Slow Down

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Today I got an email from my pastor, it is the weekly email that everyone in the church gets, but something deeply resonated with me. “Advent is a penitential season. This means that we are to be sober, thoughtful, repentant during this time. It’s hard to be these things when we get caught up in the ‘Christmas’ rush that normally happens this time of year. With that in mind, let me encourage you to consciously slow down.” This is the second time this week I have been nudged toward slowing down.

What does “slowing down” even mean? Sometimes I’m not sure I have ever known what it looks like, I have lived my life constantly on the go. Even while typing this, I am listening to music and waiting for a guy from Bumble to respond to a message. I can’t even do one thing at a time, let alone spend time in silence. This is why I love yoga, I can spend time in silence, meditating or praying and still get a work out accomplished.

When my friend Lisa asked me if I have “space to listen” built into my life, I told her not really. When I write I often hear from the Lord, when I make jewelry I often hear from the Lord, when I bake I listen. And yet I do not actively set time aside for this intention.

Advent begins this Sunday. It is one of my favorite times of year. Advent is full of anticipation; Advent is when the Truth becomes flesh, Hope is wrapped in swaddling clothes, and the baby King breaks the silence of a waiting people. I want to take this season and join in the silence of this waiting.

What does this mean? It means I am going to set time aside to listen to the prophets, to look to the star with the wise men, and worship with Mary. I am going to plan times of baking, writing, creating, while listening. I am going to turn off the music, the Netflix, the noise I allow into my life and I am going to “consciously slow down.”

Join me is slowing down this Advent, listen along with me, shut down the noise and listen for “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.”

written while listening to my Christmas 2018 playlist

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Join Them

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This weekend I was smacked with the beautiful vulnerability of others. I sat in a pew while watching a friend sing. She was not performing; she was crying out to the Lord and hoping we would join her. As her voice rose to the heavens I cried. She was letting us in on a beautiful exchange—she was raw and joyful, and she radiated peace. Her gift of worship was a sight to behold.

Music is the common thread of the vulnerability I witnessed this weekend. I began watching Westside, the new Netflix reality show/musical. It follows nine musicians as they workshop ideas for a musical (I have not watched all of it yet). A couple of these artists dig deep and connect with their pain so that it can be shared and learned from. I was utterly stunned by the nineteen-year-old (who has more talent than I may ever know) write a song that may ring in my ears for days to come. She brought the reality she has lived to the table for me, the viewer, to interact with and be be deeply moved by.

A moment of utter honesty: I do not know if I am strong enough to dig that deep, to be that real, to let others into the process. And yet, as I sit from the comfort of an audience member and watch as the vulnerability spills out, all I want is to join them in the baring of our souls and creating something beautiful in the hope that others too will join in.

This  journey to embrace vulnerability is filled with books and praying and writing more (not necessarily publishing). The writing is very stream of consciousness—it is me trying to find the rhythm of my emotions. I may not have a voice for singing, but I find my voice in writing. This is the place I cry out to the Lord, this is my worship, my offering. I compose with key strokes and force myself to finish sentences on the right note.

Brené Brown writes, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” I want to speak truth and know courage. I want to plumb the depths and scale the heights together so we can all be a little stronger and a little braver together.

written while listening to The Brilliance 

A Letter to my Girlfriends

cropped-img_5544.jpgLadies,

Online dating, aghhhh. Profiles and pictures, swiping and clicking, messaging and hoping. This has been my life lately. This path has led to many adventures and friendships but so far no love. At first this killed me—all this work with no reward, all this time and no results, all these feelings and no relationship. And yet I have found something incredibly more valuable than a soul mate: I found myself.

I know that sounds corny and super cliche, but it is true. I have learned so much about myself, and I want tell you about it.

I have learned that my internal struggle with self-doubt when it comes to relationships is not noticed by others. My dating experience is very limited, so the uncertainty that comes because I have no practice is very real. But I am learning that my issues are not that bad. Everyone has stuff. The thing that I see as a mountain might not even be an obstacle to others. In fact, it might be a lovely journey. My search to be “enough” for someone else has been turned upside down, because the real question is am I enough for myself?

As I navigate this journey I continue to find that I like me. I like my life. I love my community. And if he does not respond, it should not and will not change my life. I may wallow a bit, maybe eat some Ben and Jerry’s, but I will be OK. I will not lose anything. And neither will you. You will still be you, maybe with a new bruise but stronger once you have healed.

