Learning to Love -40°

[Re-post from bkathleen.wordpress.com]

I was out walking with my dog the other night. For those of you not keeping track, I recently adopted an eleven-month old standard poodle named Teddy. Anyway, we were out walking one night. It was terribly cold. As we walked, I buried my head as far into my scarf as my slight claustrophobia would allow, pulled my hat down to just above my eyebrows, and trudged on. Teddy had decided that tonight would be a perfect night to take his sweet time, and lay down in random snowbanks, trying to find one that was going to give him the comforts of home while he was on a walk to “do his business.”

While Teddy’s sense of urgency was lacking, mine was not. I had my eye on the prized- a warm, welcoming home, where sweatpants and hoodies were the preferred attire, and no one would judge you for wearing clashing colors. I was driven, motivated, and determined to make it out of the -30° wind chill in one piece. Teddy, however, had other plans.

I watched him poking around, smelling smells, and knowing that this was most likely one of few experiences with cold and snow, seeing how he was only born last January. And while my goal was to get home and miss what was happening around me, Teddy’s main concern was being able to experience this new world. My goal was to bury my head, skip what was in front of me, and Teddy wanted to jump and pounce and prance through the new, powdery snow.

This pretty much describes what all of 2016 has been like. After losing my job last November, and fighting to find a full time position where I was going to be given room to grow and excel, I struggled with mental health issues, the feeling of having little-to-no purpose, and losing identity. My goal was to keep my head buried, share with no one, and not to let anyone in for fear that my weaknesses would show.

Instead, I buried myself in other peoples’ problems, the election, family drama, or anything else I could find to hide behind instead of facing the issues that I needed to in order to be healthy. With the new year coming, I’ve vowed to make a change in how I attack my life.

So many people I’ve known have chose the route of blocking out the world around them, and dealing with their brokenness alone. This isolates us, turns us inward, and sends us into a ridiculous tailspin of self reflection, that usually causes more harm than good. What we needed the most during these times are to be reminded of our worth by people who know it when we don’t, and people who value us when we feel like our value has been depleted.

As the year comes to a close (a long, difficult, sad, scary year), my hope for you is that you be like Teddy. Be willing to be adventurous, lay down in the snowbank, and live every day like your experiencing it for the first time (even if, as Minnesotans, we get really exhausted of days below 0°).

This is my new beginning, and I’m inviting anyone who wants to join me to do so. This year, I resolve to be open, welcoming, and accepting of people’s love because eventually I will need it, and when you need love in return, I’ll be there to give you what I have to offer. And I expect you to accept it.

Thoughts on Thursday: Why I Actually Hate Palm Sunday

Last night I had choir rehearsal after a long day of work. Before rehearsal, I’d sung on the worship team during the Lenten service, so by 7:15, I was ready to be home and in sweatpants. I’d sworn to my friend Chris that I would stay at least for the rehearsal of our big anthem piece but then I was going to go home. After we were done with the large piece, I thought, “I really want to go home, but I should probably stay for at least another song… because I said I would.” So I did. I was out the door and on my way back to the house where I’m housesitting this week by 8:09. As I pulled up to the stoplight at the intersection where I turn, I noticed a large, four-car accident. I couldn’t help but think to myself that if I had left even five minutes earlier, I could have been one of the cars in that pileup (and my poor car didn’t need to be in another accident– I’ve had her for 5 months, and she’s been in 3 different accidents already). I said a prayer of thanks that something compelled me to stay an extra 10 minutes so that I wasn’t involved, and I also prayed for the safety of the people involved. I was so thankful for, what I assume, was divine intervention keeping me safe.

This morning as I turned that corner, I was listening to some of the music that we’ll be singing in worship this weekend for Palm Sunday. All of a sudden, it hit me– I absolutely hate Palm Sunday. Sure, it’s a joyous celebration of Jesus entering Jerusalem, with people shouting his praise, giving him the king’s treatment he deserved. Then, only 5 days later, those same crowds turn into angry mobs, and all of a sudden Jesus is murdered by the people he came to set free with the truth.

