Thursday, January 22, 2015

Breaking Out of the Christian Bubble

I am reading the book Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker with a group of women. We had our first meeting last night to discuss the first section in the book. I am already looking forward to future discussions.

One of the things that really stuck out to me from the book was when Jen talked about how she spent most of her time blessing blessed people and serving the saved. She's essentially talking about the Christian bubble. I know that I spend the majority of my time with like-minded people in terms of God.
My daughter in her own little bubble
I don't think that it's bad to spend time with other Christians. It's a great way to find encouragement and support. However, if every person I am with already loves and serves God then how am I fulfilling Jesus' desire for us to love the lost, hurt, disenfranchised, etc?

I am a SAHM so the best place for me to find such people would be through my kids - preschool, activities, play groups, playgrounds and play places. With the statistic that 85% of the people/families in the area do not attend church it shouldn't be too hard to find people who do not already have a strong relationship with Jesus.

I have several hang ups in pursuing others in this manner. First, I am more of an introvert. I don't usually strike up conversations with strangers. I'm sure if I felt compelled or a strong urging I could do it occasionally, but it's definitely not my strong suit (though I have recently found that God has been asking me to do things that are more of a weakness so that he can be the strength I need to achieve the goal). Probably at worst, the person would ignore me which is only a little awkward. At best, I might make a new friend. I think the awkwardness is probably worth the effort.

A second reservation is that it seems like I already am not able to spend enough time with all of the people in my life I'd like to spend time with. There are so many amazing people and I would love to get to know them all better and be more involved in their lives. As it is, the person I consider my best friend I have to schedule a decent ways in advance and we get to spend quality time together once or twice a month. Not that my schedule is packed with these kinds of meetings. There are, of course, family responsibilities - kid activities, cleaning, laundry, cooking, errands, family activities, etc - that require the majority of my time.

The thought of trying to cram one more thing into my schedule is a little overwhelming. I have considered scaling back and seeking God's leading for activities and meetings. Most of my current things are good things, but too many good things doesn't necessarily mean better or best. So while less does not necessarily appeal to me, it may be what I need in this season. Perhaps less trying to connect with everyone and seeking God's leading for the most important things. Maybe I should be like Jen and figure out who "my people" are. Then maybe there will be room for the important work of loving and serving those who don't know Jesus or have a thriving relationship with him (which, in the end, may not really feel like work).

A third thing that causes me to pause when considering reaching out to people who may not know Jesus is the thought that I will not be able to give satisfying answers to questions they may have. I love God and know that he exists. A large part of my belief comes from personal experience. My faith does not come from receiving a logical and/or scientific explanation for all my objections. I still have questions without answers.

I know that there are many intellectual people out there who want these kinds of reasoning and logic to help them make a decision for or against God. I had a good friend in college who was this way. I felt quite inadequate in my ability to provide a compelling case for my beliefs. In the end, God used my contributions of love and acceptance for his purposes.

I ought to remember this experience that illustrates well that it is not me who will cause another's belief. It will ultimately be God working in a person's heart and that person's own encounters with God. My role is to live what I believe and be open to sharing my experiences with others. The rest is up to God.

And perhaps that is how I ought to live each day - open to encounters God may have for me. Choosing to be open to anything and not staying doggedly focused on my own agenda or to do list. To trust that seeking God will help me to choose what is needed. What is better.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Punching Fear in the Face

I have been receiving emailed encouragement and challenges about pursuing dreams from author, blogger and speaker Jon Acuff for the last year or so. He has created an online group to help people take steps toward achieving their dreams and encourage one another along the way. It's pretty amazing to see the wide variety of goals and amounts of success people are achieving through small, consistent steps and large amounts of perseverance. Jon has a saying from one of his books, Start, that is kind of a mantra among the group. "Punch fear in the face."

