When Church Is the Cause of Your Hustle

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Last week I was feeling irritable. I was busy. I had a lot of things to do and places to be and I didn’t like it. My soul wanted to rest. You know that feeling? When you realize you crammed a few too many things onto your calendar for the week and you feel the pull? The pull between being committed to things and not wanting to do them at all?

I don’t have scientific evidence to support this, but I would hypothesize that church people tend to feel this more than non-church people because church people tend to pack their calendars stupid full.

I am church people. I do church, and I do it well. This happens when you’re a preacher’s kid and when you generally like church and always have. That’s me. I like church. I like being involved. I like church activities and church people and I’m so thankful for that because I know that’s often not the case for those raised in the church.

But lately, I’ve sense I may be a bit over-involved in the church department. For the past few weeks, the majority of my calendar has been consumed with church-related activities or events. I’m involved in the youth group at my church, I’m part of a new church plant my church is starting in the city of Nashville, and I’m going on a mission trip with the church this summer to Peru. All good things. All wonderful things, really. But lately all my church things have not left me feeling very…Christian.

Instead, I have felt busy, and sort of tired.

I feel like I’m hustling.

And now I’m wondering: If all of my church involvement is not allowing for a Sabbath day or a Sabbath week, am I really being Christ-like? If most of my nights are consumed with spending time at church and with church people, am I really being Christ to others in my community? Could church be the culprit for my hustling these days? Could it be the culprit for my faint evangelistic heart these days?

I am beginning to believe that being less involved in church could be better for me spiritually. I wouldn’t resent my calendar so much. I would be more rested. I would be “in the world” a little more. Out there, God can be so much more real. In my rest, God can be so much more audible.

A part of me believes I could serve better if I did church less.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you opened your church bulletin this Sunday, and instead of seeing the typical “Volunteers Needed” and “Events Coming Up This Week,” there was just this one statement, “Hey church, nothing’s going on this week. Get some rest. Spend time with your people. Spend time with God” ?

Oh, that would be so good for me. It might be so good for you too.

What Empathy Is and What It Is Not

photo-1418225043143-90858d2301b4 I went hiking with a friend a few weeks ago and learned a lot about empathy. I learned a lot about it from myself, who was not being very empathetic. My friend was sharing a really hard thing with me and I kept chiming in with examples from my own life. Something deep down inside of me was saying, “Stop doing that. You’re not helping.” But I couldn’t. I just kept sharing my own stories, diminishing and quieting hers.

I really was trying to be a good friend. I was trying to be an empathetic friend, but what my friend really needed from me that day was to shut up and listen.

Empathy is a tricky thing. I used to think I was really good at it, but over the years I’ve realized I’m lacking in this area quite a bit. I’ve come across some incredibly empathetic people in the last few years who have taught me a lot about what empathy is and what it is not:

Empathy is not… Sharing you own experiences. I am notoriously terrible about this, like that time on the hike I mentioned. When a friend is sharing something with you and you interrupt with a “yeah, that happened to me too and here’s what I did” type of statement, it can seem empathetic, but really, its kind of interruptive. It’s almost like saying, “Your struggle is not unique. It happens to all of us.” We think we are making our friend feel better and less alone, when really, we are diminishing her experience.

Empathy is… Listening. Lots and lots of listening. When someone listens to me, like really listens and isn’t just waiting for her turn to talk, I feel cared for. I feel like my words are landing on a soft pillow and will be held with care, rather than landing in an unsafe place.

Empathy is not… Fixing someone’s problem. I also like to do this but am trying to make myself be comfortable with listening and hearing rather than rattling off a list of things they can do to improve their situation. I used to think I was a really good friend for doing this. Now I realize I’m being a better friend when I say things like, “That’s hard.” And then remain completely silent. It’s uncomfortable, but when someone does this for me, I can feel them feel my pain and that is better for my pain in that moment than fixing it is. Pain can’t really be “fixed” anyways.

Empathy is… Relating to others no matter how different their struggles are from your own. My friend who worked with a prison ministry for several years said he worried about empathizing with the men there because his life was so different from theirs. After spending time with them though, he realized they were much more similar than he thought, because we are all human, we are all broken and we all need help.

Empathy is not… “Silverlining” it, as Brene Brown says. “At least” is the worst thing you can say to someone when she shares something difficult with you. If I am grieving something or someone in my life, and I share that with a friend who then tries to point out all of the positive things I still have, my grieving is put on pause. It transports me out of that place. It’s jarring, in a way, and forces me to agree and put on a smile I’m not ready to put on yet. I think learning the art of empathy is one of those lifelong journey things, but I’m so grateful to those who are showing it to me so that I can learn better how to show it back.

