Cheerleaders

A coworker gave me a gift. A fountain pen. Because I’d never had one before. Because I love pens. Because I write. With this gift and his words, he said, “I like what you write. Keep writing.” A simple gift turned into a huge encouragement.

Just like that we can communicate to another human: “I’m cheering you on.”

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What does it look like to be each other’s cheerleaders? To actually show them that we “believe in them”? To effectively and creatively communicate to them that we’re behind them, that we think they should go for it?

Cheering people on is much more than simply telling them that they can do it. It’s equipping them to do it, giving them the tools for their trade, providing them with the space and opportunities they need to develop, stretch, and grow.

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Taste buds

One of my greatest pleasures in life is having good food experiences. I delight in it. I mean the whole shabang — delicious food, great company, excellent service, cool atmosphere. And obviously the yummy food and taste-bud-exciting flavors are the base of a great food experience.

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Have you every thought about the fact that we have the capacity to taste with our mouths? God could’ve just made our mouths to be the first step of digestion, crushing the food that we need. Or he could’ve made us like flowers that simply glean our nutrients from our surroundings. Efficient and miraculous, but not very enjoyable.

We are not robots that connect to a battery, nor are we flowers that spread their leaves toward the sun and extend their roots into the ground. We get our energy from food but it doesn’t stop there.

We’ve been gifted with the ability to taste! To relish the flavors of tart lemons and spicy peppers and summer peaches and juicy steaks.

We aren’t even simple animals that eat and prefer one taste over another. We are humans that define tastes and experiment with textures. We are beings that create, combining tastes and textures to make edible works of art. To create food that is meant not only to provide us with the energy we need but that’s also meant to be savored, enjoyed, and delighted in.

I am a tasting creature with the capacity to enjoy — that is no small gift.

I need people

Too much or not enough for other people, that’s what we are, or at least that’s what the little inside voice tells us.

“Tone it down, they think you’re too much,” and later I hear, “Get it together, they think you’re not enough.”

And out of self-protection, we fight that inner-conversation with “No, it doesn’t matter what other people think of me!” That’s partly true, but we’ve made a virtue of not caring about other peoples opinions when the truth is that it does matter what people think and say to us. It’s both-and. It doesn’t matter and it does.

My true identity is not based on another person’s opinion of me. I am who I am — beloved of God, free, secure, and redeemed in Jesus Christ — despite a person’s judgment of me. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what they think of me and it shouldn’t matter. My deep identity, peace, and joy should never be shaken by someone’s opinion of me.

But precisely because my identity is sure, I am free to allow myself to let people speak into my life. If I’m sure of my identity, I can simultaneously heed what other people say to me but not be wholly dependent on their opinions. My secure identity frees me up to calmly and gratefully listen to a dear friend who tells me that I’m in the wrong.

If my identity is secure, the opinions of other people will never wreck me, and their words will be valuable to me.

In fact, I need people whose words do matter to me, I need people who can speak into my life, and I need people to have some kind of authority over me. It matters that I listen to the people I trust. It matters that I show all of myself to a few chosen, close, trusted friends or family, and trust them with some authority in my life.

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(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

I have to stop being an authority-hog in my own life. So often I live as the queen of my own life — a kingdom in which I make the rules and what I want matters most. We create our own guidelines, based on nothing other than what we want or feel at the moment. No wonder we have fights and abuse and wars.

I need to be changed – deeply, from my guts to my skin, and I need God to do it in me. I need something outside of myself, something objective that I return to and listen to even if, at times, it contradicts my desires and flighty feelings. Otherwise I’m just living as the self-enthroned queen of my own life where I make the rules and standards of right and wrong and change them whenever I want.

I don’t want to be the queen of my own life. I don’t want to because I want to be selfless, I want to love people, and I don’t want to steal glory from my Jesus Christ.

If I don’t want to be queen of my own life, I need other people. Other people will never define me, but I do desperately need them.