I have been learning that vulnerability sucks. There was one guy who I thought was out of the picture so I began to place the bricks around my heart and emotions. I was building the wall that all strong, independent, and emotionally-flawed girls build. Girls like me do not deal with our feelings—we push them way down, build a fortress, and pretend that nothing is wrong. I have always found this to be the armor that fits my style.

But when he walked in, smiled, and hugged me, every brick crumbled. The armor fell off and my feelings were real. I had to deal with the fact that when we matched, I was excited. When we messaged, I was was elated. When we texted, my heart swelled. But when it ended with no explanation, I was disappointed. Vulnerability is not our enemy. Be real, be honest, and build trust. It is hard and it can suck, but the more you practice the more authentic you will be. And you may find that you have outgrown your armor.

I have learned that I love the community of women in my life! When things have not gone as planned, when I have felt friend-zoned, all of you have encouraged, listened and dispensed wisdom. The overwhelming joy and excitement in matches, and interest in Facebook stalking, and the genuine love of all the possibilities—it leaves me speechless. You have helped me bare the “it was just not meant to be” wounds like a warrior. Find your crew. Seek out the women who lead extraordinary lives and journey with them, praying together, seeking the Kingdom together, and loving each other.

So Ladies, thank you for loving me flaws and all. You are what makes opening the app, the profiles and pictures, swiping and clicking, messaging and hoping all worth the trip. Matches will come and go, but my crew is forever.

Written while listening to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Sound Track

How do people do this?

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How do people do this? Get to know someone via text without hearing their voice or seeing their facial expressions? I miss that. I miss seeing the person I am communicating with. I know that is not very “modern” of me, and this is how modern romance functions. Bumble, Tinder, E-Harmony, and Plenty of Fish are the platforms of this era, but they leave me missing basic, old-school human connection. I miss spotting that single guy across the room, our eyes meeting, gravity pulling us together, and the “Hello,” that is followed up by sparks. I miss gauging intonation and body language.

Right now I am 24 hours in to messaging with a man on Bumble who is smart, seems kind, and says he loves Jesus. But I want to sit across a table from him, and watch the way he interacts with a waitress, I want to see him get pumped by the song he loves playing in the background,  but I also know that 24 hours is just testing the waters.

Something I appreciate about this man is that he seems genuinely interested in learning something about me. He has already mentioned talking about a certain topic in person. So I know there is intention. We will not be penpals. And as great as that feels, I still want to see him with his friends, I want to hear his laugh and know if it is the kind of laugh that will make me laugh.

While the last 24 hours of texting has been fun, I am now anxious that my writing skills have filled some of my social gaps with the opposite sex. As skilled as I think I am in conversation, something happens to me when I talk to a man who I like or I think may be interested in me. I become rambly and awkward and that could all be me overanalyzing, but it is also my insecurities in full effect. I want to just be myself, but if I am honest, sometimes I am afraid that is not enough. But, what it comes down to, is I am enough, and if I am not, we are not meant to be.

So, how do people do this? I am trying to keep my insecurities in check and be as open as I can be in what feels like a text monologue when I wish it could be an in-person conversation. I am trying to not rush things so that there is space to pray and not prey. I am trying to keep hope alive while having realistic expectations. And I am letting myself get excited when I hear the Bumble tone go off. I am also waiting patiently for an outing so I can put tone, gestures, and quirks in their proper place.

As much as I miss the humanity of it all, this is where I am. And who knows if this man will become anything, but I think I want to find out. I think I want to walk along with him and see our city together and figure out if this could be more, or if it should be less.

 

God is Active

My friend Kimb and I were talking the other day and I was whining about my singleness. I was whining because another wedding was on tap—two more people were going to move from single to married. And I knew it was a celebration and I believed that this union was a good thing, but jealousy and comparison were creeping in.

I told Kimb that it just feels like God is closing doors, shutting windows and locking gates, while not opening anything new, just sealing off entries and exits, so I cannot go anywhere. She let me get it all out and lament, and then she spoke straight to me. She looked and me and said, “Good, that means God is active, He is not being silent.” She might as well have punched me, because that response took my breath away. And she was right!

My lack of a love life is not God’s silence. He is active in guiding me away from the wrong man for this season. He may not be “closing a door and opening a window,” but He is opening me. He is using this time to show me the strength in vulnerability, the power of not settling and the need for a solid community of both marrieds and singles.

