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Holy Day or Holiday?: Getting Serious about the Season

This is Santa Believes by Susan Comish. This post doesn’t seek to explain, exhort or condemn the artist’s work.

Image result for Santa holding a snow globe of nativity scene

I was out Christmas shopping with my roommate when I came across this picture of Santa Claus holding a snow globe with a nativity scene inside it.

A big Santa holding a small nativity scene in a bubble is a powerful statement to me.

The push pull of the holiday season, the competing celebrations of Santa Claus versus the birth of Christ have left many confused. I see friends struggling with the decision of whether or not to teach their kids about Santa. I see them buy all the advent products and try to squeeze the story of Jesus’ birth into their holiday routines. I see people who argue Jesus wasn’t born in December, and Christmas is based on a pagan holiday. It’s hard to miss how many people walk in the tension between Christmas as a holiday and Christmas as a holy day.

A holiday is a day of celebration. It’s a day free from work. It’s a day to spend time doing things we love with people we love. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A holy day is a day in which we do what the Lord has prescribed for us to do in observance of that day. It’s about remembrance, observation, and thankfulness. It is focused on the only one who is holy–that is, the Lord. So is Christmas a day of fun enjoyment with friends and family, to observe the traditions we’ve established with the people we want to observe them with, or is it a time God has set aside for us to remember a certain event and to carry out specific actions the Lord has called us to on this day?

Whether it’s a debate over Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays, red cups at Starbucks, or whether to go to church Sunday morning or stay home to open presents, the holiday season full of pointless debates for the Christian to get into. But are we missing God in our debates?

Have we commodified Christ? Have we reduced His birth to a set of rituals to perform in the midst of a season that celebrates ideals He abhors?

Does it really matter if our Starbucks cups are red and baristas say “Merry Christmas” if we go into debt buying gifts we lie and tell our kids are from a magical man in a red suit? If we sprinkle daily advent reading into the mix of covetousness, short tempers, and selfishness, have we met our Christian quota for the season? As the picture I saw suggested, have we made Santa bigger than the birth of Jesus?

Why are people so quick to go to war over keeping Christ in Christmas when many of them set this same Christ aside unless it’s a “Jesus Holiday”? Why won’t they act as if He’s important and belief in Him is worthy of defense at any other time?

I hear you, fellow Christian woman. I see you drowning in advent calendars and devotions, with your nativity scene beside your Christmas tree full of presents, trying to figure out the logistics of sharing this special time with friends and family. The birth of Christ is important. If He didn’t come, He couldn’t die. His birth is remarkable. But are you making it a footnote to your festive season?

Listen, I’m not a Scrooge or a Grinch. There’s nothing wrong with observing the birth of Christ, giving gifts, or taking time to let people know you love and care about them. What’s awful is letting the world tell us when to read about Jesus’ birth and meditate on it. It’s deplorable when it goes from a life to lead to a ritual to complete in December.  It’s unconscionable when reading about Jesus’ birth during advent season is just another thing to check off our good Christian list, or “Instagram for Christ.” It’s a case of drawing near with lips instead of hearts and doing things to be seen of men instead of from a true reverence for God.

Ask yourself: Am I truly worshipping Jesus and thanking God for Him in this season, or am I making an obligatory trip to ooh and ahh over a new baby? Do I send cards and gifts proclaiming Jesus is the reason for the season, even as I forget Him in the hustle and bustle? Do I forget about Christ until His birthday rolls around again?

Let’s be serious. After the birth of Christ, we don’t see Christ as an infant anymore in scripture. We see Him again at twelve, then thirty. The weight, the awe, the importance, isn’t in the baby, but in the man Jesus–His teaching, living, dying and resurrecting for our salvation.

We observe Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection every day. This is what makes up the gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-4). Every time we take communion, we show  (announce) the Lord’s death until He comes (I Cor. 11:26). There are many scriptures pertaining to observing and announcing the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. This part of the story is what makes it possible for us to have salvation: the shedding of His blood; His victory over death; His ascension to the right hand of God. Christians should live in light of this sacrifice every day, even the day the world lumps His birth in with other holidays.

 

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A Serious Year: 2015 in Review

I’ve been largely absent from the world of social media for most of 2015. 2015 was a challenging year for me. It was the first full year that Altered before the Altar was on the market. I’m excited about the way God has used it to change the hearts and minds of single women and turn them back to Him. I’m hopeful that God will continue to use it.

My word of the year was attendance.

In short, it’s time for me to show up in my own life and participate in that instead of being an audience member in everyone else’s life.

So how did I do with my word of the year? How did I do on my goals? What worked and what didn’t this year? Let’s get into it, shall we?