So where’s the connection between last night’s thankfulness and this morning’s revelation? It’s here: I am those crowds turned angry mobs. My entire relationship with Jesus is one long, ongoing contradiction. One moment I’m thanking him for my safety and in the next breath I’m asking him why I’m still unemployed, or why my mom is sick, or why I had to lose Grandpa in such a painful way. I go from rejoicing in my acceptance of eternal life to questioning all his authority when something goes awry.

I know I’m not alone in this. I feel like most of us experience this at least on a daily basis. The reason is that we are situational people. We don’t have the ability to see anything but the picture in front of us. Not to mention that it’s easy for us to say “God doesn’t ‘make’ bad things happen…” when good things are happening but the second misery strikes, all we can think is, “God, how could you?” In one breath we are singing hosannas, and in the next we are calling for his demise whether it be through our actions, words, or thoughts.

There’s a reason we need Easter. It’s because we are constantly in a fight between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. We are constantly being torn between our humanity and our desire to be people of God. I hate Palm Sunday because it reminds me that Good Friday is coming. It reminds me that my own humanity is inevitable and eventually I’ll fall victim to denouncing Jesus. I will fall victim to my own human nature. I hate falling victim to anything, but I hate it more when it’s to myself.

So this Palm Sunday, I’ll rejoice in the triumph of my God, knowing full well that my praises will come to an end and my desires of the flesh will take over. It’s inevitable. And right now, I don’t have a fix for it. The best I can do is expect it to happen. I think I’m going to leave it at that. Not because I don’t know what else to say, but because there’s something beautiful in being able to leave problems without solutions and questions without answers.

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Wax Poetic Wednesday- An Ode to Margaritaville

Here’s a shoutout to my parents who are spending the day in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I told them to hit up Margaritaville, and now I can’t get this song out of my head. Today’s Wax Poetic Wednesday, brought to you by Jimmy Buffett.

“Margaritaville”

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Nibblin’ on sponge cake,
watchin’ the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin’ my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp
They’re beginnin’ to boil.Wasted away again in Margaritaville,
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame,
But I know it’s nobody’s fault.Don’t know the reason,
Stayed here all season
With nothing to show but this brand new tattoo.
But it’s a real beauty,
A Mexican cutie, how it got here
I haven’t a clue.

Wasted away again in Margaritaville,
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame,
Now I think, – hell it could be my fault.

I blew out my flip flop,
Stepped on a pop top,
Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home.
But there’s booze in the blender,
And soon it will render
That frozen concoction that helps me hang on.

Wasted away again in Margaritaville
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame,
But I know, it’s my own damn fault.
Yes, and some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
And I know it’s my own damn fault.

Transparency Tuesday: Silver Linings… But I Definitely Don’t Have a Playbook

Today is a little bit about what’s going on with me right now– the painful stuff. It’s been challenging, draining, emotional, and, like I said, painful. But at the same time, it’s also been filled with hope, encouragement, and self discovery.

Last week was a rough one… Wednesday in particular. Let me give you a quick background.

Over the last 4 months, I’ve been looking for a new full time career, and in the meantime I’ve been working part time at Caribou Coffee in Woodbury, a place I worked way back in 2006. It’s been great, but it’s also been very obvious that I’m in a different place now than I was then. Between staffing frustrations and pay, I decided that I needed to look for additional or other part time work. I applied at both a large liquor store and DSW primarily because of, you guessed it, employee discounts!

First I interviewed at the liquor store. It went well. After my meeting with the general manager, I was introduced to the Human Resources guy who talked to me about everything from supervisory positions at a store level to looking at moving into corporate. It was obvious that both of these guys, the store manager and the HR guy were impressed with my background and work ethic. Which was great. I’m glad I could be such an impressive… specimen? But as I left, I couldn’t help but wonder how I was able to come across as so intelligent and capable to these people who view me as impressive, but was missing the mark with jobs that I wanted and needed in the corporate sector.

