Be YOU: Wisdom from an 8 Year Old

BE YOU

I was tired, hot and hangry*.

It was Friday afternoon and we were closing up shop after our Rummage Sale’s second full day of operation. This is our youth group’s largest and most profitable fundraiser of the year and it takes hours upon hours of work to prepare for the event. We’d spent weeks sorting clothes, moving and setting up tables, hanging clothing racks and pricing items and we were all looking forward to it being over.

During the Rummage Sale, the temperatures in our area hit tropical level hotness when only weeks earlier (on Easter morning) snow covered the ground.  Between the heat, the crazy breed of 7AM rummage sale shoppers and the longs hours I was exhausted. All I wanted was a cold shower, a big ole burger and my comfy bed.

That afternoon as I locked up the bay doors to the garage, my best friend’s 8 year old daughter came up to me and with her green eyes wide with excitement asks, “Can I show you something I made for you?”

I growled a “sure” as I continued working. She unrolled a piece of paper and lifted it up near my face in order to get my attention.

BE YOU

I read it out loud back to Grace, “Be You?”

“Yup.” She smiled and skipped away.

“I’ve been struggling to be me since I was her age,” I thought to myself. Now at 31, I still question whether I’m my true self or just some fraud. My eyes constantly noticing the things in others that I seem to lack. From the completely shallow (like the length of my hair or size of my waist) to more weightier topics (like my long list of insecurities).

This has been my constant inward grappling all these years– wanting to fully accept myself with all my dents and bruises while allowing myself to be imperfect. I’d like to be gracious with myself and my short comings and stop badgering my soul. I’ll be the first one to tell you I’m not there yet. I’m still learning to be kind to myself in the process knowing there will be moments that I forget its ok to be ME.

It’s obvious I’m no master at all of this, but I want you to know you don’t have to conform to some kind of mold. You have complete freedom to be you– to be fully you. Whatever that looks like. Silly. Witty. Sassy. Quiet. Inquisitive.

If I’ve learned anything from Grace’s note, its that maybe I should love me as much as others do. They don’t love me because I’m like someone else, but they love me because I’m me. And if others can love me for me….maybe I can love me for me too.

*hangry= Hungry + Angry

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Fake Smiles: How to Be a Good Christian

fake smiles

My face is fairly readable. If I’m angry, you know. If I’m excited, you know. If I’m sad, you know.

For a long time, I was ashamed of that. Don’t good Christian girls keep smiles plastered on their faces all the time regardless of how they feel? I thought that a frozen smile was a mark of self discipline or self control. You may be wondering where I got that–I have a pretty good idea.

When I was a little girl, my grandma would drive me to church with her. I’d spend Saturday night at her house so I was up and ready to leave on time. I’m not sure why that mattered though because she was always the one causing us to be late Sunday after Sunday. In the car, I’d sit silently in the front seat trying to gather my muddled morning thoughts. I hadn’t started drinking coffee yet, so my wake-up time was a bit longer than it is now.

My grandma, on the other hand, is a ray of freakin’ sunshine in the morning. She’s singing along to the Psalty’s sing-a-long cassette tape and I’m zoned out staring out the car window. Each Sunday, she’d turn to me and ask why I wasn’t smiling. She’s never wait for a response, but would immediately proceed with the Sunday school jingle: “Jesus takes a frown and turns it upside down and whooooooops! There comes a smile.”

This didn’t make me smile.

Actually, it pissed me off.

The thing was, I was never intentionally frowning…well, until she sang that song. Then, I was frowning with (what I thought was) good reason.

My grandma didn’t have an easy life. She married young and not very long into her marriage, her husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Over the years, she’d watch him deteriorate from being a tall, strong man to someone who needed help with normal everyday functions. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to carry the financial load of her family, raise her three children and take care of her sick husband, but my grandma always did it with a steadfast faith. I don’t ever remember hearing her complain about how hard it was. Never saw her cry a tear over her difficult life. All I ever saw was a woman who praised Jesus– even early in the morning.