Six Tips for Navigating Your Twenties (+ a Giveaway!)

All Groan Up

Winners of the All Groan Up giveaway are…

Leslie Wood

Beverly Vance

Missy Mutchnik

Send me your address via my contact page or PM. CONGRATULATIONS!

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about an article I had read that inspired me to embrace this unknown season of life I’m in, rather than run from it. I tweeted about the article and because social media, I ended up virtually meeting the author, Paul Angone. Turns out, Paul has just written a book all about navigating the shaky, weird decade that is your twenties. The book is All Groan Up: Searching for Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job. I began reading it and very quickly began to recognize myself in the book, which is the sign a good book. (Scroll down for info about a giveaway…) Paul is so refreshingly honest about his faith and the difficulties and joys of it in the midst of a difficult season. I may have even cried a little in some parts. Because the book has been so helpful for me, I asked Paul if I could interview him about it and post it on my blog, because I think he might just be able to help and encourage you too:   You talk about the “best years of our lives” always being the life stage we are coming out of. Why do we always look back and think, “Those really were the best years of my life”? And, what are the best years of our lives??  When you’re scared out of your mind about the present and future, it definitely makes you appreciate the past. However, it took me a long time to realize that nostalgia is a liar. Each season carries with it the good, the bad, and the awkward. The best season of your life is the one you’re in right now, if you’re willing to look for it. You are open about anxiety in the book. I know for me, anxiety became a real thing in my twenties. I think this happens for a lot of us. Why is that? What hope can you give to the anxiety-prone? For many years in my twenties Discouragement, Depression, and Despair followed me around like sick dogs trying to sit in my lap whenever I sat down. And I was definitely anxious about the whole ordeal! I learned that I had to war for hope, even as the world seemingly warred against it. As anxiety would start to squeeze my heart like a hungry Boa Constrictor, I would hike above the Hollywood Sign in LA and literally declare the hope of my future, even when my present felt like nothing to be hopeful about. Fortunately, as anxiety has become real for me in this decade, so has God’s grace. You talk about a wonderful encounter with God’s grace after hitting rock bottom. What is it about the twenties that makes grace so real and so necessary? In our twenties, there’s no hiding from our mistakes and failures. They are all too real and in our face. I was definitely on a free-fall search for rock bottom, weirdly hoping that the bottom would at least bring stability. Thankfully God stopped my descent with what I call a rocky ledge of grace. Grace breaks you, yet somehow makes you more whole. Do you think men and women cope with this life phase differently?  I think we all have visions for how life is “supposed to” work out and we feel the pains and frustrations differently depending on what part of our “supposed to” is going up in flames. I love when you say that sometimes our dreams are on a “low simmer.” Meaning, we are working toward them even when it’s not overtly obvious that we are. How can we find joy and peace during our “low simmer” seasons? I love having big dreams, goals, and visions of making an impact. During “low simmer” seasons I found joy and peace by realizing that if you want to dream big, you must first have the courage and perseverance to be faithful in the small. The bigger the promise, the more intense the preparation. You share some great relationship stories in the book—some about successful relationships, some about not-so-successful relationships. How would you advise twentysomethings to approach dating relationships and friendships? Do you know what comment I receive the most in emails from twentysomethings? I feel so alone. We are globally connected, yet are insanely isolated and are not talking with each other about what’s really going on in our lives. This isolation was one of my driving motivations for being as honest and vulnerable as I possibly could in this new book All Groan Up. We ALL have struggles, fears, and questions, so let’s really talk about it in our dating relationships and friendships. We can’t let what I call the new OCD – Obsessive Comparison Disorder – put a wedge between us and all our friends who “appear” to be doing so much better than us. More about Paul: He is the author of All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job! (Zondervan) and 101 Secrets For Your Twenties (Moody). He is also a sought-after national speaker and the creator of the popular website AllGroanUp.com, a place for anyone asking “what now?” Follow him on Twitter @PaulAngone. Book giveaway: I have THREE copies of All Groan Up that I am giving away! You can enter your name for the drawing by posting a comment below. If you want you name entered twice, subscribe to my blog by entering your email address in the box on the right and clicking “Follow.” I’m no math expert, but I’m pretty sure having your name entered twice increases your chances of winning by about 4,000%.

