StrengthsFinder tells me Harmony is one of my top strengths, but lately it feels more like a curse. Perhaps you can relate to this struggle of the in-between.
The basics of Harmony means that I look for consensus and areas of agreement. Beyond mere people-pleasing, I want us to see and hear each other so that we can connect and grow together. And more than just getting along, I want to see us do the hard work of making good things happen. That's a decent trait to have in the division and chaos going on in our world, right?
Sure. I suppose. Except when it's just too much. And it's been just too much for a while. Do you feel that, too?
Let me put it a different way.
Imagine you're standing on the edge of a cliff looking down over a steep rocky edge with a river in the distance far below. Then there's someone standing on the edge of another cliff just on the other side of this river. You both want to be together, because you're friends. Or maybe you're family. Or coworkers. For whatever reason, you need to be together and you both know it, but you've got nothing but air and steep rocks and rushing river between you.
Enter the superpower of Harmony. With harmony, you have the ability to find or make a tall column out of a cloud floating between you, almost Mario-style. So, you step out onto this cloud-turned-column in between, because it's the only way you can be together.
Then that other person decides to stay on their edge of the cliff. Because they don't believe your cloud is structurally sound. Or maybe they're not ready to compromise their cliff. Or they're quite comfy there and just don't believe that you need to be together anymore. Or maybe they want to be together on their cliff edge.
Harmony encourages you to find a way to meet in the middle, it doesn't exactly send you sailing the whole way across. So, there you stand on this lonely column. The people on your side of the divide are still there, and the people on the other cliff are still there, and here you are in the middle. Looking for consensus and areas of agreement, and maybe even finding it.
But that doesn't matter, because no one will step with you. Or maybe just a few people from your side of the cliff will step, but that's not getting you anywhere because no one seems to be stepping from the other side.
That's what it feels like to have the curse, I mean strength, of Harmony today.
Today, when I stand on the edge of my cliff with my let-them-be-married and let-her-choose-what's-done-with-her-body and I'll-never-condone-a-hateful-president beliefs.
And even as I find a column between to stand on, the people on the other side feel so far away.
This isn't just about which side of the cliff we're on during this election. I recently realized this divide, and me feeling like I'm hanging in between, has been going on for years.
Since I told a friend I had slept with my boyfriend and her response made it clear she was on another cliff and not even able to listen to me unless I joined her cliff.
Since I thought the breastfeeding sit-ins were a little overboard, then nursed my son at a yogurt place fully covered and the employee there made it a point to be overly disgusted that I would do that in a public place.
Since I read and implemented a book that finally helped my son sleep at night and the comments in response to my blog post about it warned that this method could potentially kill babies, complete with links to prove their point.
Since I stood up for my gay friends saying there's more to the story than us who aren't gay could ever know and who are we to cast the stones when, in the story often used as ammunition, Jesus clearly told the woman to "go and sin no more" when the accusers were gone. But the accusers are on the other cliff and they're not budging.
Since I started having a real thriving relationship with Jesus that was changing me and causing frustrations with church that from the outside looks like frustrations with God.
Since hearing my friends' voices in #BlackLivesMatter and realizing there's still a real and recent pain that I've had a privilege to be oblivious to, and hearing my police officer brother's real experiences and dangers dealing with actual criminals.
Since I decided to claim our shame-free wedding story and leave the cliff altogether, but comments put me back on that ledge.
Since I raised my motherhood ebenezer with a tattoo and I panicked after wondering which circles would uninvite me because of this intentional choice.
Since my kids have started fighting with each other more recently and I'm their mediator in the middle with love for them both.
I have a decade of "since" stories that have left me feeling stranded alone in-between two cliff ledges, and it has finally become just too much.
You might be on your own lonely column with your own "since" stories. Maybe, like me, you've been cloud-turned-column sitting for years. Hanging in the balance between two extremes, trying to find common ground, and feeling so hopelessly alone in the process.
I'm reaching out to say that you are not alone.
