It Starts With Hello.

The past couple of weeks I have spent some time thinking about all of the truly great people that I have in my life.  Specifically, the friendships I have formed over the years that continue to be special to me.  Regardless of how little or how much I see some of these friends, whenever I see them or am able to catch up via a phone call or text I am filled with so much joy.

I’ve also started thinking about how I’ve met these people, and what it is that has made these friendships stick.  Obviously chemistry plays a role in all of this… sometimes you meet someone and you instantly know: this is going to be good.

But that’s not always the case.  In fact, I would say quite rarely is that the case, because let’s be real here… if I had chemistry with THAT many people instantly I probably wouldn’t be single right now, and I definitely wouldn’t be writing this post.

A lot of the time it takes effort.  There’s action required to meet new people.  Like, for instance, starting with “hello”.  It might be a maturity thing or maybe it’s a personality thing… Or maybe it’s a little of both.

But it is also an intentionality thing.

You have to make the choice to connect with people.  You also have to make the choice as to HOW you connect with people.  For some it will come more naturally, and others it requires more thought and practice… but ultimately we choose how much or how little we interact with one another.  We also choose to what depth we connect to those around us.

As I look back on these friendships I’ve grown increasingly grateful of, it’s been eye-opening to realize how many of them would not be what they are today if it weren’t for them choosing to invest in me, or if I hadn’t chosen to invest in them.

What’s even more eye-opening is when you realize that at some point along the road, one person invested in the other even when it was not reciprocated.  I’ve certainly had friendships where I’ve invested in a person without the same level of investment returned to me.  I’ve also had many (oh so many) friends who have chosen to invest in me even when I didn’t return it in the same capacity, and that is one of the greatest gifts those people have given me.  Presence is a powerful thing.

You know what that’s called?  Selflessness.  Spiritually?  That’s called being Christ-like.

And it speaks volumes.  You may not realize it in the moment and you may not even realize it for years, but when you look back and see how being intentional with people has impacted the depth and quality of the relationships you have with those around you, you will want more of it.

I guess I write all of this to remind you and myself that we all have a choice to make.  Will we settle for waiting on others to make the first move, to start the conversation, or to make something meaningful happen?  OR… will we be the ones setting an example of intentionality in our lives by the way we cultivate genuine, meaningful relationships that have depth and value threaded throughout them?

I’ll let you decide.

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We Were Made For This

Sometimes I run across blog posts I started months, even years ago.  This is one that I found in hiding in the dusty stacks of my WordPress drafts from early 2012, and as I am re-reading it I was kinda amazed at how this is something I could have easily written today.

We Were Made For This

I like to be inspired… I think pretty much every creative person on the planet appreciates a good source of inspiration.  If there is a lack of vision for what I’m doing, my productivity decreases significantly.  I actually really hate that about myself some days, because on the days where there’s a lack of inspiration, it’s like pulling teeth to get me to sit at a desk, in a cubicle, next to other people…. sitting at desks, in cubicles.  Kill me now.

However, on the days where I’ve been inspired or get to work on something that has a motivating vision behind it, it can be exhilarating (yes, exhilarating) to be sitting at that desk.  The more I’ve gone through this process of working a new job, I’ve learned more about the things that “turn me on” to a project.  Here are a few of those things:

1.) Is there an inspiring and compelling, yet tangible, vision?
If yes, count me in!  I work for things I understand… things that stir something inside of me, that get me excited, and make me say, “YES.  I want to be a part of THAT…. I understand what the goal is, what the expectations are, and I can see myself contributing in these ways: __________.”

 

2.) Is there going to be competition or collaboration?
If competition – count me out!  I reserve competitiveness for the volleyball court… not my job.  If collaboration – count me in!  I love, love, love to collaborate in a healthy environment that doesn’t compete for the best idea, but rather openly discusses and compiles a multitude of ideas that become one great idea.

 

3.)  Is there room for my creativity to be used / appreciated?
I say this as humbly as possible.  I know I’m not always going to be the most brilliantly creative person on a team… but I know occasionally I have good ideas… sometimes even great ideas.  I also know that when I’m given the trust of my co-workers, I usually thrive creatively (and productively).  Instead of having to conjure up creativity for the sake of proving my ability to be creative, I simply AM creative.  In that same environment, I am unafraid to ask questions or to admit my limits… I become more free, inspired, collaborative, open, willing, adaptable, flexible, and incredibly passionate.

