Last month, my friend Jaime texted me. “I just listened to this interview on NPR about a woman who wrote a book on evangelical purity culture, and I thought of you.” I immediately looked up the interview with Linda Kay Klein, the author of “Pure” and after listening to it, I ordered it on Amazon. It came in a day, and before I knew it I read the first chapter and was twelve again, feeling like it was God’s sovereign will that I marry my first crush.
I consider myself to have grown up on the fringes of purity culture. But “Pure” called out experiences that I’ve had or I’ve known friends to have that hit so close to home. I read the first few chapters and had to put the book down. It was just too real, too big of a reminder of mindsets I’ve come so far from.
I picked it up again a week later. The content was still hard, but also so vital. I felt like I needed to read the stories of these women, that they needed to count and matter for something. Their pain MUST pave others healing journeys.
Personally, the chapters that resonated the most with me were; “Going Home”, “Dementors” and “Sanctuary”. The rest were great examples that I identified with strongly, but I guess those three center either in where I feel I am right now (A mix of the creative owning of self explored in “Going Home” with the growth and expansion described in claiming faith through “Sanctuary”.) or where I feel my call lies (“Dementors”.)
"Going Home" explores the authors writing process as she confronted her family’s fears as she worked on a topic that is potentially so volatile. It pictures her still looking for confirmation of belonging, even as her faith and calling looked so different from what her parents ever imagined.
Personally, writing and sharing is really scary. I get it. I have written parts of my book (and even parts of my blog and instagram posts) and wonder which one will bring the raised eyebrow, or the shutdown of local ministry opportunities. I went through the “will my family stick with me through major change and disagreement” phase a long time ago, but I had never openly questioned or critiqued long cherished patterns of life in Christian communities. Perhaps this is another commentary on evangelical culture, that I assume if I am fully myself and live into my calling, my community will desert me. I assume that parts of myself and my calling will be seen as “too much” or “too intense”. So I feel for Linda, knowing that she must write potentially controversial stories, even though the kickback could be severe.
“Dementors” describes the religious PTSD many women (and men) who have been traumatized through harmful teaching experience when they walk into a church. For some women Linda interviewed, just talking to a clergy person or standing in a pulpit brought on actual panic attacks. I write for so many reasons, but these people are such a HUGE reason that I write. I hope and pray that these people find the healing they need in whatever way they need it. But as long as this keeps happening, I have work to do. My goal is to see Christian faith acting as an actual sanctuary. A place of healing, safety, and reprieve for ALL.
“Sanctuary” gives me hope that this can be achieved. Linda features a few churches which have focused on teaching Christianity in autonomy. Somehow she managed to write a book on one of the most painful and traumatic parts of life for evangelical Christian women, and end on a beautiful, hopeful note.
Also of note, and covered in detail in this book, the physical, emotional, and mental trauma caused by various (non biblical) purity teachings in evangelical faith.
Who should read this:
Those of you who are searching for your path out of the life force sucking traumatic experiences that encompass purity culture.
You will find so. much. affirmation. You will find (hopefully) hope. You will finish this book saying #metoo and maybe #churchtoo but also with an understanding that you can overcome this messaging.
If you have influence in faith circles, I think knowing the dark side of purity messaging is really important. Purity culture is alluring because there are set ways to “win” when we play the game right. It sells the idea of “safety” from having to sort out an murky feelings about sexuality, desire, or consent. We need to know what mindsets we are passing on to the kids and teens in our spheres of influence. This book will stick with you. The stories will haunt you, and they should. They will be reminders every time you want to give a pat answer, or trite example of “sexual purity”. Let the eighty plus women interviewed for this book always help you remember the gravity of this topic. Don’t let your teaching be the reason someone can’t step in a church without having a panic attack.
While I prefer to keep a positive and actionable mindset, it’s worthwhile to consider our road blocks as well. Some of these I go into way more detail about in my book coming out next year so I’m not going to go too crazy discussing them here (or it will be a book.) But I do want to give a snapshot overview of a few things to watch out for.
