Bubbles and Swings

Weddings aren’t normally my favorite events.  I love seeing people I haven’t seen in a while and celebrating a union that reflects Christ so tangibly, but they tend to be stressful.  Most weddings I’m in are stressful.  Most weddings I attend are stressful.  Being in a wedding is stressful for obvious reasons: unrealistic expectations, high emotions, family dynamics, petty details, high costs, and big changes.  Attending a wedding may not be as obviously stressful, but it can cause a comparable amount of stress sometimes.  As a twenty something that doesn’t drink, it’s hard to go to weddings where alcohol is served.  I find myself quickly isolated while everyone I know is going back and forth to the bar or dancing with a bottle in hand.  When I don’t have a sober buddy, this usually makes for an excruciatingly long evening.

At my cousin’s recent wedding, I was grateful to have a sober buddy.  My sister and I spent the evening together visiting the candy bar, taking pictures, and venturing to a nearby playground.  I was surprised to find that the most fun I’ve had in a long time was actually at a wedding.  My sister and I spent a large part of the evening on the swings with our cousins, who were also blowing bubbles.  Although my grandmother was probably horrified watching her 24-34-year-old granddaughters swing in dresses, we found an activity we could all enjoy on a hot summer night.

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Finding this enjoyable activity made the beautiful setting for this wedding and seeing family I rarely see that much more special.

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Identity Entitlement: Laying Down My Identity for Christ’s

Recently, I’ve heard a lot of twenty somethings talk about frustrations at work and I’ve had a lot of training as I enter a new stage of work.  Both of these categories of conversation have frankly caused me a lot of frustration.

The Lord blessed me by placing me in a professional workplace a lot younger than some of my peers.  Though my experience in an office at age nineteen was certainly a day-to-day trial-and-error (in fact, I sometimes look back and wonder why my employers kept me there or how they managed to be so patient), the Lord used that experience to better prepare me for life after college.  While my friends were going to class in jeans and t-shirts (always my preferred clothing option…though I’d choose sweats over jeans any day), I was showing up in heels and pencil skirts.  While my friends were staying up late not worrying about the next day, I was constantly trying to balance college life and getting to work by 7:45 the next morning.  This dress and schedule change was a constant source of frustration for me and entertainment for my friends, but it was probably the most useful thing I learned in college.

Now, I’m watching my friends go through this change and I’m realizing it’s often met with more resistance.  When I started working in an office, I was often the only person working close to my age.  None of my co-workers resisted dress codes or long days at work, so it did not even cross my mind to try to resist this new normal.  I definitely complained (and so did my co-workers on occasion), but I didn’t think to resist it.

I’m learning that many of my peers do resist.  It seems like punctuality is not a big priority and professional dress is pretty blurred.  I’ve heard friends talk about regularly arriving to work thirty minutes late with their hair wet, ambivalently responding when inquired about their employers’ reactions.  I’ve also had to listen to my clinical director explain that when we have receptionist duty at the counseling center we can’t just not show up.  I’ve been late to work more times than I can count and wet is a continual state of my hair, but the attitude behind these stories and instructions still horrifies me.

When I’ve had this conversation with some of my peers, someone almost always makes a comment like “I can’t change who I am for a job.”  I absolutely agree.  Please don’t change who you are for a job, but the core of that statement is often rooted in an attitude of entitlement.  We are a generation of entitlement.  I’ve had to constantly check myself to avoid such an attitude.

If you’re reading this and you’re a twenty something, here are some thoughts about identity entitlement and laying down our lives (even our precious identities) for Christ.  If you’re reading this and you’re not a twenty something, this may be a good tool to understand or pray for a twenty something.

Identity is important.  Since twenty somethings were little, we were taught “be your own person.”  We love self-expression.  Although we still have a desire to fit in, it doesn’t mean we want to look like everyone else or even act like everyone else.  We just want to be accepted.  The Bible teaches that identity is important and God created each of us differently for a reason.  Yet, our identity in Christ is more important.  Instead of focusing on outward adornment or self-expression, it might serve us well to focus on becoming more like Christ…even if it means tucking in an oversized polo to show respect to an older co-worker.  There are some battles worth fighting and I doubt that’s one Christ would choose to fight.

Respect is important.  My blood boils when I feel disrespected, and my own guilt eats at me when I feel disrespectful.  I believe that many of my peers also value respect like I do.  Unfortunately, I think respect and entitlement can coexist in my generation better than prior generations because we too often dwell on receiving respect more than giving it.  God does want us to take care of ourselves, but He also wants us to take care of others.  Twenty somethings are often up in arms about social injustices or injustices against ourselves, but we often forget about injustices to our co-workers.

Discipline is important.  Twenty somethings cringe at anything that seems legalistic.  Jesus was clearly not a fan of legalism either as He often battled the Pharisees for that reason.  The Lord does value discipline though.  The Bible has a theme of discipline throughout its pages.  Although the Lord may lead you in a Good-Samaritan-like encounter on the way to work once in a while (and to my generation’s credit, we may be the most likely group to actually stop even if it means finding a new job), being on time to work is usually not a matter of being legalistic.  It’s a matter of being disciplined.