So I called my dad crying. Obviously, that was the most logical next step. I just needed to get it out of my system. I was so tired having people assume I was incapable because I’d been in ministry, or because I was a woman, or because I look 10 years younger than the age I am (good problem to have, I know…). I want to work hard. I want to be challenged. I want to devote my life to doing something good for people. I want to be pushed to my limit. But most of all, I want to use the gifts I know I have to rock the world. I just need someone to give me a chance.

After I got off the phone with my dad, I managed to pull myself together, and go sit alone in my apartment for the evening. I spent the night alone, trying to reevaluate, and strategize how to move forward in the most ass-kickingly way possible. I’m not one to give up, but I am one to step back and analyze.

The next day, I got up to go to work, feeling emotionally drained, but knowing I had to do what I had to do. At one point in the afternoon, I took a break off the floor to check my phone. And what did I find? Three emails from Optum, a part of UnitedHealth Group, about a position similar to one I’d applied for the week previous. All of a sudden, I was seeing a break in the clouds. One email was to let me know I was being considered for this position that I’d never even ‘officially’ applied for, and one letting me know what the next steps would be.

Things with this company move slowly so I didn’t expect much to happen right away. But that was wrong of me. Within two hours, I had a phone interview set up for the next day. Now, I wait with no clue of what happens next except that I do know final interviews are Friday and I have yet to hear feedback on my phone and video interviews. Excuse me while I sweat myself silly in the corner.Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 11.51.17 AM

To even try to claim that I have any clue what I’m doing would be false. I’m just waking up day after day, trying to figure this crap out. You guys, it’s so hard. It’s hard to be at your best all the time. It’s hard to know what to do next. And some days, it’s just hard to get out of bed. But in the crevices of this maze I’m on, I’m finding glimmers of hope, giving me faith in what lies ahead and a silver lining on some really cloudy days.

It’s not perfect. Life isn’t perfect. I’m far from perfect. But unless I cling to any shred of hope I can find, I’ll eventually curl up into an unproductive ball of hopelessness.

The moral of my story is this: Life is hard. Life is surprising. I have no clue what the hell I’m doing, but I guess that’s not stopping me. Don’t let it stop you either.

Mystical Lystical Monday, March 7th

10 Things I want to be When I Grow Up

I don’t care if you’re 3 or 30, there’s always growing up to do. So I thought about some things I want to be when I finally grow up.

10. Fabulous

9. Unstoppable

8. Loved

7. Bold

6. Limitless

5. Vocal

4. Responsible (within reason)

3. Grounded

2. Brave

1. Me

None of these things happen over night. It’s a journey that sometimes sucks, and is sometimes the most exhilarating thing in life. Embrace it, look forward to it, and enjoy it. It’s the only journey you get.

The Best is Yet to Come

As I watched the Oscars last night (because of course I watched the Oscars last night), and saw Leo FINALLY win his award… and Spotlight come from out of nowhere to win Best Picture, I thought about how life does nothing but surprise you, and make you wait for things. I thought that was a perfect reason to finally break the blog silence after over a month. Not only have I made you wait, but it’s surprising because it’s on Leap Day… or something like that. Just go with the logic.

I’ve decided to be a little more directive with what I write and when I write it, and it’s taken me a while to come up with a good formula, but I’m here to tell you today, on the illusive February 29th, that this is a new beginning for BrigitteLeininger.com. Each day will be something different, some days fun, some days provocative. Some days creative, some days raw and exposing. I’ve decided that if I’m going to dive into writing and having a public website, I want the audience to get the best picture of who I am they can. And I’m a little different every day.

So here’s what you can expect:

Mystical Lystical Monday– Who doesn’t love a good listicle? And on a day that you don’t want to have to think about much, I offer thoughts in listicle form for your cognitive needs. You’re welcome in advance.

Transparent Tuesday– Another thing I’m forcing myself to do is be more transparent with people. My life is not perfect, always rosy, or and I face plenty of challenges. Tuesdays will be a day for you to take a peek into my diary, per say.

Wax Poetic Wednesday– I’ve always enjoyed writing poetry, so Wednesdays will be an opportunity to put it out into the world, where art can truly be appreciated, criticized, and consumed.

