Sometimes people ask me for help in their spiritual lives. They want wisdom for how to build their adult lives and what kind of practices they should adopt to help them stay strong in their faith. I tell them it’s not anything complicated or terribly insightful. Read the Bible. Pray. Memorize scripture so you can apply it to your life. Confess sin. Practice surrender. Do things that require faith. Talk about Jesus to other people.
But today I remembered something that helped someone in a fresh way. I asked this person something a mentor had once asked me: When you think about your future, what will the temptation be for you? What will trap you? Get ahead of this. Start thinking of how to avoid the temptations that will surely come your way.
I like thinking of how to strengthen myself against future temptation, in whatever form it could take.
Years ago (back in 2012!), I wrote a few devotions for campers and counselors at Camp Greystone. One of my devotions is featured today on how God see our tears. My teen daughter (even though she’s not a camper) signed up to receive the Greystone devotions each day because she loves reading them! I highly recommend them. I read them every day. Sign up here: https://devotions.campgreystone.com/blog/2022/6/tears
I also collected my devotions for children in a little book called 30 Things You Need to Know that same year. I compiled these for my daughters to read through when they were in elementary school. We read them together every morning in the summer. You may have these as a free gift to read with your children, too. You can find them on my Gifts for You page: http://heatherholleman.com/gift-for-you/. Enjoy!
Today I visited a high school class in Paraguay via Zoom to talk about writing personal essays for the college application. What a thrilling time to connect with brilliant students and offer my favorite prompts for their portfolios of personal essays. We enjoyed talking about these prompts based on what I hear people caring about most on the college campus: curiosity and human flourishing. So I asked these questions:
What is the story of how you first became curious about something and your process of learning more about it?
What do you do every day to improve your own well-being?
What do you think helps people belong? When did you feel like you really belonged somewhere? How will you help others belong in college?
I also had everyone finish this sentence: “When I’m a student in college, I intend to add to campus life by________________.” It works as a variation of my favorite Name Game question of “What changes when you enter a room?” In other words, what changes on the college campus with you there?
In the past 25 years, I’ve helped with hundreds (if not a thousand) of college, graduate school, internship, and job applications. I shared with students my insights into the current trends on campus to care deeply about belonging and human flourishing. I also shared my best tip of all: Tell a college (or job) why they need you, not why you need them. Tell them how you will add value and contribute to the goals of an organization and not what the organization must do for you.
I loved connecting with younger students at the beginning of their college journey.
In Psalm 107:9, I found this beautiful sentence about God: For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
I spent some time thinking about the difference between a longing soul and a hungry soul. A longing soul feels more profound to me–like a soul with deep, deep need that only God can meet. When we long for something, it feels like a far-off dream. It’s something we know we want, but maybe it’s not something we need to survive. But the word hungry feels more urgent, practical, and needy. I love that God meets both needs: our soul longing and our soul hunger. He knows everything we need, both practically and existentially.
I love the first few verses of Psalm 103. If you’re having a bad day, remember all you’ve been given. We read this:
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
I love the verbs of God here, just as I do in Psalm 23. Here in Psalm 103, we see how God forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, and satisfies. If you’re in a place where it’s hard to see the goodness of God, Psalm 103 stands a great tribute to all God does for us. I also like the outward movement of the verbs; they begin in the soul (sin), move outward to the body (disease), and then further out to the life itself in the world (life, desires). How wonderful, too, to know God will satisfies us so much that we feel young and vibrant all our days.
I woke up thinking about a quote I loved from The Great Gatsby. I read these words back in 9th grade and thought they were such a picture of loving someone. Here, we read a description of Jay Gatsby and the way he looked at the narrator:
He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
When I think about believing the best about other people, about loving them well, and about believing in them, I remember this character. I think about it when I’m with children, especially. I like the idea of concentrating exclusively on someone in the moment with that irresistible favor, understanding, and ability to see their best self. I’ve known a few people like this in my lifetime. When you’re talking with them, you feel seen, adored, deeply valued, loved, and understood. You feel like you like yourself more when you are with them.
As I researched my new book on having better conversations, I learned how vital positive regard is (or believing the best about others) as the foundation of warm connections. I want God to make me into the type of person who lets the love of Jesus flow this beautifully to someone else so they feel as loved as our narrator when Jay looked at him.
Several times this week, I had to walk across a room without spilling from a too-full container. I learned the secret of keeping a steady hand:
Never look at your hand or the object you want to keep steady. Look ahead of you and fix your gaze on your destination. Your body will automatically keep steady. It will adjust and align. It’s absolutely true. When the liquid started to slosh because I couldn’t keep steady, I fixed my gaze at my destination. The liquid stilled. Everything settled.
I remember this whenever life feels uncertain or unsteady. I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. Hebrews tells us this: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We do this, and life steadies.
Today I met a new friend who loves music. She recommended her two favorite Spotify playlists (The Pulse of Americana and the new retro). I immediately went home to listen to the music she loves. Listening to this new music filled my heart with joy about how much there is to learn in the world. I love her recommendations!
I also learned to ask a new friend what music he or she is listening to. It’s a great conversation question! Younger people especially love talking about their playlists.
What music are you loving lately?
Yesterday, my daughter brought home some new sketch pads for me to try some watercolor tutorials. She remembered that one day during the COVID lockdown when I tried to paint a bird in a tree. Did you know you can look up beginner tutorials on youtube for watercolor paintings of almost anything you can think of? Landscapes, seascapes, flowers, and even turtles. This summer, we’ll try some watercolor painting. I’m excited to learn more. It’s also great to ask your friends, “What are you learning lately?” If you asked me, I’d proudly bring out my watercolors!
What are you learning lately?
Music. Painting. That’s just the beginning. You can discover so many new hobbies and learn about something you don’t know much about. I met someone last week who decided to learn German and Chinese this summer just for the fun of it.
Living with flair means we’re learning new things all the time. And we’re asking good questions to learn what others are learning and listening to!
Today, Ashley and I endured the shaming of an older woman driving in our neighborhood who tired to prove to us we were wrong to drive down the street without stopping at the intersection at the end of our street. She frowned and gestured wildly to let us know how wrong we were. Shame, shame, shame! How dare you drive into this intersection in front of me! It’s my turn!
But it wasn’t her turn. We’ve lived here since 2007. There’s no stop sign at the intersection for cars on our street. It’s a two-way, not a four-way stop. Cars on our street keep going. The stop sign was for her, not us. We tried to point to the lack of a stop sign to prove our point, but she sped away, angry and sullen and shaming us still.
Would she drive down that road later and see her mistake? Would she ever realize? Would she think back and wonder why she had been so angry for no reason?
I also wondered about how bad it felt to have another person shaking their fist at us when we knew we had done nothing wrong. Even when you know you’re right, it feels bad. It makes you feel accused and ashamed. You have to remind yourself, “No, we’re not wrong here. We haven’t done anything wrong.” I remembered how so many voices in the culture try to accuse and shame others. I remembered how Satan is the accuser and acts much like that woman in the car who spouted out inaccurate accusations. And I remembered how, if I’m ever tempted to point out someone else’s mistake, I might stop, look around, and make sure I’m not the one in the wrong.
I wish the woman had just looked around her. I wish it wouldn’t have impacted me so much to see her anger even though I knew we had done nothing wrong.
We drove on. The moment lingered.
Today I thought about Jacob’s description of God in Genesis 35 when he decided to build an altar. Jacob says that God is the one “who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” It’s profound to consider: God answers. He is with you and has been there always.