When Life Is Shaky, Weird and Hard, But Good at the Same Time

 

 

Paris Paintin for Blog

I’ve moved a lot since college. Almost every year in fact. From apartment to house to condo to another house. It’s the typical transient life of the twenty-something, I suppose. Though I leave a lot behind when I move—clothes, old picture frames, dishes I don’t want anymore—one thing I’ve carried with me to each new residence is a painting I bought in Paris when I was studying abroad as a junior in college.

I bought it near the Seine, where vendor after vendor lines up to sell cheap artwork, postcards, calendars and other things tourists are so drawn to. As I browsed, I came across a flimsy canvas painted with a scene of the French countryside. It was tattered at the edges and paint splotches stained its border. It was imperfect and, therefore, the vendor was selling it at a decent price. I snatched it up. I loved it. And ever since, I have carried it with me and hung it on the wall somewhere prominent. Right now, it hangs in my new office right across from my desk.

Perhaps you have something like this too. A belonging or a piece of décor that you’ve had for years and you plan to keep forever. They’re often not perfect and beautiful things, are they? They’re blankeys or dusty pictures or rusted silver spoons. It’s always what they represent and never what they look like. They represent memories or family history, so we keep them close and carry them with us.

But maybe when we carry our things with us, we are carrying more than memories. Maybe, we are carrying versions of ourselves. Maybe we hold onto them because we liked who we were when we got them. It’s like a souvenir, but rather being from a place, it’s from a time period.

I liked who I was in Paris. I was 20 years old and traveling the world with my best friends. If college isn’t real life, studying abroad is about as far from reality as you can get, and I loved every moment of it.

I caught myself the other day, staring longingly at my Paris painting. I wished I was in Europe, yes, but more than that, I wished I was 20 again and carefree and adventurous.

Then, I came across an article by Paul Angone. This question he posed was so perfect: “How many of us have experienced seasons where you want to go back to who you were because who you are doesn’t feel like you?” Me. I have. I am.

Maybe you, too?

I’m no longer transitioning out of my study abroad semester, but I am transitioning out of a job and life I grew accustomed to for the past five years. I’m working for myself, renting office space with strangers, and pitching my work as if it is not the scariest and most vulnerable thing I have ever done. And it’s hard. And I want to be back in Paris on a study abroad trip strolling the Seine.

But as Angone says, times like these are essential in order for us to change: “When the familiar is stripped away, you’re forced to search for more. When you can’t fall back on the old way of doing things, you have to find a new, better way.”

As much as I like study-abroad, fun, flighty, 20-year-old me, that is not who I am anymore. I have done a lot of things since then. I have had experiences, successes and failures that make me different from the person I was when I bought that Paris painting, and that’s a good thing.

I’m navigating with a new set of tools, and it’s shaky and weird a lot of the time, but I am growing more certain by the day that a few years from now, I will be able to look back at this time and see how crucial the shakiness and weirdness was in order for me to grow. I am certain I am finding a “better way” even if it feels hard right now.

We don’t have to grow, you know. We can choose to remain stagnant. We can choose to stare wistfully at our Paris paintings for the rest of our days and go nowhere. Or, we can accept the tension and difficulties of growth, lean on God every freaking second of every freaking day, and know that we are on a path. To where? That’s not really for us to know the specifics, but we can be certain it is somewhere.

**Come back next week to hear from Paul Angone and to enter for a chance to win a free copy of his new book, All Groan Up: Searching for Self, Faith, And a Freaking Job!**

I’m Strong, But I’m Needy, Desperate and Fearful, Too

 

I'm Strong, But I'm Needy, DesperateI have an irrational fear of being in weddings. I fainted during a ceremony a few years ago when I was a bridesmaid and ever since, the thought of being a bridesmaid brings back that blurry vision, wobbly knee feeling.

It’s irrational, I know. The reason I fainted in the wedding a few years back was because the wedding took place outdoors, in the Texas heat, and the ceremony was long, and, it turned out, I was sick. The perfect storm for a fainting bridesmaid.

This past weekend I was a bridesmaid in another wedding. It was in Portland. It was indoors in an air-conditioned church. I was not sick. Yet, I was terrified I would faint again.

All day I saw visions of myself falling to my knees in front of everybody, ruining the vows. I saw myself being carried away by groomsmen, unable to fulfill my bridesmaid duties, and forced to lie on a couch in the back (this is what happened last time).

To add to my fear, the bride had asked me to sing during the wedding. Singing in front of people typically would not be a huge deal for me, but singing as a bridesmaid? This was concerning. During my rehearsal, the pianist warned me, as if she knew my history, “Don’t faint. Singers faint.” So do bridesmaids, I thought.