I want you to know first and foremost that I believe victims. I believe that your trauma, whatever it was, changed your life indescribably. I believe you deserve justice. But there’s a quote that I saw a while ago that has stuck with me because it rings so true:
“Your trauma isn’t your fault, but your healing is your responsibility”
So often once we realize we have been wronged we want to sit in that, or we just don’t see a path out of it. We want The Perpetrators to come in, and somehow make amends for the harm they caused. The really hard truth to accept sometimes is that even if they tried to do that, there’s no way to reverse what happened. We still have to actively choose healing and look for ways to make peace with this new version of ourselves.
Waiting for anyone else to fix us is a dangerous game. We become easy to take advantage of, for anyone selling a “cure”.
We can know true healers by this - they don’t sell a cure, they hand us the tools to heal ourselves.
The idea of taking charge of our own healing can feel overwhelming and daunting, however it’s also incredibly freeing. We get to employ a level of autonomy in seeking healing that we may have never experienced before.
Casting harsh judgements on ourselves or on others is not conducive to personal growth. (This is why we started out this month talking about developing self awareness and self compassion) We spend so much of our time and energy on this!
When I finally started releasing my judgements about myself and others, I freed up SO much energy to spend in other constructive areas of my life. I also freed myself up to fail, to look silly, to be unproductive, even to *gasp* gain weight physically without shoulding everywhere. If you feel stuck automatically judging others, go back and take a look at some mantras for non judgement to inject in your mental landscape.
I’m going to invite you into some nuance here. I think many of us start mental health and personal growth journeys because we need help handling big emotions. We feel flattened by the hard things and we want to know how to either get rid of them or take them on without losing ourselves in them. I know personally, my first goal in mental health was finding groundedness, and knowing I would be OK.
This isn’t bad. But there’s more. I would never advocate that someone (especially those of us who tend to wrap our worthiness up in our positive impact on others) pursue personal growth JUST to be of service to other people. But our personal growth does affect our world. There is danger in complacency, in getting too comfortable. In too much “love and light” or “thoughts and prayers” without in the words of Rachel Cargle, “solidarity and action”.
At some point we have to get out of our comfort zones to stay on our growth journeys. Audre Lorde says; “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self care and compassion enables us to show up in our worlds with resilience, and handle those hard things without them overcoming us. It should not be a place for us to hide from them.
Scarcity is the “not (ever) enough” mindset. It’s the assumption that more of anything will fix our problems in life. More sleep, more money, more attention, connection, intimacy, love, time, friends… you get the picture. There’s a whole chapter on Scarcity in my book coming next year (!!) but the five thousand foot overview is that often in our quest for more, we miss the reasons that we crave it. The opposite of scarcity isn’t excess, it’s ENOUGH. I think it’s hard for us to believe in Enough when we so often feel that we can’t ever measure up, and BE enough. Once we accept ourselves and learn to stay present in our world, it becomes easier to stop always looking around the next corner for More.
It’s a scientific fact that when faced with a unknowns, our brains try to fill in the most likely scenarios based on our personal experiences. This can be helpful in problem solving, but it also can be really dangerous. Leaving open ended unknowns can feel uncomfortable at first, but “I don’t know” is always an acceptable answer. Especially when it comes to big questions, questions of faith and theology, “I don’t know” is so much safer than building our lifestyle around facts that might not be true. Let’s leave space for more discovery and admit that we don’t have all the answers.
Here's a secret that may not really be a secret... I take most of my own photos for social media myself. Being a photographer has been really helpful as I've moved into this new space, and I want to share a few simple tips that can have you upping your selfie game in no time!
First lets talk setup. This may look like a lot, but in reality I rarely use the flash. (I prefer using natural light.)
I'm including two setups here - one I can use my phone, and one I can use my camera.
So first, my *main* setup is with my Canon 30D, and a 50mm 1.8 prime lens. I have a remote trigger that plugs into my camera. I put it on the tripod, and I'm good to go.
A lot of the newer cameras have built in wireless connectivity, so you don't need the same type of remote trigger, check the manual (or google) whatever model you have to see what your needs would be.
(A prime lens just means that it is a fixed length and doesn't zoom.)
The 50mm 1.8 is my favorite lens because I can easily control the depth of field (how blurry the background is) with the F stop, although with self portraits this can get tricky. It's easy to end up with the background in focus and my face completely blurred out. Not usually what I'm going for.
