brigitte kathleen

rediscovering my heart


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An Open Letter to Jon Acuff and #StartEXP Participants

Dear STARTers,

Where do I even begin? First of all, Jon Acuff, thank you for the courage you’ve shown over the past few months, taking on this experiment and getting us involved in something great! So many great relationships have been born. So many inside jokes, so many hashtags… It’s  been a whirlwind three months of constant phone charging, and fear punching.  Jon, because of what you started, I went to Nashville for the first time (and saw some naked statues). Jon, because of your powerful words of encouragement, I wrote a Time Magazine article that described what I pictured my life being like in a way I never thought before. Jon, because of your dream, I made 200 new friends. And though we are very different, there’s an incredible amount of magic going on in that #StartSingles group that no one can really explain. Jon, thank you for involving your 2,000+ new friends on this journey you began. It’s been a joy to see it transform, grow, and morph it something no one expected.

Now, for all you #STARTers. I’ve never seen a more tenacious, determined, faithful, dedicated, loyal, supportive group of people in my entire life. And I don’t mean just the ones who post the most, or ninja-like the most, or were a part of FrankenSTART. I mean everyone. To see how each person contributed was truly amazing. I’ll be 100% honest, at the beginning of the second round, I went on a trip out of the country, and I had a hard time getting back into the swing of things when I returned. I lost touch of the main group and spent most of my time in the #StartSingles group, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t pop my head in every now and again to see what kinds of great things were being brewed up in there.  Thank you for being a constant shining light.

But now what? Yesterday, the #StartEXP as we once knew it came to an end. I see there’s a new group called “Dreamers and Builders,” and bravo for taking the initiative to keep the community alive. But… I want you to start thinking about life in terms of chapters, or seasons. The best example I can think of off the top of my head is Jon’s exit from the Dave Ramsey group. We don’t know the reason, and Jon doesn’t owe us one, but it’s obvious that his season there was over. Just like the season for the #StartEXP is now over, and has transformed.

But here’s what I want to challenge you with.

I don’t think Jon’s intent was for us to become dependent on him or this community for a feeling of purpose or contribution. I think community is really important, but I’ve noticed how some of us react when something changes- like yesterday, or like when Jon announced his resignation. People seem to get easily flustered. But you know what, guys? Jon is not the source of your power. Jon was simply someone who gave you the keys to unlock what you already had! If Jon completely disappeared from this, you would still go on being brilliant, and creative, and powerful.

I’m not saying the season for change starts now, but I want you think about what happens next. In Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud, he talks about how in order for things to change and become new, some things need to end. This is very similar to the idea of death and resurrection. Eventually, death will come to everything we know as #StartEXP, and it’ll be in our hands to move forward embracing the resurrection of something new and exciting. For Christians, I believe that is where we’ll see the Holy Spirit’s action start up again. When we allow death to bring in resurrection, we are offering an opportunity for new birth. If you don’t believe in the Holy Spirit, think about it in this way- a gardener must prune back roses in a bush that might be beautiful, but not necessarily buds that help the entire plant reach is fullest, brightest, and most beautiful potential.

Change is usually difficult. And some of us are not ready for that change to happen to the #StartEXP yet. But I can tell you that change is coming, and eventually we’ll have to embrace the pain of death so that we can allow our brilliance, our creativity, and our mind power bring to life something new and exciting.

Jon is just a guy who had an idea. All of us had our own ideas also, or we wouldn’t have replied to the tweet/post/every other social media medium out there that Jon uses. Jon is not the one supporting you. Even your fellow #STARTers aren’t supporting you. You are using your own mind, your own ideas, your own ideation to create and discover. Don’t let go of that. Don’t forget about the magic you had before you met Jon.

I have the utmost respect for all of you, and I’m excited to see what awesome things you continue to do.

Love,

Brigitte K. Leininger

#STARTAlum

P.S. #allthethings


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If Jesus Didn’t Think Peter was an Idiot, You’re Probably in the Clear, too.