I walked back to the bridal room feeling queasy. My friend, the bride, asked if I was ok. I told her I was fine. What bride needs to worry about her fainting-inclined bridesmaids on her wedding day?

We circled up to pray. When we were done, I felt like I should ask someone to pray for me. To pray that I wouldn’t faint, but I didn’t. That would be stupid, I told myself. No one needs to know I’m afraid right now. No one needs to know about my little, irrational fear. Best to keep quiet.

So I said nothing. I sat in the corner and sipped water and tried to have positive thoughts. The hour turned to minutes. The minutes turned to seconds and suddenly, I was walking down the carpeted aisle in three-inch heals, a pink dress and a fake smile.

As soon as I stepped on stage, my heart began to race. My legs began to shake. The room felt hot and stuffy, and my little irrational fear felt huge. I was feeling faint. I needed help.

I hate asking for help. I hate asking for prayer. I hate asking for rides to the airport. I hate asking for help when I move. I hate asking for anything in general, and if I am 5% capable of doing it on my own, I will. But I learned a hard lesson this weekend as I stood trembling at the front of the church. My fear had overcome me, and I was not going to make it through this ceremony alone. So in desperation, I asked for help.

I scooted to the bridesmaid closest to me, who happened to be a nurse practitioner, and I told her I didn’t feel good, and I held onto her arm. I held onto her arm. In that moment, I needed someone to literally hold me. I was not going to make it by myself because making it by myself would mean literally  falling on my face. No, I was not going to be Independent Andrea today. I was going to be needy and fearful and desperate Andrea. The Andrea I know all too well but rarely reveal to others.

Though I had only met this bridesmaid the night before at the rehearsal dinner, she let me hold onto her. She told me it would be ok. She reminded me to breath. She didn’t shove me away or gawk. She was understanding of my little, irrational fear and she talked me through the ceremony.

And guess what. I didn’t faint. Not when I sang the song. Not during the sermon. Not during the vows. I made it, standing the entire time, and it’s because I had an arm to hold onto. It’s because a nearly complete stranger was understanding and kind and gracious. I made it because I admitted I couldn’t make it, and I asked for help.

If you’re like me—fiercely independent and ashamed of your secret neediness—I hope this story encourages you. I think if we independent types reached out to others more often and confessed our own inadequecies, we would find what I found in that bridesmaid: a gracious, kind and understanding response. We would find that our weakness brings out the strength in others and that fear cannot often be conquered alone, but it can be conquered with a little help.

The Problem with “White Lies”

The Problem with "White Lies"

White lies are lies that are harmless and trivial. At least, that’s what the dictionary says.

But I disagree with the dictionary, if that’s allowed.

I tell white lies often. So often in fact that I don’t always realize I’m doing it. I (white) lie when it’s convenient, comforting, and easier than being honest. I tell a few different types of white lies on a regular basis:

-I exaggerate or embellish events that happened to me to make them sound more interesting or dramatic.

-I give unnecessary and untruthful compliments to people, like “I love your bag!” When really, I don’t love your bag; I just want you to like me. So, I compliment you.

-And, my personal favorite, I tell half-truths.

Half-truths occur when everything you’re saying is indeed true, but you strategically leave out a crucial piece of information, so the person you’re talking to only hears part of the story.

The Half-truth is my favorite because my legalistic side tells me that technically I have been truthful. Then, I go home and my heart tells me I lied.

That’s exactly what happened to me the other day when I was talking to the owner of the building I work in. Our alarm system was down, and I had a sneaking suspicion it was my fault. I had been the one to set it the night before, and I had had some struggles. There had been some beeps. And then, there had been a loud siren sound. I knew I had done something wrong and sure enough, the next day, our building owner explained to me that it was broken.

But instead of confessing to him the struggles, beeps and siren sounds, I simply said, “Well, I hope I didn’t break it,” smiled as charmingly as I could and looked away.

Typically, this would not bother me. After all, I didn’t lie. Did he really need to know all of the details of my shenanigans with the alarm system? No, but for whatever reason, the truth about my half-truth would not leave me alone that night.

It kept me up as I tried to sleep. It occupied my mind as I tried to shop at HomeGoods. It didn’t even pipe down after the glass of wine I drank. Fine! I told myself. Tomorrow, when I see the owner, I will tell him the whole truth.

Sure enough, when I walked into my building the next morning, the owner was hovering right outside my office talking to the receptionist. (Isn’t that always the way?) It took a couple minutes, but eventually I told him the entire story, including the parts I had conveniently left out the day before about the beeps and the reentering of doors and that when I joked about being the one who broke it, I actually meant I was 85% sure I was the one who broke it.