Perfect Attendance?

How well did I show up in my own life this year? That’s a huge question that took a long time for me to unpack. I moved from my home of four years to a new place in March, then moved again July 31st. At work, my desk has been moved three times in the past year. My boss, department, duties, coworkers, and department structure have all changed. For a slow changer like, this year full of personal and professional changes threw me for a loop.

It was an uncomfortable way to conduct a year for me. I was tempted to call in sick to life this year. A few times I did. I struggled in it mostly because I struggled with it.

When I told God that my word of the year was going to be attendance, it was because I was supposed to be going places that I wouldn’t want to miss being. I was expecting to do some hard things. I expected to be uncomfortable selling Altered before the Altar and speaking at conferences. I was prepared to sit with God’s word and to be called into deeper relationship with Him through it. I was even prepared for moments of doubt and uncertainty. I wasn’t prepared to be tossed about so hard by life in ways I couldn’t control. And because I wasn’t expecting it, the winds of change nearly blew my house down.

Guys, this year was hard. Beyond hard. 

But this year was also amazing and so much more than amazing. 

It’s both because I did show up in my life. I stayed in those hard places. Sometimes I sat in the corner with my arms crossed, pouting and complaining, but I stayed there. Most importantly, I cried out to God in those places. I read His word in those places. I made a big step forward in not complaining so much about everything that felt wrong in my life. For full disclosure, I tanked at not complaining in the little things that happened, particularly at work, but for the most part, I went to the Lord.

I didn’t always do this because I wanted to. This year I really felt the Lord calling me to shut up. I was largely silent on social media, especially the last half of the year. I kept a lot of things between me and God. And without so many people and their opinions muddying the waters, I was able to see very clearly how God moved in situations. I got to trust Him and look to Him for things I’ve run to people for in the past. That was life-changing.

GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

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A fraction of the 500+ women I had to stand before and explain the heart behind Altered before the Altar to…gulp!

I didn’t choose my goals until my birthday, so I still have nearly two months to make them happen. The ones that I’ve already accomplished are: speaking at a conference; shooting at least one YouTube video (I’m counting a Periscope I did for this), and; creating a professional vendor table set up for events. The goals in process are: writing and publishing another book, opening an online shop, learning to create book covers, and; improving my business cards. I’m not sure if I can achieve the rest in two months, but with God all things are possible.

That’s Not Really Working for me…

What worked and what didn’t? It felt like a lot more didn’t work this year than did, but that’s a perception thing. Even though it felt like very little worked, what did work worked  in a major way and was SUPER significant. In order to leave on a positive note, I’ll reflect first on what didn’t work.

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So what didn’t work? Fighting change, only being present, complaining, fleeing situations I didn’t want to be in, being angry and upset, working from a place of competition, trying to be perfect, comparing myself and my efforts to others, and trying to replicate what other people were doing didn’t work for me. Neither did jealously, envy, self-pity, or striving. I didn’t expect this list to be so philosophical or difficult, but there you go.

I Worked It!

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What did work for me? Shutting up, accepting change, bringing my best to life’s worst, pressing in to God, speaking up, recording myself in the car, following inspirational people online, pulling back from social media, speaking in front of women I don’t know, and being courageous in getting Altered before the Altar out to more women worked. I am so humbled by the feedback that Altered before the Altar changed hearts and lives and led many women back to their first love. I loved getting to meet new sisters in Christ.

Another thing that worked was participating in Blurb to Book. I entered a contest with a 100 word blurb and the first page of an inspirational romance and made it all the way to submitting a full manuscript! I was sent a revision letter and have another opportunity get a contract for a fiction book. I would say trying worked for me this year. Trying and failing and being willing to try again.

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out what my word for 2016 is,why I chose it, how it informs my goals, and my goals. 

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Me and my cousin Deloris. Prettiest picture of 2015!
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Of Birthdays & Blessings

Today is my birthday. I’m one of those people who makes a big deal out of birthdays, who counts down to their birthday and tries to plan things to do on said birthday. I love to celebrate other people’s birthdays as well. I just have a heart for celebration, and I don’t think I ever celebrate myself on any other day like I do my birthday.

My birthday is a time of introspection for me, a time when I evaluate my life and decide on what I want to accomplish going forward. It’s a time when I see what has gone pear shaped or crooked and try to develop a plan for fixing it. This, of course, can make my impending birthday a pensive, disillusioning, and vaguely frustrating time as well as a celebratory one.

I see no reason to separate the two. This is the balance of my life, after all. This is my new year, when within the span of twenty four hours I will eat too much and wake up determined never to eat that again; when I will throw all cares to the wind, then wake to carefully gather them up again and try and put a careful plan for life together. I like that dichotomy; it speaks to me.

