Valued Competency and Adulthood

I’m learning that one of the marks of enjoyable adulthood is knowing you have a competency that a community values. In other words, you’ve developed a skill or an area of expertise that can serve others. One reason I love teaching college students is that I can watch their growth into their adult competencies. 

It feels so satisfying to say as a twenty-one year old that you’ve developed a true competency. You know what you can contribute. You have an area of expertise to continue to develop.  You have a skill to pass on.

The community needs this skill, and you therefore feel valued.

(Being famous, by the way, isn’t a skill to benefit a community. They realize this.)

I meet with men and women who suffer from a certain kind of despair. They don’t feel worthwhile or useful. They don’t know their place in their communities. I ask, “Where do you feel most competent? Where do you feel most like an expert? Go serve there.”

I remember the exact day when I felt like I was competent as a teacher and writer. This is my area of expertise, and once I began serving others with these skills, a particular sense of well-being and satisfaction began to fill my heart. I knew I was deeply valued just because I was a child of God, but I also knew God made me to serve and bless others. Developing some adult competencies to pass on not only provided a base for community living, but it provided a career and a lifelong endeavor.

I want to continue helping others identify, develop, and pass on their skills. You don’t need a fortune to do this. You can read and study on your own and apprentice under other experts to develop skills. I love finding creative ways for others to figure out how to learn and grow into an area of expertise.

As a mom of growing young women, I’m on the look out for signs of their future competencies.  And as someone wanting to be used in ever-widening circles, I’m studying how to improve my communication and leadership.

What are your competencies? What could be your area of expertise? It’s so fun to think about!

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A Cool Definition of Friendship

I’m writing on the theme of friendship for some devotional material, and I remember a special verse in Romans 1:11-12 where Paul writes something precious to his friends.

He writes, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong–that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful and life-changing to have friends that want to impart a spiritual gift to make you strong? Wouldn’t it be wonderful and life-changing to have friends that, when together, felt mutually encouraged?

Longing to encourage. Longing to impart. Longing to experience this mutually. That sounds like a cool definition of friendship. If this kind of encouragement isn’t happening, maybe it’s time to work towards these kinds of friendships.

I ask myself if I leave my friends having given a spiritual gift to make them strong. This might come in various forms of spiritual truth speaking. It’s convicting to think that I leave them with other things instead: my problems, my complaints, my gossip, or my negativity.

Living with flair means we impart spiritual gifts wherever we go. We redefine friendship as those who do this for one another.

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The Pace You Keep Is Yours Alone

As I continue to live in a family and larger community, I realize the various pacing of my family members and friends. The energy levels, speed, capacity, and focus of all of us differ greatly.

We must accommodate and plan for our differences.

For example, the youngest in our family is up at 5:30 AM and has accomplished seven things already. On the weekend, she’ll have a sleepover, epic play dates, swimming, dance parties, and baking. At 8:00 PM, she’ll announce she’s ready for bed and promptly fall asleep.

The older one? It’s 4:00 PM, and she’s still in her pajamas. It’s all leisure and reading, thinking and lounging. She’s a little philosopher who wants to sit still, do one thing (maybe), and then think about this activity for the rest of the day. Don’t rush her. Don’t put her in the car to go places. She just wants to sit and think. Her sweet friend comes to visit, and they quietly bake lemon tarts together.

Others of us need lots of introverted time to tinker and strategize. Still others like to chat and drink coffee and write entire novels.

You can be yourself here–with your unique energy, speed, capacity, and focus. Living all together like this means we figure out ways to do this that don’t harm one another.

It’s fun to try to figure it out. I send the little one on her way with a bag packed for the day. The older one receives her quiet and space.

We’re still figuring it out. I’m learning that one way to love each other well is to appreciate and accommodate for all the different kinds of pacing.

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Try This for 5 Minutes Each Morning

This morning I recalled the wisdom of Elizabeth George and others who taught me some basic housekeeping principles early on in my adult life. Normally, I rush out the door to work, but this morning, I give myself five minutes (I actually set a timer to see if it’s possible), to get the home ready for our return from work and school.

In five minutes, you can straighten the beds and wipe down bathroom sinks. In five minutes, you can clean kitchen counters, load up the breakfast dishes, and even throw frozen chicken breasts and sauce in the crockpot.

In five minutes, you can straighten up the pillows on the couches, fold the blankets, and organize all the piano music on the piano.

It makes a difference to return to the sanctuary of an organized and tidy home. Some women claim that just making the bed (since it takes up 75% of the room) creates a profound sense of order.

The point is that these things don’t take long. They don’t consume much time and energy in proportion to the payoff of entering the door to a soothing atmosphere.

So I pause and give the house five minutes before I rush out the door. Living with flair means keeping a tidy home for a family to enjoy. I can’t give my life to cleaning–and I wouldn’t even if I did have the time–but I can give a few minutes each day to creating some order.

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My New Favorite Verb in Scripture: Endure

If you study the number of times Christians are reminded to endure, you’ll find great hope today. The Greek translation of the verb means to remain under whatever challenges the Lord allows–because He allows them.

Endurance is the power to remain under difficult circumstances without giving way, without faltering, and without giving up.