 

Now I’ve figured out what makes me want to say YES.  Over the past month or so, God has slowly been revealing to me how he’s equipped me to do the jobs he’s asked me to say YES to.  Some of these skills are ones I have possessed for a while… maybe my entire life… but I’m just now beginning to understand what it means to have those skills, and how to properly put them into action in different environments.  Not-so-oddly enough, those skills/passions often match up with opportunities God has given me that I want to say YES to.

Not always… there are definitely times where I would rather be at home, sleeping (or something equally unproductive).  But, I tend to believe that while God doesn’t promise us a shiny, happy, worry-free life… he does create us with passions, personalities, and preparedness that he wants to utilize.  I don’t think he made me musical so that I can sit in an office and crunch numbers without some source of creative outlet…. and I don’t think he made my accounting co-worker passionate about numbers so she can be a public speaker (something she would hate.)  Not saying that God couldn’t enable us to do those things… but why create a person one way, and then move them into a completely different direction than the job they were created perfectly for?

We are to hold loosely to our goals and dreams and passions and desires so that we can offer them to God for his glory and his purposes… but we also can’t shy away and be scared to take hold of the opportunities that seem to have your name written all over it.  We need to learn to walk in our identity.  It is when we do this that we can feel inspired, motivated, and freed.  You know, those moments where you can’t help but feel like, “Yeah, I was made for this.”

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(Side thought:  if you are a leader in any capacity – do you enable the people you lead to use their unique abilities, or do you expect them to transform themselves to fit what you think they should be?  Most leaders do the latter… I encourage you to work on putting into practice the former.  Let the job be transformed to fit the person, not the other way around.  This doesn’t mean the actual “duties” have to change…. but can the work environment, communication, and accountability be tailored so that a person is at their maximum productivity level and feels truly appreciated & supported?  Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, as well.)

 

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Great Are You Lord

Loved leading this song by All Sons & Daughters last weekend for worship at Saddleback Church in Dana Point with my dear friend Jenny Balagna.  I’ve been recording our worship sets on my iPhone so I can listen back later to self-critique and improve as a leader, worshiper, musician, and singer.  I thought this recording turned out pretty well, and I love this song, so I thought I’d share it today.  Have a listen!

“Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters
Led by:  Jenny Balagna, Megan Sauder, and Nathan Morse

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No Fear In Love

Several weeks ago I pulled out my sketch book and made a little drawing…

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No Fear in Love.

This phrase has been on my mind lately. It comes from 1 John 4:18, which says this to us:

There is no fear in love.
But perfect love drives out fear,
because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Can I be real with you for a second? Sometimes love scares the hell out of me.

Loving God scares me. Allowing Him to love me is scary. Loving others scares me. And letting others love me is scary.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t love well enough, and I fear letting others down because of my inability to love perfectly. Other times I feel like if others really knew all of me… the ugly, sinful parts of me… that they wouldn’t love me at all because of my imperfection. And I think most of all, I often feel like if I “put myself out there” and open myself up to loving someone, that I will always be faced with rejection or hurt. (In a brutally honest way, this is actually true… at least the part about being hurt. We are always bound to be hurt in some way by the people we love and the people who love us. Because we are human.)

Lest there be confusion, this isn’t a single girl’s lament on falling in love with a man. This definitely applies to that part of my life, but that is only a portion of what I hope to convey here. I am talking about every kind of love, with every kind of person. I’m talking about relationships that stem from family, friendships, romance, neighbors, coworkers, enemies, the lost and hurting.

The beautiful thing about being in love with God, however, is that He offers us perfect love despite our imperfect selves. I’ve not always found it easy to love God… it sometimes seems too good to be true. Sometimes I distrust God’s love for me, and often I forget that He already know every. single. part. of me…. He already knows the ugly, sinful parts of me, and still chooses to love me with reckless abandon and relentless pursuit. I have nothing to hide from him. Even when I am not walking in the fullness of who God made me to be, He knows the true me and He loves the true me. He sees my potential even when I’m disappointing him. He keeps his promises even when I break mine. He sees beauty when all I see is a girl who falls short time and time again. He loves unconditionally when I let fear get in the way of true love.

Going back to the sketch. I was inspired by the song “No Fear In Love” by Steffany Gretzinger. It is so beautiful. The first time I put it on repeat and wept quietly as I drew. It’s an incredibly simple, beautiful song and something in the words made my heart leap into prayer. Even as I’m writing this I’m having a hard time even knowing how to describe why this song hits me so powerfully… it just does. So rather than try to explain it, I’m just going to close this post with the lyrics and the song for you to hear.

