Who Likes Being Wrong?

“I can’t work with her!  She’s just not teachable!”

These have been my thoughts recently about a coworker, someone even newer than I am.  I try to give her little pointers–the ways everyone else does with me–but she won’t listen.  “It’s fine!  I’ve got it!” and “I can do it myself!” are her constant responses.  She messes up quite often, but then I don’t feel able to help correct her so it won’t happen again.

In one sense, I understand where she’s coming from: I myself was just training a month ago, and it’s a lot to take in!  And it’s difficult feeling like the only things people say are corrections and criticisms.  No one wants to feel humiliated like that.  After all, who likes being wrong?

But on the other hand, being teachable is vital, and to so many areas of life.  Throughout our lives people may point out something here or there we could do better–a way we’re not listening, something we did to hurt their feelings–and we must be able to listen and learn.

Listen

My first inclination is never to listen.  In fact, it’s usually the opposite: I want to speak–and LOUDLY at that–as I defend myself against whatever correction was made.  “You only looked the one time I messed up; I usually do it right!”  “I can handle it! I don’t need your help!”  But usually reacting this way only compounds the problem.  I don’t feel any better for sharing my side, and now the other person is frustrated too.

Learn

With the way some people “teach,” the last thing I want to do is learn!  But humility has to be a part of the learning process, and humility involves knowing what I don’t know.  I know I don’t know how to do everything at my job, and no one expects me to a little over a month in.  But I also know that I don’t always know how to be the friend people need, so I’m willing to be taught.  There are lots of things I know I don’t know, but when someone calls me out, “Hey, you’re not doing this right!” my response can be, “I know I’m not cause I don’t know how to do it. Can you teach me?”  Then, no one is hurt, and I get the opportunity to learn something new!

It’s Not Always That Simple…

Unfortunately, sometimes life is more complicated than this.  We make intricate plans, thinking we know what we’re doing, and it just doesn’t work out as such.  Maybe God has a different plan for us; maybe we just made a mistake.  Either way the question lingers: How can I be teachable in this moment?  What can I learn and how can I grow through this circumstance?

The answer will rarely be obvious.  In fact, it will often be painful even to ask the question.  “Why?” and “How can you do this to me?” are much easier questions to ask.  We get frustrated by the ways God works, or wonder if he is working at all.

And yet I must cling to being the Beloved in this time.  I must cling to hope even when I can’t find hope to cling to.  And through every step of the journey I must be willing to be teachable: to ask the hard questions of if I messed up and how I could do things differently next time.  Because no experience is truly a waste if we grow from it, taking some new lesson or insight with us.

Let’s Like Being Wrong!

Let’s work together to be teachable.  Let’s strive for it!  And when we’re wrong (because it’s inevitably going to happen), let’s celebrate together because God is setting before us the opportunity to be teachable.  St. Francis made a point to boast about every weakness he discovered, taking literally Paul’s plan to “boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  May we too boast loudly when we uncover our weakness, and then discover that these are places where God’s strength can shine through all the more brightly.

What are your weaknesses today?  Identify just one or two (too many might be overwhelming!), and then see how they could potentially be places for God’s strength to shine through.  For example, “I can get easily disappointed, but that teaches me to rely on God and not on other people.”  There are so many possibilities for how this can look; the most important thing is that we’re bringing our weaknesses to God, and allowing him to meet us in these broken places and then transform them for us.

Until Next Time, Let’s Keep on Hoping…

April

Two Months of Transition: A Photo Journal

As I strive to see what beauty is in sight, it’s fun to look over some of the pictures I’ve taken in my first two months here in Santa Barbara.  I don’t take photos often, so when I do they are of really special, beautiful moments that I long to capture.

This project is particularly apt because I’m really striving to practice contentment and gratitude in my life, even for just the simple moments.  So you’ll find that some of these pictures capture the simple moments I’ve had during this time of drastic transition, but in so doing they allow me to practice gratitude–to hold onto something solid in the midst of the ever-shifting waves of establishing a new life in a new place.

~~ November 17, 2013 ~~

This is my life now. A gorgeous view at my favorite beach.

My life now. A gorgeous view at my favorite beach.

