Wishing to be someone else

Lately I’ve been putting a little bit more effort into being myself again. I know what you’re thinking: being yourself ought to require no effort. But alas, you’d be wrong. I’m so used to wishing I were like other people that I keep forgetting what I’m like. And I spend way too much mental energy worrying about coming up short in others’ eyes if I don’t love or prioritize the things that they love or prioritize.

I wish I were more interested in politics, and music, and pop culture, and theology. But I’m not. I wish I had more maternal instincts, a knack for cooking, a tolerance for small talk, a more adventuresome spirit. But I don’t. And I’m learning that that’s ok. Other people love those things or have more of those qualities, and that’s wonderful. I have other loves and qualities, and that’s wonderful too.

I want to stop wishing I were someone else and accept me for all that I am and all that I am not. And focus more on the “all that I am” part, the things I actually do love, the things I’m actually good at. I’m pretty good at making people feel known and valued and safe in conversation on my couch with a comforting beverage in hand. That’s a gift I want to make more opportunities for in my life.

It’s ok to focus my energies on the things that pique my interest rather than the things that pique others’ interest.

If you’re learning to validate yourself, too, take a few precautions:

  1. Don’t let your validation of yourself de-value others. Showing interest in another person’s interest can be a form of sacrificial love that helps bolster their sense of being valued.
  2. Remember that we still must contextualize our behavior for our environment. It’s appropriate to adjust how we interact with people at work versus at home (but forcing ourselves to be completely different people in different places is inauthentic and exhausting).
  3. And be careful you don’t focus so much on your own passions that you become self-centered or self-important. Figure out what you’re passionate about, and change the world (or a small portion of the world) with it.

Find yourself, be yourself, and do good while you’re at it.


Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

Gift-wrapped present

Fundraising Therapy

For years as a fund-raising missionary, I was taught that raising support was an integral part of my ministry, that fundraising not only made it financially possible to do the ministry I loved (a means to an end), but that it was a ministry in and of itself (its own end). It allowed me to:

  • connect with people
  • share my life and my ministry with them
  • give them an opportunity to participate materially with what God was doing, and
  • help them grow into generous stewards of their resources, regardless of whether they chose my specific ministry to support or another one that better aligned with their “Kingdom values.”

It was such a beautiful vision of support-raising, and I believed it in theory. But I had a few hang-ups that got in the way of fully embracing it.

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My trello boards

How Trello Organizes my Life

I’m always trying to find ways to organize my life. Categories, lists, reminders. I love it all because it helps me be productive and move toward my goals, and I love checking things off my to-do list. I’ve experimented with various apps on my phone to help me achieve this, and I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t. Trello, at least so far, is working for me.

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Climbing Out of Credit Card Debt

After retiring my credit card, I was finally living within my means, i.e. not spending more than my income. It was a major victory, but there were still thousands of dollars in credit card debt looming in the background, adding on interest each month I paid only the minimum payment. My next step toward a debt-free life was to attempt to live below my means (to spend way less than my income) so that I could make much larger payments on the credit card. That meant a major budget cut.

I know, I know, budget cuts are buzz-kills. They mean less of the “fun stuff” that cost you money. They are also our mercy when we want to get a handle on our finances.

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My Year of Anonymity

After several years of Christian ministry, I’d slowly and unintentionally gotten myself wrapped up in a giant Christian bubble. I didn’t like it—I missed refreshingly-secular conversations with people who didn’t think like me, and I wasn’t making room for that when my calendar was booked with church services, small groups, outreach trainings, and prayer meetings. I didn’t want to wipe away all Christian influences—I think that being connected to fellow believers helps ground you in your faith—I just wanted to leave behind the bubble that isolated me from people who didn’t share my faith.

And like some other changes I’ve needed in my life, I decided to go drastic for a short period of time. Swing to the other side of the pendulum, so to speak. And later, after I’d experienced both extremes, find the appropriate middle ground for me.

So I took a year to be anonymous.

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My Joy List

Cultivating Joy

I’m not a naturally joy-filled person. I brood, and I ruminate, and I often see the glass as half-empty. I don’t necessarily consider this a defect (the world benefits from its pessimists and critics), but I do suspect that I might miss out on some really beautiful moments if I don’t make an effort to cultivate more joy in my life.

So, what does “cultivating joy” look like for me? Part of it is naming the things that I’m grateful for. Part of it is allowing the rare things that cause me to break out into spontaneous joy to happen more frequently. My husband discovered at random that I can’t help belting out the lyrics of Rockin’ Robin when I hear the tune, so sometimes when he knows I need cheering up he’ll hum it. It doesn’t take long til I’m giddily “hoppin’ and boppin’ and singing” along.

I cannot be dependent on Rockin’ Robin to bring me joy every day—it would probably lose its charm after a while. Maybe a regular infusion of various things that cause me great happiness would contribute to additional joy. My joy board seems to be dominated by cute little animals, my favorite little kids, and upbeat music. So perhaps I can get myself a pet, or find a way to spend time with the long-distance kiddos who call me Auntie, or listen to more major chord music than the same old contemporary singer-songwriter music with minor chords that I usually listen to on Pandora. I’m not getting rid of it altogether; just mixing it up a little.

While I do believe that true joy cannot be manufactured and that it rather comes from deep within, I also believe that outer behaviors can influence our thoughts and feelings, and in turn our deeper beliefs and states of mind.

Small changes have the potential to cultivate great joy.