This year leading up to my birthday has been a bit rough. I had the car accident in January a little over a week into the new year. That whole decision 2012 didn’t turn out as definitively as I planned. I realized I wouldn’t have the extra money I thought paying off my car would get me. I couldn’t get off this schedule at work, and I stalled a little bit on the book. I can say that 2013 wasn’t shaping up to be a good year.

But I made a promise to myself to commit to doing some things differently. I am not sharing what the first thing was, but let’s just say it is a spiritual thing that requires a physical effort. I signed up for a 5K and started doing couch to 5K. I have started back up on the book. I got a new (to me) car. I bought this domain. In spite of the earlier setbacks of the year, I’m moving forward.

The things that I considered setbacks in January, I am already beginning to see their utility and God’s wisdom in His timing and what He has allowed to happen. After my accident, I got to see such an outpouring of love from both my natural and church family. Mr. Perfect (the boyfriend) has been such a support to me during this time; I have truly seen things I asked God to show me about him in the past several weeks. Even though I couldn’t walk out with the car I initially wanted a last weekend, I was able to look around and find the perfect vehichle at an even better rate (an interest rate of almost half the other one) that I was able to drive off with on Friday, just in time for my birthday. God knows what He is doing.

What I usually like to do on my birthday is to make my goals going forward. I use the time before my birthday to evaluate where I am and where I want to be, then move forward with seriously pursuing goals after my birthday. The goals that I have for this year are simple:

  • keep doing that spiritual thing I’ve committed to doing.
  • buy web-hosting and set up my completely bought and paid for website.
  • finish, query, and publish my first book.
  • continue to improve my credit. Pay everything on time and start a savings.
  • become more serious about my faith. I want to have a more regular prayer and Bible study life.
  • take better care of the things God has already blessed me with–health, job, car, my body, my hair.
  • Run a 5K. I want to run the entire time.
  • Convert people to Christ.
  • Encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • Cherish and talk to my family members more. If the past few years of sickness in the family has taught me, time with them is precious.
  • Develop a regular posting schedule.
  • Trademark and copyright what I need to.
  • Learn patience. There are some things I am having to wait for, but I haven’t always been waiting with grace.
  • Recognize answers to prayers, even when they aren’t 50 ft. neon sign type of answers.
  • Become a wife. As a member of the church, I am a bride of Christ. I having been using this time to develop the attributes of a wife to Him. I’ve been planning the wedding but not the ultimate marriage to Him. (A post to come on this soon). I heard someone say recently that the Bible says when a man finds a wife, not a woman, as in she already has the attributes of a wife. It was one of those moments when you hear something you’ve heard forever, yet it strikes you as if you are hearing it with full comprehension for the first time. I would like to develop into a wife and be found. This one is a two-fold goal.
  • Lose some weight. I’m not putting a number out there.
  • Buy a scale. 🙁
  • Add more recipes to my repetoire.
  • Grow.

Do you make a big deal out of your birthday? How do you view your birthday? What are your goals for this year of your life?

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One Year later…

In my infinite wisdom, I’ve decided it would be rather fun to write a letter to myself to be read a year from now in honor of my birthday. I did this my junior year of high school and read the letter my senior year, and it was interesting how my perspective had shifted. It was even more interesting to see what did and didn’t come true, what was important enough to include in the letter, and my overall outlook on life then. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to share with you the fun letter. The more serious letter will be scheduled for my birthday next year, to be read then.

Dear 2blu,

This is your barely 27 year old self talking. Eery, isn’t it? It’s like a voice from the grave. How many people can say they’ve heard a word from the past that was directed at them? Anyway, thanks to our penchant for writing and prolific nature, you get to read and get all caught up on 9-26 any time you want to; just open a journal or a browser, and there they are in all their glory. You may have read about that missive that 17 wrote to 18 back in the day. As anal as we/you are, you probably have it somewhere. 26 thought it would be fun to do that again, and she was supposed to do it yesterday, but she was too busy planning her own funeral and setting things in order, so she asked me to do it. See? Already, we are more timely with me at the helm. Now, the purpose of this letter isn’t to leave you with fond memories of me, but to provide you with a self-evaluation tool before you “eat the big one” “push up daisies”–you get the picture…and for me to be nosy from a distance.