I need trustworthy people in my life who are brave enough to speak to me when I’m straying, who remind me of my true identity, who know how to encourage me, and who love me enough to speak truth to me even if it’s hard. I will give them the right to confront me when I err, to cheer me on, to hold me accountable, and to ask me the hard questions.

And only because I rest in my unshakable identity, the things people say are no longer earthquakes that wreck the foundation of my soul. Instead, the words I hear from people will either be life-saving and life-changing or simple opinions that don’t even ruffle my feathers.

When I don’t care what people think, I lose my capacity for connection.
When I don’t care what people think, I miss out on valuable wisdom.
When I am defined by what people think, I lose my willingness to be vulnerable.
When I am defined by what people think, I will never know who I am in Christ.

“If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits get crushed. It’s a tight rope, shame-resilience is the balance bar, and the safety net below is the one or two people in our lives who can help us reality check the criticism and cynicism.” Brene brown

bravery to feel sad

No one really talks about the bravery and strength required to be sad. Probably because we feel ashamed of tears and we’ve been taught to carry on and hurry-away from all the “negative” emotions. 

A few months ago, tired of the same emotions surprising me in my heart, I purposed to process, write, and let myself cry if need be. I told a friend that I gave myself an evening to just feel the sad feelings that I knew were there and she said, “Feeling things sucks, and I am so glad that you always choose the hard and brave way.” 

Sometimes the best thing a friend can do is walk you through the appropriate emotions for what you’re dealing with – not to hit you right away with a rallying cry to get back up on your feet, but instead to validate where you are, cry with you in your pain, then later encourage you onward to health and joy regardless of mountains or valleys.

Resilience doesn’t necessarily mean immediately getting back on our feet. Resilience is not hardness. Resilience is a perfect combination of strength and tenderness. Resilience does mean standing up.. after we’ve walked wisely through the valley and summoned the strength and bravery to feel our hearts break. 

If we aren’t truly feeling grief, anger, heartbreak, joy, and gladness at their appropriate times, we aren’t truly identifying the bad in life as bad and the good in life as good. Call bad bad and good good. Be brave. Be sad when you need to.

We are rich

It struck us — our aliveness, the grand adventure and our small part in it.

“We are so rich,” I said, somewhere between a whisper and a declaration.

Sitting down for lunch in Caceres, the soft spring sun sifting through the leafy roof above, my toes tapping a rhythm in my warm shoes. I listened to the birds and the humans nearby, chattering and singing, and heard our own conversation, full of kindness, truth, and laughter. The privilege of making hard decisions, the richness of loving even if it means heartache. People who care with their good questions and their arms that hold.

I bent my neck to see the flowers painted on a stunning blue background — real life artwork that waves in the breeze. We filled our bellies with food and our minds with words.

We are so rich. You mean I get Jesus Christ AND all this too?

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Reading is like listening

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” – Scout Finch

Reading is like sitting down to listen intently with no intention of immediately responding or contradicting or giving our opinion.

We hear no audible voices but we take part in stories, we listen to opinions, and we learn about experiences. And we grow because we listen, taste, digest, and process what we’ve heard.

In reading we listen to someone, to something that we have not heard before. We’ve largely lost that skill with the people we have in our lives.

What if we treated people more like books? What if we asked them to open their pages as we sit down to listen, without planning to reply, without planning to convince?

I would like to treat people more like books.

learn a language, they say

“Learn a foreign language,” they say. “It’ll be great,” they say.

What they don’t tell you is that it’s all well and cool until your foreign language becomes a bully and starts doing a number on your native tongue. What they don’t tell you is that you’ll question your sanity and your intelligence when you start forgetting words in your native language. Or that in acquiring a new language you’ll feel like you’re un-acquiring the only language you actually know (knew?) how to speak with 100% fluency.

Can’t put together a coherent sentence thanks to the lio of languages in your head? You’re not alone. There are at least two of us. And then there are the other super-humans who have mastered another language (or multiple!!) and somehow still manage to speak well.

But not to worry, learning a language really is worth the pena and if all else fails, there are always gestures.