29 April 2015

The Lessons I Didn't Expect in Grad School

It only took me six years, but I finally finished graduate school.

Something I worked so long and hard for, it feels kind of weird to be all done with. Part of me wonders what I'll do with this extra time now that won't be dedicated to studying or paper writing. One thing the last six years have taught me are the surprising life lessons that came outside of the classroom.

 1. Learning to deal with difficult people
Most life I have spent trying to avoid tension and rocking the boat. If there were difficult people or situations I had to face, I did what most rational adults do; look the opposite direction and pretend they don't exist. Looking back over the last six years, there have certainly been plenty of situations where I have had to deal with difficult people. From unkind students to the professor who accused me of something I never actually did, I had had enough experiences that have given me practice at learning the right (and not so right ways) to deal with difficult folks. Learning about boundaries also has really helped me deal with the crazies in school I have encountered, but that's another story for another time.

2. Be okay with being alone
This may sound strange. When I say alone, I don't mean sitting off in a corner rocking back and forth in the fetal position, but be comfortable and confidant with yourself even if you have to sit alone or be yourself. I remember in high school if I ever would have had to sit by myself at lunch I would have died of embarrassment. The older I have gotten, I have learned part of healthiness is being okay with yourself, being alone in a healthy sense. 
I have had times where I ate alone or walked into a class where I didn't know anybody. And I learned to be okay with that. I can walk through life situations without having a bestie right at my side. For me, I have found most growth when I stretch myself to be comfortable and at peace even when I am alone or by myself.

3. Practice at humility
There have been several professors I have had who are very famous and well-known in the world of Catholicism. I was shocked in some their of classes to find these professors constantly act like they were the best thing since sliced bread. You'd think they had saved the Pope from quick sand or something! Seeing a fair amount of bragging and self-promotion reminded of the importance of true humility when working in ministry (or in any job but especially in ministry). It can be easy to think all the great, life-giving things that go well for ministry I serve in are because of wonderful me. Not so. Sure I can do awesome, beautiful things for the Kingdom, but it is only God working through me (humble and teachable) that these things succeed and bear fruit. Who would of thought braggy professors would remind of the importance of humility in my own life and work?

4. Faith grows through our own wrestling and searching
I used to think people asking questions and wrestling with their faith meant that they didn't trust God enough or believe in Him hard enough. Even though I have always been a believer, I am surprised over my time at seminary how many instances in class and even in my own personal life my wrestling with questions and searching for the truth led me to deeper, more mature faith in God.

5. Men and Women can be friends
Yes I know that can sound strange. Growing up I never really had any guy friends. Other than dating I guess I didn't really know how to be friends with guys unless. Then I went to graduate school at a seminary; which as a Catholic translates to studying mostly with guys studying to become priest's. Of course there were some strange bears who looked at women like they were she-devils trying to take away their priestly vocation (but those were few and far between). The experience of going to school at the seminary has shown and given me experience of what good, healthy relationships between men and women can look like.

Have you ever had an average, normal life circumstance end up teaching you important life lessons?
Or is that just me? ;-)
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14 April 2015

Frozen, Boundaries, & Why I Am Not in Control

Sunday night is our weekly youth ministry meeting. This past week, I was searching for a good play list on Pandora. In the middle of my searching, the ever famous "Let It Go" from Frozen came on. 
So what did I do when a few teens complained?

Naturally I continued to belt it out even louder at the top of my lungs. 

As I was driving home that night, I found myself humming aloud the tune to that song. Sure its catchy and especially fun if you dance around, but I was struck how a popular song from a movie sums up life right now.

Most of my life, I have identified myself as a control freak. 

I don't necessarily do change well, especially unexpected change. I have had my life mapped and figured out since the time I was 10. So what happens when that perfect little plan does not go as expected? 

Well my past history has shown that I freak the freak out...sometimes way out. 
Life is teaching me right now you cannot live with every inch charted and graphed out, because when it doesn't go that way (which eventually always happens) you'll be shocked and sorely disappointed. I am learning in a lot ways I can only control me, Patty. 

I cannot control what others think about me or how they act...even though sometimes I wish I could. People fail and disappoint, no matter how hard I try I can never change or control that. 
I am a book nut. I have already read 15 books since the new year began. 