Am I married? Please tell me I’m married. I always wanted to be married. I mean, I know I’m only seven hours old, but that’s long enough to know you’re own mind, right? Was it a big wedding? Did I get to keep my color scheme and touches? What was the first dance song? Planning a wedding would be so much easier without a husband, wouldn’t it? Oh, no, you didn’t miss anything; at the time of this writing, I’m not engaged, but 26 wanted to have a vision of her day (she’s probably the only 26 who didn’t have a vision, despite all of those wedding shows) in case she was proposed to, so she didn’t have to plan for a year and a half before FINALLY marrying. She liked to think of herself as organized. Ha!

How does my hair look? 26 left me with awful hair my first day. I’m hoping to leave you looking better than 26 left me. It’s not completely her fault; she left me better than 25 left her, even lost a few pounds. 26 was pretty awesome, all told. Jumpstarting our career, getting involved in the community, finding her voice and asserting herself–everything but taking care of herself (and, by extension, us). Hopefully, I at least had something done to my hair before you came to be. The goal is to lose a few pounds, of course, but we’ll see how that goes. Eat better, yada yada yada.

Hopefully, I’m a published and well respected author when I die. That’s been the goal of everyone from, like, 8 through to me. Everyone has had their challenges and setbacks, but really? How long does it take to write a few books? Everyone was a good writer (with me being the best, obviously). Seriously, I may not get to the promised land with you, but I plan on leaving you a finished book to shop around at the very least. I like to pull my weight in this life, you understand?

I suppose I should try to say something profound, or give you some real markers to judge my success and guide you in the future. As a co-worker likes to say, I want to “memorialize” my plans for the future, and give you some advice.

  1. We have to take better care of this body. It’s the only one we’ve got, and when I got it, it looked a little worse for wear. It will be harder for you, and each succeeding year, so I’m starting on doing that now. You’re welcome.
  2. Make time for us. Hello! If 2blu isn’t taken care of, who will be here to take care of all she takes care of? I’m definitely doing more yoga, more cooking, more running, more stress relieving/feel good activities than 26 did. I want to save the world, too, but charity starts at home. Remember that.
  3. I will write that book. Point blank period.
  4. I want to have sex. What? I will do it the right way, in the bonds of marriage. If I don’t make it there, have lots of sex for me. No body issues, either. I don’t want to die from trying to hold my stomach in, or be thinking about the cottage cheese on my thighs. A woman has to feel sexy at some point in her life.
  5. Take a more earnest heed to the things you were taught, lest at any time you should let them slip. Don’t neglect so great a salvation…you (should) know all these scriptures. Keep God first no matter what. Married, single, single indeed. I plan on having a much more personal relationship with God than 26, and you should strive to beat me.
  6. I won’t die if I’m not married…well, I’m going to die anyway a year from now, but you know what I mean. We won’t die if this romantic relationship doesn’t work out the way we want it to. I mean, you know what 26 said, don’t you? She kind of screwed it up for us.
  7. I have no real friends. Ok, that’s an exaggeration. I have a few real friends. That’s fine. I won’t be as big of a doormat as 26. I won’t maintain those toxic relationships. Hopefully I make you a lot of quality friends…not all of them online this time though. Every girl should have some friends she can pinch so she knows it’s real.
  8. I’m going to be the big girl and do a lot of the INEBIGTDIA stuff. You’re welcome.
  9. 26 got us to our first annual salary goal; I’m going for even more!
  10. I know I seem all about business, but I’m going to be a lot more fun than any of the others were. And by this time next year, you’ll find me casket sharp and put away nice.

Love,

27

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Putting 26 Away Nicely…

Remember when people used to plan to “put (themselves) away nice”? They had their insurance policy in an easy to get to place, picked out their casket and what they wanted to wear to their funeral. They didn’t want their family to have to worry about anything when they died except grieving and moving on. Well, that’s what I would like to do for my 26 year old self. I want to put it away nicely without leaving a bunch of things for 27 to deal with later.

Even though I feel fine, my health quite possibly sucks. I say quite possibly because I have no idea. I haven’t been to the doctor since…well, that depends on what you mean by been to the doctor. If we are talking about a primary care physician…we have to go back to like 16 or 17. I’ve seen the people in PUSH (student health center) and at Centra Care a couple of times, but I haven’t been to a general physician in a LONG time. Confession: I’ve never been to the “lady doctor”–not once. Not. Good.

So, I’m scheduling a check up for myself. I need one. I have night terrors. If you have no idea what those are, look it up; you will probably be a bit horrified. The short version is feeling like you’re dying in your sleep and you can’t wake up. So, I’m going to find a primary physician and make an appointment. I’m not excited, but I’m going to do it anyway (INEBIGTDIA).