I’m writing to you from the midst of this journey, so don’t be surprised if I come back with a rebuttal or “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I was right!” in a couple of weeks. Right now, my life is in a season of change. Everything in my life can be boiled down to seasons: Seasons of good, seasons of bad. Seasons of life, seasons of death. Seasons of growth, seasons of transformation, or seasons that are completely stagnant.
Many of my more recent seasons have been seasons of waiting. I’ve basically been living an Advent life for the last six years- constantly waiting and preparing for what happens next, and I think I’ve finally reached the time when the “what comes next” is actually coming next! It’s not coming without a price, though. With any and every season change comes the inevitable death of the season before it. When we change from Winter to Spring, the cold and the snow die with the come of the warm and the sun. When the Autumn comes, with it comes a death of the life that the Summer brought us in new life through the creation that has bloomed. The death is necessary because it brings to us a birth of something new (which might be confusing because Winter actually kills things, but the winter is born- a time for snow, holidays…. you get it, right?). Change is almost always painful because we are being forced to let go of something that we’ve become so familiar with, but change brings joy because we’re able to look at a birth of possibilities as we move into the future.

I’ll be honest with you- I’m ready for the change that I know is coming, even though I don’t know what it is. In the last 12 months, I’ve finished and turned in a Master’s thesis, graduated from grad school, have looked endlessly for jobs, moved into a three-bedroom house by myself, ended a very special and close friendship, sparked almost a hundred new friendships, traveled overseas, experienced the death of a grandpa, had another grandpa go through open heart surgery, experienced a number of personal trials within my family, traveled all over the country, and spent a week in Germany. This year has been non-stop emotional instability. It’s been exhausting, at at times, seemingly impossible.

My current situation could be the end of this time that feels like it has little-to-no foundation. It could be the beginning of something huge. And on the other hand, it could be all for nothing. I’m in the middle of a very turbulent hiring process for a job I never thought I’d get right out of grad school. I’m so excited for it, but every other day, there is a new development that changes how the process is playing out. I’ve waited and waited…. and waited some more. Last night, I came to the conclusion that God is doing one of two things: Telling me to move on or press on. It’s amazing how the message for those two VERY different messages can be so similar. And what do I do now? How do I know which message God is trying to send me? At what point do I need to trust myself to make a decision that’s worthy of the faithfulness God has shown me? As much as people like to preach “Let go, and let God,” the material and tangible decision is ultimately left in our hands. As much as my Type-A, control freak loves having that control, the faithful servant who wants to chase God’s will is terrified.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hang out with some senior high students which was so much fun. I invited them to ask me any questions they wanted to ask me about anything. So, after we got the superhero questions out of the way (my favorite being: Batman: Hero, or Superhero?), one of the boys began asking me questions about the bible. He asked me pretty basic “What’s your favorite ________?” questions, which were fun to answer because who really takes the time to think about that stuff, especially in Seminary when you’re having information shoved down your throat faster than you can swallow? But the one that caught me off guard the most was, “Who’s you’re favorite disciple or apostle?” This was a question I’d honestly never thought about. My go-to would have been “Mary Magdalene, obviously,” for the ‘girl factor,’ but I actually sat and thought about it. And I eventually decided on choosing Peter.

Good ol’ Peter. He get’s a bad rap, you know? He’s our overzealous, outspoken, try-to-hard, knucklehead. I, for the record, think he’s incredibly charming. He’s the most like me of anyone in the Bible. When I think of my current season of change and wanting to allow God to guide me through it, and the internal battle between Type-A and Faithful Servant, Peter’s attempt at water-walking is where I land in an attempt to illustrate it.
Matthew 14:22-33 is where I find my humanity buried in the mess of laws, grace, stories, allegories, and poetry of the Bible. Peter, being the hot-shot he is, begs Jesus to call him out onto the water with him, to which Jesus kindly obliges. Peter thinks he’s got it, and I can only imagine this scene- Peter’s walking on the water, thinking, “Oh, for crying out loud… I’m walking on water! …….. OH, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, I’M WALKING ON WATER!!” When he takes his focus off of Jesus who is there to help him with this feat he’s decided to jump into- when he decides to depend on his own strength, it’s over for him. Yet, Jesus doesn’t call him out and tell him to go back because there’s no hope. Jesus doesn’t tell him to get back into the boat where he can play it safe. Jesus simply confronts Peter’s  lack of faith, reaches out his hand, and continues to accompany Peter on his watery journey.

