Friday, February 28, 2014

Sacred Moments

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19

This undiscovered gem is tucked away in the Bible after Jesus was born. The shepherds came and worshiped. Everyone was talking about what had happened, about the angels and star and the baby born in a stable.

But Mary, the one who had actually been a key player in these events, the one who probably had the most to say, kept them in her heart. 

In an age where our whole lives seem to be splayed open for the world to see, I wonder if there is more that we should keep sacred. 

It's not to say that we cannot share parts of our lives on social media. Or that we cannot share joy. But often I will read something on social media about a relationship that I wonder if it should have ever been posted. I find myself wanting to close the door to their inner lives; ask them to close the blinds. 

There are sacred moments in life. Times with husband or children or family. Meaningful conversations with friends. Do we really want to invite the world at large to peer into our most sacred moments, our most intimate conversations and hearts? 

Personally, I do not. In the past, I have been guilty of over-sharing intimate details that, while perhaps not embarrassing or gross, still ought to have constituted as private. 

It's one thing to share a beautiful, sacred moment with friends in person, and quite another to upload it to your social media outlet of choice, thereby handing anyone with an internet connection the keys to your soul.

This picture from the National Geographic photo galleries (Photo taken by David Doublet) reminds me of what it feels like to put your opinions online - surrounded by a school of barracuda.

Restraint may not be for you. You may be completely comfortable with sharing your life online. But this flinging wide the doors of my heart for all to see is an area of life in which I have been convicted. While I want to be more honest with people, I also want to strengthen my filter. There are some things that are meant to stay between the people who were there. 

Related to this is the phenomenon that we don't seem to be able to process information anymore. We'll spit a question or observation into the world wide web and chatter back and forth. But how often do we consider it in our minds? 

We have lost the discipline of pondering, I think.

We think in soundbytes or statuses or tweets. How often do we turn over an issue in our own minds or hearts? How often do we seek out one or two people to discuss a matter with at a time, at length, as opposed to opening up a world wide forum?

In person, it's easier to be on the fence about an issue; to weigh it in our minds and consider angles and implications. But it seems that online, we've got to passionately put a stake in the ground. We have to draw a line on every issue. Everything turns into a battle because for the first time in the history of the world, anyone in the world can and does voice their noisy opinions. At a point, this ceases to become a sharing of opinions and crosses the line into becoming cacophony.

Connection is not bad. It is an incredible thing that we are able to connect instantly with people across the globe and it has, overall, opened up the discussion to opinions and thoughts previously unavailable to us. It has widened the conversation. It allows us to connect with loved ones in ways previously unfathomable. I should say that this is overall a good thing. 

But where is the balance? At what point are we bowing down the god of information and research? We have information like at our fingertips like never before.

I'm arguing that this is not as good as some people think.

Because we have become more like conduits for information, rather than consumers and digesters. The quantity and quality of online information can be overwhelming and unhealthy. We jump from one article to the next, always seeking more. More information. More research. More opinions. More tips. More tricks. More articles. But when do we ever pause to consider what we've learned? When was the last time you considered and applied something that you read online?

This phenomenon has contributed to a good deal of over-thinking and even anxiety in my life. And yes, this may just be me. But I have a suspicion that if more people stopped and thought about it, they might realize that they too have suffered ill effects from this overstimulated race to consume more facts.

Facts are dead and bare. They are naked. Without context, facts are useless. Without wisdom, knowledge is dangerous and empty. 

Perhaps before we pose a question to the world, we ought to consider and digest it ourselves before spouting off an answer and shooting from the hip.

{Will you join me in pausing and considering sacred moments truly sacred? Will you join me in seeking context and wisdom and not just empty facts?}

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Killing Passive Aggression

I remember taking a quiz in one of my college classes that was to determine if our personality types were more A, B, or C. The examples our professor gave to explain these types related to how they deal with conflict.

She gave the example of a friend or boyfriend/girlfriend making plans with you and showing up hours late.

When the late friend finally showed up to pick the type-A person up-this type would blow up and likely say some harsh words to the friend- and then be done with the conflict and not think about it again. I think of this as geyser-like coping. They explode-and then return to a normal state and move on with their lives.

In contrast-it was explained that type-B personality types would likely react differently. One of these individuals would have probably looked at their watch and turned on a movie until the person arrived. When their friend came they would just leave with them and not be angry- maybe they’d ask what held the person up, but they would also move on with their life. I think of this as highway drive-coping. You see something obstructing the road and you move a little so as not to hit it. You’re delayed by traffic and instead of losing your cool you crank up the music and roll down the windows.

---I recall listening to these explanations and seeing that while both personality types handled life issues differently, they seemed to have adapted and have some resolve in the conflict. I looked down at my quiz and noticed that I ranked as a C type personality.