Several things have fallen under the INEBIGTDIA category lately. I guess that’s part of being a “grown up”? I’ve been having a lot of conversations that I’d rather not have, confronting situations I’d rather bury my head in the sand on. Trying to clear the way for 27 to have a better life than 26 had. It’s not just the health thing, although I have been going to the gym and cooking more at home. It’s pulling out all of the bills and making a plan to get back on track financially. It’s discussing with MensHealth where this relationship is going. It’s trying to advance at work and learn transferable skills. It’s growing spiritually, moving closer to God.

There’s a lot that I could say about my relationship, my friendships, my financials, my health, my faith, my year. I want to make sure I say the most important things here. The most important things are these:

  • Even though it’s been a hard year, it’s been a growing experience.
  • I could have done a lot better than I did in some areas, but that means there is room for improvement.
  • I made some great strides in the year of 26 professionally.
  • I was a lot less selfish, doing things that had no benefit to me personally other than the feeling of being the change I wanted to see.
  • I’m still not married.
  • I got to see my little brother graduate from high school
  • I finally did something about (half of ) my teeth, including surviving an extraction.
  • My focus wasn’t always where it should have been.
  • I didn’t take care of myself nearly enough…and it became evident that this needs to change.
  • I finally learned to speak up for myself a bit without stepping on someone else.

I have high expectations for 27. I am going to push 27 to be better than 26. No company ever brings out a model that has more problems than the previous model;  the goal is for each model to be a vast improvement on the first. I’m excited to see what this year has in store, even if it’s a little intimidating, with a lot of  INEBIGTDIA.

Any advice you want to give me about turning 27? Want to wish me an early happy birthday (my birthday is TOMORROW)? Want to inspire me with how you changed your life? Leave me a comment, or email me at 2blu2btru4u@gmail.com.

2blu2btru

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Your Last Three Things

When I went to my aunt’s seminar a couple weeks ago, we were asked to complete an exercise. We were to write five choices for each of the following: people you love, things you like to, body parts, things you value, and values you admire. Then we were told a story. During the course of this story, we were asked to cross things off our list. It was easy to see that the longer this went on, the more anxious people got.  It became harder and harder. I can’t speak for other people, but I started to freak out thinking about what I could afford to get rid of next.

Pretty soon, we only had three things left on our list. These are the things that we thought the most vital. I’d given up my mouth (can eat through a feeding tube and write what I want to say) and writing had recently been cut. Staring down at the final three, it was hard not to feel sadness at what was lost, yet relieve to still see your absolute essentials.

“Cross off your final three,” the speaker said in a quiet voice. I felt an almost crushing sadness at this. It was painful crossing them out. Even though this was just an exercise, it was difficult to do.

I’m introspective person. I always have been. I am all about evaluating yourself & your motivations, questioning whether something is a need or a want. This is necessary to keep everything from becoming a need, from getting selfish and thinking it is all about us and anything less than perfection is beneath us, but this…this is where the rubber meets the road.

How high is your relationship with your significant other on the list? God? Your children? Your friends?

But let’s talk about some a little less panic inducing. Let’s focus on those other lists we keep. If you’re single, you have a list of things you want in a mate (conscious and concrete, aka written down, or not). If you are married, I’m sure you can think of things you’d like to improve in your relationship. You may even have a list of ways to improve your spouse. We have list of ways we can make our lives better, or things we want to do before we die.

My suggestion to you is this: write those things down, and get rid of all but the three most important. Then work on bringing them about. If having a mate that has a sense of humor makes the cut, nurture your funny bone by taking in a comedy show or improv night; you may meet a guy with a good sense of humor, and even if you don’t, someone made you laugh. If you want to have better communication with your mate, read the previous entry with the counselor on communication and practice implementing. Some of the techniques described. Make concrete plans to cross something off your bucket list.

The main takeaway from this exercise (which was, by the way, a session on grief) was to realize the value of the things we say are important to us before we lose them.

Share some of your list items in the comments section or email me: 2blu2btru4u@gmail.com.

XOXO

2blu2btru

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Taking Stock & Taking Shape

The story that I related in Yours, Mine, & Ours, as well as some other things going on in my life (and in my head) have gotten me to change focus a bit as far as the marriage kits book I’m working on. If you’ve noticed a dearth in posted interviews or topical posts on marriage, this is why. I’ve been trying to decide what I wanted to do with the book part of it, and what I wanted to share here. But back to the change in focus.

All of this time that I’ve been asking all of these people all of these questions, there has been one question (and quite possibly only one) I could answer myself: What did you learn about marriage growing up. As per usual, my answer is not a short and sweet one, but rather a lengthy one, citing several different episodes that have influenced my thinking on the subject. Once I started trying to parcel out all of the examples of marriage and the experiences that have led me to look for certain things in a marriage relationship, I realize how important those experiences are to what this book is about.