Let it become a prayer over your life, over your love.

Stir in me a love that’s deep,
A love that’s wide, a love that’s sweet
And help me Lord to never keep it to myself
And if my heart should dimly burn
And if my feet should fail to run
Call my name and I will come right back to You
‘Cause there’s no fear in love.
Steffany Gretzinger

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Life In Abundance // In The Waiting

We’ve lost the art of patience.  We live in a world where things are instant, and sometimes we expect God to be an instant God.  Waiting seems unfair and unnecessary, and we start to doubt whether or not God is going to come through.  However, I often look back and realize the things that require waiting are the things most worth waiting for, because it is in the waiting that we learn to be content when we are “without”.

Without.

Isn’t it so easy to feel like we are lacking?  It is so easy to feel like there is something we are missing out on, something we are waiting for, something that once it arrives, then we can be content.

And yet Jesus says that he came so that we might have life, and have it abundantly.  (John 10:10)  Whether we are in the waiting or are without, God still offers us life in abundance.

So that means despite the circumstances in my life I’m not thrilled about, and the things I wish I had…. I still have life, in ABUNDANCE.  

And you know what?  I fully believe it.  My life is meaningful, valuable, purposeful, and irreplaceable.  God wouldn’t have bothered creating me if that weren’t true… and he wouldn’t have bothered creating you if it weren’t true for you as well.

We may go through extremely difficult seasons where we feel lost or confused, with no one who understands us or supports us.  I have had my fair share of these times in my life and they can really shake you up if you are not rooted in truth.

A friend of mine told me last year while I was in one of these seasons of life that I should pick up the book “Anonymous” by Alicia Britt Chole.  This book spoke volumes to me as I dealt with trying to fight the feeling that I was simply waiting… wasting time until God decided I had served my sentence.  Here is what Alicia said…

We have a tendency to think that “main” is out there, not right here.  Main is on hold, waiting to appear until after… we finish our eduction or get married or find that dream job or start a family or resolve that conflict or complete that task or get out of debt or retire or slow down or… 

In moments when I am tempted to treat this gift called time as though it were some unfortunate filler, I hear a gentle whisper from God in my soul:  

“Child, I am the God who wastes no man’s time.  To me, every course in your life is main.”

Main is not behind us.  Nor is main way out ahead of us.  To our God, this course – call it transition, further studies, unexpected illness, financial crisis, grief, or a desert – is as full of potential as any other course ever had been and any course ever will be.

Jesus had to wait.  In fact, he waited 30 years before entering his calling into ministry.  He spent 30 years living a meaningful, valuable, purposeful life, all while in the midst of waiting.  I am certain that God had a reason for allowing his son to wait, when he could have easily snapped his fingers and made the process so much easier, quicker, cleaner.  But like Alicia points out in her book:  “In hidden places over hidden years, Jesus’ choices clustered and created momentum that is revealed through the decisions he made in his public ministry.

So let me say this.  You may be waiting for something or someone… and for reasons we cannot understand right now God has deemed that OK.  He’s not afraid of ruining our timeline when his is so much greater than ours.  And yet, even as we wait, God’s desire for us is not to live life as though we are “without”, but rather to see the life of abundance he has given us.

It truly is an act of “seeing”.  We have to open up our eyes to recognize those things in our lives that make it abundant.  It takes practice to change our perspective.  It’s not easy, and we will certainly never perfect it, but our minds are powerful and we have the opportunity to choose how we think and perceive the circumstances we find ourselves in.

And if we lose everything… our family, our friends, our job, our finances, our home, our freedom… there is one thing that we will forever have that no man can take from us, and that is Jesus.  He alone is all we need to have a life of abundance, and He alone is the hope the fills us up and fuels us onward.

You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.  

Give me Jesus.

“Give Me Jesus” by Sara Watkins

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Stories.

Stories are important.

Even as a child, it was stories that cultivated the person I am today. They caused me to believe in hope, adventure, beauty, and impossible things made possible. They helped me to understand hurt, pain, disappointment, and fear. They also caused me to become fascinated with people, the world, and culture. These things have shaped me, and now that I am older, influence the way I make decisions, relate to people, and view life.

I am one of the biggest advocates for anything that tells a story, especially a true story, that can move people.

When I say “move people”, I mean that in many different ways.