I remember my professor saying something along the lines of, “And now the C type personality. You are all the ones most likely to die of a heart attack.”
Ouch. Really? That’s just great. I did a mental survey; I don’t like anger-I think yelling is highly unproductive. I saw myself as more non-confrontational, like the B personality type-not saying something harsh to a person who hurt me----but the professor went on.

It was described that this type is the one who when the late friend knocks on the door and apologizes for being late-this person will be cool and hard. If asked if everything is alright, they’d abruptly say, “Fine” and then not be as open and “normal” with their friend the whole rest of the night. This person, weeks down the road, would be in the midst of an argument with this friend and all of a sudden bring up “that time 2 weeks ago when you were hours late to pick me up” along with a myriad of other frustrations they had harbored. I think of this as somatic coping. The heart attack statistic made sense. I’ve been that person to file something away, think I was doing something right by not expressing frustration-but yet thinking about it and then bringing my concerns up at a much later date.

This- is passive aggression. This is when you’re around a person who has hurt you and you don't act "violently" against them-but are not as expressive or kind-not “normal” around them. This is when you see a person who hurt you and your heart actually pounds in your chest at seeing them. This is that thought that occurs in your mind as the person reaches out to you and you think over and over through previous hurts you’ve felt through interactions with them.

Unfortunately, I’ve lived it, felt it, and thought it. I finally have identified the behavior for what it is and I’m working to eliminate it from my life. Some issues with being passive aggressive:

1. It’s nasty.

You’ve probably experience someone being sickeningly “nice” to you. You couldn’t pin anything wrong about their behavior but you can sense there is something-whether it be hurt, anger-something behind the way they act towards you. Maybe it’s that it’s not genuine behavior that makes it so nasty. This behavior often prompts those close to us to attempt to “beg” out of us what is wrong.

I think one of the most frustrating things to experience in a relationship or interaction with someone else is fakeness and insincerity. It’s unattractive and unappealing behavior.

 2. It hurts others.

SO much of the way we act affects those around us and passive aggression can hurt deeply those we come in contact with.

That moment when harsh words are thrown out to someone super close to you-because inside your thoughts, your heart, and even your body are consumed with the burden of a situation.

That time when you drive unsafely and endanger yourself and others as you try to understand a situation in your mind.

Additionally, I hurt when I see my family and friends hurting. I feel like holding on to passive aggression takes some happiness away from those we love.

3. It hurts you.

Passive aggression can have somatic outcomes. For some the whole mind/body/soul connection seems very close. When your heart and mind are hurting, one’s literal heart can seem to react with pounding and irregular beating. It can actually be scary.
The Mayo Clinic Staff write about some of the benefits to letting go of such aggression,
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for compassion, kindness and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
    Healthier relationships
    Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
    Less anxiety, stress and hostility
    Lower blood pressure
    Fewer symptoms of depression
    Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse”

By allowing passive aggression to permeate our lives we are perhaps trying to find a remedy to a hurt, trying to control pain, and perhaps seeking restitution for the hurt we have experienced. By holding in this pain we might be trying to cause less destruction-we’re not screaming, yelling, or hitting-but the destruction caused by this behavior can hurt so deeply physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
4. It doesn’t accomplish anything. 
As described in the beginning example, the person who acts with passive aggression is often storing up hurt and pain. Eventually it seems to come out verbally, after the person has been cold and distant and caused more hurt to themselves and others for a period of time.

The geyser type-A personality can scare me. Eruptions of anger from others have caused much hurt and pain.
Additionally, the laissez-fair style of coping of the type B personality isn’t realistic for me. I feel, I sense, and love people in my life so much that I do want to resolve conflict and hurt.  

The good news?

There is freedom.

What completely changed my outlook on how I deal with others is the way I’ve been forgiven. The good news in this situation is the good news that has changed and is changing my life.

From Ephesians 1,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.”

God forgiving me, loving me, and lavishing His grace on me changes the way I see the hurt and pain I experience from what others do.

I am guilty of much and yet, God has shown me what true love is through Jesus Christ. I see what love really is based on what I have seen from Him; forgiveness from the sin in my life from a perfect God to a selfish, imperfect human.

 This love compels me to face passive aggression.

I love that the Bible gives practical advice about resolving conflict. From Matthew 18,
“15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
As one who tends to shy away from confrontation, I have seen great results from going to someone and talking with them about the way I feel about a situation. Using words like,
“ I don’t know what you meant, but I felt ______ when _____  happened or when you said ____” 
Sometimes miscommunication has occurred and I took something in a way it wasn’t meant to be communicated-and sometimes a person meant what they said and we have an opportunity to talk about it.
Sometimes by dealing with an issue, a change happens in the relationship; sometimes 2 people become closer and sometimes they become farther apart. This can be painful; however, as situations tend to come out eventually, I find that even if pain is to be experienced in a conflict it is better to face it-rather than creating destruction with passive aggression. 
For those of us who struggle with being passive aggressive, this change in dealing with life is not always easy. I often find myself proactively thinking about not acting passively aggressive and loving others.
Let us remember, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9

As for me, I’m working on loving and letting go.
photo credit: nehasingh7 via photopin cc

Friday, February 7, 2014

Why You Don't Need A List of Things to Do Before You Get Married

Photo Credit Craig Thoburn Photography

 Back and forth it goes.