Thoughts on Thursday– Thursdays will be a day for me to address some things that are necessarily a personal struggle, but things I think about that I think other think about too. On Thursdays you can expect things like politics, religion, psychology, social science… I want to use this to address questions I think we all have.

Freestyle Friday– Consider this your mixtape.

‘See What I Found’ Saturday– This will be an opportunity for me to share the thoughts, blogs, posts, buzzfeed quizzes from the week of people I know, admire, or just like to fangirl over (cue: Matt Bellassai theme song). Obviously everything I post will be given its proper credit.

Silly Sunday– Just something to end your weekend with a giggle, and start your week off with a bang.

I can’t wait to start sharing all of these things with you. If you have any suggestions for topics you’d like covered, I’d be happy to accept your comments and emails at leibri@gmail.com!

See you soon,

~B

3.0.

30

I turned 30 on January 6th, and a weird thing happened…

Nothing happened.

30 was supposed to be this big, momentous occasion, half filled with dread, half filled with excitement about what comes next. Don’t get me wrong– I was both horrified and excited about exiting my 20’s and entering my 30’s, ready to kick ass and take names. There was only one little hitch– I was entering my 30’s doing the opposite of that, and I wasn’t sure my 30’s were going to be as great as I’d once imagined.

Late in November, I was let go from a job I’d been at for 2 years. It was a job that required a lot of emotional attention and relationships, so being let go was a bit of a shock, and took some getting used to. I made it through the Christmas season relatively unscathed, going about my underemployed life (as I was employed part-time at the Caribou Coffee I’d been frequenting for the last 10 years), and applying for jobs every few days. There was emotional days, callous days, and motivated days. But all I knew was I was never sure what a new day would bring as far as my emotional health.

One day, January 5th came rolling along and I thought, “This is it. This is my moment. In the next 24 hours, my life is going to change, and instead of a ’20-something,’ I’ll be 30. That’s when my life is going to start.” I went to sleep a little late that night having the Facebook notifications already starting, with anticipation of knowing that I’d wake up a brand new person.

January 6th. I wake up. I look the same. I feel the same. My wardrobe is all the same. I’m still underemployed. My fridge is still scarcely stocked. I was absolutely no different now than I was 8 hours ago when I went to sleep. 30 was no different than 29.

Part of me wonders if I should have been disappointed. 30 was supposed to be a new beginning. Instead, it was the day that was the new beginning. I was able to wake up, get myself out of bed, and claim a life that had been gifted to me by the universe, God, higher power, or whatever you want to call it. 30 was not some magical thing. No, instead it was this arbitrary deadline for some major life events and starting line for the next required events that no one was actually keeping track of. 30 was a fabricated idea that I wasn’t going to live into. I hate to admit it but, everyone who has ever said that “age is just a number” was right.

So here I am. 2 weeks into 30. I still look the same, people still claim that I can’t be a day over 23, and my fridge is only slightly better stocked. I’m still looking for the next chapter in my life to start, but I won’t let my age define when or where that happens. I’m taking it a day at a time, realizing that every day I wake up, see the sun, and smell the air is a sweet gift from something beyond myself and that I will forever be grateful that nothing happened when I turned 30.

Time for Transparency (August, 2015)

One last archived piece before I start writing live again tomorrow. This is a piece I wrote during a time of pending transition… Little did I know that I didn’t know the half of it. –B 

Time for Transparency

Recently, a wise woman and dear friend got a saying stuck in my head: “Transparency breeds freedom.” It wasn’t until I chose freedom over being trapped in a cloud of “I’m doing my best to look perfect” that I actually understood what that meant.

Let me explain.

For the last 20 years of my life, since my adolescence, I have been focused on being “the person with the coolest story.” I’ve gone out of my way to make sure I was always the one who did things unconventionally. I went to college for a zillion years. I have fourteen trillion dollars in student loan debt. I was going to get a PhD. I went to Kenya for $214.00. I always, always wanted to have big, booming, exciting stories to tell, so I put myself in a position to do things that were worth telling whether it was the thing I should be doing or not. Nothing had rung truer to that sentiment than this past year.

