2018 Reflections

Around this time every year I post a series of questions I’ve used to process and look forward. I love this time because it helps me make sense of the year and enter into the next with renewed perspective and hope for what’s ahead. I didn’t do much reflection this year; to be honest, I’m really ready to move on. So I’m doing something a bit different for my year end post. I hope you’ll join me!

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Rather than reflecting on lessons learned, I decided to reflect on my relationships. Who did I learn from? Who did I feel supported and loved by? Who made a lasting impact on my life? As I started listing people, I realized I did learn a lot this year, and I’m more thankful than ever for the people in my life. My biggest takeaway from 2018 is that I am rich in relationship; I’ve got some really great people in my life. And I want to be that kind of friend to others, too! Keep reading for some questions to help you reflect on your relationships with a few challenges to begin your new year.

Step One:

For each of the questions below, write the first name that comes to mind and then identify why you thought of them.

  1. Who supported my dreams this year? How?

  2. Who challenged me this year? How?

  3. Who comforted me in hard times this year? How?

  4. Who did I feel most encouraged by this year? How?

  5. Who’s words stuck with me most this year? What were they?

Step Two:

Next, I want you to list each of your family members, mentors, and few friends. Keep your list under 10, unless you’re motivated to keep going! Now put a word or phrase next to each name. What did your Mom teach you this year? Your brother? Your best friend from home? See below for an example.

  • From my Mom, I learned about letting go.

  • From my Dad, I learned about embracing internal work.

  • From my brother, I learned about moving forward with life, no matter how many challenges life throws your way.

  • From my sister, I learned about the power of ownership and both repentance and forgiveness. And I learned about the mercy of God.

  • From my Grandmother, I learned about giving thanks.

  • From my friend Claire, I learned about comforting and mourning with others.

  • From my friend Tiera, I learned about embracing the gift of suffering.

  • From my friend Kristi, I learned about the transformation that takes place in risking to love.

There are so many others I have learned from, but this list should get you started.

Step Three:

Let’s flip this a bit. Think about the people in your life that YOU can support this next year. Look back to the questions in step one.

  1. Who’s dreams can you support this year?

  2. Who can you challenge this year?

  3. Who can you comfort in hard times this year?

  4. Who can you consistently encourage this year?

  5. What words can you share with someone who is experiencing something you’ve dealt with this year?

Make a commitment to keep this list in front of you throughout the year. And make plans to follow through on your intentions! HOW and WHEN will you support each of these people this year?

Step Four:

Let’s take a brief moment to pause to see if anyone else comes to mind. Is there someone who has been on your heart recently? Maybe someone you’ve been meaning to connect with?

My challenge to you would be to identify relationships in different spheres of your life. Choose someone from your workplace, your community group, church, yoga studio, and neighborhood. Try to think about people who are different than you in some way. Can you initiate with someone of a different race, background, interest, or socio-economic status?

  1. Who do you feel called to invest in relationally?

    1. At your work?

    2. In your neighborhood?

    3. In your community group or church?

    4. At your health club or fitness studio?

Plan to initiate a coffee date or dinner with the person(s) you identified in this step. Or maybe start small with a phone call, a quick hello at the gym, or a direct message through Instagram. Identify your plan of action next to each name on your list.

Step Five:

Finally, I want to invite you thank your people! Can you send a letter or an email to the friends and family you learned this year? Can you thank them in person the next time you see them?

The older I get the more I realize how important relationships really are. Join me in thanking the people who make our lives better and looking forward to investing in others. Here’s to a new year full of rich relationship and community!

Suffering: Expectation or Exception?

Last week I was driving downtown with a friend sharing some hard things I’ve experienced recently. She listened intently as I revealed bits and pieces of my pain and disappointment. After a while she gently and matter-of-factly shared about the people and kids she interacts with on a daily basis. Most of them do not come from privileged places. As a school teacher in South LA, my friend sees her fair share of suffering and disappointment.

As we chatted a while longer, the question of privilege entered the conversation. Was my privilege getting in the way of my suffering? The question seemed to linger in my head for the remainder of the evening. How much of my faith was built on false expectation? Expectation that God will give me a good life, help me reach my goals, make it to the next milestone. I do believe that God is good, but I don’t believe that suffering is the absence of good.

I sat in the car humbled and grieved listening to my friend outline her own experiences working with and being a person of color. For others from different racial and economic backgrounds than me, suffering may actually be the expectation. At first this didn’t sound right to me - why would God want His people to expect bad things?! But the more I thought about this, the more Biblical it started to sound.

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13

Perhaps I missed something in my theology of suffering. And perhaps my privilege (and more specifically, my entitlement) created a series of truths that suffering was an exception, something I didn’t have to experience, something I could work hard to overcome or avoid. I suppose I unconsciously believed that I could outperform and out-pray any bad thing in my life based on the opportunities and access I was given. And I’m not very proud of that.

