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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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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Transitioning out of 2017

I’m not a big New Year’s Resolution enthusiast, but I love the coming of a new year with all its symbolism of rebirth and starting fresh. It’s a significant milestone or checkpoint—to look back on a whole year and reflect on what was good, what was hard, and what has changed since the beginning of it. It’s also a useful tool for evaluating what to carry over into a new year, what to discard, and what new themes to incorporate. This is much gentler and more flexible than a rigid “resolution” and therefore less likely to fail you in the long run.

A friend of mine asks God for a word for the coming year—to guide her spiritual journey and give her a focal point throughout the year to help her attend to her soul. My tradition is similar—asking God to help me categorize my year in a theme or two (for instance, 2016 was the year of waiting and of the unknown), then asking what God foresees the theme of my upcoming year to be. It gives me a good idea of what to look for and how to interpret events and my reactions to them.

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Talk Therapy

I think that we all could benefit from a little professional “talk therapy” in our lives. Some of us could benefit from more than a little. Here’s why:

We are more capable of loving ourselves and our loved ones when we at least know why we sometimes behave insecurely, erratically, defensively, or arrogantly. It’s even more effective when we take that knowledge and do the hard task of working through our shit.

We love our people. And we hurt them because of hang-ups in our distant and not-too-distant past. It’s usually not irreparable damage—the people we love tend to forgive if asked, sometimes even when they aren’t asked. But I’d rather be the kind of person who engages with my loved ones in healthy, helpful ways. If I can help it.

And sometimes our people are the ones who hurt us. Therapy teaches us how to handle the pain they cause us and how to form healthy boundaries so we stop enabling them to hurt us and others.

I don’t want to settle for the unhealthy patterns in my life. If you don’t either, I urge you to give therapy a try. Find someone you feel comfortable with, who accepts your worldview even if they don’t believe it themselves, and whose priority in your conversations is to help you find the ability to thrive in all areas of your life, including your relationships.

May you love well and be loved well.

Formerly Fostered: The Search for Healing, Part 4: Helping Others Heal

For context, please see Part 1: Accepting the Angst, Part 2: Examining the Angst, and Part 3: Healing the Angst

From the end of Part 3 (Healing the Angst): I thoroughly believe that my healing journey is meant to help others along in their own journeys, and that as I do, my own healing moves forward, too. So, whether you are a foster kid (former or current) or you love one, I invite you to read and reflect on the following letter (written to my 6-year old self and the 30-something old self that sometimes still needs assurance). I pray if it is relevant, that this letter may serve to help you in your next step forward.

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Formerly Fostered: The Search for Healing, Part 3: Healing the Angst

For context, please see Part 1: Accepting the Angst and Part 2: Examining the Angst.

If you’re new to this whole process of emotional healing, I’m going to say something now that might frustrate you: it’s probably going to take a long time and be a lot of work. We can reach major milestones and still have setbacks, but that does not mean we’re not making progress, and I hope that you won’t let it discourage you from beginning and continuing to do the deep inner work of healing. I’ve been frustrated and discouraged, also, and sometimes even gave up hope for periods of time that I could ever reach wholeness. But for me, living with the angst without pressing on toward healing left me in a state worse than the hard work of healing. I knew that there was something better for me than staying in the muck of depression—it was discovering my truest identity and finding freedom and joy in that.

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Formerly Fostered: The Search for Healing, Part 2: Examining the Angst

To read in context, please see Part 1: Accepting the Angst

My thoughts and feelings as an adult about my childhood have fluctuated over the years, from nostalgia to gratitude to ambivalence to anger to shame to sadness to a conglomerate of all of the above and more. As difficult as they were to uncover, these are the feelings of an emerging adult who had the advantage of retrospect and the ability to articulate something so complex as overlapping emotions. What is more difficult to discover are the feelings of the pre-articulate child as he or she went through those painful moments. If you’ve never allowed those kinds of feelings to flood to the surface, I’d say to proceed with caution, and also with a trusted friend, family member, advisor, or therapist present. I’ve chosen each, at various times and in various situations. They offer a form of safety/comfort if you’re exploring emotions from a time when you didn’t feel safe as a kid.

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Formerly Fostered: The Search for Healing, Part 1: Accepting the Angst

Some of my most-formative years of life were spent in foster care (following a handful of tumultuous years with my family of origin). These early years formed my biggest fears, my greatest strengths, and so many of my habits, both good and bad ones. But I didn’t always understand how much my childhood had impacted me, because I was taught that it was more important to focus on the present, to be grateful for the pleasant things in life, and to sweep anything unpleasant under the proverbial rug.

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Periodic Life Review

Every once in a while I reflect on where my life has been, where it is now, and where it is going. Retrospect can offer so much of what we need in life—joy, encouragement, lessons, rebukes. When Facebook throws memories at me from 1, 3, 5, or 8 years ago, sometimes I cringe, sometimes I laugh or smile fondly, sometimes I get a little nostalgic and sad. It’s good for us to remember those things and to reflect on what has changed, what stayed the same, whether we’re happy about it, and whether we can do anything if we’re not.

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