I told him all of this, and guess what. He didn’t care at all. In fact, he just laughed and said he didn’t think that would have broken the system, then walked out of my office. My telling him the whole truth made no difference to him. But it made a difference to me. It made a difference in me.

A smile crept onto my face, a weight that had been on my shoulders when I was walking around HomeGoods completely disappeared. I felt so much better, and this got me thinking, maybe sometimes we need to tell the truth only for ourselves, only for our own souls.

No matter how tiny our white lies are, they affect us. With each one we tell, lying gets easier and easier, and the truth gets harder and harder until our realities are skewed in such a way that confessing you maybe tampered with a security system on accident feels like an impossible thing to say.

I don’t want to live a life where lying, even white lying, is the norm and the truth is hard to find and hard to say. If my story is boring, let it be boring without the embellishment. If I meet you and don’t like your purse, let me say nothing about your purse. And if I know I’m telling you only part of the truth, may I stop myself and tell you the whole story.

Deciphering God’s Will (+ a Book Giveaway)

The Grand Paradox

THE WINNERS ARE:

Mikki Jacobs

Pedre Decupe

Alayne

Kim k

Congratulations! You will each receive one copy of The Grand Paradox. Please send me your mailing address using the contact page. 

In my former life as a book publicist, I got to know a man named Ken Wytsma. Ken is an author, a pastor, a husband, a father or four girls and he founded a rather large annual gathering called The Justice Conference.

One week in the cold of February, Ken and I traveled to Pittsburg, where he had some media lined up for his first book Pursuing Justice. My job was to drive us around and make sure we were on time and Ken was prepared. This is always the job of a book publicist when traveling with an author.

I am not so great at directions and was nervous to be driving around Ken Wytsma because he is kind of a big deal. Because of this, I got lost going to almost every destination we needed to get to over the course of two days. We spent more time in that rented SUV driving through mysterious roads in the snow than we did doing interviews or being indoors.

At some point Ken took over the GPS, which really hurt my publicist pride, and we started arriving at our destinations much more quickly.

Even though Pittsburg was kind of a fail logistically, it did give me an opportunity to get to know this author/pastor/conference leader man, and I’m so glad it did.

Ken truly lives out his life message: that justice is central to the gospel, and in order for us to know God’s heart, we must seek justice for all of His people.

Right before I left my publishing job last fall, I got a sneak peek at the manuscript for Ken’s new book The Grand Paradox. I read 20 pages and wanted more. The book finally released a few weeks ago, and I was not disappointed by the other 180 or so pages.

If I had to pick a favorite part about The Grand Paradox, it would be the way Ken talks about the will of God for our lives.

As a millennial, I am obsessed with God’s will for my life. As Ken points out, this type of fixation popular in current Christian culture is not helpful. Not to us as individuals and not to God’s big, overarching will for humanity.

“We all like to think God’s will for our individual lives is to write us into the story as the central character,” writes Ken (p. 82). Yep, I like to think that most days. That God is going to do HUGE things through ME.

Ken goes on: “Instead of asking what God’s will is for my life, I should be asking how I can serve God’s will with my life….God doesn’t promise that all will play the central character. What God does promise, however, is that He will love all, lead all, meet us all, and provide guidance and wisdom needed through the Holy Spirit to find, rest in, and follow His leading in our lives” (p.85).

I am incredibly guilty of trying to decipher God’s perfect will for me, my exact next steps to take. This has paralyzed me in decisions and caused great guilt and fear that I made, or will make, a wrong move. God has been gently freeing me of this mindset lately and reading Ken’s book came at the perfect time to affirm the truth that discerning God’s will does not have to be a hard and scary thing. In fact, if it feels that way, I’m probably trying to make myself the central character. I’m probably thinking that I’m a way bigger deal than I actually am.

Ken ends this chapter with a beautiful and simple thought: “What is God’s will for your life? Simple. It is that you live out His will for the world. That you bring goodness, truth, and beauty to the world. Christianity doesn’t serve me; I serve the cause of Christ.”

I’m doing something today that I’ve never done before, a giveaway! I have four copies of The Grand Paradox to give away to four lucky recipients. Leave a comment below and consider yourself entered into the drawing. On Thursday, March 12, exactly one week from today, I will collect all commenters’ names and select the four winners. I’ll then announce the winners via my Twitter and Instagram accounts. So follow @AndreaLucado and/or @AndreaLucado to find out if you won!

May the odds be ever in your favor.