Also, 50mm is a great length, and it's fairly easy to get either a good panorama, or a portrait. I also have an 85mm 2.4 prime lens which gives really amazing bokeh, but I need SO much room to be able to use it well, and it's not very practical for self portraits.
I like to shoot on manual, because I am used to setting my own lighting, but there's no shame in flipping your camera on auto or portrait mode.
The big differences in digital SLRs vs phones and point and shoot digital cameras are how much control you have over your image. The ability to swap out lenses means you can get really specific with what kind of image you want to create, and then there's adding in lighting control, and more options in post processing as well. The nice thing is that digital SLR's are not nearly as cost prohibitive as they once were. I think I spent 500 on my first "cheap" camera, and the one I have now was 7-900. Of course now you can buy the camera body on eBay for under $100.
Now, that doesn't include lenses, lighting, SD cards, but you can get a bare bones setup for under $300 out the door now.
The second setup, is a remote trigger using my phone. I don't use this a lot, because the photo quality is just so much better with my "real" camera and the photos are easier to manipulate afterwards as well. But if you're looking for a cheap self portrait setup, this will get you going.
The remote trigger and tripod attachment I have was $12.00
The tripod was also $12.00
You can be in business for about $25.00 using your phone. Everything else though, framing, modeling, lighting, all of that applies no matter what your setup is.
If you want to get comfortable in front of the camera, the easiest way is to take some self portraits. It's so easy to try new things when you have full control of your images, and see what angles feel most comfortable for you specifically.
I personally like to try new ways to take up more space in photos (as opposed to trying to shrink as much as possible like a lot of us do!) Also, as a photographer, I find self portraits a great way to hone my posing skills for my clients. I can more specifically direct them when I've personally been there and done it.
You don't have to do any crazy amount of styling either, although you certainly can. My favorite spot to set up minimal self portraits is in my kitchen, next to my slider. It's like sitting in front of a giant softbox. (see above)
As I've gotten more specific about the pictures I want, I have no problem taking my setup out in public and clicking away. Does it look weird? Yes totally. Do I care? Not remotely.
General rules of photography apply here. Direct sunlight makes for strong shadows (and washed out highlights), overcast days and shade are our friends for well exposed photos.
I make sure to stay on public property as much as possible, or try to find someone to get permission from otherwise. Parks, trails, and woods are all great places, and if your setup is minimal enough, it's easy to pack and go.
Of course, my most styled shoot meant toting an empty frame and various other props into a walking trail, but it worked out!
I really love self portraiture as an art form for so many reasons. It frees me up from other peoples schedules, and I can just pick up and chase a sunset, fog, or light with no notice to create something beautiful.
I also like taking time to create self portraits when I get all up in my feels, and working to communicate those powerful emotions effectively.
I hope this helps you on your photography journey, I would love to see examples of what you create!
Today I have such a treat for you. FIVE women in one post! I’m half kidding, I can’t even begin to cover all five of these women in one post, however I do want to give you a snapshot of the women I interviewed for my book coming next year, Dear Sister, and why.
From the beginning of my writing process, I didn’t want to just center my own opinion and experiences. Lots of books and authors do that, and it’s not a bad thing. But for THIS book, about sisterhood, I wanted readers to hear from women with different backgrounds, challenges, and victories. Writing can feel like talking into an echo chamber which is great if you like the sound of your own voice, but otherwise it gets old.
The added bonus of interviews, was the incredible support I’ve received (and continue to receive!) from these women through the process of writing. I am so lucky and blessed down to my toes to have each of them in my life. So without further ado, let me introduce you!
Many of you may already know Jaime. We met through shared faith community when I first moved to Connecticut. I'm not going to spoil the story, but our friendship took some time to come about. Now, I am so blessed to be a part of her life.
I interviewed Jaime because her story is just so powerful. I knew she had dealt with a lot of major challenges in life that many of you will be able to relate to. I love how she shares her story so openly and vulnerably. Just a few topics we cover include: The power (for good and bad) of church communities, recovering from eating disorders, growing up with a single mom, recovering from abuse, therapy, and (my favorite) parenting in ways that don't pass on systemic / family trauma. We also talked about the rockstar lineup of women Jaime had to look up to (spoiler, including her mom!) that baked in her resilience and tenacity.