Peter’s “season change” was his transition of faith in what Jesus could do with and for him. But it didn’t come without becoming overwhelmed. It didn’t come without struggle. It didn’t come without what could have been a very literal death. And Jesus had two options: He could have stood there and said, “You fool…. I didn’t tell you to get out of the boat. Go back or die…. *mumble* idiot *mumble*” Or he could have taken option B- He stood there, accepting Peter’s zealous decision to hop on out of the boat and he he started to sink, reach his hand out and not let him be overwhelmed by the waves. Changing seasons come with hard decisions. Hard decisions are sometimes followed with remorse. When we start to regret or be remorseful about the decisions we make during times of change, we lose focus on the hand that Jesus is extending to us. When we focus on anything other than the hope of something bigger, we get swallowed up in the waves so much easier. It takes strength to get out of the boat, but it takes perseverance to keep going.

Earlier, I said that the two messages I could be getting from God right now are , “Move on!” or “Press on!” And when it comes down to it, whatever we do, we’re pressing on through whatever season we’re in at the moment. Ultimately, giving up is never going to be an option, because giving up means you’ve let the waves overcome you. Giving up means you’ve forgotten about the hand that’s reaching out to you saying, “Why don’t you trust me?” You don’t need to give up. You need to see his hand keeping you from the waves and urging you to press on.


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I’m Just Like Herod… But Cuter

I only ask what I’d ask any superstar.
What is it that you have got that puts you where you are.
I am waiting, yes I’m a captive fan.
I’m dying to be shown that you are not just any man.
So, if you are the Christ, yes the great Jesus Christ
Feed my household with this bread.
You can do it on your head.
Or has something gone wrong. Jesus, why do you take so long?
Oh come on, King of the Jews.

If you’re familiar with the Broadway hit, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” you might recognize these lyrics. King Herod’s Song is probably one of my favorite numbers from the show because of it’s swing feel, and overall fun factor (if you have time, click the link- you won’t be sorry.). Not to mention everyone I’ve ever seen portray Herod has been EXCELLENT in his role. Always hilarious, always tragically creepy, and always, ALWAYS the perfect portrayal of demeaning. I mean, really- If you want lessons how to make other people feel as little as humanly possible, you must do some serious Herod research.

The first time I saw Jesus Christ Superstar was for my 17th birthday and I fell in love. Having a theater background, I was giddy to begin with, but to see the story of Jesus’ life portrayed in such a creative (and relatively accurate) way was inspiring and exciting. I’ve gone on to own the soundtrack (which is the entire show because it’s a rock opera), and I’ve seen it two more times, as well as watched it on TV every time it’s on. I can also sing the whole show from beginning to end because I’m determined to be some production of it someday.

I love stories. I love telling stories, I love hearing stories, and I love reading and watching stories. I don’t know about you, but depending on the day, I can relate to an wide spectrum of characters from real life, fiction, or the bible. I tend to live in different realities depending on my mood. I’ve been Taylor Swift. I’ve been Katniss Everdeen. I’ve been Rachel Green. I’ve been Princess Jasmine. Right now I’m just like Herod (but cuter). And it’s here, in my Herod days, that I come to you with a question.

The story of Herod comes at a heartbreaking and pivotal moment in the Passion narrative. Herod spends his time doing nothing but mocking Jesus and asking for some sign of proof that he is who he says he is. We see this paralleled in the story of Jesus dwelling in the desert and Satan comes to taunt him. But I have to ask you a very serious question: How are we any different?

How many times have you gotten into a jam- any kind of jam- and been desperate enough to ask God to show Godself? How many times have we been through tragedy and said, “God, if only you were there…”? How many times have we used intercessory prayer to question God’s antics? How many times have we used our relationship with God as leverage to measure “how things should be”? What I’m saying is, how many times have we been so lost in our humanity that we wanted to make God prove Godself to us to make sure WE were being taken care of?

The crappy great part about it is there’s NOTHING we can do about it. We’re unfortunate humans, created in the image of God, but pretty pathetic. Our sinful nature cannot be combated. By the Law and Promise dichotomy, Christ comes to us in our sinfulness BECAUSE of our sinfulness. If it weren’t for our sinful nature, we would have no need for the Promise made in Christ’s salvific act. Because of this, we’re going to continue needing proof of God’s active presence. We are going to continue needing something tangible to hold onto so that our selfish, sinful nature can be convinced that he is alive and loves us.