In December of 2013, I had graduated from seminary with a M.A. and just started a new job as the Director of Faith Formation and Youth & Family Ministry at House of Prayer Lutheran Church. It was my first full time ministry position, and a job that I actually was qualified to do, and would be good at. Not all recent grads can say that. The things is, when I left seminary, I left with over $150k in student loans, and I knew my new job wasn’t going to be able to pay the bills. So my first instinct was to go back to school. My dad had recently graduated with a D.B.A. and my mom was looking at a Ph.D. program, so I thought, “Ok… I’ll go to school for psychology just to give myself something extra to do, and that way I an continue to defer my loans because if I defer them long enough, they’ll disappear, right?” Not right. More on that in a later post.

So I started school again, wanting to prove to myself that I could be better than I had been before. Proving that I had a new direction, that I was ready to keep opening doors, seeing what God had behind each one for me. And hey, if anything, it would leave me with a really impressive story to tell at dinner parties of how I worked full time, went to school full time, blah, blah, blah full time. If my goal was to impress, I’d definitely be on my way.

Shortly after I started school again, my grandpa was diagnosed with ALS which would take him from us just 3 short months after, and my attention was being spread in a thousand different directions. I ended up withdrawing from or failing all of my classes that semester, and promising myself that I could do better. After grandpa died, I started anti-depressants, and suddenly I felt my brain just flip. I was still grieving, but I was determined to make my grandpa proud by making sure I did the best I could at everything I did.

The problem was that I didn’t want to be doing some of the things I was doing… namely school. All I had time for in my life was school and work. And I only liked one of the two. But I was determined to be impressive, so I soldiered on. Fall semester ’14, I ended up with a B-, a C, and an A-. Not my best, but considering my year, I gave myself a break and decided that spring would be mine. I would dominate. In the words of my boss, I’d be a “warrior f***ing ninja.”

Then spring semester came… and to tell you the truth, I don’t even remember what spring semester was like. I, honest to God, couldn’t tell you what classes I took or what my grades were. Does it get any more unengaged than that? “Ok, fine,” I thought. I’m GOING TO DO THIS, and I’m going to do it WELL. So summer semester rolled around, and I was ready, finally ready to take this school thing by the horns and do it and own it.

I’ll give you two guesses as to what happened. Well, the semester started out strong. I had a flexible work schedule that allowed me to work a half day every Thursday, and I got to “escape” by going to class for 9 hours every Thursday night. I took a class from one of my favorite professors ever, and I was finally going to tackle (and do well in) statistics. I had this really steady momentum all through June, and most of July. And then I stopped. Like a stubborn dog on a walk who won’t go anywhere anymore, I stopped. I stopped partly because I had work stuff every Thursday for three weeks in a row. But between that, a huge project going on at work, and the inability to find any joy in stretching myself this thin anymore, I just stopped.

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During this period of “stop,” I was doing a lot of praying and discerning. Did I want to stay at my job? Did I want to move on? Where would I move on to? Did I want to regroup, and try to start my own business again like I’d planned to do after grad school? Did I want to just throw in the towel completely and move to New York? I had a lot of self-rediscovery time in front of me, but it didn’t take long for me to figure out what was going on.

My boss, since the day I first told him about all my lofty plans, had always tried to tell me that I was a drifter, unwilling to commit, and had a strong refusal to close any door in case something better ever came through one that was still open. I always shrugged him off like he didn’t know what he was talking about because whatever he said, I had big, lofty dreams and I was going to chase them, by God. The funny thing is (and I’ll deny it if you tell him), he was right the whole time. I have spent so much of my life looking for the “What’s next?” “Can I do better?” But the reality is that I never gave the “what I’m doing now” a chance to be the place I’m supposed to be.

A lot of you know that I recently took up running and am training for a marathon this coming October. Shortly after I ran my first Half Marathon in June, I came across five extremely poignant and earth-shattering words.