I met Kelly through Grrrl Clothing, and her Instagram. She has created an amazing space online for body positive fitness and personal growth. I was so intimidated by how fantastic she was when I first found her, that it took me MONTHS to reach out even though we had so much in common.
I interviewed Kelly for my book because I so greatly value her story, and her work in cultivating autonomy and personal worth, as well as community and sisterhood. We talk about searching for healing and wholeness in faith communities and how that can be so challenging.
Erika Kimberley is the amazing founder of To Be Praised ministries, which encourages Christian women to uncover their gifts and claim their faith. Her work of encouraging women of faith in leadership is SO needed, and one of the main reasons I wanted to interview her for Dear Sister.
I heard Erika speak at a women's event a few years ago, and I was in awe. Fun fact, it took me at least two years to have the self image to initiate a friendship, and she has been such a blessing and inspiration in my life ever since.
We talk about identity, autonomy, claiming faith as our own, as well as moving towards healing faith communities that still have massive racial divides.
I met Pam Conklin almost thirty years ago now. She has known me the longest of any of these women. Oh yeah, and she's my mom.
I included an interview with Mom for several reasons. First, while I don't consider her old, she does have a lot of experience. She has been a part of multiple different types of church communities, raised a family, homeschooled, lived all across the US and internationally, and been a Navy wife.
Second, I talk about my own experiences and growth journey a lot in this book, but it's not an expose or a dig at my family. I wanted Mom to be able to weigh in on her experience as I processed much of these things, and to discuss how that impacted our relationship.
Third, and this may be the biggest reason, I think our relationship is has probably changed more drastically than any other in my life as a result of the things I discuss in Dear Sister. I went from moving out at 19, against her wishes and having a very surface relationship with her for a while, to coming full circle and being able to share openly (and even disagree openly) in trust.
I have known Heather for almost as long as I have known Mom (although not quite.) We were childhood friends, and our families attended the same church and were part of the same homeschool program.
Heather is a blogger as well, and I interviewed her because her story is just so relatable for those of us growing up in very conservative churches and homeschool settings. We talk about what it's like growing up without having leadership gifts affirmed, and sorting that out in adulthood. We also discuss finding our voices, how to know if a therapist is a good fit, and how Heather is teaching her (adorable) twin daughters autonomy from day one.
I hope that our conversations give you some inspiration, relief, and confirmation that you're not alone in any of this. That is after all, what sisterhood is all about.
“I am resilient
I trust the movement
I negate the chaos
Uplift the negative
I’ll show up at the table again and again and again
I’ll close my mouth and learn to listen”
"Resilient" by Rising Appalachia
Self care and compassion can sound like shallow topics because they are positive pursuits. The “good” stuff is supposed to come easy, right? If only.
I emphasize self care and compassion / non judgement so much because when we practice them, we have the capacity to grow our roots and become resilient.
We can deal with someone in our lives not liking us without taking it personally.
We can hold uncomfortable space with other people in our lives without sacrificing our integrity or shaming them for their beliefs.
We are secure enough in ourselves to not let another person’s opinion of us our our beliefs change how we relate to them.
We learn to invoke nuance in tough spaces instead of clinging to a polarity of “GOOD” or “BAD”.
We know how to care for ourselves and our people when the world seems rough, cold, and heartless.
If we don’t develop these skills in our lives, we do ourselves and our communities a disservice.
My inner empath reminds me constantly our worlds are in crisis of all kinds. Every day it seems there’s something more divisive happening then the last. It used to be countries and factions warring for territory, and now our own families and faith communities are broken up along fault lines of opposing belief systems.
No matter what polarity we cling to, walling ourselves up with people who think exactly like we do, and dehumanizing the “others” doesn’t fix anything. Defensiveness of our own positions and belief systems only widens the divide.
We are where we are in the world because for so long, it was easy for many of us to not do this emotional work. It was easier not to learn to take care of ourselves, and extend grace to others. We could live on automatic and not worry about our inner worlds too much.
It was easier not to talk about hard things.
And now, here we are, the communal division and trauma rising, with no clue how to respond. And so we armor up, build our defenses, and prepare for war, divided even further.