Especially lately, I find my self doing this at my deepest times of need or loss. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been done with school since December, graduating this past May. I’ve been looking for jobs since September. After applying for 215 jobs, I gave up counting (in February). Job hunting, as it turns out, is the most emotionally taxing, vulnerable, devastating journey you may ever embark on. Never in my life have I felt so small, insignificant, and worthless. In the pit of this valley, I found myself asking God how he could have gotten me here? Why wasn’t he helping me? How could he leave me to flounder so easily? I felt completely deserted by the one thing I knew to be constant.

So what do we do? I’ll tell you want we do– nothing. I mean, something, but let’s start with nothing. By nothing, I mean, let’s sit in quiet. Be embraced by the presence of God that you KNOW is there. Because though your head might feel deserted, your heart knows that’s not true. Settle your mind. When you’ve become calm, remind yourself of the promise of Christ’s love. A promise that could not be broken by death, life, angels, demons… Nothing separates you from that promise. I don’t believe that God has our lives mapped out from beginning to end- I believe that there is free will involved. However, I do believe that as a child of God, I’m offered a promise of love and hope for the future. When I remember this, I no longer need Christ to walk across my swimming pool or turn my water into wine. The thing he’s doing is continually making me a new creation. That’s my proof. That’s my promise.


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It’s OK to Hope for a KitchenAid Mixer

This past Christmas, I did something I probably shouldn’t have: I asked for a 5-quart KitchenAid mixer (with accessories) in the iconic Empire Red color. It might not be every little girl’s fantasy to someday own a KitchenAid mixer, but I feel like once you  hit a certain age, it’s OK to start wanting some of those “adult” things (and actually be excited about them). Here’s the problem- Everyone I know who has one of these wonderful contraptions is married. The KitchenAid mixer is traditionally known to be a wonderful wedding gift from a wealthy family member who is just close enough to want to spend that kind of money on you, but not close enough to want to help with the wedding (like a rich uncle).

kitchen aid mixer

 

It’s no secret that I’m in my mid late 20’s and as single as I’ve ever been. That’s why I had a difficult time adding my KitchenAid mixer to my Amazon.com wish list. In my mind, the Empire Red KitchenAid mixer is a “coming of age” item. To me, it means you’ve arrived- you’re officially the domestic queen that your grandma has always hoped you be. I even thought that actually receiving, purchasing, or owning this kind of item would mean I’ve given up all hope in my future and become settled with being single for the rest of my life (it’s a symbolism thing…).  This whole life of limbo I’m living in really got me thinking about one HUGE question: How do we realistically plan for the future without having a clue what the future might even look like?

This question has been in the back of my mind since I started grad school. When I started seminary, I was toying with the idea of becoming ordained and everything that entailed. At that point, I was single and fine with being sent wherever they were going to want to send me, and I knew that would be a strength I had going into my interviews. After that idea went out the window, I considered moving to New York (you might remember that post from September). I remember people being so concerned with the idea of moving to somewhere new by myself, but my excuse was that I had nothing holding me down here.

Skipping ahead, I’m now 27 and I’m trying to figure out what the latest versions of my 1, 5, and 10 year plans are. When you’re recently graduated with a lot of components in your life that keep changing, your own idea of the future ends up morphing and it can be difficult to keep up. When you’re from the heartland, people are getting married young, and beginning their lives together, meaning they can make a 1, 5, and 10 year plan together. Now, don’t get me wrong- this is not a “poor me, I’m single,” story. This is simply a discovery of what life for 20/30-somethings who are ready to make a game plan looks like when they make that game plan without knowing who they’ve got on their roster.

As cynical as I may be becoming, I still believe in the power of hope and faith for the future. Though your present may either be really great, or really not-so-great, you still have a future waiting for you. The beauty is that your future is just as unknown to you as it is to people who spend their whole lives planning for theirs. So dream. Dream big. What do you want your future to look like? Think about it in terms of painting a picture. The thing that I think a lot of us take for granted in planning without knowing is that our canvas is blank and waiting to be painted on. People who are planning with and around others in their life already have brushstrokes they need to work into their artwork. I’m not saying that people who are married, dating, have kids or family responsibilities, or anything tying them down can’t dream, and more often than not, the art that they’re having to incorporate into their painting is beautiful. I just know that, although I’m a terrible visual artist, I have a huge sense of hope and imagination when I’m staring at a blank canvas.

