Chocolate Speaks.

As I devoured a couple pieces of Dove chocolate last night (Confession: Before Dinner), I took a second to read the famous sayings on the inside of the wrappers. One, in particular, hit me in the face.

Don’t talk about it,

just be about it.

Does this not describe our generation?

We love to talk about problems. Our problems, your problems, our friend’s problems, our family’s problems, our boss’ problems, and so on.

We love to give our opinion. However harsh, rude, or unwelcome it may be sometimes.

We love to talk about getting together with our friends and acquaintances. We like to make it seem as if we have made an effort not to be anti-social, at least.

We love to talk about starting that new hobby. Playing a new instrument, developing our hidden skill of knitting, redecorating the guest bedroom,  or cleaning out the junk in the closet.

We love to say we are going to change. We are going to eat healthier or be happier. We are going to be there for our friends. We are going to work on not reacting so quickly.

We say we are going to call our Grandparents more. . . or take that vacation.

We say a LOT of things, people. Do we ever really accomplish anything before it’s too late, though?

Quite frankly, it’s hard to hear over all the babbling.

Instead of talking — debating ideas, complaining about our problems, chattering about a new thing to try, gossiping about everybody’s business, and posting every detail of your life on social media — Let’s start doing.

Live. Your. Life. Don’t just talk about it.

Set goals. Meet goals. Analyze. Change. Forget. Focus. End things. Begin others. Stop wallowing. Start working.

P.S. You don’t have to tell everyone all about it, either.

P.P.S. Eat that Dove chocolate; it might have something to say to you.

Photo creds: Yours truly.

Chrestotes.

I am a Follower of Jesus.

Jesus calls me to live in Him and His truth. Jesus calls me to show the world that He is the message of Hope. Jesus calls me to a life of fruitfulness. As a Follower of my Jesus, my life should showcase the Fruits of the Spirit to those around me.

Here are a couple scriptures to think about. . .

John 13:34-35

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

John 15:5b

Without me ye can do nothing.

John 15:8

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

What are the fruits that I should be bearing/showing if I want to be a Follower of Jesus?

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness (Integrity), Faithfulness, Meekness (Humility), and Self-Control.

I live in the real world. So do you. When I think about this Checklist titled “Fruits of the Spirit,” I cringe just a little bit. That’s a lot. Some days, especially, it feels overwhelming. I get so busy, so frustrated, so impatient, so snippy, so tired.

As Followers of Jesus we WANT to follow His Word, so – you might be thinking  – “How can I make this Fruit-Bearing seem more manageable?”      I am so glad you asked! 😉

Let’s take them one at a time, shall we?

Chrestotes

Chrestotes is the Greek word for kindness.

So, what exactly is kindness?

If you check any dictionary, it will state something like this for kindness: “The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.”

I found a great definition for kindness from Tim Keller @ J.D. Greer Ministries (https://jdgreear.com/blog/kellers-definitions-of-the-fruit-in-galatians-5/).

(Warning: It’s pretty radical, but it got me to thinking. . .)

What Kindness Is

Practical kindness with vulnerability out of deep inner security

What Kindness Isn’t

Envy. Unable to rejoice in other’s joy.

What Kindness Morphs Into

Manipulative good deeds. Self-congratulation and self-righteousness.

If our world needs anything these days, it would be kindness.

I must admit for myself that I get so wrapped up in my own world & schedule that I forget to be kind. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t go around being “mean” or “rude.” I definitely don’t put much effort into being “kind,” however.

I don’t for a moment think that mediocre kindness is what Christ has called us – His Followers – to.

It’s time I start being more aware of the world around me. It’s time I start realizing that I might be the only picture of Jesus some people see. It’s time I start owning up to being a Follower of Jesus.

I should be bearing the Fruit of Kindness at a much quicker rate than I am currently.

I must not mask kindness by doing things just for praise. That’s not true kindness.

I must not be kind just to make myself feel better. That is selfish.

Instead . . .

I must be secure in who I am & what I have in order to treat others with genuine kindness in my thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

I must guard my heart from selfishness and discontentment. Instead of envying others, I should work to rejoice in their blessings and triumphs!