We have the power to move people emotionally through stories. This means nudging someone from their “comfort zone” of emotions, and moving them into a new realm of emotions. Sometimes this comes in the form of simply from being numb to actually feeling something. Other times it can be moving from apathy to empathy. It can be moving from heartless to broken-hearted… a heart that breaks for something that is not right.

We can also move people physically through stories. We can inspire people through our words to make changes in how they look at, speak, act, or relate. Sometimes when we hear about someone else’s choices, circumstances, or changed lives it stirs up the motivation to DO something. Someone who has a struggling marriage and hears the story about someone else’s marriage who was saved by going to counseling may suddenly be moved from giving up to attending counseling with their spouse. Someone else may hear the same story and be inspired to take classes to become a certified counselor… while someone else may be moved from judging those who go to counseling, to becoming an advocate for counseling.

My favorite way that stories can move people is spiritually. Do you ever hear a story and think, “I feel like God was speaking directly to me through that?” I know this happens to me quite a bit, and what always amazes me is how God can take one person’s story and use it to speak to people in a variety of ways. He also takes the same story and use it to teach us something completely new during a new season of our lives. This happens to me over and over again. The story of Esther in the Bible has always been one of my favorites, and in different seasons of life God has used this story to teach me about faith, patience, injustice, deliverance, courage/bravery, trust, and beauty. In my life, stories have moved me from the place I once was to a richer, deeper, more intimate relationship with God. And in those hours, days, weeks, or even months when I feel off track spiritually… it amazes me how one person’s story can awaken something new in me spiritually.

Not all stories are worth sharing… but some are. Some really, really are. And to be quite honest, it’s usually the hardest stories to tell that are the ones that are most worth telling.

I think it takes great amounts of wisdom to know what those stories are, and when to share them. But know this: Your stories can change lives.

Don’t underestimate your story. It may not be flashy. It may not be dramatic. It may not be pretty. And it may not be over.

But it might be exactly what someone else needs to hear… from where you’ve been or from where you are, your story may be able to move someone in a right and good direction that could forever change their life. Isn’t that worth sharing?

And so again I close with this: Stories are important. Really, really important.

 

Esther 4:14
“If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

Salvation Mount Bible

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The Fear of Failure

Many people say that they have a fear of failure, but might I suggest that there is a difference between the fear of failure and the fear of nonacceptance?

 

Often times I think our fear of failure is actually derived from a fear of nonacceptance.  We worry about what other people think, what other people would do, or what other people expect… all because we want to be accepted.

 

The problem with allowing other people to determine our value, is that people have a wide variety of perspectives and opinions on what defines being successful or valuable.  While your parents may say that your financial status determines your value, your significant other (or maybe the popular crew at school) might suggest that it is determined by your physical appearance, while your pastor, teacher, therapist, and doctor would argue that it is determined by the state of your health – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically.

 

What is more, is that as our seasons of life change, so do our strengths and weaknesses.  There may be seasons where we are at our optimal health, but financially we are struggling.  The next season may be see financial stability, but be accompanied by spiritual doubt.  This might be follow by a season where something like a bad haircut or weight gain has negatively affected our physical appearance, yet we are we are mentally sharp – learning and experiencing new things.

 

Inevitably, we will be meeting some people’s standards or expectations of what a successful person looks like, while in other people’s eyes we are falling short.  This is an ever-shifting battle and can cause unhealthy (even crippling, in extreme cases) stress and fear that makes us feel the need to be perfect… or at the very least, to be accepted.  It is what makes us into people-pleasers and workaholics.  It’s what can turn humble people into boastful, competitive, selfish people.  And here’s the big one for me:

 

It can take beautiful, unique people and make them believe that they are worth only a fraction of the incredible, immeasurable value God has placed on their life.

 

And wow, has God placed enormous amounts of value on your life.

 

When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.
Titus 3:4-7
 
Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
Matthew 6:25b-27

 

So why am I writing this?  I guess I am asking you to consider the source of your fear.  Are you claiming that it’s a fear of failure, when really it’s a fear of nonacceptance?  I think the two are very much connected, and neither are from God.  Have you allowed other people to dictate your worth, rather than your Heavenly Father?   Are you listening to God or to man?

 

As I’ve been thinking through the fear of nonacceptance this week, I decided that I should take time to thank God for how much value he has placed on my life.  I was reading Psalm 139 and thought it was so perfectly worded as a prayer of praise to God in response to these things I’ve been thinking about this week.  I encourage you to do the same – and if you struggle to believe these things about God, pray that God would reveal himself to you – his love, mercy, care, adoration, and his presence.  You are so much more valuable to God than you could ever imagine.