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In the last year, I’ve mourned the loss of someone very dear to me too many times to count, grieved the health of another, been let go, faced unemployment for three months, mourned my singleness while celebrating others’ partnership, and tried to start over in a new state. In short, let’s just say it’s been a hell of a year.

After a while, I realized my performance and striving prayer wasn’t getting me anywhere different. And I panicked. I felt stuck, helpless, fearful, and really, really alone. But you know what? God met me there. He chose to meet me in my own entitlement and privileged expectations. He chose to meet me in my grief, disappointment, pain, and overwhelming loss.

I cannot fix my circumstances or other people. Nor can I pray or perform away bad things. All I can do is take ownership of myself and believe somehow there’s Good in all this, too.

Come to the Table Event Recap

I’ve made some really beautiful friendships across the table. There’s something about coming together in a common space, enjoying a meal together, and bonding through our place of need. I love what Shauna Niequist says about the table:

We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished... The table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel.
— Shauna Niequist

This is why I want to bring tender and hard conversations to the table. It’s a place where our common humanity is shared, and through my work as a trainer and facilitator, one of my primary goals is to help you get in touch with your humanity (and the humanity of others).

Below are some photos from my last dinner event in Los Angeles. I plan content and a general structure for each night, but I try not to come with an agenda, knowing some of the most powerful conversations happen organically, through the context of relationships formed. Stay tuned for more events and resources coming soon.

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All photos by Lindie Beth Photography.

All photos by Lindie Beth Photography.

Build Bridges Not Walls Table Event

Last weekend I had the honor of co-hosting a dinner event for 16 women in Los Angeles, California. I knew I wanted to bring the Build Bridges Not Walls curriculum into small group settings, and when Katie from At the Lane suggested hosting an event together, I knew this was an opportunity I had been looking for! 

Katie tackled the registration and set-up (which was a dream by the way), and I facilitated the conversation using my work guide curriculum. We started with conversation cards provided by Lumitory, a brand that creates products to facilitate hospitality in your home. The cards were the perfect way to begin the evening and get the conversation started. 

As we ate dinner around the table together I couldn't help but notice the table as an equalizer. Each woman, no matter what ethnicity or background, was sharing together, providing our bodies nourishment and sustenance. It was a beautiful picture of community to me. 

The night continued with prompts and thoughtful discussion questions centered around our interactions with the construct of race. Women shared bravely about their experiences and asked vulnerable questions about how to relate to both women of color and privilege. It was clear to me by the end of the night that spaces like this need to be created and protected.

I am by no means an expert on this topic, neither do I always have the right words to say. In fact, I've pretty afraid of being wrong. But I do know that when someone is willing to step out first, risk, and ask questions, it paves a way for others to feel safe, known, and seen. 

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An Invitation to Deconstruction

What comes to mind when you hear the word "deconstruction?" Does it sound intimidating, challenging, complicated, insightful, fun? It's likely a mixture of all of the above. Yet this deconstruction has been one of my very favorite parts of being in graduate school thus far. 

Last Fall I sat down with another student in my program who was about to graduate. I asked her what advice she'd give to someone just starting out, and she said with a slight smirk on her face, to "expect deconstruction." I thought it was a funny thing to say, but just a few weeks later, I experienced this firsthand. 

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Deconstruction is fancy term to explain what happens when you begin questioning everything - from values to beliefs, worldview, bias, and actions. It's a bit unnerving at first, but the end goal is ownership and a lifestyle of action and reflection. In short, deconstruction helps us understand the "why" behind what we do, believe, say, and think. 

How many of you would say you're able to articulate why you do certain things, believe certain things, or say what you say? For most of us it's second-nature; however, when we take the time to examine and reflect on our actions, we open ourselves up to growing and changing. It takes courage to deconstruct and it is my goal to invite you into my deconstruction process so that it becomes a bit easier (or more accessible) for those of you reading. 

I'm in a class right now about ethnicity in the United States and we are in the process of deconstructing cultural values and worldviews. I am realizing how much my Middle-American upbringing has influenced me. It's quite amazing (and humbling). 

Like it or not, each of us is a product of our culture. We grow up being nurtured in a specific cultural context and learn to adopt the worldview of that culture. According to one of my professors at Fuller, "a worldview is a complex multifaceted fabric of beliefs, often submerged, concerning the world - what it is, how its parts interact and the places of humans." In short, worldview is how we see the world. 

There's no right or wrong kind of worldview, contrary to our Western "black and whiteness." It simply exists. I prefer things to be clear and explainable, though that's not really realistic or possible. I hope to continue examining specific cultural values, like time, progress, individualism, and invisible realities. My hope is to move toward other cultures, continue deconstructing my American worldview, and learning to set aside my differences to embrace others. 

Have you ever thought about why you believe what you believe and see what you see?

Consider this your invitation to start exploring the "why" behind what you do and why you do it. Ask friends of different backgrounds what they see and do and compare it to your own understanding. There will likely be differences, but it's important to note these differences are not black and white or right and wrong. Their just different. Self-awareness of our worldview can be a powerful tool in learning to build bridges in community!