I stopped at this beach–where I now get to play beach volleyball once a week–after my first Sunday at my new church.  I took off my shoes and felt the sand between my toes.  I was so thankful to finally be beginning my new life in beautiful Santa Barbara.  This was a moment of pure blessing for me.

~~~~

Adorable feet!

Adorable feet!

I get to see her so much more now!

I get to see her so much more now!

Now that I’m back in California, I get to hang out with my beautiful niece more often, and that’s such a blessing!  She’s growing up into such a beautiful young woman, and I’m thankful to get to be in her life!  And I love that we get to live this capri-wearing, no-shoes life together! 😛

~~ December 13, 2013 ~~

Spontaneous caroling from another era.

This was probably my favorite moment of the holiday season.  This evening I lead my first event at my new church: an evening of prayer and communion.  As I was preparing earlier in the day at a local coffee shop, a group of young girls–hoop skirts and all!–came in to serenade us with Christmas carols.  It truly was a joyful experience, a moment of remembering Christ’s breaking into our dull human experience to touch us with God’s divine love.

~~ December 26, 2013 ~~

Christmas ice skating with my beautiful niece.

Christmas ice skating with my beautiful niece.

This is the one picture in my photo journal that didn’t take place in Santa Barbara.  I already posted pics of my date over Christmas with my wonderful nephew, but I never included my date with my amazing niece!  Molly wanted to go ice skating for our time alone together.  We were running a little late and only had a two-hour free skating time to begin with, but about 30 minutes in our feet were already hurting!  We lasted through the rest of the time (taking lots of breaks!), and then she helped me find some clothes for working at Starbucks.  I’m thankful to be closer to her now too, and especially for getting to build amazing memories like these.

~~ December 30, 2013 ~~

The ocean a-glow!

I took this picture while driving back from Thousand Oaks to see my beautiful friend Linda.  Linda, one of my dearest friends from Kentucky, was visiting her daughter’s family in LA, and so we met in the middle to spend some time together.  The day was such a blessing, ending with the most incredible sunset I have yet to see.  Even this picture doesn’t do it justice, but the ocean literally looked like it was on fire, glowing from the brilliant sunset.  I still have to pinch myself on days like this–both for the beautiful setting I get to live in and the beautiful friends I get to do life with.

~~ January 3, 2014 ~~

Jam-packed

Finally!

Finally!

Since September 4th, exactly 4 months earlier, my trunk has had something in it as I roadtripped all over the country.  And since the morning of October 12th, almost 3 months earlier, it was completely stuffed! (See the before picture?)  So now I appreciate in a whole new way not having to be embarrassed to have people ride me, having space for them and their stuff, and saving tons of gas since my car isn’t so heavy!  Most importantly, this meant that I was finally settled again after having been in transition for so long (even my first month and a half while being in Santa Barbara).  I do love traveling, but I now have a new regard for home.

~~ January 20, 2014 ~~

Finally!!

My first ever and still favorite burger

Another “finally!” moment–my first In-n-Out burger in I don’t know how long!  In-n-Out made the first burger I ever tried (I grew up eating hot dogs–for some strange reason–while my whole family ate burgers), and I haven’t looked back.  In-n-Out is one of those simple joys of being back in California.  Something you can get few other places (certainly not in Kentucky!) and which just reminds me of home.  And I get to enjoy joys like this with people I love as I’m now closer to my family.

~~ The Theme ~~

Together, let’s find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Let’s embrace those simple moments where all that matters is in the here and now, the simple beauties that capture our imaginations and our hearts.

Let’s reflect together on the ways we’ve been blessed.  It doesn’t have to be anything drastic.  Maybe the most beautiful things are the most simple.

If I don’t practice gratitude daily, I become discontent, constantly pining after what someone else has or doubting God’s provision for me.

Together.  That’s how we do everything worth doing in this life.  Together.  So let’s do this together too.  Let’s reflect, searching for those moments of joy.  Of course there will still be pain–and we need this too in order to appreciate the beauty–but for that one moment when nothing is falling apart, let’s give thanks.

Transition has been hard.  But it’s helped me appreciate the above moments–really appreciate them–in a way I never knew possible.

Together, let’s give thanks.  What are you thankful for?  Share your simple moments here in the comments below so we can all hope–together.

Living “A Limited Number of Hours”: Prioritizing

Since I posted my theoretical schedule of how it would be to live having only A Limited Number of Hours, I have attempted to live this out and somewhat keep track of my hours.  Living this schedule is just as–and maybe even more–difficult than I had anticipated.  20 hours a week of both friend and alone time is not enough!  Especially for an extrovert like me!

One think I did realize is that I can use some of my “extra” Starbucks time (the time I allow for commuting plus lunch breaks) to call friends, so some of that time can overlap.  But I find it difficult to be as present with people when I know that I’m under the time crunch of a limited drive time.