Another thing that I think we forget, especially when we get deep into “planning mode,” is that plans rarely work out the way we envision them. If you would have asked me 10 years ago what I’d be doing now, I can say with 150% certainty that THIS would not be it. I pictured myself married, maybe with a child, living in a house, and successful in whatever career I may have landed in. Grad school was never on my radar, and I wanted to get done and start life as soon as possible. I’m 27, single, childless, and a recent graduate who feels clueless more than anything. My future, your future, his future, her future… our futures are not static. It’s not a situation of, “Let it be said, let it be done.” Our lives are fluid and we have to make changes and recalibrate when things happen all the time. Some people believe that God has a very precise plan for them (I don’t know if I’m one of those people or not), and if that is the case, then guess what? We still don’t know the plan, and we have to prayerfully accept the dance God has invited us into, and let him lead.

I think there’s a huge leadership lesson in this for us. Leaders are people who can not only anticipate their own needs and the needs of those around them, but they are also people who can adapt to changes, including ones they weren’t expecting. Leaders are also people who are self-aware, know who they are, and what they can offer. I think there’s a big difference in knowing what you can offer and knowing what you want to offer. When we make plans for the future, we’re already limiting ourselves to what we think we’ll want to offer instead of letting opportunities present themselves. When you don’t have your piece of art completed before you begin, life gives you new colors, shapes, and brushstrokes to make it a masterpiece you didn’t know you were capable of.

In closing, I want to swing this back around to my lustful desire for a KitchenAid mixer. I’m not married. I’m not dating anyone. I’m not really even close. But I also know I’m not getting any younger, and that owning a KitchenAid mixer shouldn’t be contingent on weather or not I’m getting married. What’s important is that I’m allowing my canvas to be painted one brushstroke at a time, and when I’m ready for my Empire Red brushstroke that represents my KitchenAid mixer to finally find its home amongst the other colors that make up who I am, I think it’s going to be an excellent addition to the magnificent piece of art my life is turning out to be. And when I’m ready to merge my masterpiece with another person’s, it’s going to be more lovely and intricate that I could have ever imagined.  So go on, dream big, and get yourself a KitchenAid mixer.


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Guess & Check & Guess Again

When I was in sixth grade, we had a large mason jar in our math class. Every week, it would be filled with something- buttons, gummy bears, leggos, etc., and every week we had an estimation contest. I never, ever won. Want to know why? Because I’m terrible at estimation. I don’t guess right on anything- distance, time, numbers of people, how many miles I’ve got left in my gas tank… you get the idea.

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that my journey to April 8th, 2013 has been nothing less than unconventional. In fact, if I’ve ever been in a situation where there are guidelines and rules, I’ve probably danced outside of them. I took six years for my undergraduate degree (a B.A. in Business for Religious Organizations– what??). I went to seminary and took two and a half years to finish what is traditionally a two year program. I drove a pick-up truck with 250,000 miles on it. I was a flight attendant. I’m 27 years old and have never dated. I LOVE Twitter. I got to hold an Emmy. What I’m trying to say is this– Although I have many stories to tell, my life has been a collage of experiences and blind moves on my own little chess board.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not complaining, nor do I regret anything (for the most part). But what I’ve learned in my 9,952 days on this lovely planet is that life is nothing more than a series of games of “Guess and Check.” Maybe you believe in a God has some grand plan or maybe you don’t believe in God, or maybe you believe in fate– No matter your beliefs, the decisions you make are up to you, and realistically, you never know if you’ve made the right one or not.

I don’t know about you, but this sends me into a frenzy. On one hand, I’m really glad to know that everyone else is potentially making life-altering mistakes like I am. On the other hand, it’s terrifying to think I could be making life-altering mistakes! Although believe in the beauty of grace and that my mistakes will eventually work themselves out, it’s hard to move forward not knowing what potential risks you’re facing.