Even all this internet dating is pushing me toward openness. Last week I met someone on Bumble. We have a handful of mutual friends and hit it off via text. He loves Jesus, music, justice and hates sexism. We never met up while I was in his part of the country, we just couldn’t find the time. But I let myself feel a spark, I let myself get excited when I got a message from him, I did not automatically assume it wouldn’t work. I was 100% me, honest, open and appropriately vulnerable. The Lord shut that door for this man in this season, and I am OK with that. Because God is active.

I have found that I liked God’s silence over a no. It was easier. Silence meant that I might still be able to get what I want. Silence meant that there was hope for the way I wanted things to work out. In my heart, I wanted silence because I felt more in control. But a no is just infuriating. A no means I do not get what I want, a no means that my will is not as strong as His. A no is definite and deafening. But a no is also participation, a no is a response, a no shows that one day there may be a yes. God is answering.

And this all just seems to be another lesson in openness and vulnerability. Because honestly, I spent a week setting my intentions to openness and it was exhausting even for me—the extreme extrovert. “Being on” and being vulnerable is significantly more draining. But with most things, it will get easier the more I practice. Maybe there is an emotional muscle memory that I can build up and one day it will feel more natural. God is teaching.

By being open and vulnerable this last week I was able to forge deeper relationships with my current friends. I empathized more, listened more and talked slightly less (let’s be real, I am a talker). I was also able to forge a rather deep friendship quickly with a prayer warrior and super talented artist who I know God is going to use in big ways for the Kingdom (I just have a gut feeling about this one, he is a good man). God is active.

Kimb said it and I am trying to live into it. I am trying to be aware of God’s activity in my life. I am looking for God at work, and I am listening and waiting for His “YES.”

Bridging the Millennial Boomer Divide in the Workplace

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“Why won’t my Baby Boomer boss listen to me?” This was a question I frequently heard Millennials ask at a conference for those working in Christian non-profits. At first I was annoyed, and thought, “Get over it, maybe your ideas are not that good.” But then I wondered, “How can I help?” Cause here’s the deal: I am technically a Millennial (I’m borderline between Millennial and Gen X, depending on who you ask), and my experience with Boomers has been awesome. My boss is in a generation very different from my own—all of the senior leadership at my organization is older than me. I see this as a good thing! I am blessed to have Boomers in my life who love me, listen to me, and collaborate with me. But I see now that this is not the norm. So I would love to pass on four workplace practices that I have found to be successful when bridging the Millennial-Boomer divide, in a Christian workplace.

1. Pray. When I say this I am not saying pray that they change. I am telling you to pray for them and to pray for your own attitude. Pray that the Lord will give you opportunities to collaborate, to listen, to show that you value them and their opinion.

Pray for God to change your heart; this is one of the great things about our God, when we cry out to Him, we leave the conversation changed. We come away different, and others will see it.

Also, look for moments to pray together. Maybe there is a project you’re ideating or a staff concern, step out and say, “Can we pray about this right now?” This will break down boundaries and barriers.

2. Take the initiative. Just because they are older and more seasoned does not mean they are 100% confident with reaching out to the youngins. They may fear rejection, they may think you have nothing in common, they may not “get” you, but you both need each other.

I joked with a Boomer coworker of mine that Millennials should #takeaboomertocoffee. She laughed and said in a serious tone, “You need to do that!” So here I am encouraging you to ask that Boomer to join you at the local coffee shop, pay for their drink and ask them about their history in ministry, how they came to know the Lord, a funny college story, or best concert they ever attended. Be interested and be genuine.

3. Sometimes new is better. Sometimes it isn’t. This one can be the toughest. You may love to innovate but feel that innovation is not valued where you serve. You may want to branch out to new social media platforms, but Facebook is all they need. You may think it is time to spend the money and update the website, but many think the site is good enough. Work with in the parameters given to innovate, and know that you might be wrong.

When I first became the Marketing Director for World Impact, we were using an in-house custom made mass emailing program. It did the job, but it was clunky compared to new, user-friendly options readily available. I suggested we try Mailchimp for six months so we could increase the number of emails, see analytics, and not have to manage the unsubscribes—two months in we made the full switch! Going in, I put together a timeline for evaluation, I gave it measurable metrics, and was intentional about talking up the gains this new system provided. This time, newer was better.