The other huge problem this past week?  I got horribly sick.  I mean, it was awful.  Granted, I’m a big baby when it comes to being sick, but still it was bad.  I had basically no voice because I was coughing almost constantly.  I’m thankful the illness didn’t start in my sinuses like it usually does (I hate it when I feel like my head is going to explode!), but I can tell you that a good, deep cough is not very comforting to customers!

And because I’m so new, I didn’t feel like I could take off of work.  So I kept working during what was my busiest week yet: 34.5 hours.

Actually, until I lost my voice I really didn’t feel awful–just tired, really REALLY tired–but that was enough to practically do me in.  So, my schedule got all out of whack because I took naps whenever I had even 20 minutes of down time.

Translation: I didn’t read and write every day last week.  I’m so sad to have to admit this!  I am still really committed to this project, but man, is my life a lot to juggle right now!

So I realized the next step is living out this full schedule these days is figuring out my priorities:

1. Connection:  For my own sanity I have to be connected with people and with God.  If this doesn’t happen, I don’t function as a healthy person.  Last week, this meant using what little energy I had to connect with people rather than to read or write.  I won’t be effective in ministry or as a person if I’m not vitally connected to others.  And thankfully, many of the things I do for ministry are revitalizing for me so they can count under this too.

2. Money:  The hard truth of my situation right now is that I am about to have to start paying back school loans, so I need to make money.  So I’m committed to working my close-to-full-time hours at Starbucks because this is how I’m paying the bills.  Over time, I would like to start tutoring more to make some better money than way and cut back on Starbucks hours, but for now Starbucks it is!

3. Reading/Writing:  Unfortunately, these are a slightly lesser priority these days, though they still are a priority.  Hopefully as I’m able to pull back at Starbucks a little, I can increase the time I give to these.

Finally, things that are not a priority: watching TV (unless it’s a time to connect with friends), dancing (I was thinking about starting to get into dancing but it’s just not gonna happen right now), dating (though I still want to get married–and still set me up on a blind date if you find someone good!), and any kind of bigger group hang-outs.  I do love all of these things, but they aren’t the life-giving sources that I really need to focus on while I have so little time.

What does it boil down to?  My life is busy these days!  So, while I have so little free time, I need to use it effectively to get my connection/alone needs met rather than on extraneous or peripheral activities that don’t actually fulfill me in that deep, life-giving way.

And actually, all of this energizes me because I love living intentionally!

What Beauty Is in Sight?

Again this week, I’m writing for the Faith Jam on Friday instead of Thursday.  This week, instead of being busy yesterday, I was just horribly sick! 😦 And although I still don’t feel great today, I at least feel a little bit better to where I’m able to sit up for long enough to pound out some reflective thinking.

So here goes:

At 30 years old and still single, my life is hardly what I had pictured.  At the very least I assumed I’d be married by now, and perhaps with a kid–though whether I had one or not, at least I’d have that option.

I didn’t think this because of some feminine ideal, that this is what it means to be a woman.  I genuinely want to be a wife and a mother, and I still have hopes that this will happen.

In some sense I realize that 30 is still very young.  But in another sense, I feel old as you hear people say that it’s better to have kids before you’re 35–40 at the latest.

And I’d like to have time with just my husband before we have kids, so with no prospects as I swiftly approach 31 (yuck!), life is not what I had planned.

And that seems scary to me.  And confusing.  Like, “Where are you, God?  Aren’t you the one who made me relational, who gave me this desire to be married?  Why aren’t you fulfilling it?  Are you holding my husband back for some reason?”

These are the questions I’ve been asking recently.  Not asking–profoundly wrestling with.  Tackling God over.  Begging.  Pleading.  Seeking in those deep places of my heart.

So, as a theologian, I’ve had to really examine my theology on these things.  There are so many things I could never dream of knowing about God, but here are a couple things I cling to in these dark moments:

1.  I don’t believe God is cruel.  I don’t know why he hasn’t either taken away my desire to be married or given me a husband, but I don’t think his reasoning involves being cruel and just making me suffer.
2.  I don’t believe God ordains everything.  While I do think God is in charge in some larger sense, I don’t think that means he controls every aspect of our lives.  Perhaps the reason I’m not married yet is simply that we live in a fallen, disconnected world where the crappiness of circumstances hasn’t allowed me to meet anyone I connect with in this way. (I also don’t believe there’s just one “one” for everyone, but that just means I haven’t met any of them yet! :P)
3.  I don’t believe God rewards goodness and punishes badness.  This was a myth that grew among the Israelites in the Old Testament, but Jesus quickly dispelled it when he came on the scene (see John 9:1-3).  So I don’t think I’m still single because I did something wrong or sinful.  I also, incidentally, don’t think you only get married when you’re “ready”–plenty of people aren’t ready and get married, and plenty are way past ready and are still waiting!

So, in the midst of the hardness of my situation, the question arises: What beauty is in sight?  How can I even believe there’s beauty when so many things around me don’t make any sense?