The only thing is, many of these stories involve other people, some who other people won’t be able to identify, and others whom they can. So of course I have to figure out how not to get sued if this idea ever actually becomes a book.

It’s hard not to be…delicate with myself. I have to tell all the truth but tell it slant, as Emily Dickinson wrote. I’m only telling the truth as it pertains to my perception of what marriage is supposed to be or ought to be, not what it is. I’m also going to have to tell some things about myself and my own thought process that I’d rather not.

I remember when I first started to have a little inkling of an idea to write about marriage in a non-fiction way–this was even before Mr. Perfect–I was at Red Lobster with my minister & his wife, the couple from It’s Only Love That Gets You Through (whose interview is coming, I promise!),  Elder #1 & his wife (maybe–or elder #2; this was over 4 years ago), and some other people. All married couples–and me. Of course the topic of marriage came up, as well as submission. I’ve never been shy to answer anything and justify it, so I gave my answer when asked (I only vaguely remember the question). I remember my minister laughed at me. “That’s how you think it’s going to be in marriage?” he said between giggles. Mrs. Loving smiled at me knowingly. It was very funny to everyone. I don’t think they were amused by my ideas; just that I thought it was as simple as that.

So, I’m doing a little interior discovery at the moment. How much of that will end up here, I don’t know. But I am interested in hearing from you guys. What did you learn about marriage growing up, either directly (through speech or seeing) or something you inferred from what you saw/experienced?

XOXO

2blu2btru

P.S. In case you’re wondering–the Camp NaNoWriMo story is going really well; the word count…well, let’s not talk about the word count. 🙂

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Wednesday Wisdom: Defensive Stance

You know how some people just have a knack for offending people? Most of the time they don’t mean to offend anyone, but they always seem to have their foot in their mouth. When people walk off in a huff or confront them about it, they stand there, mouth agape, going “What did I say/do now?” Whether it’s talking about how bad your children are, how contradictory your behavior is, telling you your hair is a mess or that you’ve put on weight, they always seem to say the wrong thing. They appear to think honesty is the best policy, and the more blunt the observance is, the better. Unless you say “Be honest with me” or “tell me what you really think about…,” you really don’t want all of that honesty. But who really has the problem?

Yes, some people are hopelessly rude and some of those rude people relish their rudeness. However, many of us are too busy being defensive to realize maybe we need to hear some of the things they are saying, no matter how callously the wisdom is being imparted.

My minister was preaching about some harsh realities on Sunday. He was saying that if Jesus was alive in our day and time, he wouldn’t be popular with Christians today. There are things he asks us to do that we simply don’t want to adhere to, and not all of them are the sins we immediately point to, such as not fornicating or committing murder. Jesus is concerned with the heart as much as, or even more so, than the actions/acts that people perform to show their Christianity. I’m paraphrasing (it is Wednesday, y’all), but my minister said something along the lines of “stop being so easily offended and defensive. Don’t get defensive about everything. Think about it and take it in.”  

This was brought home to me watching “The Braxton Family Values” last night. The Braxtons are dealing with some major issues, specifically Trina. Everyone is worried about Trina. Trina has been drinking heavily and seems to be having trouble with her marriage. She got a DUI at the beginning of the episode. She’s put on twenty pounds. She doesn’t want her family in her business. Of course, all of this leads her family to speak to the family therapist.

When Trina is confronted by them, she deflects everything they say. “Mothers worry. She’s my mom and I’m a mother. That’s what we do: worry,” she dismisses her mother’s concerns. As the particularlyvocal.com (show inside joke) Tamar “goes in” on all of the recent causes for alarm with Trina, including Trina’s husband, Trina shuts down and deflects even more. “I can handle my problems,” she says. “Stay out of my business.” “I feel attacked and ambushed.”

As heartily as I disagree with the mountain lion-esque pounce of Tamar’s attack, she was telling her sister some home truths. Getting a DUI is not being in control. Drinking heavily is not solving your problems; it’s running away from them. Many of us are too busy shooting the messenger to receive the message.

I’m a sensitive person. It’s easy to hurt my feelings. But I’m also an introspective person. I turn over every criticism in my mind and evaluate the validity of it. One of the reasons I haven’t put aside The Denzel Principle is because I can chew it over mentally and really search out if there’s any validity in the statements. If there is, what can we do about it? If there isn’t, what causes the author to reach this conclusion? 

The summer after I graduated high school, my dad came to take me to a Day on Campus. I had called him and asked him to come and take me because I thought it would give us a chance to bond. I had to pick a date, sign up, and spend the day on campus, registering for classes, getting my school ID, and etc. I kept calling my dad to set up a date, but he was never sure of his schedule.