You're not alone in this wide and expansive in-between. You're not the first or last or only one to struggle hovering over rocks and ledges and sides and raging rivers. Whichever cliff ledge you're stepping out from, you are seen, you are heard, you are appreciated, and your voice from the in-between is so desperately needed.
First, before sharing our voice, let's you and I take a break for a little self-care. Us and our voices and our clouds-turned-columns are not meant to save the world. That's already been done by Jesus on the cross, so let's just take a big old breath and let that truth sink in.
If, like me, you find yourself unable to take a full deep breath lately without struggle, try writing down your "since" stories. Recall and acknowledge that there's a reason you feel this way--conflicted or heavy or anxious or alone. It's hard to move on if you're not even sure what's holding you back. Pen and paper are great, and counselors are amazing.
Let's move and relax our bodies and de-stress in healthy ways that don't revolve around food or Netflix or any sort of binging. Let's refocus our minds on truth. Let's take care of us, because no one else is going to.
Let's laugh with the people we love. Hugging them, letting them know we appreciate them. Even if they're on a different cliff.
Let's share in the safety of our cliffs. Practicing the grace and peace of the in-between with people that see things how we do to help form words and practice restraint in safe areas. Then, let's share that grace and peace openly and freely.
Let's pray and read the Bible and seek God and ask for the column He's forming in the clouds. You know, the forever Kingdom one.
Because I want whatever columns I step out in only to promote Christ's love and His Kingdom come.
It's a journey, but I'll meet you there.
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shame-free wedding story
if you feel like quitting church
my election prayer + next steps
I sent my kids off to school with instructions to not talk about our new president with their friends. I know that some of their friends and classmates represent groups that have been ridiculed and marginalized by our incoming-president, while others represent the votes that say "We don't care about that (your pain), we want him as our president anyway."
And that is who Donald Trump now is, the man to soon step into role as our president of these United, yet altogether divided, States of America.
I've been reading through Job the last couple weeks and couldn't stop seeing the parallels between Job and people seeing injustice in their lives and in our country, and the parallels between Job's "friends" and the privileged populations who don't personally experience that injustice. It's so easy to stay on our high horse and point out the other person's faults when we're not the one personally suffering.
A couple days ago, as I processed even more meaningless words being spewed onto the page from one of Job's friends, I wrote in my notebook "There's some truth to what Job's friends are saying, but mostly they (his friends and their faux sympathy) just suck."
When I sat down this morning to fill my heart and my mind with God's Spirit and His truth before going on social media, those were the words that met me. They sum up my feelings this morning succinctly. Trump supporters might find some truth to justify, but mostly the stance in this election and response to hurting people just sucks.
Job's friend, person of privilege, showed up through last night's results. Anything we, as unaffected privileged people, say now in celebration of Trump is a hit against my kids' classmates and our neighbors who are immigrants, and against all the other minority groups Trump has personally hurt with his direct words and plans of action against them.
It doesn't matter whether or not there's truth to pro-Trump or anti-Hillary propaganda, these words are little help or encouragement to hurting people. They're adding insult to the injury Trump has contributed to already injured groups of people. It's not the actions as much as the heart, and his winning represents a nation whose hearts are full of pride and hate.
That's where I am as I get my kids ready for school, feed them something resembling breakfast, and pray with them before sending them out the door with instructions to not talk about the election results with their friends. To not engage in a conversation that quite possibly hurts and personally affects friends and classmates listening in without their even realizing.
What I'm Doing Next
As I read Job and ask God what I'm supposed to do next, these four things became obvious.
1. Trust in God.These are not trivial words for me. He is Creator and Sustain-er of this world and in my life, always. One of God's responses to Job is, "Go ahead, show your stuff. Unleash your outrage. Target the arrogant and lay them flat. I'll gladly step aside and hand things over to you." (from Job 40) God's still in charge; His good still gets the last word. I want to work with Him and be used for His purpose; I certainly don't plan to step up as the Savior of the world or America. So I'll bring my trust back to God, the One who is Savior.