I must look for ways to practice kindness. Every day.

Now, listen — In part of my desire to blog about authentic living, I promise that I practice what I write about. The past two weeks my Bible Study ladies & I practiced thankfulness, this week we are practicing kindness. Each day we are endeavoring to go out of our way – and purposefully look for – an opportunity to bless someone with an act of kindness. We then keep each other accountable by sharing in our group chat!

Most of my acts of kindness this week have been small. Doesn’t matter. Purposefully looking for a way to be kind to others has helped me be more aware of the needs around me and the opportunities I usually pass up.

People sometimes need a smile, a note, a hug, a helping hand, a visit, a gift. . . a friend!

Sometimes this looks like putting my husband’s laundry away. Sometimes this looks like helping a coworker out with a task that needs accomplished. Sometimes this looks like gathering all the carts in the parking lot for the cashier at the Dollar Tree who looks incredibly busy and flustered.

Find a way to be kind. Get out of your comfort zone.

I challenge you to join me in this endeavor! One purposeful act of kindness a day – for at least a week.

I truly think that working on showing kindness each day will help us toward the end goal.

What is that end goal, again?

Following Jesus and His teachings. Living a Spirit-filled life. Bearing fruit.

Kindness is a lifestyle, friends.

May we work on kindness, practice kindness, and become kindness.

Photo by Sandrachile . on Unsplash

“I’m just joking…”

Are you really, though?

Five Things to Remember When You’re Joking

  1. Jokes aren’t always funny. Others get hurt from careless jokes and thoughtless teases more than you know. In the past, I would easily laugh off jokes from my peers so they did not think I was offended. I’m over that. Check your jokes. Do they build up or tear down? It might be funny, but if it’s hurtful — It should NOT be said. Period.
  2. Jokes have a thread of truth. Always. Normally, jokes are founded in reality. You can’t just make some of this stuff up. Jokes are normally centered around rumors, areas of insecurities, or faults about someone’s physical appearance, work ethic, social graces, etc. Don’t prey off people. Don’t say things to get others to laugh if it means demeaning someone else. This includes Snapchat. Admission of guilt: I got rid of Snapchat a couple years ago. This was one of the reasons. I was a great snapper back in my day. However, 90% of the time, the snaps I sent were not edifying or kind to others. I would send snaps of people I thought were “less” than me – behind their backs – to my “groupies.” God let me know this wasn’t ok.
  3. Don’t joke to make a point. If you need to confront someone, just do it. Don’t make comments and jokes in front of that person and everyone else. Stop being passive aggressive. Grow up. Deal with the issue. Give someone the decency to talk with them and figure out the problem.
  4. If they don’t think it’s funny, it’s probably not. Seems like common sense, I know. Be aware, friends. If you say something, even if you didn’t mean harm, and it doesn’t go over well — Do not do it again. Apologize if needed. Understand the people you joke with have feelings, too.
  5. Some people can’t take jokes. I know. I can’t really fathom this, either. I love joking and teasing. My family thrives on it. My husband and I love to joke with each other — we pretty much do constantly. However, some people have a different background, a different emotional make-up, a different outlook on life. Jokes are not their “thing.” That’s ok. They aren’t weird; they are just a human being. Respect them enough to know the boundaries, alright?

I posted this because this has been an area in my life that I have had to grow and improve. I am working on being aware of others and their feelings. I love to joke, but it’s not worth the cost of losing friends or my reputation. Have fun – be funny… but don’t let the goal of being funny make you forget social cues and emotional boundaries.

Check your jokes. Think before you tease.

{Excuse the llama, but it looks like he has just cracked a good joke. 😉 }

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

Seven ways to make your listening skills better.

Listening is a skill many of us need to brush up on. Myself included. Just this week, I was confronted with the criticism that sometimes I don’t put as much effort into listening to those around me as I should.

Ouch. That hurt.

However, the more I look into that criticism, I realize that it was definitely of the constructive type. Remember that blog post from last week? Well, it’s time for me to practice what I preach. I’ve evaluated. And, I see listening skills that need some work. Are my listening skills better than they were 3 years ago? You bet. That doesn’t mean they are perfect, though.