 One day, he just called and said he was at my house (I was across the street at an aunt’s house). He was all set and ready to go. The problem was we weren’t signed up for a date, and I couldn’t just show up. My dad and I had a big disagreement over it. I had Pink Susie call him, as my mother and I weren’t able to say anything to him about it without being deflected. He had lived with her from the time he was a teenager to adulthood, so I figured she could get through to him.

My dad was livid. “Listening to your mother and your aunt, you’re going to wind up stuck in [my hometown] pregnant!” I can’t remember all of the things he said, but that one stuck out. I was hurt, and angry, and ready to immediately reject the statement out of hand. Instead, like these things tend to do, it seeped into my mind. I had to look it head on and ask myself, was he right?

Of course, the answer was no. Even if I were to be stuck in my hometown, I had given myself to Christ five years beforehand. It was always a priority for me to save myself until marriage, “stuck” in a dying town or not. If I had to stay where I was, there was a great school not far from home. I could get to the Day on Campus with him, or I’d get there without him.

I went to Day on Campus with my Aunt Jacquie (who was so instrumental in my life, and someone I miss very much) and everything worked out fine. My dad and I have a better relationship now. I’m twenty-six with no children and no prospects (LOL). I have my degree, a job, and live in a completely different state. My dad’s words didn’t apply to me, but I’m glad I didn’t dismiss them out of hand. They would have always been back there haunting me if I hadn’t confronted that assertion head on.

The fact is, some of you have unruly children. You are making poor decisions. You think you are living how God wants you to and you’re not. True, not everything someone has to say about you is true, and not all criticisms or advice they think pertains to you truly does, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it without examination. This is especially true if you keep hearing the same things from different people.

I have a friend, Dawn*, who asked me once if I thought she was…let’s just say, a mean female person. She had lost some friends and had been told she was offensive, etc. She was just being honest, in her opinion, and was wondering if there was something wrong with her. After all, it can’t be all of them. I told her honesty is good; I wouldn’t encourage anyone to lie. However, maybe a different approach was needed.

Ultimately, after some self introspection, she decided she was who she was, and that whole “tell the truth in love” thing didn’t always work for her. To me, that’s fine. She looked at what people had to say, examined herself, tried something new, and ultimately decided that she was more comfortable with the way she was originally.

Bottom line: Don’t just take a defensive stance when someone has a criticism or observance of you that’s unfavorable. Don’t spend so much time feeling attacked and defensive, deflecting and dismissing the possibility that there’s any truth to what’s being said. Allow yourself to take it in. Work with what applies to you and dismiss what doesn’t. Don’t let your pride or your hurt feelings keep you from growing into a better person and correcting things in your life. Don’t let feeling ambushed keep you from getting the help you need.

At least, that’s my two cents. Leave yours in the comment section.    

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Freestyle Friday: The On Time Edition

Thomas Longboat (Cogwagee), an Onondaga distan...
Thomas Longboat (Cogwagee), an Onondaga distance runner Image via Wikipedia

Good morning, Friends & Neighbors! It’s been a long time since I actually wrote and posted a Freestyle Friday on the Friday in question. Life has gotten the better of me the last few weeks, but I’m taking the advice of a valued mentor and not letting things stress me out or overwork me. Part of that includes making some time for me and my blog!

After the Education Workshop this weekend, life will return to normal for me–just the usual chaos. In the meantime, I wanted to make sure you had plenty of reading to tide you over. Take a moment to see where I’ve filled in the holes so far on my post a day challenge, and check back frequently for more quality posts you may have missed (because they weren’t there before…ahem).  I can’t wait to get started on some exciting projects I have coming up in the future. I will share more later, but for right now, just know that once this workshop has been successfully completed, I’ll be focused on doing big things here!

I bring to you Link Love for the week of March 18 (my mommy’s birthday :D)-March 24 (Thursday):

I’ve been really focused on running this week, since I’ve recently gotten back into attempting to run. As many of you know, I had a bad run on Monday. Marasimon on A Runner’s Life had a bad run as well, but she chose to look at it from a different perspective. While I’ve hesitated to call myself a runner, Laura of At Bleak December, asserts she is a runner (but she sometimes takes walk breaks). Steve Burns shared his memories of the L.A. marathon from the same year Rodney King was beaten in L.A., the same marathon Skinny Runner recaps on her blog. The thought of a marathon is too big and unwieldy to fit into my little head, so let’s move on to some dating and relationship posts…