2. Be honest to my experience and observations.Job was honest with God, with what he knew to be true about God and what he knew to be true about his experience. God's response isn't in anger to Job. Job was honest with God and about God, and God sticks up for Job in front of his friends saying, "You haven't been honest with me or about me--not the way my friend Job has." (from Job 42) If I'm going to err on saying too much, it's going to be honest about my experience and observations and sticking up for justice.
3. Pray for my friends.Job's burden was released and his blessings restored when he prayed for his friends (Job 42:8, 10). There's no justification in telling people off or having online battles over the outcome of things. This is a lesson I've been teaching my kids. It doesn't matter what fueled them, they are in charge of their words and their actions. They are in charge of starting or stopping the battle. And so am I. So I will pray and release as I move forward in God's lead.
4. Honor Job's daughters.I've never paid attention to this part of the story and cried as I read it this morning. Especially against the rhetoric of our incoming-president's degrading comments toward women. Job was blessed with ten more children--7 sons and 3 daughters. In a Bible and culture full of men's names and genealogies and inheritances, only his daughters are written by name, they are called beautiful, and they even received inheritances along with and equal to their brothers. (Job 42:13-15) In a book about injustice and faith and God's goodness, even the marginalized are blessed and worthy and equal. The same goes for anyone feeling taken advantage of or overlooked or mistreated--before God we are named and we are beautiful and we are part of His inheritance. I stand up in that honor for myself as a woman and for others who are hurting.
And my prayer...
Lord, you are still on your throne, and for that I am truly thankful. We are still on this earth and need a little extra courage and direction from You. To continue in Your love and truth and light. Fill us with Your Spirit that You might flow through our words and actions. Even when we feel hurt or angered by the injustice we experience or witness around us. May we not start or engage the battle and instead be conscientious objectors watching Your goodness and Your glory get the last word. For these things I ask and thank You in Jesus' name, Amen!
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how to be the change
monthly dose of simple
Here we are at the last day in this series. Quite frankly, this particular blog post is the main reason I decided to even write this 31-day blog series. I was getting ready to turn 30, and I thought for sure I would have traditionally published a book by now. Something real and honest and heart-felt and brave.
Then, I wondered, what's stopping me from compiling those stories myself? Why not use my blog and my ebook-making skills to be real and honest and heart-felt and brave with my own story?
That might seem like a no-brainer. And yet it was an idea that I had to find my way to, mostly after cutting through the fear. Instead of hiding behind excuses like the hurdles of traditional publishing, I'd have to address the real issue. The issue of, am I even ready to tell my story as it is now? Am I even brave enough? Does it really matter?
According to my manifesto from Day 5, I believe our stories really do matter. Living them is important, and so is telling them. In sharing our hard and vulnerable, God's good gets the glory. And that's what I want for my life.
So, I'm starting with 30 pieces of my story. The pieces that make up who I am and my testimony of the good things God is growing in my life. This is my little scared self taking one small step to be real and honest and heart-felt and brave. My memoir in a blog post.
1. I'm a Kansas girl, born and raised. I unapologetically call carbonated beverages pop, I do the 2-finger wave to cars passing by on back-Kansas roads, and I'm a small town girl from a place almost everybody actually does know your name or where you live or who you belong to. My small-town upbringing is one reason slow and simple rests in the core of my being.
2. I've learned to be okay with my struggle with depression. The struggle means I haven't given up and that I'm in tune to my current needs (because, for me, depression shows up when something's gone out of balance in my life). And it's my reminder that I always need Jesus.
3. I have the gift of faith which has turned into the gift of frustration. I went from "kissing Jesus goodnight" as a little girl, to wanting to kiss organized church good-bye as a grown woman. At first I felt guilty about this. But over time I've seen the gift in it. To keep seeking God and His Kingdom, and not let my safety or acceptance rest in the man-made.
4. I sometimes have issues calling myself a "grown woman." I am petite and flat-chested and sometimes childish and goofy and so many things that as a kid I didn't think I would be as a woman. Many times I'm still that same shy timid little girl I used to be. Add to that being confused for a 12-year-old many times, including yesterday, and it's hard to accept and be proud of the woman that I am.