 

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You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!
Psalm 139:13-18
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Prayer Revisited

I used to be really desensitized to people saying they would pray for me.  I didn’t believe them or quite honestly, the power of prayer.  Consequently, that meant my own personal prayer life was not doing so hot as well.

But things changed.

It all started one day several years ago on a long drive from Indiana to Washington D.C., when I made an impulse decision to turn the music off and start talking… to God… out loud.

To put this into perspective:  For those who have ever done a road trip with me, (or driven somewhere 5 minutes away with me haha), there is always music on.  I don’t even think about it, I just love music and it serves as the perfect way to turn any drive into the most epic experience ever.  I will spend DAYS leading up to a road trip worrying more about the music I am taking than what I will be wearing.  (yes, I am that weird.)  So, turning off the music is a somewhat but not-so-much metaphor for saying: Things got real.

And I mean, really real.

I confessed the things to God I didn’t want to even admit to myself.  Lies I had been telling myself.  Hurt I was struggling with.  Envy that made me see the ugly in me.  Loneliness that I wanted to pretend like I didn’t feel.  Shame for thoughts I’ve had or things I had done.  Guilt for feeling like I had disappointed God.

It was one giant venting/confession/prayer session with God and by the end I was sobbing, trying to determine if it was still safe for me to be driving due to my vision being impaired by the gallons of tears spilling out of my eyes.

But you know what?  He listened.  He responded.

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As much as I would like to sit here and write that God sent a dove down from the sky to fly into my sunroof and perch on my shoulder, singing sweet-heavenly-nothings into my ear… that most definitely did not happen.  His response didn’t come in the form of a dove, audible voice or an angel chilling in my passengers seat, but it came in the form of forgiveness, love, peace, hope, and comfort.

And I felt it.  Sure, we know that God offers us all of those things.  I’ve known that for as long as I can remember.  But how often do we really open ourselves up enough to experience it?

There’s that verse in Philippians 4:7 that which talks about the “peace that passes all understanding”.  I had never really known that, at least not to this kind of depth.  It was like God wrapped my heart, mind, and soul in a giant hug and said, “Child, You are mine.  I have rescued you, redeemed you, and restored you.  There is beauty in your confession, and there is healing in my forgiveness.  Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

Freedom.

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I think sometimes we often get upset if we don’t receive those things from God, but I wonder how many times it is because we are still holding onto things we don’t want to hand over to Him.  Just like trusting a friend or loved one, we have to offer God our fragile, wounded, sinful hearts and trust that He will guard, protect, and love them.  We have to allow Him to show us just how merciful He is.

That was just the first of what has now become hundreds of my chats with God in the car.  I still love my music, but I think God knows by now that when I turn the music off, I’m getting real with him.

I am so glad that over the past several years God has shown me time and time again His presence in my alone time with him, as well as responding to the prayers of friends and family, and answering them always in the best kind of unexpected ways.  Now I know that I can thank God in ADVANCE for what He IS going to do!

There is so much power in the name of Jesus, and it has been incredible to see the ways in which He works.  And to think… we have access to God through prayer each and every waking and sleeping moment.

Once you see God at work through prayer, there’s no going back.  How you pray for yourself and others will change radically.  It’s thrilling and exhilarating.  Your burden for others grows, while your joy increases.  He will open up your eyes to how He sees people and circumstances, and our heart will start to beat to the rhythm of his.  This is what it is like to be ALIVE in Christ!

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I encourage you to take a moment to just be real with God.  Remove all the fluff, and say it like it is.  There is nothing you could say that God doesn’t already know, but he rejoices in time with his children.  He loves to meet with us, hear us, and respond to us.  Approaching him with an honest, open, and receptive heart is an exercise that needs to be practiced, but it is one well worth the time, energy, and the occasional pulling-over-to-the-side-of-the-road cry session.

(Or maybe that last one is just me)

Love you all, and am praying that your next chat with God will be one that allows you to experience God in an entirely fresh way.

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5 Ways to Support Your Unemployed Friend

There’s a lot I have learned and experienced from getting laid off that opened my eyes to just how big of an ordeal it can be to lose your job.  Before I went through it myself, I was clueless.  Quite honestly, I probably just assumed that if someone wanted to get a job, they could… and that they just weren’t putting enough time or energy into the job search.  While for some that may be true, it’s not that simple and I’ve seen how hard it can be.  I thought it might be good to write down some thoughts for those around me, and for myself in the years to come, to be reminded of what it looks like to be unemployed and how to better care for those who are.