As many of us are aware, fear is the biggest reason we hold back from pursuing our dreams - fear of failure, fear of rejection or criticism, fear of not having a valuable or worthy contribution, fear of not having what it takes to see it through, even fear of success. Fear can paralyze us and keep us from ever taking a step toward our goals. I know that I cycle through several of these fears when thinking about my dream of being paid to write.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at
Yes, that is my dream. I have finally said it out loud to a public audience. I struggle a lot with feeling that I don't have anything new or valuable to contribute. I feel silly for thinking that I could be paid to share my thoughts. I have doubt that anyone would care to read what I might choose to say. I fear that if and when I do write, I will be rejected or criticized. Truth is, I know that these things will probably happen. People have differing opinions and not everyone will agree with my thoughts or find them useful or beneficial.

I can either allow these things to discourage me and keep me from writing or I can take this desire to write and continue to put myself out there hopeful that at least one person will be encouraged by my words. I have been writing for self-expression since I was in elementary school. It is part of who I am and choosing to squash it due to a bunch of "what-ifs" seems quite silly. 

I took a step today that required punching my fears in the face. I submitted an article for consideration for publication. I don't have confidence that it will be chosen but I am proud of myself for trying and putting myself out there for an honest review of my work. I am hoping for feedback that will help me in my writing and help me seek more opportunities like this. 

Do you have a dream you are working on? What steps have you been taking toward it?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Achievable New Year's Resolutions

   Last year I chose to make a goal (a New Year's Resolution, if you will) that was clearly defined, achievable and also somewhat enjoyable. I decided to make one new dessert recipe each month, twelve in all. It turned out to be pretty delicious! It was fun trying to decide what to make. Some months I tried to fit it with the general theme of that month - pumpkin whoopie pies in October (yummy!) and a green key lime pound cake in March (eh). They weren't all hits and sometimes I was scrambling at the end of the month to get one made, but I also learned how to make homemade whipped cream and found some keepers.

January: Glazed Lemon Cakes (yum!)

   This year I decided to choose a goal that also fit somewhere in my wheelhouse but could also benefit more than just my household. I like to write and I enjoy keeping up with friends and family. I chose 2015 to be the year I write (and mail) a handwritten note to everyone in my address book. As I was sending out Christmas cards in 2014 I realized that for quite a few people in my book it was my only communication with them and I found that rather sad. I'm changing that this year and we'll see what happens. Perhaps someone will respond and we'll resume semi-regular correspondence.

   So if you don't get a card from me by Jan. 6, 2016 (because if I am scrambling at the end of the year and don't get them into my mailbox until Dec. 31st it'll take a few days to get to the recipient), that means you aren't on of the 90 people/families in my address book. You are always welcome to send me your address to remedy this unfortunate circumstance.

  Have you set any goals lately? Do you set parameters that let you know if/when you achieve them? Are they realistic goals and/or parameters? Does fear of failure keep you from setting goals? Have you kept any New Year's Resolutions/goals from years past? I would love to hear about it!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Three Hard Words

"When was the last time you said, 'I need help' to someone?"

Image courtesy of kateen2528 at
This question was posed to me this morning. I could not recall the last time I admitted a need of assistance from someone, not even my husband. For some reason I prefer to pretend that I am self-sufficient. I think part of me feels like I need to do everything myself because of my SAHM title. I'm sure my husband would rather me ask him to help with tasks rather than have a stressed, scattered, tired wife. 

Most people are more than willing to help when asked. I need to change my mindset and realize that life is much more enjoyable with others rather than pretending to live on an island. I lament not having family close by but fail to invite friends to become my local body of support. 

I do ask God for help but it's not asking him to bring helpers to me. Often it's asking him to give me the ability to keep working independently or to be a help to others. Obviously I need to learn how to ask for help and accept offers of help from others. There's nothing wrong with showing vulnerability or admitting I don't always have it all together.

So here's a request for help. How does one change an independent, self-sufficient mindset? Do I seek opportunities to include others in everyday tasks? Do I say yes to more/most offers of assistance? Has anyone else struggled with this and been able to find success/freedom in this area?