Building authentic relationships won’t happen if we don’t take the time to listen to those we care about.

I decided a blog post to keep myself accountable was in order. And, I’m taking a venture that I’m not the only one who needs to work on listening skills. . .

  1. Pick up on the hint & shut up.

    Social cues, people. Especially to those extroverted people like myself. We like to hear ourselves speak. We enjoy being in charge of a conversation. However, we should stop talking long enough to notice that other humans use the English language, too. Ok? We should be aware enough of what’s going on to know when our spouse, friend, coworker, or acquaintance needs to share something with us. It might be something small – a quick idea or a passing thought. Yet, it might be something deep and profound, and the speaker has chosen you (or me) to be the one they speak to. Own up to their expectation of you. You are the one they need to listen to them. Right there. Right then. Stop talking. Let other people carry the conversation sometimes. Let other people give their opinions. Give other people enough time to share their thoughts, too. Be aware. Shut your mouth.

  2. Make eye contact.

    When someone is talking to you, make eye contact. Not in an awkward way, of course. Just simply shift your attention to the person speaking. This affirms the speaker, showing that what they have to say is important to you. This seems like something small, but I know how annoyed I get when I’m trying to share an opinion and the person I’m talking to drifts off into outer-space or sinks into the abyss of the computer screen sitting in front of them. Don’t do that to people. Be better than that.

  3. Put aside all distractions.

    Earnest Hemingway put it like this: “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” Give the person talking to you the respect they deserve. We live in such a demanding and distracting time. There’s always someone to text, a call to make, a social media account to keep up with, or something to accomplish. Life isn’t about things, though. It’s about people. Pay attention when those people have something to say to you. Shut your phone off, clear your head, and focus.

  4. Get rid of pre-conceived notions or ideas.

    Whenever someone starts sharing, our mind usually starts racing. In fact, sometimes my mind is racing about the situation BEFORE the person starts sharing about it. Ooops! Let’s face it. . .  We are all opinionated people. We draw conclusions from one side of the story before we hear the other. We see the wrong in others’ lives before we see our own. We have 10 good solutions to someone else’s problem. Back up. Stop. Erase your notions, ideas, opinions, and solutions out of your head. Give the person talking the decency to solicit an unbiased opinion from you. Listen closely for their feelings, side of the story, opinions, etc.

  5. Gauge the emotional pulse.

    The emotional state of the speaker will determine your response. If they seem troubled, a blunt answer might not be best. If they seem broken, a hug might be in order. If they seem insecure, some sincere compliments might be the appropriate reply. Tune in. Pick up on the signals. Be kind. Saying the right thing at the wrong time could very possibly be the wrong thing to do.

  6. Don’t give advice unless it’s asked for.

    Yikes. That’s hard. I like to fix problems. Give my opinions. Offer solutions. Sometimes, though, that’s just not what’s needed. If they ask, fire away. If they don’t, wait patiently. You and I both know how irritating it is to get advice you did NOT want.

  7. Silence is acceptable.

    Pretty self-explanatory, I think. You can care for your family and friends by simply letting them know that you are there for them.  Cheer them on – pray for them – send them a card or a gift. Don’t overdo the talking – talking’s overrated.

I hope these seven ways challenge you like they are currently challenging me. I want to love those around me and deepen my friendships by brushing up on my listening skills – talking less and caring more. 

 

Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash

It’s OK.

Let’s be real. The road of life is full of twists and turns, foggy curves, confusing signs, and too many bumps and potholes to count. It’s not all bad, but sometimes it surely feels like it! So many people are going through life – day in and day out – carrying so much baggage. They don’t want to fall apart or admit they are in need of support.

I’m here to let you know that it’s OK, my friend. 

It’s OK to ask for help. Look, you ain’t perfect, honey. You can’t “know” what you haven’t learned. It’s just not possible. There are people that are better than you at certain things. Get that advice. Pursue growth. Don’t wallow in frustration when you could own understanding. I’ve been there too many times to count. Humble yourself. Become a better person. Just ask!