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1.)  While getting laid off is different than being fired,
it often doesn’t feel like it. 

In fact, it’s far more ambiguous and vague.  From what I understand, when you get fired you have clearly broken a rule, made an inappropriate decision, or shown a work habit or behavior that goes against the company’s expectations or policies.  While you don’t have to deal with the shame or regret that comes with getting fired, being laid off comes with it’s own set of difficulties.  When you are laid off, you aren’t always given a clear reason why YOU are the person they chose to lay off.  Sure, budgets are being cut, or they are eliminating your position for “some” reason… but ultimately them removing a position is also them removing a person… and surely they picked you for a reason, right?  This means a lot of questioning with no answers, and that can drive you a tad crazy.  Trust me, I know.

 

How to respond:  Continue to encourage your unemployed friends by not only hanging out or having fun… but also through your words.  Remind them they are valuable, and be specific.  Tell them the good things you see in them.  Tell them the skills they have that you admire.  Tell them how crazy the company was for letting them go.  Yes, it’s a bit mushy-gushy, but that last thing this person needs is for someone to help them “hypothesize” why they were laid off.  Trust me, they have been doing enough of that on their own time, and they have probably thought of every reason under the sun.  Don’t encourage the negative thoughts, but allow them to be open with you about how they are feeling.  Just be careful it doesn’t turn into gossip or criticism… it’s easy to go from “sharing” to “gossiping” and as a friend you can help steer the conversation if it’s headed in the wrong direction.

 

2.)  There is a lot of hurt in getting laid off. 

And hurt is just one of the many emotions that will flood a person’s heart and mind.  They will also probably experience fear, anger, sadness, bitterness, confusion, freedom, disappointment, hope, pain, withdrawal, and somewhat of an identity crisis (for those who were in a job they loved or are really wrapped up in their work, like I was).  This flood of emotions can cause the person to be so overwhelmed that they don’t necessarily have enough brain power to think logically, rationally, positively, or even just normally.  They may talk a lot, or not talk at all.  They may be visibly stressed, or hide it like a pro behind a happy exterior.  The highs and lows seem endless.

 

How to respond:  Patience, unconditional love, and sensitivity.  Being a friend to someone going through these highs and lows can be, I can only imagine, really annoying haha.  (Can I get an amen from any of my friends???)  Try to remember that they are not dealing with simply not having somewhere to be 40 hours a week.  They could be freaking out about finances.  They could be asking God some tough questions.  They could be confused as to what they are to do with their life.  They could feel embarrassed.  These are not light issues, and so we shouldn’t expect them to deal with them like they are.  Yes, it’s going to be exhausting hearing them talk about being unemployed ALL THE TIME…. but remember, for them it’s exhausting hearing their friends talking about how much their job sucks or how overworked they are.  While we (the unemployed) don’t expect you to stop sharing with us about your lives (we don’t want to be coddled), it’s also hard to sympathize with people who are at least able to work and earn money.  It’s not that we don’t want to, but all of those emotions and fears we are experiencing may limit us.  This isn’t fair, but unconditional love will love a brother or sister even when it’s not fair.

*Sidenote: never, ever bring up to a single person, “well, at least you don’t have a family to take care of”.  Ouch.  Oh, I mean, you’re right.  I’m SO glad I don’t have the support of a loving husband or precious children to spend my free time with and to help get me through this difficult time.  (in case you didn’t pick up on it, that was sarcasm).  Remember that a single person IS the head of their own household and whether a person is married or single, male or female, they are allowed to feel the weight of that.  No situation is exactly alike, but all are difficult.

 

3.)  Rest is needed and deserved. 

Getting laid off can be a traumatic experience.  With all that is going on around them, the person needs to rest and try to STAY rested while balancing the stress they are going through.  You see, being unemployed isn’t the type of stress that only lasts a few weeks and then you get “into the rhythm” of it and are magically better.  No, you carry the stress with you everywhere you go, because there is always the underlying pressure to find a job and get on with life.  If I’m being honest, in my nearly nine months of unemployment, I would estimate there has been only around two weeks or so total where I have been able to FULLY enjoy my day without thinking about, talking about, or experiencing the stress of, being unemployed.  Yes, it’s that consuming.  Also, it’s important to note that when I say “rest” is needed, I do not just mean physical rest.  It is crucial for that person to get emotional, mental, and spiritual rest as well.  What is hard is finding a way to get all of those to line up at once so that you are completely at rest.  Like I said, I’ve only had a handful of days where I can say that happened, and those days have been critical to keeping me going.