By far, perhaps the most life-changing one has been this little gem. Seriously. 

Get your hands on this book. In the last few months, I have become more aware than ever of my good girl-perfection-pleasing-esque ways. I wasted a lot of time in life trying always be the good girl, seek after perfection, and strive to never rock the boat with people in life. Newsflash. That's a draining and unfulfilling way to live life.
I have learned (and am still learning) living life with boundaries is a healthy way to do life. 

Boundaries are like fences; they keep out the crazy/bad/unhealthy BUT also prevent me from wandering into someone else's yard which I have no control over. Its a quite magical and freeing concept. I have had some good opportunities to practice boundaries with myself, my husband, friends or non-friends, and extended family.

Life with boundaries and less control? Feels like this.

Living life with healthy boundaries is reminding me that I am not in control of anyone or anything. I can control only me; my reactions, responses, and how I have healthy relationships with other people. Living my one life well and with intentionality is about more serenity and less control...more healthy relationships through boundaries and less crazy-making with nut-job people.

So the next time you find yourself belting out the words to "Let It Go,"remember you really have to let things go in life. 
Let go the things you cannot change, but seek the courage to change the things you can. 
And always pray for the wisdom to know the difference.

Where in your life do you need to let go of control? What about healthy boundaries? 

How can these tools help you in living a more intentional and joyful life?

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09 April 2015

Unlearning the Good Girl Syndrome

Being a good girl.

For a certain portion of my life I have prided myself on being a "good girl." 

I thought that was what mattered most in life and so I aimed to succeed at being a great good girl. I defined goodness in two ways. First, my "goodness" was based on if I did or didn't do certain actions or behaviors. In my mind, good girl's were those who didn't do the following: drink excessively, smoke weed, do drugs, have sex before marriage, wore slips under their skirts, and always sat like a lady. 
This was the message I had told myself over many years, and only until the last few months have acknowledged that and begun to unlearn those lies.

Looking back on that list now, I see how judgmental and even legalistic this mindset is. To base my worth on what I do or don't do is not healthy...not to mention how I looked down on others who didn't meet these "good girl" standards and expectations.  I held myself to such high standards, and held others at times to even higher expectations. 
In a way, I used to think that being a "good girl" was THE most important thing in life. For a lot years, I hide behind the facade of my "goodness" and lived under a system I came up with myself about my worth. I wore a mask that on the outside always had a bright, smiling face, but on the inside was empty.

Second, I based my goodness on how much I did and hiding behind my good performance. Likewise, I thought goodness meant it was important to be liked, follow what other people's expectations were of me, and to not rock the boat at all possible cost. I knew and had people telling me my best was enough, but somewhere deep down it wasn't for me. 

And so I kept trying harder and harder, it was like my best efforts were not enough for my own high expectations. I was chasing perfection at all cost instead of holding myself to a standard of grace. Eventually, chasing perfect will wear you down. 

It did for me.
I shouldn't do this, of course.
I know where my value and worth comes from.

I can see how I have been plagued by this perspective that has me ever striving toward a make believe notion of good enough. When at the end of the day, I am good enough just the way I am. Flaws, sass, and sins all combined...there is more to life than just being a good girl. 

I am tired of chasing perfection in life. And so slowly, I am unlearning all the crazy, unhealthy lies I trained myself to believe for so many years. Unlearning the good girl, just try harder life is freeing.
So stop trying. Stop hiding behind the good girl mask. Hold yourself to a standard of grace, not perfection. Because that's what God calls all of us to, grace and not perfection.

Any other recovering good girls out there?! How did focusing on just being a "good girl" wear your soul out? What area's in your life do you need to stop chasing perfection?

This book has been encouraging for me as I continue to unlearn the good girl syndrome

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06 April 2015

The Anti-Bucket List

Bucket lists. I have noticed over time how many people make this of adventures and dreams before they, well, kick the bucket. I get the idea, and I love to read what other folks have on their list. But somehow, I have always been bothered by the concept of it, like I never really got it. 