It’s OK for someone to constructively criticize you. If this hasn’t happened to you, sooner or later it will. Accept the criticism. Step back from the situation. Evaluate what was said. Compare the person’s criticism with your life. Adjust accordingly and if needed. Thank the person for their concern and apologize if appropriate or necessary. Grow. Change. Endeavor not to let that area be criticized again. Repeat if needed. [Side note: Not all constructive criticism warrants an apology or adjustment. In fact, some constructive criticism is simply off-base and the person misunderstood. Take that into account. I have found, however, that most times I have been confronted with constructive criticism, I came face to face with the truth, resulting in (sometimes painful) growth.]

It’s OK to not have it altogether. No one’s life is “Insta-Worthy” 24/7. It’s alright if your clothes aren’t always (or ever) ironed. It’s acceptable if you don’t feel like cooking dinner every night. I don’t know about you, but I usually tend to be harsh on myself. I am learning not to beat myself up about not always having my i‘s dotted or my t‘s crossed. Do your best and leave the rest up to the One who is bigger than yourself.

It’s OK if your feelings get hurt. You’re human, ok? People aren’t always nice, kind, considerate, loving, helpful, or understanding. Let yourself process the emotions that come your way, but don’t you dare let negative emotions control you. Deal with them, but don’t be afraid to feel them.

It’s OK if sometimes the closest people to you don’t understand you. To be quite frank, no one is EVER gonna “get” you 100% of the time… not even your Mom, your spouse/significant other, or your best friend. But, I know of a Friend that sticks closer than a brother or sister, and that’s Jesus Christ (Proverbs 18:24). When others don’t understand, rest in the fact that you are (like the lyrics of Tauren Wells’ song) “fully known and loved” by the Creator of the universe! (Link to song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6T28lsTPwc)

It’s OK if you don’t want to give anymore. Some days I come home from work completely spent. I have given and coached and taught and tutored and adjusted according to a crazy schedule – from start to finish. I just don’t feel like doing or giving anymore. That’s normal. You’re not a superhero. Don’t ever stop giving love and grace. Take care of what you need to. However, you should never forget to take time for YOURSELF. Regroup. Recharge. Find a hobby. (For me, Saturday is my “unofficial” Recharge Day… I do some things I “have” to, but I do my best to accomplish at least one thing I have wanted to do, perhaps even something off my seasonal wish list!)

It’s OK if you need to take a break. Take a minute. We were only meant to handle so much at one time. Breath in; breath out. Sit down. Take a walk. Eat a snack. Brush your teeth (my go-to stress reliever in college). Call someone. Check the Bible app for the Verse of the Day. Make a list. Deal with one thing at a time.

It’s OK if you need to cry it out. Sometimes keeping it in is the worst thing you can do. Hurt is just real life. It comes. It happens. Embrace it, learn from it, and move on.

It’s OK to be yourself. In a world where “acceptance” is supposedly on the rise, there is actually more judgement and division than ever before. Don’t let that stop you from being who God created you to be. If you’re a little louder or taller or bigger or shorter than the person next to you, don’t sweat it. Be confident in yourself, your personality, and your purpose. Don’t let anyone dim your light or put you down. You deserve better than that. (P.S. This is not an excuse to be obnoxious and overwhelming just because that’s “who you are” – Be tactful, alright? — i.e. How loud I am when I’m with my best friends is 10x louder than I am when in a group of strangers.)

It’s OK to move on. Sometimes life leaves us no option. We outgrow places, people, friends, relationships, feelings, stages, grudges, and so on. Don’t let toxic people, places, or circumstances run your life. Don’t hate — compensate. Find some new friends. Visit new places. Look for a new job. Let go of the grudge. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Move. On.

I hope these ten different pieces of “OK” advice encourage you. Don’t give up the fight. You’ve got this!

(Photo creds: Unsplash.com)

Let it go.

Sometimes, you just have to let it go — release it — be set free.

Let me explain.

I know how things are “supposed” to go in my life. I mean, come on. . . Don’t you?

For example. . .