 

How to respond:  One of the things my best friend did for me soon after I got laid off was invite me to a “Spa Day” at a really nice spa out in the desert with her and another friend.  I still remember that day as being the most relaxed I’ve been, and it wasn’t just because I was at a spa (we didn’t even get any massages or treatments… we just hung out at the different pools).  I think there are a couple reasons behind that.  First, we went somewhere away from our normal lives that aided me in not thinking about getting laid off.  There were no visual triggers around me to remind me of my circumstances.  Second, I was invited to join… meaning, someone thought about me and intentionally asked me to be a part of a really fun day.  Third, there was no agenda other than to relax and enjoy each other’s company.  I was allowed to just breathe.  And fourthly, I actually got the rest I so desperately needed.   I would encourage you to find ways to help your friend find the rest they need.  Understand that they may not have much energy to put into some elaborate activity… but just being present in their lives and continuing to think about them in this way will be really meaningful.  Also, don’t be scared to ask them how they are doing, what they need, or how you can better encourage them.  They might have not have an answer, but it’s worth asking, because that alone shows that you care.

 

4.)  Finances are limited. 

This is probably obvious, but one of the practical parts of getting laid off is having to readjust finances.  For many this means canceling their cable TV, never eating out, limiting “fun” activities, selling things, or even moving.  I’ve done a couple of these things, and it can be frustrating.  Especially living in America… in Orange County, California.  For me, the struggle was to try and prevent negative thoughts coming into my head, such as, “I can’t believe I have to do all of these things and I didn’t even get myself into financial trouble.  Somebody ELSE did this to me, and now I’m the one paying for it.  How is that fair?”

The truth is, it’s not fair.  It is SO hard when your friends all want to hit up Disneyland, go out to eat, see a movie, or do something else together that costs money and suddenly you have decide whether or not you’re going to go solely based on finances.  You don’t want to look like a “Debbie Downer”, but you also don’t want to overspend what little money you have.  You’re trying to be frugal, but you also need time with friends to keep you sane.  It may come down to you eating at home beforehand and then going out with the friends and just getting water…. which let me tell you, is not much fun and sometimes makes you feel even more frustrated.  One great thing about going through this is you learn a LOT about what you can live without.  You start to understand what things are really critical every week (your occasional Starbucks or going out every Friday night is definitely not), and what things are to be saved for special occasions or until you get a job again.  This is a life skill I am glad to be learning in my 20’s, and hope that it is permanently changing how I view money and “needs” verses “wants”.

 

How to respond:  This is simple, but may take some creativity and extra thought.  Don’t put your friend in situations where they are going to have to feel left out or turn down something fun due to finances… and don’t tempt them to spend more than they should.

We all want to have fun and it’s fun when our friends can spend money with us and we all live happily ever after.   However, the unemployed friend of yours doesn’t have that luxury and is going to have mixed emotions when you invite them to do something that they obviously can’t afford and they know you really, really, really want them to go.  Try to support them by coming along side of them in their financial situation and getting creative with new ways to have fun that won’t cost a lot of money.  When was the last time you went to the beach together?  Could you guys have a picnic?  How about a bonfire with s’mores?  Any free concerts going on at a local bar where you could treat them to a drink?  What about just staying in and watching a movie, sports, or playing board games?  There are more ways than you might think to have a lot of fun without spending a lot of money!  Get creative!

 

5.)  Going back to work can be hard.

While re-entering the world of employment is certainly exciting, it will look differently for everyone.  For quite a few people (like me) it may mean taking a job that they aren’t necessarily thrilled about.  Not only will they potentially have to sacrifice working in their field of choice, but they may also have difficulty adjusting to the routine schedule of work.  Suddenly being tied down once more after trying to enjoy the flexibility that comes with unemployment can be somewhat of a shock to the system and take some time getting adjusted to… especially if going back to work in a job that isn’t fulfilling you or the career you want to be pursuing.

For someone like me who isn’t driven by making money or reaching a certain level of success, but who thrives off of relationships, creativity, and doing work that makes an impact on a personal level (hence why I want to work in full-time church ministry)… heading into a corporate office doing payroll was (and still is) definitely a shock to the system.  I have to remind myself daily that this job doesn’t define who I am, this is a necessity for this season so that I can support myself financially, and that it is ok to work a job that doesn’t line up with my goals for a season.  It is humbling, frustrating, and sad…. but still makes me extremely thankful for God’s provision and that I am at least in an environment I really like, am able to feel like I’m accomplishing something, and that I will soon be able to feel financially stable again.  Those are things to be incredibly thankful for!