This godly woman was an amazing example to me growing up. That example, albeit it a good one, caused me to believe some things that were unattainable for me.

I believed that a godly woman should smile even when she was hurt or sad.

I believed that being “emotional” was a sign of a lack of discipline.

I believed that being loud wasn’t lady like.

The problem was….or rather is… that I don’t smile all the time. My face shows a range of emotions and as much as I’d like to hide those emotions, my face refuses to co-operate. I am emotional and passionate no matter if its a game of Uno with friends (that’s never friendly) or directing a kid’s summer camp. I’m all in all the time. And I’m loud. My laugh fills up a room and my volume button is usually pretty high. All of those things are me. And if that is the case, if they are my qualities, then I believed I was flawed and I’d never be a good Christian woman.

My thoughts about what a good Christian was supposed to look like was wrong.

Jesus never asked me to be fake or pretend I was feeling OK even when I wasn’t. Jesus never told me to quiet down or to stop being so emotional. Actually, He’s pretty happy with me just the way I am. Not to say that I’m perfect because we all know that I’m not, but to embrace the person God made me to be.

Do you want to know what I think the “formula” is to be a good Christian?

BE WHO GOD MADE YOU TO BE.

No three point sermon to spiritual perfection here. Just one amazing Truth that could bring freedom in your life because you’d no longer be bound by trying to be someone you’re not, but enjoying the perks of being yourself. There’s no shame in that.

Jon Jorgenson: Thoughts on Authentic Love, Worry & Grace

Jon Jorgenson

A few years back, I stumbled across this video: 

The Truth found in this video reached to the depths of my heart. I immediately knew it was God speaking directly to my insecurities and filling my soul with His thoughts toward me. It was eye opening for me then and now. When I find myself discouraged I’ll take the time to re-watch it letting the love of God wash over me.

The writer (and speaker) in the video is Jon Jorgenson. It’s been a great joy to get to chat with him and get to know him. The guy has a desire to seek the heart of God and he does it honestly and with humility. I hope you enjoy getting to know him through this interview, but more importantly, that you’d be encouraged by what God is speaking to him and through him. 

The Common Queen: What are some themes/ideas/lessons God is currently teaching you?

Jon Jorgenson: This may seem somewhat silly and trivial, but it’s actually been pretty profound for me. Currently, the command, “Do not worry” has been heavy on my heart. I am a year out of college now, living in my own apartment in a new city, and for the first time truly responsible for all financial and technical aspects of my life (rent, investing, bills, ect). As a driven creative, busy work like this drives me absolutely insane. I would rather write an entire book than have to drop a check off at the post office. This type of busy work gets me easily overwhelmed to the point where I become stressed, anxious, and generally not so good to be around. So in the last few months, God has been reminding me of His literal command to not worry, and that I can experience His peace even while paying bills.

CQ: In your spoken word, “A Godless Generation”, you talk about the church and how we should be loving authentically. Can you explain that idea a little more? What does authentic love look like?

JJ: I have spent the last ten years being a part of and working with the younger generation of Millenials. The general perception of this generation is they’re entitled, narcissistic, and totally ungodly. So in general, churches and other older Christians spend a lot of time trying to show young people how wrong they are. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is very effective. If you tell a kid they aren’t allowed or shouldn’t do something, chances are they are going to do it. It’s how we’re wired. And this extends beyond just teenagers. The general perception of Christians in the world is that they shame everyone by telling them all they things they’re doing wrong.

Authentic Love is more about freeing others to love doing what’s right. Authentic love looks a lot more like listening than it does talking. It looks a lot more like compassion and empathy than it does judgement. Authentic love means passing up the opportunity to shame someone for their current mistakes, and instead seeing them for who they could be, who God made them to be, and encouraging them towards that. It’s actually one of the things my first book, “Authentic Love” is about.