First, there’s beauty in the fact that this struggle has driven me to the Lord.  Just the fact that I can affirm the above theological statements is beautiful.  Yes, a lot of days this just sucks, but I also am discovering the ways that it’s forcing me to rely on God and really figure out what I believe about him.

Second, there is so much beauty in the amazing relationships I have, particularly those I’ve developed over the past 6 years.  I experience every day a depth in my friendships that I think most people never even experience with their spouse.  I don’t say this to brag; I just really believe it’s true.  Most people are terrified to be vulnerable and really share their heart with someone–I have a core of 5-10 people I can do this with any time (assuming our schedules allow!).  I could not be more thankful for the incredible friendships I have.  You know who you are, and you’ve blessed me immensely time and time again!

Finally, there’s beauty in where my life is right now.  True, I don’t love every aspect of my circumstances, but I’m not sure that I’d be in this place if I were married.  I love living in Santa Barbara, I love getting to work with my church, and I love having time to develop the friendships I have here.  I’m not sure if all these things would have lined up just so if I’d been married.

Finding beauty in these thorny circumstances has been my desire lately.  But I don’t always know how to do that.  However, I know that I don’t think finding the beauty means always being happy about how things are.  Sometimes the beauty comes in a really good cry or in a really good, hard, honest discussion with a friend about the pain of my life in this moment.

My prayer these days comes from two sources: somewhere in The Chronicles of Narnia Aslan tells Lucy that it’s not for us to know the “what if”‘s.  I realize that my life might be very different if I were already married at this point, but it’s not for me to know what that path might have looked like.  The fact is that this is my life.  And I want to embrace that.

In a similar vein, I think often about this quote:

joseph-campbell

I don’t know what life is waiting for me, but I know that I want to find out.  And I don’t want to find out passively because I have no other option–I want to be excited about the journey I’m on, ready to embrace whatever twists and turns may come my way.

In the midst of all of this, God is still good.  He is still meeting me in those lowly places–when I’m unsure where to go and why things are just so difficult.

He hasn’t abandoned me.

He hasn’t abandoned you either.

Perhaps life’s difficulties seem too hard to handle.  We are not alone in them.  We have God, but we also have each other.

Let’s walk in these rough places together–not pretending that things are fine when they clearly aren’t.  I believe Jesus is present when we meet one another in those vulnerable places, when we decide to incarnate into one another’s pain.

After all, isn’t that what the Incarnation is all about?  Jesus, perfect God, taking on the imperfect form of a human (though he remained sinless) in order to walk among us and experience our pain.

Let’s be Jesus to one another in these difficult places–whether we can relate to the other’s pain or not.  Let’s be the warm arms of Christ as we embrace each other, trusting that the Holy Spirit is moving our arms to surround one another.  Let’s never forget that life will be hard–more often than we’d like–but we are not alone!  And then, let’s be God’s tangible representatives to one another–little Jesuses in the flesh–as we walk together through the pain, seeking whatever beauty we may find among the thorns.

What’s Your Name?

Last week, when my head pastor and I were planning the service for this week, the theme of “naming” kept popping up in the various lectionary texts.   So, I shared with him what I’ve been learning from A Wind in the Door.

I actually have still to write a fuller reflection on this idea of naming, but basically naming is when we identify the core of who somebody is so they are able to grow into this better version of themselves.  The opposite of naming is Xing, where you hate someone or discourage them rather than encourage them in this meaningful way.

So, my pastor preached on this topic, and it was wonderful!  He referenced the book a little bit, but then let me share some too.  He traced how God has named his people throughout history, including Abram (to Abraham), Jacob (to Israel), and Cephas (to Peter).  And he expounded upon how this naming is what shaped people’s identity and helped them grow into who God was calling them to be.

Then, for the third time, I got to lead the communion liturgy–maybe my favorite part of the whole service to lead.  I continue to use the United Methodist liturgy, particularly because it allows some ad-libbing concerning the Father and Son. (The section on the Holy Spirit is the invocation, invoking the Holy Spirit to be present with us in and through the elements, so there’s really little room for ad-libbing here.) And, like I mentioned the last time I got to do this, I wrote this part to go along with the pastor’s message.

So, this time, following “It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth,” I continued, “You named us from before we were born, calling us to follow you.  Yet we turned away, Xing ourselves, choosing our own name over the one you’ve given us.  But you continue to call us by name—you delivered us from captivity, made covenant to be our sovereign God, and spoke to us through your prophets.”  I love looking at naming as a theology of the Father.