You know that girl at the bar that appears to be brimming with confidence? What’s her deal? Jamie explores that girl on her blog As Jamie Writes it. There’s another girl at the bar: the one who knows more about sports and intimidates men. Her name is Deidree and she blogs at Help! I’m Post-Grad. There’s one question that both of these types of women at the bar have come to dread: “Can I Get Yo’ Numba?” IAmAwkward relates a funny story about this most dreaded question. Catherine, who writes Simply Solo, seems to take this whole “relationship” thing much more seriously; she is approaching it as a job interviewing process; she even has her dating resumé handy, just in case.  Amarieadhis poses the question “Should Women Propose to Men?” on her blog That Bad *&^%$. Finally, I’m sure many of you who get tired of hearing relationship advice sometimes want to say, “Take Your Own Advice“; SunnyDelyte21 says it on her blog Spoken Words & Thoughts. All of this relationship stuff is a little heavy on the romantic love, though. What about real friendship, self-reflection, inspiration, posts to live by?

Sunshine finally got to meet fellow blogger Renée in London, and discovered they got on “Like Old Friends.”  Decibelbelownormal explores the desire to go “From Adulthood to Kidulthood” from her friend’s perspective as well as her own on Decibelbelownormal. Culturesoup gets similarly introspective in the post “My 20s so far.” Life often doesn’t turn out the way we dream it would, so “Why Dream?” EvolvingElle contemplates this on Southern Girl in the City. Katias Double Life provided a double dose of spiritual encouragement with “Living Water” and “Reminder

If you haven’t checked out What is Black? Part 1 & Part 2 on EvolvingElle’s blog, you are missing out!

That’s all the link love I have for you on this Friday. What do you think of these posts? Feel free to comment, leave me some love, and refer a friend to this site and the sites highlighted. Have a great Friday!

XOXO

2blu2btru

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It’s My Birthday!

Sretan rodjendan2
This is so pretty! Image via Wikipedia

I’m going to break with the theme of the month–love, romantic relationships, dating, marriage–and talk about something completely different: it’s my birthday! This is not one of those milestone birthdays (I’m 26), but I thought it was noteworthy enough to break into regularly scheduled programming.

Before I wax philosophical about the passage of time, please note that I have filled in all the posts I missed last week (I still have a few to do for this week). Please look over those and comment! Comment everywhere; it’s my birhtday, after all 😉 OK, on to waxing.

I, like many other people in my generation, am suffering from a Quarter Life Crisis (yes, it exists. I didn’t believe it existed, either, until I saw support groups and a wikipedia entry on it. There’s a book and everything). I feel behind in every aspect of my life–where I want to be in my career (not a full-time writer, or at least well paid to do something else I equally enjoy, no book published), financially (hello, student loans!), romantically/personal life (no rings, no husband, no kids), or spiritually (of course, if I were where I wanted to be spiritually, I’d just move that goal post out again, wouldn’t I?). There are times when I look over my life and all I see, in bright, 20 stories high neon letters, are the words EPIC FAIL. It’s easy to get maudlin thinking of all the things you could have, should have, or would have done had you had the 20/20 vision hindsight provides way back when.

But what I also realize is that I’m not dead yet. My life doesn’t end here. There’s still so much more of the story left. I can still accomplish the things I want to accomplish. I hold myself to a very high standard and impose impossible deadlines on life events as if I really have the final word on what happens. Even I can’t predict changes in the publishing market or the economy. I can’t make people accept my book/short stories. There are some things that are just outside of my control. As long as I am progressing, I am not failing.

Besides, there were some wonderful things back there in my past. I graduated college. I got a job. I moved out on my own. I was published. I wrote great things. I overcame obstacles and circumstances that could–no, have–crushed weaker people. There’s nothing wrong with where I am, but that doesn’t mean I have to stay here. Moreover, if I hadn’t went through all of those obstacles, challenges, and setbacks, I wouldn’t be the person I am, or have the memoir in me that I have to write.

There are so many things I can choose to focus on. Today, I’m choosing to focus on the victories, big and small: a three year relationship, a good job with great benefits, my own place to call home, the wonderful gift/ability of writing, mental health, loving friends and family, and a new opportunity to do and be more than I was before. Also, the fact that no calories I consume today count (;-)), I have the day off tomorrow, there’s good music on my iPod (even if there ISN’T on the radio), and I have several more male guest posts (that they are going to get to me soon, yes?). The marriage kits will be up (I’ve been writing introductions and transcribing audio and handwritten notes!). 

I’m thankful for steady (and growing!) blog followings, twitter followers, facebook fans, and supporters who keep asking me when my book(s)/writings are going to come out. I’m working on it! 😀

So, in short, I’m fantastic, you’re all fantastic, and happy birthday to me!

The year that I’m 26 is going to be my best yet!

XOXO

2blu2btru