RUN THE MILE YOU’RE IN.

When you’re running a race– let’s say it’s 13.1 miles– and you start thinking about mile 7 before you realize you haven’t even finished mile 1 yet, your brain isn’t in mile 1. Your brain isn’t with you. Your brain is making up scenarios about what mile 7 might be like. The danger in that is that you need your brain in mile 1. Your legs, feet, arms, lungs, and knees are all still at mile 1. Your legs, feet, arms, lungs, and knees need your HEAD to be there too. If you’re head isn’t at mile 1, then your legs, feet, arms, lungs, and knees are going to get tired, and run out of energy.

My head was 5 years ahead of me. I kept thinking about these goals and dreams I had without giving any energy to the life I had right in front of me. I kept planning for mile 7 when I needed to be focused on mile 1. For people who are dreamers, focusing on the mile you’re in can be a challenge, and no one is telling you to stop dreaming. But you have to be present. Because if you’re not present, you’re not going to be able to take the steps you need to into the future. You won’t get to mile 7 unless you run miles 1-6 first.

So, I’m looking at my story now. I can tell you that I’ve decided not to continue with school. In fact, I decided to email all of my professors yesterday informing them that I wouldn’t be finishing and accepting whatever grade my current work had earned me. The last day of the semester would have been today. I will fail out of this semester. But that’s the consequence of focusing too much on different miles of different races than the mile I’m in right now.

Right now, I’m the Director of Faith Formation and Youth & Family Ministry at House of Prayer Lutheran Church. I’m in the middle of a huge initiative to increase our children’s programs by 10 times our current registration. I’m in it. I’m all here. I’m a “warrior f***ing ninja” who is being the best Director of Faith Formation I can be because this is the mile I’m in right now.

When you’re running a race, it’s nice because the miles are the same length whether you’re on mile 4 or 14. In life, it’s not that easy. So when I get to my next mile, I’ll let you know. Until then, I’ll be over here, just running the mile I’m in, and running it as hard as I can.

The Color of the Sea (March, 2013)

The Color of the Sea

“To walk alone is possible, but the good walker knows that the great trip is life and it requires companions.”

– Dom Helder Camara

If you’re my Facebook friend, you have probably seen this quote pop up a couple times in the last month. I first saw it as a fellow Seminarian’s status, and immediately stole it because there was power under those words that hit me like a ton of bricks. Since then, it’s been nagging at me, tugging at my heart, and I knew it was something I needed to unpack. Needless to say, I’ve been wanting to write this post for the last two weeks, and I’ve finally found the time. So, here it goes.

I would consider myself a pretty independent person- I’ve lived by myself for a total of almost four years, I’m financially independent, I pay my own bills, etc. I have all the classic markings of one of those “independent women” the Destiny’s Child heroines sang to us about in the early 2000’s.  I’m really happy with who I am– I like knowing I can take care of myself, and I like having to be accountable for myself. I’m comfortable this way, but even more, I’m content.

Since graduating from grad school, I’ve had a lot of decisions to make- where am I going to work? What kind of work will I do? Where will I live? How will I decorate my bedroom? All of these are decisions that seemingly only affect me, myself, and I, and I like the freedom in knowing that other people aren’t dependent on my plans and dreams. I’ll admit that there are times when I wonder what the next five years of my life are going to look like, and whether or not that freedom in planning for the future is going to change. I begin to wonder if I should cling to this life of solitary planning and move forward as if I am all I’ll ever be, or if I need to start considering more flexibility in my decision making.

Camara’s words remind me a lot of my traveling endeavors of 2009 and 2010. I traveled a lot– New York, Seattle, London, Madrid, Nairobi, Florida, Washington, D.C., etc. I saw a lot of great things! However, with the exception of my trip to Spain, I did it alone. Was it exciting? Absolutely! Do I regret any of it? Not in the least. But there are times I wonder what having a companion on those journeys would have been like. They were all liberating experiences, don’t get me wrong, but I often wonder what I missed in not sharing it with someone.