The castle and moat a reminder that we care more about our chosen polarity than about our people.
I have strong belief systems. I feel them in my bones. But I still feel the fear and shame of those who might be seen as my “opposition”. I hold space and grace for their healing journeys. While they won’t change my core beliefs, I know they have much to teach me.
We can’t heal this communal trauma by ignoring it. As we heal ourselves and our relationships, we heal our world.
So tell me now, how love and compassion are the simple choices.
Tell me how easy it is to hold space for someone who believes differently than you do.
Tell me how you sweep shame out your front door every morning.
Tell me how you show your children and your community daily to choose love over fear.
Tell me what work you do internally to show up as the most authentic and vulnerable version of yourself in your world.
Tell me what advantages you have in life, and how you leverage them to help those who aren’t fortunate in those ways.
Let’s not allow “love”, “compassion”, and “empathy” to become just buzzwords. Let’s find tactile ways to show up behind them, every day.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” Martin Luther King Jr., “Love Your Enemies” Sermon (1957)
I’m going to tell you a secret, that may make most of you click out of this blog on the spot. But I believe in authenticity so here goes:
I don’t get that jazzed about Thanksgiving and Christmas as an adult.
When I think about the holidays coming up, all it does is give me low grade anxiety, which will probably continue to get worse the closer they loom.
I love New Years.
The planner in me is already wondering what my themes for 2019 will be. If we can ignore the diet culture hoard trying to convince us we need a “new us” in the new year, and shaming us for our choices, the New Year is brimming with possibility and wonder.
I’m actually not a huge Resolutioner, but I do always set new intentions and themes for a new year.
One of my big themes in 2018 was to rediscover my inner creative. I knew that adult life had squished her down, and I wanted to get reacquainted.
I talked about this some a couple weeks ago, the process hasn’t been as smooth or easy as I expected. My inner creative is demanding and unpredictable. She also just may be upset at me for sidelining her for years.
As a creative, I know how challenging it can be to feed your creativity while not losing yourself in them. I’m going to share a few mantras to reflect on which will help you nurture your relationship with your inner creative.
I think perfectionism is a really common problem for artists and creatives. It’s worse than run of the mill perfectionism because we have a vision, and getting a project perfect isn’t just about other people thinking it’s perfect.
Creative perfectionism is about how close our finished creation or project is to what we envisioned, and how OK we can be creating without knowing the outcomes. It’s about learning to show up to create with inspiration, but not letting our vision ruin our reality.
We have to follow our vision but still hold it loosely, and allow for it to grow into something totally unexpected.
Artists and creatives are known for pushing all of the envelopes. But a lot of times, this also requires us to be the oddball and the weirdo, especially when no one else knows what we are going for. I’ve taken self portraits in public so many times, and it can feel awkward, but I am way more invested in my project than I am what the random cars driving by think of me. Don’t let “but it will be weird’ or “people will look at me funny” keep you from doing YOU.
I touched on this a couple weeks ago on the Gram. So often we are afraid of putting any boundaries around our inspiration and creativity for fear we will lose it. We get on a roll and don’t want to stop until we burn all the way out.
Maybe some people have a lifestyle that accommodates this, but it’s definitely not a healthy one for me. Here’s the secret, if we are building up our creative life with intention, we can implement internal boundaries even for our Creative.
My boundaries include not bringing my phone upstairs to bed with me, and not spending every moment I’m not working my day job writing and taking photos. I purposely schedule myself other things, like spending time with family and friends, regularly. I also schedule writing time, and try to leave myself outlines and trails to pick up on. I don’t have the luxury of blocking out hours a day to write, so I have to get really efficient in the time that I do have, even if it’s only a 20 minute block of time.
Think about what boundaries might help you in the care and keeping of your creative. If you would be interested in journaling prompts to guide you through this process, let me know in the comments!
This has been a hard one for me from both sides. I grew up thinking that my art would be what eventually supported me, and put a lot of energy into building a photography business. Except, it never took off. It never took off because booking clients I didn’t already know was really scary, and turned a spotlight on my social anxiety. I paid for decent gear with some weddings and portrait sessions, but this has always been a side gig.