But there have also been times when new was not better. We tried a direct mail campaign that increased the pieces of mail folks got from us, but it backfired in a big way. Our donors did not like this and they let us know. They liked receiving one piece of mail from us a month, and we returned to the old way after evaluation.

4. It is ok to not be best friends. Us millennials like to have relationships, we like our lives to intertwine, and working with our friends is fun. But there are some teammates we simply may not get along with. We pray for and with them, we care about them, but we just may not want to be best friends. This is ok.

I know that in the Christian nonprofit sphere this sounds mean or harsh, but it is not, it just is. This is not a reflection on you or them; it is just like life, accept it and move on.

Bonus: show respect whenever you can—say hello, make the coffee, ask about life events at the “water cooler,” meet your deadlines (early and ask for feedback when appropriate), do that extra thing that annoys you (without complaining), and this will show the Boomer in your life that not all Millennials are the same.

For years there have been stereotypes flying around about Millennials—some true, some not. This just means that we have to work to counter what has been rumored. So let’s work together with Boomers to change the norm.

 

FAQ (Feminist Answered Questions)

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At some point in my life I became a feminist. This word is has so many connotations and meanings, some good and some bad. I would like to respond to some of the topics that have come up since planting myself in this camp in the context of the Church. So here are my answers to the frequently asked questions:

If you’re a feminist, what about abortion?

Well, this is an easy one. God creates life, and only God should take life. But let’s not stop there; as a follower of Jesus I am pro-life not just anti-abortion. I do not believe in the death penalty (our legal system is too corrupt for that), I think we need more restrictions on how to buy guns, and I think that my pro-life stance means I must give my time and money to to kids and teens in high risk communities. So, yeah, I think abortion is wrong, but I also believe that to be pro-life you need a comprehensive view of life as a whole.

And to be honest with you, when I talk with pro-choice men and women about this topic—it comes up once they learn I love Jesus—they really respect the consistency of this approach. It has broken down walls before they’ve gotten very high.

So, you think men are less?

What is this, 1962? Feminism does not mean men are inferior, it means we are equal. I do not need to emasculate a man in order to be at the same level, nor does a man need to belittle a woman in order to show strength. We, followers of Jesus, need to treat each other with the respect and dignity the Image of God brings to all people. Gender should never be a reason to treat someone as less.

Is this why you are single?

No. And no joke, someone asked me this. I know many feminists who are married, and when I marry, he will be a feminist also. I like who I am and who God is growing me to be.

Does this mean you don’t need men?

It is questions like this that slay me! This does not mean I do not need a man—I need my dad all the time! I need other men in my life with unique skill sets to help me out. Just last week I called my friend Andy because there was a sketchy car parked outside my house for the second Tuesday in row, same car, same man. Andy check on it for me (all was good, it was an unmarked cop car). But I did not think it was smart for me to walk up to the odd car and see what was up.

In the same vein, men need women. Not to bake, clean, or bear children, but to be friends with and build God-honoring relationships with, so there are examples of platonic friendships within the church. We need each other, period.

What about the Bible?

This is one of my favorites, because for real? I cannot read the Bible without encountering Jesus, the ultimate feminist. He stood up the rights of women, He affirmed dignity, He made room for them, and He loved them so much He redeemed them.

I look at Old Testament women like Jael, Deborah, Rahab, Hagar (a single mom), Huldah and Hannah: they were women of strength, obedience and submission to God not always man (ok, sometimes submission to man and God, lol). I think God did not create women as subpar humans; he made us as Ezer, and that is so much more than a “helpmate.” “‘Ezer is not a term of subordination or inferiority; most of the time in the Old Testament it refers to God who is Israel’s helper. The forming of the woman from the man’s side indicates the unity and equality God intended for all human beings, male and female.”

If I wanted to really make a point about gender and the Bible, I would point out all the times men failed verses the times that women came through in the clutch. If we are going to use the entirety of the Bible as our barometer for feminism, then let’s really look at it, with openness and fresh eyes, let’s see how Jesus approaches women, let’s look at the cultural context of the writing and let’s look at our own cultural biases.

I am a feminist

My identity is not in being a feminist, it is in Jesus. And in the end, Jesus is my favorite feminist.

Tinder Standards

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So I joined Tinder, and to be clear I have no idea what I am doing. I have no game and I hate games. But I am being open to the process of these modern forms of getting to know someone. I did not meet The One at Bible College, I have yet to meet anyone through the local church, and Match and E-Harmony have failed me; either there is something tragically wrong with me (that I am unaware of), or Tinder is my last hope (lol).