In light of what Bishop Camara says about the journey of life, my travels may seem trivial, but what about in your own life? Can you think of anything that you’ve done alone that you wonder what it would have been like to have someone’s hand to hold? How much would that have increased the joy of your experience? The reality is that you’ll never know, and I’m not a proponent of looking back and saying “What if…,” but I am a supporter of taking what you know of the past and looking forward with a new hope.

Think about a time that you tried to explain something you experienced to someone who wasn’t there. Two outcomes are possible- First, you could be a really, really great story teller, tell the story perfectly, and the person listening can clearly imagine what your experience was. The other possible outcome is that you tell the story, and the other person just doesn’t get it. We’ve all told and been told those stories, and how do they usually end? “Well… I guess you just had to be there.” It’s similar to trying to explain the color of the water to people who have never seen the cerulean blue of the Caribbean.

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Here’s the deal- being comfortable by yourself is a really great trait- it means you’ve acknowledged that you can be alone, happy, and content. What I think the Bishop’s words are trying to express is that, while a lot of people take solace in knowing their abilities to be alone, somethings are better and more powerful with a companion. Instead of trying to explain the color of the ocean to someone, invite them into that experience with you.

Here’s the flip side- Spoiler alert: sometimes bad things happen. I think it’s easy to talk about the “good” times we experience in life, and sharing that with someone, or multiple people. It’s harder to acknowledge that the hard times will inevitably come. For the more independent people, I think it’s easy for us to say, “Hey… I’ve gotten through one or two or twenty bad things…. I can get through one more,” but what’s wrong with admitting that sometimes we wish we didn’t have to face a challenge alone? Does that show weakness? Are we less credible as people who are actually able to survive on our own?

And now we’ve reached the core of what I think this quote is meant to mean for us (at least for me): Companionship does not show weakness. Companionship shows our desire to be in relationship. Our desire to be in relationship comes from our human instinct and call to love. Think about those stories you tell your friends- you’re not telling them because you want them to suffer (unless you’re just realllllly mean…)– no, you tell them because you want to invite them into the beauty or excitement that you experienced. There’s a joy that you want them to feel. Our call to be in relationship with one another is out of a need to share joy and love with another one of God’s created souls.

Life is a great trip. Sometimes, we want a hand to hold while we experience it. Sometimes we need a hand to help us up when we’ve fallen. Sometimes we are that hand to help someone else up when they’ve grown weary. God intends for us to be in relationship with each other and with God. The trinity is an illustration of God in relationship with God’s self as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If we were meant to go on this journey alone, the journey would have been over a long time ago.

I will never regret doing any of the things I’ve done alone. In fact, I celebrate that I’ve been able to do a lot of those things with freedom. But I’m also not afraid to admit that I look forward to more experiences that I’ll be able to share with people I love. For me, it takes some self-encouragement to invite people into relationship (purely based on my own insecurities), but this is something I challenge everyone to do– Invite someone into your experience. Let them share that joy with you. Life is a great trip, but we are here for a blink of an eye. Walk alongside each other, and experience this life the way God intended for us, embracing the beauty of His world.

In closing, this song is heavily rooted in a romantic understanding of companionship, but the idea of companionship transcends romance– it incorporates, familial love, friendship, and kinship. Regardless, it’san awesome song. Just listen to it.

The Art of Not Giving Yourself Enough Credit (January, 2013)

Author’s Note: This piece is a personal favorite of mine. I wrote it during a time of soul-searching, deep digging, and self reflection. As I reread the words today, they revive a sprit in me that can oftentimes be lost during times of trial.  -B

The Art of Not Giving Yourself Enough Credit

I’m just beginning to write this post, but I already know it’s going to be a difficult one. Why do I know that? Because I know that I’m one of the most self-critical people I’ve ever known. So really, this could be the equivalent of dog writing about how hard it is to be a cat. While it may seem a little hypocritical, I’m going to go for it anyway. This will either prove to be a therapeutic experience, or it’ll prove that, while I’m not great at acknowledging my strengths and talents, I’m good at recognizing those traits in other people, and this is more for them than it is for me. I suppose this writing is going to come from a sense of first hand experience, but also being open and watching those around me experience the pain of self-criticism as well.