CQ: I’ve been wrestling with the concept of balancing grace and truth. Some Christians say that too much grace is a bad thing and encourages people to sin. But too much truth comes off as religious and legalistic. What are your thoughts on this?

JJ: I think that one of the signs of a heart that has truly been changed by grace is a genuine hunger for the truth. If anyone is “taking advantage” of God’s grace by forsaking His truth, I would question if their heart has really been transformed. That’s not grace at all, that’s just a rigged vending machine. There’s no real relationship there. Similarly, someone who claims to know “the truth” but then shows no grace is someone who probably doesn’t know the truth at all. Jesus said “I am the truth” and what is Jesus a symbol for more than grace? The two are intrinsically intertwined. One cannot exist without the other.

CQ: You talked about how in high school you put on a Christian masquerade. What brought complete transformation to your life? What was the defining moment?

JJ: After I graduated high school, I was invited back to my old summer camp as a counselor and asked to give my testimony. When I stood before those campers, I knew I had a choice. I could ever lie, and keep wearing my mask as this perfect guy, or I could be honest and let them know that I was struggling, lost in darkness, and full of sin. I chose to tell the truth. When I saw that my choice to be vulnerable actually gave other people the strength to do so as well, and that through mutual vulnerability we could find healing together, that changed everything for me.

CQ: What kind of role do people play in your relationship with Jesus? Those within the church? Those outside it?

JJ: I am far from perfect. I do stupid stuff almost every day, and it’s usually those closest to me that feel the effects of it. My girlfriend, my parents, my sister, my small group, they see the ugliest sides of me all the time. Yet they are always astoundingly quick to show me forgiveness. To me, they are a living representation of what God’s grace looks like when lived out and I am unendingly grateful to them for that.

 

Jon Jorgenson is a writer, actor, and speaker living in New York City. Find more from Jon at www.jonjorgensonblog.com or follow him on Twitter @jonjorgenson. Seriously, do it, he would love to talk to you.

Rest Takes Work

resttakeswork

Seems ironic, doesn’t it?

Rest takes work.

I’m convinced of it. For me it does, anyway.

I have this friend who visits my office periodically. We’ll spend a few minutes catching up on life and ministry events.  Then, without fail, he’ll ask me if I’m taking time to rest.

“Rest?” I laugh.

“Yes, Holly, people do that. God even commanded it. He even rested. You do know its part of the Ten Commandments, right?.”

“Ohhhhhhh….righhhhtttttt. The Ten Commandments. I forgot.” 😉

I try to tease, but my friend is always persistent. Probably because for the past 4 years every time he sees me I’ve got big black circles under my eyes and have a frantic crazed look.

Rest? Eh, I’ll rest when I’m dead I’ve convinced myself. And with that type of thinking it might just put me in the grave faster.

This weekend I spent some time resting. I did absolutely nothing. The only way I could justify my actions (or a few hours of NON-ACTION) was reminding myself that I had been out late the night before and with another late night ahead of me it was OK to just “veg out”.

Unfortunately, this down time left me feeling guilty. Shouldn’t I be doing something. There’s blog posts to write, dishes to wash, bills to pay….the list goes on and on.

Rest doesn’t come easy for me, but I believe it is essential to maintaining an intimate relationship with Jesus. I’m pretty sure He thinks so, too, because He keeps whispering in my ear: You can stop now.

God keeps reminding me of the disciple John. John or the “one whom Jesus loved”, as he refereed to himself in the Gospel he penned, knew something about rest. As he recounts the story of the Last Supper, he mentions how he leaned back on Jesus’ chest. I’m not sure John realized it at the time, but his life was about to get chaotic, to say the least, and those restful moments helped prepare him for what was to come.

So, I’ve got to honestly ask myself:

When is the last time I just leaned on Him?

When is the last time I put my head against His chest and listened to His heart beat?

When I get to Heaven, Jesus isn’t going to ask me to give Him a Powerpoint presentation showcasing all the work I did for Him. He’s going to be most interested in knowing if I knew Him. (And ya, He’ll already know.)