There’s a movie out there called “Love Happens,” starring Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart. At one point in the movie, Jennifer Aniston’s character, Eloise, addresses a mistake that Burke (played by Mr. Eckhart) made in not going to his wife’s funeral. During this little “Come-to-Jesus” meeting she says, “My life is a day to day experiment in really bad decisions.” As much as I want to respect and admire Eloise’s humility in addressing the fact that she’s not good at life choices, isn’t this a sentiment that everyone can relate to? Whether it’s picking a wrong restaurant for lunch or marrying the wrong person, each of us has a history of poor decision making.

Up till now, I’ve been preaching a lot of law, and I apologize, and while I’m the last person on earth qualified to give you a dose of gospel in this area, I’m going to try. I know I addressed this in an earlier blog post, but this is what it comes down to: You cannot live life with regret. You’re going to make decisions. With those decisions come mistakes. But at the same time, with decisions come GIGANTIC victories. Risk is scary, but where would anyone be if we didn’t risk something (at least once in a while)?

I get risk, trust me. I totally get it. I happen to be completely afraid of vulnerability- ANY kind of vulnerability. This means I end up living a very guarded life. Meanwhile, I’m cheering for everyone else, encouraging people to take great leaps of faith, and take risks, and not to fear failure. I have a master’s degree in this, for crying out loud. But for some reason, my own fears and vulnerabilities get in the way when I try to apply what I want for other people to my own life. I think if we all take a second to think about it for a second, we come to the conclusion that VULNERABILITY SUCKS. The only way to get around it, though, is to get over it– unless, of course, you don’t mind living your life alone and with very little to show. Because, you know what? Sure, taking risks involves being completely vulnerable, but the only way to succeed is if you embrace it, and take that leap into a great unknown.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m terrible at estimation. The only thing I’m somewhat good at estimation is the price of things (mostly because I spent the better portion of my childhood watching Supermarket Sweep). But, major life decisions? I can’t even handle it. And let me tell you, most of my decisions are in the “guess” category. I’m never sure of anything. I could pray, and pray, and pray till the cows come home, but are we ever REALLY sure? I mean… really…. are we ever REALLY sure of anything? And sometimes, I make really bad guesses. However, I don’t believe in a God that’s going to hang me out to dry if I make a wrong turn. Instead, I believe in a God who loves me enough to work through any situation, and get me turned in the right direction.

I hate guessing because I hate being wrong. But I’ve realized that while you may be wrong (and you may be wrong a lot), you also might get it right. Embrace the guessing. Embrace the estimation. The only way to move forward is to guess which way to step. But also know that the reality of the “check” is there too. Life is full of “Guess and Check,” I just wish they would have told us they were teaching us a major life lesson in 6th grade math when we were guessing how many paper clips were in the jar.

As much as I hate guessing and hate vulnerability, I can’t help but come back to this final thought: The beauty of the “Guess and Check” game of life is that if “check” comes back and says “wrong guess,” you get to guess again. Eventually, you’ll guess right.


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The Color of the Sea

“To walk alone is possible, but the good walker knows that the great trip is life and it requires companions.”

– Dom Helder Camara

If you’re my Facebook friend, you have probably seen this quote pop up a couple times in the last month. I first saw it as a fellow Seminarian’s status, and immediately stole it because there was power under those words that hit me like a ton of bricks. Since then, it’s been nagging at me, tugging at my heart, and I knew it was something I needed to unpack. Needless to say, I’ve been wanting to write this post for the last two weeks, and I’ve finally found the time. So, here it goes.

I would consider myself a pretty independent person- I’ve lived by myself for a total of almost four years, I’m financially independent, I pay my own bills, etc. I have all the classic markings of one of those “independent women” the Destiny’s Child heroines sang to us about in the early 2000’s.  I’m really happy with who I am– I like knowing I can take care of myself, and I like having to be accountable for myself. I’m comfortable this way, but even more, I’m content.

Since graduating from grad school, I’ve had a lot of decisions to make- where am I going to work? What kind of work will I do? Where will I live? How will I decorate my bedroom? All of these are decisions that seemingly only affect me, myself, and I, and I like the freedom in knowing that other people aren’t dependent on my plans and dreams. I’ll admit that there are times when I wonder what the next five years of my life are going to look like, and whether or not that freedom in planning for the future is going to change. I begin to wonder if I should cling to this life of solitary planning and move forward as if I am all I’ll ever be, or if I need to start considering more flexibility in my decision making.