The worst part was how I started feeling when I focused on monetizing my photography. It wasn’t fun anymore. The thing I loved, that actually gave me ways to connect with others meaningfully and provide them value, was stressing me out.
Hear me loud and clear: Your art doesn’t have to bring in money to be worthy
If you find a way to do what you love for money, and keep loving it that’s fantastic, but if not, that’s OK.
Ironically now I’m putting together a photography experience that I think will be incredibly valuable. But I have done so much personal work to be able to approach this with consistency and also release my expectations of it. I can look at the potential for the idea and get excited, without attaching that to a whole bunch of financial outcomes. If it gets big, great! If it doesn't, I'm still doing what I love, and I have a stable day job which pays my mortgage.
Here’s where it gets really individual.
Only you know what feeds your creative.
For me it’s everything from the changing leaves on my drive to work, to smooth jazz while I cook dinner. I purposely follow a lot of art and photography pages on social media, and read a lot of books as well. I want to immerse myself in enriching content, so when it comes time for me to create, I have wells of inspiration to draw on.
Spend some time thinking and writing about what moves you and inspires you. Again, if you'd be interested in more specific writing prompts to guide you through learning to set boundaries for and nurture you inner Creative, let me know in the comments!
Have you developed any creative mantras? I want to hear them!
The last two weeks I talked about authors that have been instrumental in my life. But today I want to talk about a woman I know personally, who always encourages my growth.
My friend, Lorri, has faced a lot of challenges in her life. Single parenthood, kids with serious health concerns, an abusive ex, stories a lot of us can relate to.
I find her so inspiring.
She is one of the most grounded women that I know when it comes to her faith. No matter what she’s going through, she is always looking up. She is always looking for ways to serve, even in the middle of her own crisis.
She is always looking for ways to educate herself and grow. She is unpacking and laying out the path for her healing journey, and deciding which of her old, faithful, coping mechanisms might not be serving her the best now. She reads, she teaches, she learns new languages in her spare time.
She is a thoughtful and present parent to her kids, who are mostly grown now. She is moving into adult relationships with them and guiding them through the first steps of college, jobs, and first cars.
She talks about writing books, and for all your sake I hope she follows through, because I’ve only skimmed the top of her story.
I love sitting down and getting a heart to heart with Lorri.
When it comes to faith, we may not always agree on interpretations of scripture or all of our belief patterns, but we respect each others journeys.
This is something I want to see more of in Christian faith communities. We are divided for many reasons. I’m not going to bore you with a detailed explanation of how the denominations came to be (hint: they exploded during abolition and civil rights movements…) but when we separate ourselves from everyone who believes something slightly different than we do, it’s isolating and dangerous.
We need to know how to have healthy relationships and conversations with people we disagree with.
We need to know how to respect people we disagree with.
I saw an Instagram post this past week stating how a Christian woman read about an author, and then unfollowed her and stopped reading her book because the author didn’t line up with her theological beliefs.
Here’s the thing. The Bible tells us to beware of false teachers. But if your theological beliefs are so flimsy that just reading about another woman’s journey or walk makes you rethink them, maybe you SHOULD be rethinking them.
Jesus says in that same passage that we will know which teachers are of God by their fruit. Is the fruit of their lives and work loving, joyful, peaceful, compassionate? This is the fruit of the spirit. I don’t know about you, but I grew up with teachers ensconced in our religious circles who couldn’t claim that fruit.
It’s sobering to consider that not being able to share mutual respect in faith is fruit.
What belief systems and theologies led to our total intolerance of the walk of a brother or sister in faith?
So here are some sisterhood marching orders: Go sit down with a woman who has a different story than you, who holds some different beliefs from you, and practice mutual respect and love. Pray together. Support each other. Affirm each other in your journeys.
The fact that we aren’t all the same is beautiful, not scary. We don’t all hold the same gifts or functions in faith, and that’s reason for celebration, not disconnection.
If you’re looking for some ways to reach out in love and practice non judgement and respect, take a look at my post from Monday for five mantras to nurture compassion!
As always, thank you for walking with me.
Welcome to week three of plantalogies, thank you for growing with me!
Today I’m going to share five easy, repeatable mantras for non judgement.