Then, for the section concerning the Son, it begins, “Holy are you [notice it’s still addressed to the Father], and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ.”  I then continued it with, “You, Father, named him your Beloved when your Holy Spirit descended on him at his baptism.  Being the Beloved, he preached good news to the poor and proclaimed release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind.  He named those he came in contact with: the sick, the hungry, and sinners.  And you named us as your church through his suffering, death, and resurrection, and in so doing you delivered us from slavery to sin and death, which hope to X us.”

Wow!  Although I have to admit to being slightly proud of putting this together, I’m even more amazed by God and the truth summed up in these words!  And I’m thankful to Madeleine L’Engle for the language that has opened me up to this new truth found in the scripture.

God literally gives people names throughout the Old Testament.  Then, he names Jesus the “Beloved” at his baptism, after which Jesus turns around and gives Peter his name.  When God names, it defines the core of who we are.

What name does God want to give you today?  What is the truth at the core of who you are, that beautiful place that sometimes you maybe forget is there or wonder if anyone can really see?  God sees it, and he wants to give that back to you as your Name from him!  Then, we can continue to grow into the fullness of who God sees us to be!

 

Goal: Accomplished

I did it!  When I started this blog, I said I wanted to read and write every day for a month… and I did it!  More or less…  I did write every day, and I think I read at least some amount every day, though I’d like to do a bit more.

My original thought was to commit to doing this every day for a year, but then I realized that was probably more than I could chew.  So a month.  A month seemed more reasonable, and it worked out!

But the truth is, as I’m discovering it, that I want to do other kinds of writing besides just blog writing.  I have a book I’m constantly thinking through, as well as just things I need to journal.  And in another few weeks, I’ll be preaching again and starting to work on that.

So, here’s the plan for the next month: I’m still going to read and write every day.  But this month I’m only going to post on my blog 3 times a week: probably 1 will be the Faith Jam on Thursdays, and then two others as I have something interesting to reflect on (I still plan to blog through A Wind in the Door).  The other four days I will either work on my book, journal, or work on these blogs posts to make them even better.

For my reading for the month, I want to read at least 5 pages a day.  I know that doesn’t sound like a lot–and some days I read way more than that–but some of the books I’m reading through right now are so dense that 5 pages may take a while!  And I’ll try to keep y’all posted on my reading progress, at least when I finish a book.

So, please hold me accountable!  Comment on here or on my Facebook page to ask how my progress is coming along!  I do much better with accountability.  I’m looking forward to another great month of growing into the person God desires me to be!

Being the Beloved

I missed the faith jam posting yesterday, but I figured it was still worth it to get in on it.  She said to just begin, so I’m beginning!

What does it mean to be the beloved: to be-loved?

Today is a perfect example for me of what this means: resting.  I too often am trying to run a rat race and get one more thing done, and sometimes I just need to rest.

Sometimes I think I push so hard because I think everything relies on me.  If I don’t take care of it, no one will.  Everything will far apart, so I’d better be on top of things.

Sometimes it’s just that I am legitimately busy, which I actually like, but I still have to create pockets of space in there to just be.

Today I went on a beautiful hike with a friend.  It was our first time hanging out, but it will be far from the last.  We were able to be gracious to one another in various struggles.  That’s being loved: being the beloved.

Then I came home, showered, and accidentally fell asleep.  I wanted to get work done for church on Sunday, but apparently my body had other ideas.  In those moments I continually think of the line Jesus says to his disciples, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).  My flesh can be so weak in those moments!

But then God speaks his peace to me, reassuring me that it’s going to be ok.  If anything, I don’t rest enough!  I don’t fully rest one day of the week, or even the equivalent of a day’s worth of time but throughout the week.  He’s got things under control.  Things won’t fall apart if I step back and rest.  It’s a good reminder for me.

I am far from perfect.  I even feel guilty when I’m resting!  But I’m learning to relax in who God is and how he’s created me to be.  And of these baby steps lead me to Hope: hope that God’s not done with me yet–that God is calling me into a fullness of being that I can still not fathom.

So today, like I must choose to hope so often, today I choose to be the beloved: to be-loved.  I choose to rest in who God has made me to be, and at the same time I rest into who he is growing me into being.  That person is someone who knows she is loved.  And because of HIS love, I’m able to approach life fully, whole-heartedly, without fear.  Because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

Today, in this moment, choosing to be loved means choosing not to feel guilty about taking a nap and having a fun day planned with friends.  I’ve been working hard.  God’s got it under control.

May you too uncover what it means for you to be-loved, to be the beloved.  Where are the places of fear in your life that God’s perfect love can cast out?  May we continue to live into the fullness of who God desires us to be, letting his love penetrate into the core of our being more deeply every day.