5. I used to think I'd publish a book while still a child. What I missed is that I'd have to first be able to identify myself as a writer and then actually write. I spent years feeling like I had missed out. Now, at 30, I finally realize there is no missing out, no expiration dates on what I can or will do in my life. As long as I'm breathing, God still has plans for me.
6. I had a panic attack after I got my tattoo. After prayer and refocusing on truth, I realized the anxiety wasn't regret over the tattoo, but fear over what people would think. Conservative family and friends, or church settings that wouldn't "approve." Through this I saw how much I valued other's opinions of me over God's in so many other areas of my life, too. I'm tired of living in that fatal fear and mis-focus, and am working on constantly taking my questions of identity and approval before God, where it belongs.
7. I say I'm a sugar addict, and I don't use that term lightly. When I was little and I couldn't find anything sweet in the house, I'd sneak teaspoons of granulated sugar from the pantry. It didn't taste good, but it eased the void. Sugary treats have been a strong struggle ever since.
8. I have big hair and I used to care... a lot. My hair went from long and beautiful to frizzy and hard to manage and hard to grow back out after several bad haircuts. There were moments it made me feel gorgeous and more that it made me feel hideous. I felt helpless having my beauty all wrapped up in something out of my control. It's taken more than 20 years, but I've started learning to accept and even like my hair in all it's big and curly glory.
9. Acne and its scars have been a part of my life longer than it's not. Countless people have offered unsolicited input, one stranger even asking, "Do you know what's wrong with your face?" before giving her expert advice. Do you know who hasn't said anything about my face? My close friends and family. They let me bring it up. It's one of the many reasons I knew my husband was "the one" when he ran his hand over my face and told me I was beautiful. So many wounds that I didn't even know how to address started to heal in that moment.
10. I was my parents 4th and unplanned for child. I always knew I was wanted and part of a bigger plan. My mom wrote me a card that said something along those lines that I read as I took my first commercial flight on the way to Mongolia. I felt part of something bigger than me and bigger than my parents and I was so thankful for their role and belief in that.
11. I had 3 panic attacks in 3 months. That was last year, and have had moments of anxiety ever since. I'm still figuring out what to do with that and following the winding path of my health, emotional and physical, to find what has led here and how to find my way out.
12. I am a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian. And while I still believe this denomination's foundation is true in the Bible, I do not love how this gets played out as an organization or in our schools and churches. Especially in regards to who gets "kept out." Sometimes I'm afraid showing up is perpetuating the problem and killing my passion. Still, I'm choosing to stay and be the change.
13. I had 3 kids by the time I realized God would actually perform the miracle of me enjoying motherhood. But I don't want to forget the ways God showed up on the hard days and the warrior He's making me, so I raised my motherhood Ebenezer by tattooing three arrows on my back.
14. I always, always knew our first baby was a miracle not a mistake. I didn't have the courage to share our shame-free wedding story until last year.
15. I've been told many times over the years that people thought I was stuck-up before they got to know me. I always thought you had to be beautiful and confident to be stuck up and most days I didn't believe I was either. I didn't fault the shy, awkward girl hanging out by the wall with her no makeup and glasses and frizzy hair for not being Miss Social, and I thought I was that shy awkward girl. I wish we'd stop using phrases like that. Perpetuating labels that don't belong on people. Let's just see each other as people. Some outgoing, some good listeners, some that know how to do their makeup well, some that laugh loud--so many differences, all beautiful.
16. Lately, I'm confused about being proud to be an American. There are so many things I respect and am thankful for about this country; and, yet, I can't be fully proud to be an American without also having humility for what we as a people have done (and still are doing) to hurt or misuse or neglect others.
17. I knew my husband was "the one" from the first moment I saw him. And many moments after that. Each time, I knew. It was right, it was real, it was love. He was my home.
18. I'm a bit of a conspiracy theorist. The rational part of me usually helps keep me sane. For now, ignorance is bliss on all the things that happen in our government.