How to respond:  Be SO excited with your friend!  This is a huge reason to celebrate and to be happy!  But remember, they are still working through things, trying to regain stability, and may still be wanting to search for a job that is actually in their field.  The journey is finally moving in a better direction, but they still need support, love, and encouragement along the way.  Continue to ask them about the new job and how they are doing!

As a friend, this is finally your chance to take a break from the heavy fog that’s been over your friend’s life… so rest, be happy, and acknowledge the hard work you put into being a friend!  While you still need to check in with your friend and be there to support them, things are now finally moving in a better direction and that means for you, too! You were already there through it all with them, and you deserve to breathe!

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I’m sure I could write an entire book about being unemployed (you just read chapters 1-5 haha), but for now those are some of my thoughts!  I hope this helped give you some insight into the what it looks like to be unemployed, and how to be a good friend through it all.  I am sure I will be referencing this again myself in the future if and when I have friends going through a time of unemployment!

Thanks for reading!

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Jesus In Your Eyes

As a part of my week away from job searching, I wanted to take at least one day to be outdoors.  I am the most at peace when I am driving a long stretch of road or when I am in nature… and since I can’t afford the gas money for a nice, long road trip, I chose to be in nature this week.  It’s like free stress therapy!

I love nature… whether it’s an ocean, forest, mountain, river, field, or even simply sitting under a tree or by some flowers.  It’s more than just pretty to me… I feel closer to God.  It’s knowing that His hands created what I am seeing, touching, hearing, feeling, experiencing.  Sometimes I can almost feel Him wrapped around me.

So, wanting to intentionally seek that out this week, I went to the beach.  I invited a friend to join, and we headed to Newport Beach with no agenda other than to spend time together and be outside.  We walked along the boardwalk, stepped into a few shops, and spent some time hanging out on the pier.

Then hunger struck.  As we headed to a mexican bar to take advantage of their happy hour discounted food, we noticed a homeless man outside who looked like he was about to fall asleep.  Not really sure if I was supposed to do anything, I kept on eating and enjoying my time with my friend.  That was until the man came inside and, out of the entire restaurant full of empty tables, he sat down at the table right next to us.

 “Holy smokes, you have beautiful blue eyes,” he said.

 (I looked up from the food I was devouring, realizing he was talking to me)

 “Aw, thank you,” I responded, somewhat uncomfortably.

He continued to comment on my eyes, introduced himself to us as Harley, and eventually started rambling on and on about some other things we couldn’t understand and seemed semi-inappropriate (we quickly realized he was probably a little drunk or high).  It was awkward, to say the least.  But at the very end, before I left the restaurant, he apologized for “throwing us off” by his chatting, and once again reminded me of how pretty my blue eyes were.

Leaving this conversation today couldn’t help but leave me smiling.  Of course it’s nice to hear you have beautiful eyes… but there was another reason this made me smile.

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Today, when he was commenting on my eyes, it reminded me of back in 2001 when I was working with the less fortunate in West Virginia and a man I was doing landscaping with told me I had beautiful blue eyes.  I had probably the exact same reaction I had today.  I thanked the man politely and kept on pulling weeds.  He gently stopped me from what I was doing and got serious.

He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Really. You have Jesus in your eyes.  There is something in there that people need to see, and that is Jesus.  There is light in your eyes… I can see Jesus.  It’s beautiful.”

That moment is burned in my memory.  I remember being speechless and unsure of what to say.  I felt so unworthy to hear such kind words, and to be honest a little uncomfortable.  But I also remember feeling almost a sense of responsibility put on me.  A responsibility to see people as Jesus would see them.  A responsibility to share the light of Christ with people.  It was the first time that someone had said that my EYES are reflecting Jesus.  What a new concept to think about!

So as I left, I gave Harley a high five, thanked him for talking with us, and wished him a good day with a smile on my face.  I don’t know if he was sober enough to really know what was going on today in that restaurant… but he sure did remind me that I have opportunities daily to share Jesus with people, even if it’s simply through how I see them.

Sometimes before we even speak or act, we first have to check our hearts to see how we view the people around us.  Your eyes can speak volumes to those around you.

So consider this:  can the people around you see Jesus in your eyes?

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