it’s OK to cry

IMG_5968Sometimes, it’s as if my inside-self plants her feet wide-a-part and stares me down with her hands on her hips and says, “Stop. Being. What I’m Not.”

And, I have to listen and honor where she really is and not pretend she is where I want her to be.

I want to be positive
to be strong
to be good at adapting
to handle change well
to not be homesick
to not be lonely

Especially when I have friends who have just said goodbye to husbands after ugly battles with cancer. Or take my eyes off of me long enough to remember there are people living with household or global war, personal or community suffering, hunger, injustice. I mean, people have real-deal reasons to feel down…Moving for the 25th time??? Not so bad, but still… I’m not doing as well as I’d like, as well as I expect, as well as I’m trying to be…

So, I ask God to
be my Positive One while I’m dwelling in the negative
to be my strength because today I have none
to help me handle this latest change that is already months old
to teach me contentment in this situation
even as I thank Him for being My God, My Savior, My Ever Present One

My inside-self nods and says, “That’s a good prayer. I’m confident He’ll answer it, is already answering it. But, for now, it’s OK to cry…..”

Do you let yourself be where you really are? To process what is sad, bad, what makes you mad? God is present right where we are and it is safe to be who we really are with Him. In His comforting arms we are held, comforted and transformed. Today, my heart took a few steps back and I’m feeling all the good-byes and changes. My inside-self and my outside-self are crying even as I lean into this Truth:

Psalm 94:17-19 If God hadn’t been there for me, I never would have made it. The minute I said, “I’m slipping, I’m falling,” your love, God, took hold and held me fast. When I was upset and beside myself, you calmed me down and cheered me up. (The Message)

And that’s the hope, my inside-self reminds me. I won’t always feel this way.
Transformation will happen
is happening
Joy is even present in the sorrow
Hope is real
Love conquers all
Peace is here
Even in the tears

(Please, Dear Reader, don’t leave me here. Today isn’t forever and change is already coming.)

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Amber alert! Have you seen Grace?

Grace goes missing a lot in our hyper-critical world. A post about the unacceptable foibles of newbies at Starbucks demonstrates our impatience with people who don’t get how to do life the “right way” in our judgemental, insecure society. Even as we admire quirky, non-conformists, we only admire the cool ones who pull off being their own self in a way we judge commendable. Otherwise, if someone doesn’t fit the mold of church, work, school, or society’s norm of acceptable cool, they are, in silent secret code, labeled looser; left behind, not befriended.

This is not who we really are.
We are rescued from judgement.
Rescued from the fringe.
Rescued from having to be a certain way.
Rescued from having to fit in, be cool, know how to be.

We are rescued to be free.
Free to be who we really are;
God’s favorite child who will never have to bear the yoke of any kind of slavery.
Slavery to other’s expectations, norms or scorn.
Slavery to our own warped ideas, addictions, shame.
Slavery to a law directed life-style that demands we live this way or that.

We are rescued to be free.

This is the message of Galatians. When Paul wrote this letter, he was frustrated because the people he had met with and taught were being influenced to live a life of shoulds and oughts and were subjecting themselves to others criticism. Worse, they cared what the law enforcers thought.

How often do we care too much about what others think, try to conform to the mores of the crowd-even the church crowd, fit in with laughter at insider jokes we don’t get.

Grace. Have you received Grace? You will know you have received grace if you are free to be who you really are and are able to accept others as they really are without judging them.

Grace. Do you extend the grace that’s been given to you? Or, do you find yourself having opinions about people instead of having grace for them? Do you judge their coolness, their savvy, their acceptableness? Or do you enjoy being rescued along with them so that you both can be free?

There is so much promise in Freedom. So much hope in Rescue. So much love in Grace. As I have spent time Galatians the last few weeks, I’ve been reminded I am a rescued person and I’m FREE! I’ve also been reminded of the wonderful free gift of God’s grace, of my incredible need for His Grace, and the delightful blessing of passing that grace on to others who need it just as badly as I do.

Galatians asks, “How do we live as rescued people
in the presence of evil
?”

It answers with, “We celebrate our freedom as we live well
with each other

We find value in faith- not in status or behavior (5:6)
…We live into our call of freedom without abusing it (5:13)
…We serve one another, love one another, do not consume one another (5:13, 14)
…We live and walk by the spirit while he produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control in our lives (5:16, 22, 23, 25)
…We restore each other with gentleness- knowing each of us is being rescued (6:1)
…We carry each other through the hard times with humbleness, knowing we’ll need to be carried one day,    too. (6:2)
…We teach, we share, we reap what we sow, we do not lose heart and we don’t grow weary but we do good to others.” (6:6-10)

11760166_10153423231290482_5048830960697625306_n (1)Grace~Rescue~Freedom!