  • My outfit will look so “on point” if I put those two pieces together.
  • My car won’t fall apart until I have driven it for (at least) six years.
  • My new city will be just as charming as my last one.
  • My students will listen to me the first time.
  • My licensure tests will be easy.
  • My career will go smoothly.
  • My new job will bring awesome friendships.
  • My husband will like the new “dish” I tried out for supper.
  • My corny joke in the grocery check-out line will be met with a chuckle or two.

And, you know what? Sometimes, I am right! Things go according to plan. The new “dish” is met with a sweet kiss to finish off the meal. The school day is successful; none of my students threw an attitude or balked at a directive. I even come home to the house picked up and the bed made by my husband! And so on. . .

But. . . Sometimes? Well, sometimes my outfit looks horrific as I walk out the door, and I don’t have time to change so I feel frumpy all day. My car might be making some “odd” noises, more so than before, and I hope I can “baby” it through. My corny joke at the grocery store is met with a blank stare from the cashier, and I feel quite awkward as I swipe my card. Or perhaps my new city just doesn’t feel quite like the last.

Tell me that you’ve been there, too. . . When the day just won’t end and the disappointments keep piling up.

Well, friend. Here’s what I have found. (And, I speak from experience here. . .) It is so easy to hold on to all those frustrations, disappointments, irritations, and insecurities. In fact, you just keep holding on to them daily. The frustrations from a frazzled Monday are carried into Tuesday. Your irritation at some simple misunderstanding at work comes home with you and causes you to “snap” at your spouse for no apparent reason. Your failure the first time you try something difficult causes you to never try again and miss out on an incredible success.

Let it go. Seriously.

Life is just life. Ok? I might only be 23, but I have let way too many days, weeks, months, and moments go by feeling hurt or frustrated or unhappy by things I just couldn’t change. . . even things that (even though I did not realize it at the moment) were making me into a stronger, more capable person.

The car repair that was $300 more than you wanted to pay and didn’t even fix the problem. . . The rough day in the classroom that made you cry. . . Don’t let times like that define you.

I have realized that I am a much happier and kinder person when I let. things. go.

  • “Oh, well. . . I’ll do better next time.”
  • “Yeah, okay. I just looked like the most awkward human being in Kroger.”
  • “Perhaps I should never wear this outfit again. In fact, I should probably burn it.”
  • “At least next time I know what NOT to say to that student.”
  • “This will make a good story.”

The definition of release is this: (1) to relieve from something that confines, burdens, or oppresses or (2) to give up in favor of another.

What do you need to release today? What do you need to let go of today?

I’m not saying that it will be easy. . . (It’s a moment-by-moment choice somedays.) But, I am saying that it is worth it.

Life is too short to hold on to things that just. don’t. matter. CHOOSE to free yourself from that extra “stuff” that weighs you down.

Face another day…

Gentle Shepherd

Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us,
For we need You to help us find our way.
Gentle Shepherd, come and feed us,
For we need Your strength from day to day.

There’s no other we can turn to
Who can help us face another day.
Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us,
For we need You to help us find our way.

(G. Gaither)

 

Face another day…

 

Sometimes life gets so busy that I forget… I forget the pain. I forget the rough days, the horrible nights. Those nights when I was scared to fall asleep because Satan had confused my mind so much. Those times when I cried myself to sleep because of the fear inundating my very soul. Those days when I struggled to even want to pray because I felt that I was always messing up. Those chains that held my soul. Those moments when I was overcome with grief – the loss of a best friend. Those valleys that seemed so dark. Those hurts that were more than real. Those heartbreaks – big or small – that left me feeling lonely, confused, battered, and bruised.

I forget. And, to be honest, I am thankful that I forget. I am thankful that Christ has offered me His peace in contrast to my fear, His deliverance in contrast to my bondage, and His healing for my aching heart.

Every once in a while, though, my eyes fill with tears and my heart tugs as my soul remembers the moments of pain and hurt and fear – the times I did not want to face the next day – the times I wanted to give up. And, I believe God gives me these times to remind me of where I have been and what He has brought me through so that I could be the (perhaps) stronger, braver, and wiser person that I am today.

Trust me, friend. With Jesus – no matter how dark the day – you can face it. Don’t stop fighting your battles. You’ll come out on top.