Camara’s words remind me a lot of my traveling endeavors of 2009 and 2010. I traveled a lot– New York, Seattle, London, Madrid, Nairobi, Florida, Washington, D.C., etc. I saw a lot of great things! However, with the exception of my trip to Spain, I did it alone. Was it exciting? Absolutely! Do I regret any of it? Not in the least. But there are times I wonder what having a companion on those journeys would have been like. They were all liberating experiences, don’t get me wrong, but I often wonder what I missed in not sharing it with someone.

In light of what Bishop Camara says about the journey of life, my travels may seem trivial, but what about in your own life? Can you think of anything that you’ve done alone that you wonder what it would have been like to have someone’s hand to hold? How much would that have increased the joy of your experience? The reality is that you’ll never know, and I’m not a proponent of looking back and saying “What if…,” but I am a supporter of taking what you know of the past and looking forward with a new hope.

Think about a time that you tried to explain something you experienced to someone who wasn’t there. Two outcomes are possible- First, you could be a really, really great story teller, tell the story perfectly, and the person listening can clearly imagine what your experience was. The other possible outcome is that you tell the story, and the other person just doesn’t get it. We’ve all told and been told those stories, and how do they usually end? “Well… I guess you just had to be there.” It’s similar to trying to explain the color of the water to people who have never seen the cerulean blue of the Caribbean.

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Here’s the deal- being comfortable by yourself is a really great trait- it means you’ve acknowledged that you can be alone, happy, and content. What I think the Bishop’s words are trying to express is that, while a lot of people take solace in knowing their abilities to be alone, somethings are better and more powerful with a companion. Instead of trying to explain the color of the ocean to someone, invite them into that experience with you.

Here’s the flip side- Spoiler alert: sometimes bad things happen. I think it’s easy to talk about the “good” times we experience in life, and sharing that with someone, or multiple people. It’s harder to acknowledge that the hard times will inevitably come. For the more independent people, I think it’s easy for us to say, “Hey… I’ve gotten through one or two or twenty bad things…. I can get through one more,” but what’s wrong with admitting that sometimes we wish we didn’t have to face a challenge alone? Does that show weakness? Are we less credible as people who are actually able to survive on our own?

And now we’ve reached the core of what I think this quote is meant to mean for us (at least for me): Companionship does not show weakness. Companionship shows our desire to be in relationship. Our desire to be in relationship comes from our human instinct and call to love. Think about those stories you tell your friends- you’re not telling them because you want them to suffer (unless you’re just realllllly mean…)– no, you tell them because you want to invite them into the beauty or excitement that you experienced. There’s a joy that you want them to feel. Our call to be in relationship with one another is out of a need to share joy and love with another one of God’s created souls.

Life is a great trip. Sometimes, we want a hand to hold while we experience it. Sometimes we need a hand to help us up when we’ve fallen. Sometimes we are that hand to help someone else up when they’ve grown weary. God intends for us to be in relationship with each other and with God. The trinity is an illustration of God in relationship with God’s self as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If we were meant to go on this journey alone, the journey would have been over a long time ago.

I will never regret doing any of the things I’ve done alone. In fact, I celebrate that I’ve been able to do a lot of those things with freedom. But I’m also not afraid to admit that I look forward to more experiences that I’ll be able to share with people I love. For me, it takes some self-encouragement to invite people into relationship (purely based on my own insecurities), but this is something I challenge everyone to do– Invite someone into your experience. Let them share that joy with you. Life is a great trip, but we are here for a blink of an eye. Walk alongside each other, and experience this life the way God intended for us, embracing the beauty of His world.

In closing, this song is heavily rooted in a romantic understanding of companionship, but the idea of companionship transcends romance– it incorporates, familial love, friendship, and kinship. Regardless, it’san awesome song. Just listen to it.