May you and I find the joy that comes from without and from within, both on the holy days set aside for such joy, and all the ordinary days in between.

Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson

My favorite childhood book of all time was Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson. First published in 1955, it’s an imaginative story about a little boy who draws the story that is happening to him with a giant purple crayon.

Harold goes on a great adventure with his crayon: he runs into a dragon, sails on the ocean, rides in a hot-air balloon, and eats pie for dinner. He travels until he is weary and finally finds his way back home to his cozy bed and falls asleep.

Aside from my fear that this story will inspire my future children to draw on the walls, I’m really looking forward to the day I can read it to them. It reminds me of the innocence of childhood, and it brings to life the dream of a home to which I can always return because it’s where I belong. And I hope that I can pass that dream on to the little ones I will have the responsibility and joy to nurture and guide some day.

For your convenience, you can purchase your own copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon here.

Broken Heart Made Whole

The Danger of Guarding your Heart

As an emerging adult, I was taught that one of the most faithful things I could do as a young Christian woman was to guard my heart. That meant preventing myself from falling in love, especially with anyone who could lead me astray, and it basically resulted in me not dating because no one sinless came along. And I was relatively fine with that—I had a lot of other things on my metaphorical plate, so this freed up my time. But mostly I wanted to follow the Bible’s wisdom of not giving away my heart too easily because I loved God, I wanted to obey God, and I trusted that God’s advice would protect me from getting hurt. And I definitely didn’t want to get hurt.

Many years later, I was resisting falling in love with someone, and a Christian colleague of mine asked me why. I had many answers, all of which my colleague shot down, and the most eye-opening and memorable was his response about me guarding my heart out of faithfulness to God and fear of getting hurt.

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Enduring a Job You Cannot Stand

I was once recruited to a job that wasn’t what it claimed to be. I never would have said yes to it if I’d realized exactly what I’d be getting myself into. After about a month I’d had enough, but my financial situation was such that I couldn’t quit without having something to replace it. So, I found ways to endure the horrible job while actively seeking out employment elsewhere. Here are some of the tips and tricks I developed during that season of captivity:

Formulate mantras

Mantras can give you courage and strength. I put mine on pop-up reminders on my phone that interrupted my distress throughout the day. Some of them were:

  • “You can only do what you can do. Everything else must wait til tomorrow.”
  • “It’s not your fault, don’t let it ruin your day.”
  • “You are not Super Woman, you cannot save the day.”
  • “The worst thing that will happen is they fire you, and you can overcome that, too.”
  • “Honey badger don’t care, honey badger don’t give a f***.”

Pretend every day is your first day

This helped me lower my too-high expectations I had for myself that I should be more capable than they trained me to be, it removed baggage from previous bad days (what bad days? Today is my first day!), and it gave me freedom to reinvent myself every day into a more mellow and emotionally-detached person rather than feel the pressure to remain the same chipper and fake-friendly person I pretended to be on the first day (#socialintrovertproblems).

Shut off your work brain at home

I.e. “think happy thoughts.” After venting or crying to my husband for an appropriate amount of time when I got home, I needed to get my mind off of work. I didn’t want that place to own me at home, too. We planned activities or had conversations that made us happy, which gave me something to look forward to as I trudged through the workday, and it let me leave work at work while I was distracted by more worthy thoughts and activities at home.

Form an alliance / friendship at work

It may be difficult to find out who hates working there as much as you do, especially if they are afraid of being fired. But if you do know someone who wants out as much as you do, consider them your ally, the person who “gets it” and makes it more bearable to be there. Vent to each other, encourage each other, and console one another when necessary. I’d advise if you’re married, that you limit the venting / consoling to coworkers of a gender you are not (or would not in the future become) attracted to. Just don’t risk it.

Milk it for every resume-building skill you can

Learn as much as you can, volunteer for the projects that will be great to brag about on your resume, and write down any accomplishments you make along the way (also to add to your resume).

Apply your way out (or up)

Don’t feel guilty about looking for something that works better for you. Keep in mind, however, that future employers may question your reliability if you hop around too frequently. So weigh your pros and cons, determine if there’s a minimum number of months you will stay for your resume’s sake, and look around. It doesn’t really hurt to look. And if you find a possible dream job, it doesn’t really hurt to apply (as long as you check the box that says you want the potential employer to NOT contact your current employer—definitely don’t want them to catch wind that you are hoping to quit before you’re ready to).


May you find your own ways to endure your horrible job for the time being, and may you hold on to hope for something better.

Gratitude

During a month-long experiment to try to become a more positive person a few years ago, I identified lots of things worth being grateful for. I know that when I focus on the good things in my life I tend to have a better attitude, complain less, and be more generous with others.

This is not to say that giving attention to negative circumstances is wrong. In fact, sometimes it’s necessary so that wrong things can be made right again. Like complaining about a pain can cause a loved one to drag you to Urgent Care to address the problem. Or talking to your roommate or spouse about something you want to be different in your home or in your relationship brings up a desire you otherwise would have internalized and grown bitter about if you’d said nothing. Or writing to your senator about an important issue you feel isn’t getting enough attention (if enough constituents agree with you and do the same), may encourage the senator to prioritize it more. Sometimes giving attention to the negative things is just what is needed to make positive change.

But if we get so caught up in the wrong, the irritating, and the painful, we may miss out on some fantastic opportunities: things to celebrate and admire and draw energy from.

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