These can help you dig in to your self compassion and strengthen your compassion for others.
We know that if we want to learn a skill we must repeat the movements over and over to teach our brains what we’re doing. The same goes for thought patterns and mindsets. So often we give up because it doesn’t come naturally, and decide that it’s just not who we are, but that’s not true! It takes just as much effort to purposely inject compassion into our days as it does to learn a new instrument or sport.
The graphics to follow are sized for iPhone wallpaper! Feel free to save one or all of them to have a regular reminder of whichever mantra you're internalizing.
I mentioned this first one in last weeks post, but I’m going to repeat and feature it here because it’s just so powerful:
Brene Brown introduced me to this concept in her book “Daring Greatly”. She shares a narrative of a horrific rooming experience at a speaking engagement, and then how her therapist asked her if she thought people were doing the best that they could, with the information they had in any given moment? Her (and my) automatic response was oh HELL no…
However the question has stuck with me. In traffic, on the phone at work, when That Person is doing the Thing that is Ruining My Life / Day, it was in the back of my mind. What if they’re really just doing their best right now? When I was stressed over my lack of productivity, or the fact that I got to work five minutes late, or that I didn’t cook a homemade dinner, the question gently prodded me “how would you feel if you could accept this as your best for today?”
Grafting this concept in has been a challenge, but it’s also been so rewarding. It gives me a way to release my frustration both with myself and with others. Also, I try to keep in mind that when I get frustrated with other people for being... people... that my frustration with them only messes up my day, it doesn't do anything to them. Getting upset with other people for mundane things only hurts me.
This is something I’ve struggled with intensely. Scarcity is that “not ever enough” feeling. There are really nuanced reasons we feel this way. (There’s a whole chapter on scarcity coming in my book!) However, social narratives teach us that one person’s success means that there’s less available for everyone else. This is especially true as women in patriarchal systems. We are taught that we must be the prettiest, nicest, smileyest, most acceptable (whatever the heck that means) to get anywhere in life. Since men run this show, we take our cues from them, and find ourselves in direct competition with all other women.
So let’s take a step out of the narratives, and look at our lives in light of there being Enough. Enough for everyone to live fully embodied, joyful lives brimming with purpose and love.
Enough to be whole.
This shouldn’t sound like a foreign paradigm, especially for those of us who participate in Christian faith. However we all fall prey to the narratives of scarcity. The sad thing is, we shut ourselves down from fantastic supportive relationships when we live this way. I can tell you that out of my current friend group, several women are those I was at one point intimidated by.
But now they are some of my biggest supporters.
The only thing that changed in those situations was me, and my willingness to reach out authentically.
It’s a natural function of our brains to fill in unknowns and blanks. It’s a basic part of our reasoning. But sometimes we get in our own way when it comes to other people and their stories. We act out of the belief that other people are mostly like us, so they should do things like we do, right?
The reason human beings are so fascinating is that we are all different. We all hold different experiences and stories in us. We have different backgrounds, preferences, and different DNA.
We can never assume we know another person’s story or history. Finding out someone isn’t like us is something to be celebrated and respected.
Let’s be secure enough in who we are to hold that space for others to be themselves fully too.
Making others experiences about us is a really easy thing to do. It can feel like identifying with them. It can feel like offering advice in what seems like a similar situation. But so often we don’t really have the relational tools to take ourselves out of the equation and just be there for THEM.
I’m not a mom (yet) but I see this all the time with pregnant women. On a dime, group conversation goes from what the woman in transition is living, to a parade of war stories and badges of motherhood honor from surrounding women. None of them mean badly, but they have completely made conversation about a life altering event for one woman about their personal validity and worthiness as moms.
So here’s my own rule of thumb - I ask questions and affirm what’s said to me conversationally at least three times as much as I talk about myself. I don’t assume that I know what someone else is going through. I don’t assume that they need me or my experiences. If the conversation shifts, and they start asking me questions too, then I open up more, and know we are tracking.
Have you ever felt just a little (or a lot!) jealous of someone who achieved something BIG? Maybe something you would like to achieve in your life? Whether it’s the friend that actually went on that dream vacation, or graduated from grad school, or runs a successful business… OR, the friend that decided to do compete in bodybuilding and now has washboard abs.