As a part of my Master’s Degree, I did a lot of intensive work in individual leadership development. In fact, my 100+ page thesis was a three-part work on the idea that everyone contains the capacity to be a leader. The first part of my thesis (which I’m referencing for this discussion) can be found here. Since it’s a little long, you might not want to read the whole thing, so I’ll sum it up: I believe that everyone possesses five characteristics that they channel into effective and quality leadership: Passion, Initiative, Courage, Creativity, and Humility. It’s when these five things come together (in a Captain Planet sort of way) that a person emerges as the leader they are meant to be.

In my thesis (and probably in a future work like a dissertation or other post-graduate study), I talk about how passion is truly the catalyst to help the other characteristics fall into place. If you’re passionate, you’ll want to take initiative, you’ll want to have courage, you’ll want to be creative in your problem solving, etc. The tricky part of this equation is finding that passion and clinging to it, knowing that making it into something great is going to take work– but work you’ll be willing and excited to do.

Just like we all have some kind of passion burning inside of us, we all have gifts, too. Some of our gifts are greater or more prominent than others (i.e. I’d consider myself a decent chef, but a good baker), but that doesn’t mean any are invaluable. How you use and develop them is up to you. Unfortunately for us, American society hasn’t done us many favors in the whole ‘developing and discovering your gifts’ department. Here’s why I think this:

1. The most accessible gifts inventory in most high schools is the ASVAB test. I don’t know about you, but I answered questions to get a specific outcome.  I was supposed to be some kind of performing artist…. and look at me now.

2. Colleges and the higher education system are expecting students to choose a career path at the ripe age of 18. Then they’re charging an arm and a leg for school, basically threatening students with the impending doom of life-long student loan debt if they can’t get their degree done in timely fashion.

3. American society glorifies both the celebrity lifestyle, and the participation award. How many times have we asked ourselves, “Why is Kim Kardashian famous?” And, don’t get me wrong, I loved getting participation awards, but no– I should have never received a medal for being on the turquoise soccer team. I was TERRIBLE at soccer. They should have given me a hand-written note (to show sincerity) saying that I should never don a pair of shin guards ever again. Tough love, people. Let’s try to recapture that.

While there may be a lot of things you’re not exceptionally talented at, keep in mind that in order to embrace the gifts you DO have, you have to trust that God had a least a little bit of an idea when he was creating you. To forgo your gifts and constantly wish for someone else’s gifts is not only doing yourself a disservice, but dishonoring the work that the Holy Spirit is continuously doing in you. Have a little faith (albeit, sometimes easier said than done) in the work that God is doing in and through you.

So what? Here’s what- I think too many people count themselves out because they’ve tried things that haven’t worked. This shouldn’t be our mentality at all. With hesitation, I use the failure (I have a love/hate relationship with this beautifully terrible word). Failure brings with it opportunities for greatness (I blogged about that, too). The best thing about failure is that it points me away from things that are wrong for me and opens up a thousand more opportunities. Don’t look at failure as an end, embrace it as a new beginning.

What else? This means that you can’t sit around moping about your inadequacies and expect to be successful. You have to try in order to fail or succeed. You’ll never know which one it’ll be until you get off your couch. If you don’t know where to start, ask your friends (who you can be candid with, and who you trust) what they think some of your strengths and talents are. Ask them what they think you might be good at, or if they can think of things for you to try. Your friends (who love you) will give you honest and worthwhile feedback.

You have some incredible gifts, whether or not you know it. Just because you don’t think you’ve found them yet, whether your 7 years old or 107 years old, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The beauty in waking up every day is the uncertainty of what you’ll discover about the world, God, life, but even more exciting, yourself. And if you’re still looking for that ONE thing to cling to, that ONE thing to be passionate about, go look for it, but be patient in the search. And realize that you do have other gifts- cling to those things that give you hope and joy and realize that you are a gift to people around you.

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