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The Art of Not Giving Yourself Enough Credit

I’m just beginning to write this post, but I already know it’s going to be a difficult one. Why do I know that? Because I know that I’m one of the most self-critical people I’ve ever known. So really, this could be the equivalent of dog writing about how hard it is to be a cat. While it may seem a little hypocritical, I’m going to go for it anyway. This will either prove to be a therapeutic experience, or it’ll prove that, while I’m not great at acknowledging my strengths and talents, I’m good at recognizing those traits in other people, and this is more for them than it is for me. I suppose this writing is going to come from a sense of first hand experience, but also being open and watching those around me experience the pain of self-criticism as well.

As a part of my Master’s Degree, I did a lot of intensive work on individual leadership development. In fact, my 100+ page thesis was a three-part work on the idea that everyone contains the capacity to be a leader. The first part of my thesis (which I’m referencing for this discussion) can be found here. Since it’s a little long, you might not want to read the whole thing, so I’ll sum it up: I believe that everyone possesses five characteristics that they channel into effective and quality leadership: Passion, Initiative, Courage, Creativity, and Humility. It’s when these five things come together (in a Captain Planet sort of way) that a person emerges as the leader they are meant to be.

In my thesis (and probably in a future work like a dissertation or other post-graduate study), I talk about how passion is truly the catalyst to help the other characteristics fall into place. If you’re passionate, you’ll want to take initiative, you’ll want to have courage, you’ll want to be creative in your problem solving, etc. The tricky part of this equation is finding that passion and clinging to it, knowing that making it into something great is going to take work– but work you’ll be willing and excited to do.

Just like we all have some kind of passion burning inside of us, we all have gifts, too. Some of our gifts are greater or more prominent than others (i.e. I’d consider myself a decent chef, but a good baker), but that doesn’t mean any are invaluable. How you use and develop them is up to you. Unfortunately for us, American society hasn’t done us many favors in the whole ‘developing and discovering your gifts’ department. Here’s why I think this:

1. The most accessible gifts inventory in most high schools is the ASVAB test. I don’t know about you, but I answered questions to get a specific outcome.  I was supposed to be some kind of performing artist…. and look at me now.

2. Colleges and the higher education system are expecting students to choose a career path at the ripe age of 18. Then they’re charging an arm and a leg for school, basically threatening students with the impending doom of life-long student loan debt if they can’t get their degree done in timely fashion.

3. American society glorifies both the celebrity lifestyle, and the participation award. How many times have we asked ourselves, “Why is Kim Kardashian famous?” And, don’t get me wrong, I loved getting participation awards, but no– I should have never received a medal for being on the turquoise soccer team. I was TERRIBLE at soccer. They should have given me a hand-written note (to show sincerity) saying that I should never don a pair of shin guards ever again. Tough love, people. Let’s try to recapture that.

While there may be a lot of things you’re not exceptionally talented at, keep in mind that in order to embrace the gifts you DO have, you have to trust that God had a least a little bit of an idea when he was creating you. To forgo your gifts and constantly wish for someone else’s gifts is not only doing yourself a disservice, but dishonoring the work that the Holy Spirit is continuously doing in you. Have a little faith (albeit, sometimes easier said than done) in the work that God is doing in and through you.

So what? Here’s what- I think too many people count themselves out because they’ve tried things that haven’t worked. This shouldn’t be our mentality at all. With hesitation, I use the failure (I have a love/hate relationship with this beautifully terrible word). Failure brings with it opportunities for greatness (I blogged about that, too). The best thing about failure is that it points me away from things that are wrong for me and opens up a thousand more opportunities. Don’t look at failure as an end, embrace it as a new beginning.

What else? This means that you can’t sit around moping about your inadequacies and expect to be successful. You have to try in order to fail or succeed. You’ll never know which one it’ll be until you get off your couch. If you don’t know where to start, ask your friends (who you can be candid with, and who you trust) what they think some of your strengths and talents are. Ask them what they think you might be good at, or if they can think of things for you to try. Your friends (who love you) will give you honest and worthwhile feedback.

You have some incredible gifts, whether or not you know it. Just because you don’t think you’ve found them yet, whether your 7 years old or 107 years old, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The beauty in waking up every day is the uncertainty of what you’ll discover about the world, God, life, but even more exciting, yourself. And if you’re still looking for that ONE thing to cling to, that ONE thing to be passionate about, go look for it, but be patient in the search. And realize that you do have other gifts- cling to those things that give you hope and joy and realize that you are a gift to people around you.

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