I have. But for the most part, I’ve stopped being jealous of others successes with just a few subtle mindset alignments. This is a big one. Remember the struggle. I’m very rarely jealous of low body fat physiques, because I know exactly how much effort and focus would go into obtaining that, and I am OUT. I’m not in for obsessively tracking every calorie and macronutrient I eat, or bringing tupperwares of my own food to family occasions. Or spending half my weekend making food for the week. I can look at people who have done all this and say wow, that takes a lot of dedication! I can admire their achievements without remotely wanting to go down that road.
When I do get that stab of “I wish that was me”, it’s actually directive. It can mean that I’m not fully living into my purpose, and I can plan to include similar elements. It can mean that may be a future goal I can look towards. It can mean that there’s some element in what that person accomplished that I’m not being authentic and standing in my integrity in. So when that feeling DOES, come it’s an invitation to greater self awareness, not something I sit in.
I hope these five mantras serve you as you increase your capacity for compassion.
Thank you for walking with me!
I am always honored when I get asked to take engagement photos. Honestly, they are some of my favorite portrait sessions. My job as the photographer isn't just snapping a pretty picture, or coaching on wardrobe. My job is uncovering the spark and connection in a couple, what they will want to remember about this season of their lives for years to come.
Engagement photos tell a story. We all love love, but photos with soul are more than warm and fuzzy.
They are playful
They are nurturing
And mostly they celebrate the years spent together, and years to come. I always feel like the better I know a couple or family, the happier I am with the photos. I have been blessed to know Dylan and Chelsea from the beginning of their relationship. They've already experienced a lot of life together, and I can't wait to see where it takes them next.
I had never heard of Jen Hatmaker, but her book “Of Mess and Moxie” was chosen for my groups first book club. Bonus, it was available at my local library. DOUBLE bonus, the audiobook was available on the library app, and I had a long drive to make. Have you ever read the perfect book at the perfect time? That’s what happened here. I was in the very beginning stages of thinking that I *might* need more sisterhood and support from other women in my life.
Jens book had me in tears within the first ten minutes, which is only slightly dangerous when driving. First, she reads the audiobook, which is my favorite. I always prefer to hear the author read their own words, because they know exactly how to put across the meaning of what they’ve written.
Second, Jen feels like the best girlfriend you never had. I wanted to camp on her porch by the end of the book and that’s saying a lot for this introvert.
Third, she is a couple life stages past me, and reading about her life and challenges and relationships enabled me to look into a future that in many ways I could choose to build for myself. She gave me a map to building deep, fulfilling relationships, and showed me a picture of what that can look like. It took a lot for that to sink in through the “safer alone” mantra I had been living for years.
When I was done with the book, I needed more. So I looked up her “for the love” podcast.
Friends. Jen has a gift (and / or a talented team) for picking amazing guests. She interviews all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons, but at this point in my life, I was looking for women. She was just starting a series called “for the love of girlfriends” which had ways to develop those deep relationships as a central theme. I ate it up. I reference multiple women I found through Jen’s podcast in my book (coming next year!) because she just has such fantastic conversations, and picks such insightful guests doing really powerful work.
Through her podcast I’ve discovered:
Shasta Nelson and her book, “Frientimacy”
Latasha Morrison and her program, “Be The Bridge”
Rachel Held Evans and her book, “Inspired”
Jo Saxton and her book, “The Dream of You” as well as her podcast, which is also one of my favorites, “Lead Stories Podcast”
Nichole Nordeman and her album, “Every Mile Mattered”
Sara Cunningham and her “Free Mom Hugs” movement
Austin Channing Brown and her book, “I’m Still Here”
Becca Stevens and her business & ministry, Thistle Farms
Here’s the powerful thing about discovering a lot of powerful women. You realize that you can be one of them. When you hear enough stories of grit, determination, and yes, moxie, you start realizing that you can do YOUR thing, whatever that is for you.
So check out Jen Hatmakers book (available on amazon and at libraries!) “Of Mess and Moxie” and her podcast “For the Love”. But I’m warning you, it might be life changing.
Megan is a writer and creator from Wallingford, CT. She is passionate about empowering women to step into the full power and identity they were created to embrace and claim.