a deep devotion to loving God, believing in his word and truly loving his people. If you choose to see it otherwise, I can't change that, so here goes: Think of how long there have been people on earth and the relatively short time in comparison that those people have had the bible easily accessible to themselves. According to a brief google search, the very first printing press was invented in the 1400's. The shortest earth time spans given are somewhere between it being 6,000-10,000 years old and then of course there are scientists that believe it in being billions of years old. Let's use the shortest one as our time frame for the sake of argument. God's been in the picture all of those 6,000 years but only 10% of the time (600 years) has there been a printing press that allows for the bible, HIS WORD that we're supposed to follow to the letter, to be printed accessibly. Before the printing press, it took approximately 20 years to make ONE replication of the bible so the number of replications had to be in short supply. Not to mention that it took time for the printing press to make it's way across continents to all people and then literacy was an issue.

So for most of the history of man, God had to communicate with His people in some capacity that did NOT include the written word. I'm not saying to ignore it altogether by any stretch; we are incredibly blessed to have God's word at our fingertips and should take that responsibility seriously. But what I am saying is that just because it's in the Bible doesn't mean that God is forever bound to everything having to fall into what parameters we read out of it. People constantly disagree on what the bible means. Take lying for example: in one part of the bible it says that liars go to hell (at my conservative Christian college, this was taught so much that it was a popular catch phrase). But in another part Rahab - a prostitue - LIED to keep the Israelites safe in Jericho and is hailed as a hero. Ask any Christian if lying is okay though and they'll focus on the fact that it'll send you to hell or at the very least that it's one of the commandments not to do so. I've heard some Christians argue that there are NO exceptions, even if your life is at stake. But obviously there are exceptions to this if, just books later in the Old Testament, it tells the heroic story of Rahab. And I don't think that Rahab was the only exception of all time just because she was the ONE that was written about in the bible. Do I believe this justifies lying whenever we want to or even a majority of the time? Of course not. I do think though that there are times that God will expect us to trust his leading and his direction beyond just mindlessly following a rule, such as was the case with Rahab. If we are following the rule just for the sake of perfection, I believe that God will actually test us on this.

One of my bibles with the smallest print is 1208 thousand, two hundred and eight pages to tell EVERYTHING that God has to say over the course of ALL eternity... He created all of the earth, moon, stars, sun, EVERYTHING. He designed the human body to heal itself and to function with all of its intricacies. He made different seasons and different climates all over the world. He created so many species that more are discovered every day - our humanity can't keep up with it! But he only has 1208 pages worth of wisdom for us?!?!? Try again. Many times he talks through His word but sometimes He talks through our GUT!! I haven't even dove into the whole thought of tribal-type people who never hear of God but somehow know in their hearts that there is one; or people that learn of God from short term missionaries but only have a weekly or monthly church service to learn about Him from then on and no literacy to read the bible on their own. Do you think they worry about the mundane details of the word that we get so wrapped up in b/c we have every resource at our fingertips?!?! NO!! Sometimes, God uses common sense to get through to us but we're so "book smart" about Him, we miss the point!! How many "book-smart, common-sense dumb people do you know? It applies to Christianity too!!

All of this is to say that once you've sought out biblical advice, you've talked with people you know and trust, you've poured through the scriptures, and you've prayed with all of your heart, God will speak to you. Sometimes it will be right in line with scripture. But sometimes, it will surprise you. If we could figure out everything about God through a formula (and yes, conservative Christianity, you oftentimes boil God down to a formula), we wouldn't be serving the God that we simultaneously believe can do any & all. To truly trust God, sometimes you have to believe that what he's telling your gut - what you can't shake well after you've sought out every other possible avenue - is exactly what you need to do. I'm not justifying a whim-based decision. We all have all kinds of thoughts all the time that have nothing to do with God speaking to us. I'm talking about something that goes so deeply that you feel it's a part of you.

To those in that situation, know that it's okay to explore what you feel your gut (aka, God) is telling you. While you may decide later that it's nothing or just a brief fantasy of escaping life for a bit, it can also be something very's OKAY to believe in your gut that it just may be God saying to get out! My heart has broken many times over for those who are in relationships that have created more brokenness than love. You don't have to want a miracle. You have permission to NOT want a miracle. You are no less of a Christian b/c you don't want to see this through to the miracle. Of course there are times that God will work a miracle in a relationship. What I'm saying here isn't a suggested first course of action. But I do believe there are times that people know and believe in their gut that the miracle will never come. God CAN work miracles but that does not always mean that he DOES. Oftentimes in our humanness we make mistakes; sometimes I believe the miracle is in a restored relationship and sometimes I believe the miracle is in the grace to find emotional health otherwise. God LOVES you, LOVES you, LOVES you. This statement has application for all but I especially want to speak out to those in abusive situations: you would NEVER ask your own child keep their promise to be in an abusive situation to prove their love to wouldn't even think of it. But staying with an abusive husband because you made a vow is exactly what you are thinking that God expects of you. Keeping your wedding vow & staying in an abusive relationship to prove your love and loyalty to God. He LOVES you more than that...SO. MUCH. MORE.

Jesus himself said in Matthew 11:30: "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I don't believe that he is saying that all of Christianity is smooth sailing - look at what he endured on our behalf. However, I do believe that we oftentimes get so focused on finding perfection in following the law, that we completely throw grace out the window and in turn, we create an unneccesary burden on ourselves and others. I want to speak out on behalf of grace. I've been blessed enough to, for the first time in my life, truly understand what it's all about. I honestly believe it's a sin that modern Christianity treats it as something that only has to do with salvation. God loves us and wants good things for us. I think it's time we start actually believing that.
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