Why questions may not facilitate great conversation

After Sunday’s post about the art of good conversation, a friend wrote, Could you share more about ‘draw out your quieter companions with comments like, “I’d really like to hear more about that.” Or, “Your opinion matters to me.”‘ Can you explain why this is a better approach? I need to understand the theory surrounding it so that I can know I’m applying this properly. Maybe an example of how a question shuts an introvert down would help me grasp this completely.”

Questions have power. They can make the responder feel required to give an answer. They may direct the conversation towards a destination only the inquirer wants to go. They can shut the quieter person down if the question misses the mark of what he/she really wants to talk about.  Instead of feeling like a mutual conversation, questions may cause the responder to feel interviewed or interrogated.

That assessment of questions may seem harsh if you think questions work to move the conversation along. And, they often do keep words flowing. But, while questions may keep the conversation going, it may not be going where it really needs to go.

When my kids were in their pre-teen and early teen years, questions didn’t work well with them. Our son was very quiet. Conversation was tricky. I resorted to courting him by clipping jokes and articles about his favorite sport team and taping them to his bedroom door. He’d wander down to the kitchen, thank me for them and add a few sentences of commentary; I’d feel like I’d hit a home run. When our daughter heard me greet her with the question, “How was your day?” that question felt like pressure to report. She responded with,”You want to know everything about my life!” Not a winning strategy! Instead I learned to say, “Hi! Glad you are home. I’m working on supper in the kitchen.” She would join me and tell me much more than her day was fine. The relief from a very common, simple question gave her freedom to share her day.

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photo used with Margie’s permission

Because we are so used to relying on questions, it is hard for us to use our imagination and come up with words that affirm the direction of the conversation without resorting to a question. To say, “That must have been hard/ interesting/ challenging,” or, “I’ve never experienced anything like that,” or “I would have felt sad/mad/happy if that had happened to me,” and wait for what comes next can try the nerves of someone afraid of silence. But, silence can pay off big dividends when it allows confidences to be shared.

I’m curious and I love a good story, so questions are a real temptation for me. I realize their power and do not want to abuse my conversation companions with them. It really is OK to ask questions. It’s just sometimes better not to.

the art of good conversation

Listening, making eye contact and letting the speaker know we are interested in what they have to say are well-known practices for good conversation. But what about the more subtle ways of helping communication go deeper and more significant the surface?

DSC_0092We just spent a week with family in WA state. It was great to be with family and to enjoy the conversations that happened in the living room, on the patio around the grill, or on the deck as the sun slipped flamboyantly over the horizon. Most of the conversations were great. Some were intense. A few were awkward. And, I noticed, some of our family remained on the fringe, observing rather than participating in our week-long gab fest.

Why do some people share and others remain quiet? Some people are not external processors. Some don’t feel compelled to share their life with others. Some are introverts whose energy is zapped by prolonged close encounters with others. And some are not given enough space and time to formulate their thoughts and speak them.

I often fall into this last group and look like I’m mimicking a fish while others converse, often opening my mouth to speak and then closing it again because I was just an instant too slow. That’s often because the extroverts in the crowd get so much energy from their fast paced conversation. These more dominant conversationalists may not realize they are running over their slower companions whose conversation energy is at a lower and quieter level.

So- how can these two broad categories of people help each other to do conversation better?

DSC_4768Extroverts and External processors (EE) – remember to pause and look at the Introvert and Internal processors (II) and smile encouragingly as if you’d like to hear what they may have to add.

IIs – remember your thoughts are valued by your more talkative companions even though it may seem they have a lot more interesting comments to share, stories to tell. Sit up a bit straighter, lean into the conversation, raise your voice in the conversational toasts with the others.

EEs- instead of asking questions, draw out your quieter companions with comments like, “I’d really like to hear more about that.” Or, “Your opinion matters to me. Could you share a bit more about that?”

DSC_0042IIs- don’t assume the extrovert is processing everything externally. Extroverts can also be internal processors and may need help expressing their deeper thoughts and feelings, too.

Extroverts the same goes for introverts. Just because someone is on the quiet side, or gets energy by being alone, does not mean they do not need to process life externally. Inquire and then guide as indicated.

Of course there are more ways to enrich our visits with each other. What have you found to help conversations be rich and meaningful? I hope you’ll share your thoughts!