A few weeks ago I read this article online that kinda helped me put to words what I have always thought for awhile. As a chronic list maker (I'll put things on my to-do list just so I can check them off), I feel pressure when I cannot check something off my list. Having a bucket list is a potentially hazardous way for me to freak the freak out I don't get accomplish certain tasks or dreams I wanted to. I am not patient or loving with myself and then proceed to beat myself because I can't "make life happen." 
 What this season of my life is showing me right now is that sometimes being in complete control of my life can be a dangerous thing. There is so much more freedom, fulfillment, and excitement in striving to a life of serenity and looking to be present in every little moment. I'm not saying goals and dreams are bad, but I can see myself being overly hard on myself when I don't check something off my bucket list. Some of the greatest adventures of my life have been the adventures and experiences that were not planned out on a bucket list, like spending the night on Copacabana or going to a kola bear petting farm in Australia. And some of the greatest opportunities to learn and grow have been both the unplanned ones that were incredible but also difficult.

I have always struggled with looking waaayyyy ahead to the future. Living life by my plans instead of choosing to live in the present day; cherishing the moments I find myself in and looking grace and goodness in them no matter what. A control freak who doesn't take to change very well has been the track record for a lot of my life. But more and more I see how tiring that is for my soul, even planning out all my adventures in life robs me of living life as a crazy, messy, beautiful mystery. I have spent a lot of time looking at life like a big fat to-do list. The most amazing opportunities and experiences in life exist right here and now, if I choose to look for them. Sure I would love to go back to Ireland, see the Holy Land with Jim, and swim with the dolphins...but will my life be any less rich or meaningful if I don't get to do those things? No, of course not! A meaningful life starts right here, in my current state of life right where I am right now.

Now don't get me wrong here. I'm not trying to say that bucket lists aren't these awful, evil things to keep in life. But for me, its an illusion that tells me unless I accomplish certain tasks or have particular adventures, my life won't be as full or meaningful. I am trying to un-learn lies I have told myself or believed for too many years, and this is one of them. Even if I never traveled again or never write that book someday, my life can still be rich and beautiful. Life doesn't begin when I'm jet setting off somewhere around the world, but life begins right here and now.

So what would be on my anti-bucket list? Well things like:
  • Write every day in my gratitude journal
  • Being present to people more than material things or social media
  • Cultivate true friendships, eliminate the ones that are not uplifting
  • Use my words and actions to help and uplift others
  • Care less about what other's think of me
Look for the meaningful moments and opportunities right where you are right now!
What would that look like in your own life?
What would your anti-bucket list contain?

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02 April 2015

Lead Me to the Cross

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Master, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later."
 {John 13:6-7}

What I am doing now, you do not understand now, but you will understand later...
The cross.suffering. is not something I understand in my life right now. Sometimes to be honest I freaking hate it. Its scary and uncertain. I ask questions, wrestle, and ask God "Why?!". I beg, plead, and cry wondering what possible good can come from deep pain and suffering. It feels lonely and dark. It is so easy to ask "What's the point?!" What could possibly come from this in my life?!. 
And yet what is most painful and awful in life is what saves us...suffering. Jesus didn't redeem us by his miracles or teachings but by that. And in doing this, He has radically transformed all my sufferings. They have a place to go, on the cross. In my broken humanity, I see the answer as I look at Jesus. The answer? To the best of my ability to actively unite whatever the "it" is in life to the cross, even if I never understand or see the fruit from it in this life.

I have a sticky note on the bedroom wall right now, that every time I walk into the bathroom I glance at it. It reads: My sufferings are no more in vain than the cross was. What can possibly come from my sufferings? A chance to participate with Him in the salvation of the human race. At a glance that can sound like an overly romantic, fuzzy idea...but it certainly doesn't feel warm and fuzzy as you walk through living it. But the challenge is to hold on, persevere, and believe (even if I don't feel like it) that the most painful moments in life have a great, mysterious purpose.
I have been devouring a new book over the past two evenings, and it has been an insightful read on so many levels. God's way out of the mess sometimes leads us further into the mess. He draws us in deeper, because He wants to take us deeper. Suffering brings repentance, and the greatest lessons in life often do come in the hardest of ways.
Tonight Christians around the world will enter the three most sacred days of the liturgical year, the Triduum. We enter Jesus' most active moments of His life, when He was hanging there. And in the darkest, most difficult moments in life, that is when we are most alive, most active; when uniting it to Jesus hanging there on Calvary.

What God is allowing in life now, I do not understand...but someday I will. 
I'm just trusting in Your promise, all will be used for Your purposes and plans.
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