Wisdom really does come with age.  The Bible teaches that wisdom comes from the Lord and Solomon certainly exemplifies a wise young person, but that is not the norm.  I’ve known a lot of really wise young people (even teenagers), but the wisest people I know aren’t in their twenties.  Normally the wisest people I meet could be my grandparents.  There are a lot of benefits to being young, but wisdom normally isn’t one of them.  Embrace that and seek the advice of people farther along.  Twenty somethings are at an age where we are expected to ask for help, so let’s do it! We may not have someone older to ask in fifty years.  I definitely am not a proponent of throwing your mind out the window, but actually considering the advice of older people and weighing it against the Bible is always beneficial.  If nothing else, it helps develop humility.

What to Make in a Microwave

I’ve heard people say that I am part of the “microwave generation.” I think that’s normally meant as an insult, but I like to think of it as a compliment.  Sure, bread may get soggy, fires may occur, and there are some health concerns about microwaves, but the pros seem to outweigh the cons in my opinion.

The microwave is fast.  I don’t have to wait for it to preheat or let the contents cook all afternoon.  In a few short minutes  (or maybe even seconds), whatever I’m cooking is finished!

For me, the microwave is also easy.  When living in a house or apartment I might have found it easier to use a stove or oven, but the thought of having to carry my food, pots, pans, skillets, and cookie sheets downstairs just to use the stove or oven means that I very rarely use a stove or oven.

Since moving back into a dorm, I’ve learned that there are a lot of things you can make in a microwave that I never imagined.  Of course, there are still the classics (mac ‘n cheese, oatmeal, soup, etc.), but I’m enjoying these new quick ‘n easy discoveries.  Here are a few examples:

1.  Eggs: pre-dorm life I would never have considered using a microwave to make eggs.  Frankly, the thought was revolting.   However, I’ve learned to embrace this egg-cooking method recently.  For Christmas, my mom bought me this microwave omelet maker.  (I’ve also seen them at grocery stores.) This little guy has made protein-consumption so much easier! It takes two minutes to completely cook the eggs and I can quickly add vegetables or whatever else without dirtying up more dishes (having to hand-wash dishes in a sink down the hall influences a lot of my cooking decisions). It also tastes good.  The eggs aren’t dried out.

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2.  Cheap Popcorn: I know what you’re probably thinking, “other than movie theatre popcorn, what popcorn isn’t cheap?” But snacks over a couple of dollars are pretty much outside my budget, so I’ve found a less expensive alternative (and it’s certainly more entertaining).  I buy popcorn kernels in bulk and pop them in brown paper sacks.  When I first started this activity, I added oil and salt.  Now, I just eat it plain (I already exceed my daily intake of salt and oil most days).  The hardest part of this activity is getting the timing right.  Determined not to set my dorm building on fire (which definitely is not up-to-date on fire safety), I normally have to have a few rounds of popping to get all the kernels popped.

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3.  Cookies: yes, cookies.  Although I’ve never done this by myself (cookie dough is the last thing I need to keep in my freezer), a girl on my hall regularly makes a cookie in a mug for herself.  She chooses to not cook the cookie all the way and add extra sugar, icing, etc.  She did learn never to use a plastic spoon to stir the cookie though…that ended up a big mess with a melted spoon! This method of cookie-making is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth without making dessert for a crowd.

Fear of Men

A loving “no” is not only avoided due to the fear of humility and the fear of the unknown, it is avoided due to the fear of men.

As much as I fear humility and the unknown, I fear men more.  Apart from the grace of the Lord, I am a hopeless people-pleaser, bound by the never ending desire to please each and every person I encounter.

The Bible is pretty clear that people-pleasing is not okay.  Galatians 1:10 is a verse the Lord impressed on my heart during one of my (many) battles with people-pleasing.  It says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (ESV)  When I really mediated on this verse for the first time, the last phrase hit me like a ton of bricks: If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.  Unfortunately, that means that many seasons of my life (even as a Christian) I have not been a servant of Christ.  Instead, I’ve chosen to try to please man.

If I’m honest, being a servant is not my favorite role.  Servanthood includes exhaustion and limitations.  I often associate it with feeling trapped.  It means putting me below others.  So why do I choose to try to serve people? I will never succeed in pleasing everyone.  Ever.  That means I will always feel trapped when I choose to live my life pleasing people.  Instead, I could choose to be a servant of Christ.  True, this still includes occasional exhaustion, limitations, and trials.  But ultimately serving Christ means freedom.  True freedom.

The past few blog posts, I’ve harped on the importance of a loving “no.” I’ve gone into great detail why these different fears impede the Church’s ability to say a loving “no.” Each of these different fears work together to prevent us from lovingly setting boundaries we need to set.  This truly is one of the reasons the broken and needy aren’t well-served by our churches.  We have to seek to serve the Lord and follow His direction about loving and serving people well, not just please people that the Lord loves.  We’re called to love people, not please them.  Sometimes the two work together, sometimes they don’t.

The results of us not setting boundaries often means letting the “needy” walk all over us.  This often snowballs into us having a bad attitude because we’ve let ourselves get worn down.  Whether or not that bad attitude is expressed, it’s seen.  No wonder no one ever wants to express a genuine need in church…we know how the needy are perceived