19. I have a really weird phobia that I recently learned actually has a name. It's trivial but has always bothered me on a deep level. Seeing small, tight holes together makes me feel panicky and makes my brain itch. My husband is one of the first people I admitted this to, and he came up with imagery to help me stop thinking about it when it gets stuck in my head.
20. I'm learning it really is about the heart, not necessarily the action. Jesus said it, but I'm seeing all the ways it plays out. Adultery isn't just sleeping with someone who isn't our spouse and idolatry isn't just bowing down to an image. Both are about where we put our attention that numbs or hides or withholds our intimacy that keeps us from connecting with our spouses or Jesus or facing our problems. It can get to the point that we're turning to our vices--technology, sugar, carbs, porn, social media, alcohol, etc.--to hide from just normal, everyday stress. Instead of finding happiness, we feel numb, and sometimes that can feel good enough. Numbness is an easier go-to than feeling. I want to follow God with heart, soul, and mind, and love others, and that means doing the hard thing of addressing weaknesses and addictions rather than using them to hide.
21. I still do something reminiscent of yoga. A few years ago I wrote about quitting a yoga class I was taking. I still do Christian meditation and stretching and breathing and mindfulness. Unfortunately my post might have just added to the confusion for Christians figuring out whether yoga is a religion. In short, yoga is a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline. Part of it includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific body postures. However, I believe that breath control, meditation, and stretches that are also found in yoga can be done in a Christian setting / environment / mindset.
22. I used to care more about going green. It was actually one of my main focuses when I first started blogging 8 years ago. I was 8 when I would pull stuff out of our trash and try to find ways to repurpose it, and I've always wanted to recycle and learn about saving the earth. Since having 3 kids, convenience and saving my sanity moved into top priority. As my kids get older I find myself slowly returning again to my green roots.
23. Harmony is one of my top 5 strengths, but lately it's felt more like a struggle. According to Strengths-Finder it means that I look for consensus and areas of agreement, which sounds good. Anyone online lately knows that consensus and agreement are not exactly prevalent, so my "strength" just leaves me feeling like a failure as I'm frantic pursuing the superficial side of harmony--people-leasing.
24. I love a good dance party. No, not at clubs, but anywhere I'm with my family or good friends and there's dance-worthy music. I'm not good at dancing, but still can't help but turn up the music and move.
25. My story is totally Katarina's from Taming of the Shrew. I identified with it when I read it at 15. The breaking of my independence as I learn to be in a relationship both with Jesus and with my husband. A beautiful surrender, whether or not I initially thought I wanted or needed it.
26. I'm a shy, quiet girl that found my voice. I didn't speak much until I did so in full sentences, and mostly stayed quiet except around my family. I was super shy as a kid, which doesn't make too much sense why I agreed to give my first sermon when I was 13. I felt a calm at that podium as I relied on God's strength to speak through me. I've spoken to churches and groups many times since and even added public speaking as an emphasis to my degree. I still get nerves and wonder why I feel called to it; but that all clears when I'm up front speaking.
27. I'm a high school dropout with a college degree. After spending my junior year of high school in Mongolia, it didn't seem right to go back to school. So I worked fulltime and got my GED, before going away to college. Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like if I followed a "normal" path; mostly I just love what God's done with my surrender of normal.
28. Death inspires me to truly live. I know, that can seem so confusing and even depressing. Life is wild and precious and unpredictable and we can only live it once. I want to live the moments I have fully present, fully loving, and fully in Jesus.
29. I am ever-changing. There are so many things I used to believe simply because I didn't know otherwise. As I meet new people and hear new perspectives, I'm learning how little I actually know. I keep solid in the foundation of God and His Word and as long as those truths remain, I'm learning to let go of the misinformation that no longer fits. Being confident when others don't agree with my changes is a whole different topic.
30. There are pieces of my story that I may never share publicly. At least for now, admitting them in prayer to Jesus, even telling the people closest to me or talking through these pieces with a counselor is enough.
What pieces make up you and your story?
And, that's a wrap! Thanks for going on this 31-day journey with me.
new? start here...
31 days celebrating three-oh
monthly dose of simple