Of course He’ll love listening to my stories about the many summers I spent working with children. He’ll smile as I recount the moments where I found such joy in hearing about their testimonies about the love they had for Him. Like any good friend, He’ll laugh and nod as if its the first time He’s hearing all about it.

But I’m not getting into Heaven based on my logged ministry hours. It’s not based on Sundays spent in the walls of a church. It’s not based on the number of countries I visit offering humanitarian work. It’s not based on how many people read and follow my blog.

What matters in the end is the time I spent with Him. And, as much as I love squeezing Him into my hectic schedule by praying in the car between meetings….He demands more. (Actually, He’s looking for *ALL* but that’s another post)

He’s looking for me to stop awhile and lean on Him. To listen. To soak in His presence. To enjoy Him.

For me, resting might look like taking a few hours to journal with my favorite Starbucks drink in hand, or take a day off and spend it hiking with friends, or play a silly game with siblings or….take a NAP. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that, but we’ve got to allow Him to refresh us and to speak to us in our weary places. He will, too. 

Recently. I’ve heard His voice as I relaxed in a hammock in the Adirondacks or while eating some ice cream with my niece. They weren’t Earth shaking “spiritual” events, just normal every day moments where I slowed down and listened for His heart beat. 

I’ll need to be intentional with my time and I’ll certainly still need my friends to keep me accountable. My schedule won’t magically open up, but I’ll need to start saying no to some things, which is a lot harder than it sounds. It’ll take work, but I’ve never regretted my time with Him. Never once did it feel wasted. 

And from time to time I’ll have to tell my soul: “Rest, Holly. It’s OK.”

 

Shame: God’s Favorite Tool

Oh, it’s not?

Then, why do we keep living (and acting) like it is?

I started attending church as a little golden haired cherubim. My perfect ringlets bouncing with each step into the stone encased architecture. My little hands folded on my lap while I sat on the worn, wooden pew. My eyes clenched shut during each prayer. And I was an angel each year in the Christmas program (even though I always wanted to be Mary).

I participated in sword drills in Sunday School. Sat through every awkward dating/sex talk in youth group. Attended a small, conservative Bible College and then later on a larger, more liberal college where I studied Greek and all things Bible. I feel like I’ve seen a lot. The good and the….not so good.

I’m not here to start finger pointing at my fellow Christian family members because that’s no more Christ-like than the topic I want to discuss. My heart has been softened recently in regards to the Church and I don’t wish to speak ill of it. With all conviction of heart though, I feel like something needs to be said in regards to shame.

Negativity, name calling, shaming (call it what you will) should NEVER be used to spur people on to growth.

I get it, some people are big on “calling out sin”. I call it like I see it. You see the flaw in that kind of thinking is that God speaks things that aren’t as if they were. (Rom. 4:17) You may see a sinner, but He sees a saint. Before you get up in arms, let me reassure you, I am not ok with sin. I just think the finger pointing, “calling out” business is the wrong way to deal with it.

ID-10010949

Let me give you a for instance here to drive the point home on a practical level. It’s real easy to pick on girls who dress “inappropriately”. Sure, no one needs to see cavernous cleavage or butt cheek curvature, but telling those girls they look like whores isn’t going to solve the problem. The more you speak something over a person, the more they are going to act like it, think like it and believe themselves to be it. There’s a deeper issue there than her need to expose her body for attention (or even just her preferred fashion choices). There’s a girl who should be built up and called up higher in love. A girl who should be told she’s treasured and worthy of love. A girl who should be told that she’s loved whether she looks like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or looks like Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie. It’s a worth issue. Bottom line, Jesus loves her booty out and all.

It’s not like I haven’t been the biggest culprit when it comes to this, friends. Let me assure you. I’ve done my fair share of shaming. I’d just rather be a woman who calls worth out of a person instead of clothing them with shame. I want to empower the sinner (ugh, even saying that sounds so religious) with words of freedom. I want to bring a refreshing word to a thirsty soul.