The internet battle between the Single Years Are the Best: Live Your Life campaign and the Young Marriage: Your Soulmate Is Just Around the River Bend pushers.

{Full disclosure: I married young. I was 21 years old and my husband was 19}.

But here's the thing: Your life doesn't end at the altar. It doesn't begin there, either.

While there does need to be a certain maturity before one makes the decision to pledge one's life to another human being {also, you should probably have mastered basic living skills like budgeting, cooking, and doing laundry....}, there are not external milestones or goals you have to hit before getting hitched.

Our lives ought to be awesome no matter our relationship status. As Christians, we are to honor Christ all the time.

It seems that while the our culture tends to eschew marriage altogether, Christians are plunging to the other extreme and idolize marriage as THE goal for young people.

Marriage doesn't complete you as a person - it can compliment you, but it does not complete you.

Christ completes you. Or He should. It's a life-long journey.

See, marriage is awesome - when it's the right thing for you.

What I'd like to see is young people doing is being awesome things regardless of what their relationship status is. 

It's not hard to do.


I see so many single young woman lusting after "The Big Day" and planning ultimate dream weddings. Our culture tells us that it's the biggest day of your life. It's the day the girl gets to be a Princess. Emphasis is placed on The Day.

But the silence on the importance of choosing your mate or what happens after the honeymoon is deafening.

I propose that we stop acting like we either have to be awesome before marriage because it all stops when you walk down that aisle or that our lives don't start till we find That Person.

You want to find that person? Be yourself. Don't focus on finding that person - focus on being the best you you can be. Have fun. Laugh. Dare. Have adventures. Be awesome.

Then when you find that person, be Awesome Squared.

Here's the deal: As Christians, we are to die to ourselves every day. Now, being married means that you to die to yourself extra because you have a whole other person you are to honor and that is part of marriage.

And don't even get me started on the laying-low of motherhood. You die to yourself every time you change yet another shirt and stumble through the dark to feed hungry cries.

But again: being a mother doesn't mean you stop doing amazing things. Sure, the awesome things might change for a season.

But isn't all of life ebb and flow?

So I can't stay up till 3 a.m. every night - let alone run into the grocery store quickly.

But life's adventures are perhaps not found in some distant land or vista or degrees acquired but in the learning to find adventure and mystery and wonder right where you are.

Life is full of it if you just open your eyes.

And so I humbly challenge myself and everyone to stop comparing your life to others, stop thinking 'I have to really live before x happens' or 'Once y happens, then I can really live' or even 'better live now before this happens.'

No! Really live now.

Whoever you are.
Wherever you are.

Now is the time to take hold of the life you have been given and make something of it.

{Five Minute Friday} Write

Before I ever learned to type or put pen to paper, I told stories.

My toys were the characters to the stories I wove, sitting up too late. When my mother read to me, the words infused my soul and I drank in everything. And when the lights were off and my mom had left, new stories whirred through my mind and came to life in my dreams.

Since my earliest memory, I can remember being compelled to tell. Falling head over heels in love with words and events and drama and truths wrapped in letters.

There are many ways to tell. Acting. Singing. Painting. Dancing. Filming. But I soon discovered that my favorite way to tell was to write.

And so I wrote. Journal pages worn thin with pencils scribblings of dreams and hopes and tales. Novels and stories and poems composed but almost always hidden away, released to the page but not the world.

Because writing, great writing, bares the soul.

And now the little girl with her stories of bravery and truth and courage is grown up. And I am starting a blog and working on novels that will see the light of day. These words that I love will be released to reach the world, to grab hold of other souls.

Some days it hurts. Some days I want to hide them away in safe little cages, in dusty little files on my computer where the world cannot see.

But whatever comes of the words, whatever bleeds onto the page, I will always write. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

{Monday Morsels} From Momastery: Quit Pointing Your Avocado at Me

You guys!!!

I love the blog Momastery. She is awesome and beautiful and lives out loud. One of her best posts from 2013 is called Quit Pointing Your Avocado At Me.

It's technically about parenting, but it is soooo applicable to everybody.

Because as humans we often feel that other people are making decisions at us.

That needs to stop.

So here's the link. G says it better than I ever could. I'll just add my own hearty Amen!