When I read Romans 15, I learn that God “gives endurance” and that through “the endurance taught in the scriptures” I have hope. In Colossians 1:11, I’m told that I need the power of Jesus in my life so that I might have great endurance. The book of Revelation repeatedly talks about the great and patient endurance believers need and will need.

Why do we think that hard circumstances and suffering mean we’ve fallen out of the favor of God? When did we stop valuing the biblical character trait of endurance? When I think about my greatest growth in maturity–and subsequent joy and connection to God–I think about what God asked me to endure through His power. For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross.

It’s a special grace to endure. Perhaps we’re to remain under affliction, learning great endurance, because we’ll become acutely aware of the joy set before us and the hope in our hearts.

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The Best $3.00 to Spend on a Child

On Sunday, my husband brings home two Jiffy Greenhouses from Lowes. They cost about $2.00, so you can spend some change on all kinds of seeds.

We plant our seeds into the provided pellets of growing soil, and then we put the greenhouses on the sunny window ledge. Each daughter chose her own favorite vegetable and flower combination. My daughters clap and cheer, and the oldest exclaims, “I just love growing things! I just love it!”

Every morning now, they wake up and look for signs of growth. It’s hard to wait, but wait they must.

Wait they must. (Raising children who know how to wait seems suddenly so important, so worthwhile.)

Growing a garden brings such joy. In May, we’ll transplant our wildflower garden and vegetables into the ground. Everyone can’t wait! Personally, I’m going to roast beets and cut bouquets of zinnia and bluebonnets all summer.

How does your garden grow?

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The Tale Told ‘Round the Fire

My youngest daughter asks the family if we know how ancient people passed the time long ago. “What did they do when they were bored? Can you guess? Instead of toys and entertainment, guess what they did?”

She tells us that they told stories
We learn that from the beginning, storytelling was both entertainment and a way to pass on vital information to the next generation. Stories captured the values of the ancient cultures. I discover that part of ancient storytelling involved the speaker presenting his story and the audience responding in approval or disapproval, comments or silence. Great stories would be shared with others. 
I laughed out loud as I pictured Facebook likes, twitter retweets, comments, and shares. 
We haven’t changed much. 
The urge to post the stories of our days, right down to the minutiae of cats, recipes, and lattes isn’t novel or strange. It’s exactly what we should be doing. Instead of sitting around a campfire, nodding our heads in approval or whispering a repeat of the tale to our spouses and children, we like and share, retweet and repost. 
And the best stories? Those go viral like the main tale told ’round the fire.  
As I think about my posts and comments as part of storytelling, I wonder, then, what vital information I’m passing on–what wisdom, skill, or relief I provide–to aid the next generation.
If someone observed my trail of stories, would they all be cats and lattes? I’m thinking differently about the uses and abuses of social media, and I’m inspired to keep my voice raised as one telling her story around a fire. 
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Why We Write Essays

I love teaching Ander Monson’s “Essay as Hack” essay. He inspires us to continue to write essays for various reasons, but my favorite reason is because the essay represents a “simulated mind.” He explains: 

Each essay we read is as close as we can get to another mind. It is a simulation of the mind working its way through a problem. This is not to suggest that every essay is good, revelatory, successful, fruitful, interesting. But stepping into an essay is stepping into the writer’s mind. We are thrown into the labyrinth, a huge stone rolling behind us. It is a straight shot of the brain in all its immediacy, its variety, strands of half-remembered text, partly-thought-through ideas, images below the surface of memory. We are thrown into process: of thinking, which is like an algorithm, a machine for replicating or simulating thought.

Monson later tells us that “reading essays gets us closer to others’ thinking, or at least the most recent version. Writing them gets us closer to our own. It at least allows us to interrupt the constant motion of our minds to put something down and consider it, think about it from a year removed, or from space on the shuttle, or in a different space, overlooking another view from a new hotel in a different city.”

This is why yesterday marked the 4th year of blogging. All 1460 (yes, 4 years) entries that interrupted the otherwise constant motion of my mind have enriched my life and my relationships. These “little essays” have made all the difference. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. 

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Set Your Mind Right: Reading 2 Peter 1

Sometimes, I just feel so out of sorts. I forget who I am, what I’m made for, why I’m here, and how I’m supposed to live. This morning, I read Peter’s precious letter written to guide growing Christians. He jumps right in with what I need to know most this morning:

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 

Peter then talks about continuing to grow in faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. He encourages Christians to “make every effort” to gain these things and that this kind of focus keeps us from “being ineffective and unproductive in [our] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He says he must always remind us. We must always be refreshed in this knowledge. No matter how old we are or how mature we feel, we must remember these things. When we feel out of sorts, we refresh ourselves with these words so we might participate in the divine nature.

It sets our minds right.

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Barely Warm Enough to Grill: Saturday Kabobs

Right this very moment, in a huge bowl, I have chunks of fresh pineapple, chicken, red pepper, onion, and mushroom marinating in Italian dressing. Later, we’ll thread beautiful patterns of these items onto our kabob skewers.

Once grilled (for about ten minutes), we serve our kabobs over brown rice. It’s our favorite meal on summer nights. After such a long winter, this 50 degree weather feels like paradise, like grilling weather. 

If you need a great kabob recipe, try this one from Allrecipes.com (great pics here, too!).

I hope your Saturday plans include something yummy for dinner.

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