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if—amid the unsolicited pics—I find a godly man who is looking for a godly woman? The humor of this narrative is not lost on me: a Jesus-loving, city-dwelling, justice-seeking feminist meets guy on Tinder. Such is my life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. So far there has been no such favor found in the right swipe. I have matched and communicated with a few men, blocked a few pervs (I do not want to see that), and am pretty sure one was a bot… is it possible to have Tinderbots? Nothing has panned out yet.

Truth: I am A-OK with this. I have not felt bad about my lack of connections, I do not feel like I must find the match of my dreams, and I am being honest about who I am. Proclaiming the Gospel is my priority and Jesus must be the common denominator of our lives. I see God’s hand at work actively closing doors and protecting my heart.

Even with Jesus being a requirement, I have had matches who say faith is important but message despicable things. Lesson one for all you Tinderellas: the DM shows who he actually is. Say no, and then block him. Be the woman of standard you are meant to be.

Lesson two: if his kids are his first priority but his profile is all pics of his innocent non-dating kiddos, swipe left. His adorable children should not be the bait that gets you to swipe. I have appreciated the fathers who blur or cover the faces of their children; these are dads that think about the privacy and safety of their children. (To be clear, someone is not a bad parent for putting pics of their kid on Tinder, but it makes me uncomfortable).

Lesson three: If he has more than one gym selfie, he needs to add another hobby to his repertoire. Being in shape is great, and working out all that sexual frustration is fantastic, but I need to see more than that. As we are on the subject of mirror selfies, let’s also nix bathroom selfies. I do not need to see any more urinals on my Tinder feed, just saying.

Lesson four: If it says add me on Snapchat, RUN. If he has a bunch of ladies adding him on Snap, you are one of the many, not The One. If a date turns into something more, you will always wonder who is sending him snaps, who is on the side, who else did he reel in? And if there is a problem in the future, will he run to you or his Snaps?

Maybe this is why I’m still single, but exploring the Tinder culture has shown me new levels of standards I want, and need, to have. To be fair, there are probably a ton of awesome guys on Tinder, you just have to wade through the mass of dudes that are only separated (not divorced), the ones who are in “open relationships,” the ones “not looking for anything serious,” and—my personal favorite—“only here for the weekend,” to find them. Tinder is a tool, not the answer.

So be smart and go with your gut. Modern romance is app-based and lots of people actually do meet this way. Hopefully that means that the God of the universe might use Tinder to hook a sister up.

ReSister: Why I Marched

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This is why the Women’s March matters to me, a white, pro-life, anti-gun, Midwestern Christ follower.

It matters because in this time of great disunity, I was able to stand with women from all walks of life, backgrounds, religious affiliations, and political beliefs. We were able to unite in the fact that something must change, and we can be the catalyst for that change.

It matters because laws need to change. I stood with women who are fighting for the rights of trafficked girls, seeking tougher penalties for Johns, working toward harsher sentencing for domestic violence abusers.

It matters because I represent Christ. Many of the women around me had been hurt by the Church. On that day, I was able to stand with those in pain as an ambassador of the Gospel.

It matters because I love my niece. I want to make sure she does not need to fight for equal pay, that she does not have be more qualified than her male counterparts.

It matters because Black Lives Matter. I said “Amen” and “That’s right!” when words of dismantling racism were spoken. I was in agreement with my sisters of color and stood as an ally.

It matters because our differences should not define us. We may disagree on issues of reproductive rights, but we agree that women need access to affordable and safe health care, let’s start there.

It matters because Jesus was a feminist. I want to be the voice that says, “The Savior of the universe advocated for women, and so must the Church.”

It matters because I mentor teen girls. I want them to know the importance of voting and believe that their voice matters. In my city women make up 51% of the population and I want to see women represented in our government.

It matters because sexual violence is real. The hashtags #metoo and #timesup are not enough. I must be present and active in these movements. The more women who are brave enough to tell their stories and stand in solidarity with survivors as well as call for change, the safer our collective future will be.

It matters because women can work together. I want to be part of this amazing collaboration that is for people and not against them. I loved standing with a diverse, powerful and creative group of people.

There are a thousand other reasons why it matters, but today this is my list. This is why I marched, this is why I stood alongside women who need to be heard. This is why I showed up and this is why others did too.