Being Volunteered

We have a saying in our house that we don’t always volunteer for things, sometimes we are volun-told. That means we weren’t asked if we wanted to participate/work in the extra activity, we were just told to do it. For example, we usually help our church with the summer kid’s program (Vacation Bible School or VBS). My mom would talk to the director of VBS and when a need came up that she thought we could reasonably fill she would just say, “Oh, Cornelia can do that!” I wasn’t there to decide to do it. She just decided I would and then she would let me know later. I was volun-told because I was committed but I hadn’t volunteered myself.

There have been times I had a bad experience being volun-told but on the whole I feel like I’ve had more positive than negative times. Actually, many times I’ve been glad to be volun-told because I really would’ve missed out on some fun stuff.

If I’m given the option I will almost always sit on the sidelines. I prefer to not inconvenience myself with something I may find marginally uncomfortable. Hard work? Yeah, I avoid that when I can. Not that I’d say I’m a very lazy person. I feel like I know when the effort needs to be made and I make it. But give me the option to do nothing or as little as possible and I’ll take it. It’s really something all of us do at some point because we prefer the path of least resistance. We naturally want to avoid added strain.

Honestly, I think we need to volun-tell people more often than we do. It seems like these days we’re terrified of stepping on anyone’s feelings that we barely even ask someone to do something. It’s like “Hey, I kinda need someone to help out in the church nursery so maybe if you’re not, you know, busy, or anything and if you don’t mind, and if you feel like it, could you possibly be available?”

Surely that conveys the urgency of your request because in reality the only people helping in nursery have been you and one other person who only shows up every 3rd Sunday on a full moon. So you actually REALLY need someone to help out. Perhaps instead it should be phrased like, “I need someone else for nursery. Can you please commit to one Sunday a month?”

And that’s not even being volun-told. Not really. It’s just pointedly asking. Being volun-told is something only people really close to you can do because otherwise the person in charge isn’t going to believe them. I and my siblings were volunteered by our parents for plenty of things. I suppose you could also be volunteered by your spouse or even your best friend or a teacher (if it’s class related) because it’s basically anyone who appears to have some authority over/with you.

I’ve learned to live with being volun-told and like I said, most things have been largely positive. I think that, as a child and a teen, it was good for me because I gained more experiences. If my parents had given me a choice I probably would’ve never gone outside or participated in the world and been afraid to do anything. I’m not saying we should start volunteering people for eighty-thousand things. I’m more or less saying that there are times when you don’t realize you can do something until you start doing it. I didn’t realize I could wrangle a small group of children and lead them around the church to different activities until my mom said she signed me up to be a helper for VBS when I was in high school. I didn’t realize I had decent customer service skills until I started one of my first jobs and had to actually deal with people (I guess since I applied for the job I was volun-telling myself but there was outside pressure that I needed to start working so I’m counting it).

Sometimes you just need a little push in the right direction. You may learn new skills or learn that you had the skills all this time. Or you might also fail miserably. But in the very least, you might learn that you really DON’T want to do that thing with your life and that alone is valuable to you.

What if I Had Terrible Taste as a Child and Everyone Was Just Polite and Didn’t Tell Me?

What if I Had Terrible Taste as a Child and Everyone Was Just Polite and Didn’t Tell Me?

As I’ve been reading through my bookshelf I’ve read some of my older books. They’re stories I really enjoyed in middle school or high school. There’s one series I own a good portion of, and had wanted to eventually have the whole thing, that’s called Mysteries in Our National Parks. It was put out by National Geographic and I know it continues past book 9 (which is as far as I read) but I don’t know if it’s still going today.

I remembered a lot of what had gone on in these middle school level books and it was really nostalgic to just sit down with one after so long. I remember loving these books. They were interesting and intense and I enjoyed them a lot. But going back to them was really weird.

You probably don’t think too hard about how advanced you’ve become as a reader until you read something from your past that you loved but now can’t stand. I ended up only reading one of the books (I have 9 of them) before deciding to give up the whole set. The first book is about a poacher who is shooting wolves in one of our lovely National Parks. Obviously, the three kids eventually solve the mystery of who it is and immediately bring them to justice. Good story, simple, there’s some family drama thrown in there to round it out. It’s a solid story and written well enough. But it’s so far below my reading level now that I had a hard time getting through just one book.

It makes me worry about recommending a book that I haven’t read since high school or middle school. Maybe it was actually terrible and I just didn’t realize it? Maybe that book I hated is something I would actually like now? What if the character I loved is really poorly written and I didn’t know enough to see that? Movies are even worse. What if the animation was actually garbage? What if my 8 year old self completely misinterpreted that scene?

I’ve started prefacing recommendations with, “I really liked it but I haven’t read/watched it in a while.” Then I’m at least covered if it’s actually terrible.

I get so nervous to rewatch movies sometimes or when I want to reread a book (which is rare but with my resolutions this year I’m doing it) because what if I hate it? What if I get through the whole thing and my tastes have changed so much that it doesn’t mean anything to me anymore? What if that thing I loved so much as a child is now something I’m going to despise? That character I thought was so funny is now really annoying. The parent I found to be completely unreasonable is now the only one making sense. I see now the bad guy’s plan is ridiculous and convoluted. etc. etc. etc.

I have a book series on my shelf right now that I LOVED reading in early high school. I am terrified to read it now because I’m worried I won’t like it anymore. I’ve been stalling, avoiding it in favor of other books I’m not as attached to, just in case I hate it.

It’s such a weird feeling to come back to something. It’s like catching a glimpse of your past self but from the perspective of someone not emotionally involved. I remember these stories but it’s hazy enough that I don’t feel as attached to the book but more so to the memory. You become way more objective as you grow up and suddenly being confronted by a thing that feels a million years ago is disconcerting at least. My expectations are easily subverted when it comes to rereading books because it’s not something I even did a lot. I’d want a copy of a book for myself just to have it or so then I could lend it out for others to enjoy.

But now I’m being confronted by all these past stories that meant so much to me but when I read them now they’re just… not as powerful. It feels like I’m wasting the stories on myself because I’m just not in the same place I was when I first read them.

I know someone out there is going to feel the same way as me about this. Nostalgic but also a bit judgmental of your past self because at some point all I can think is, “How could I possibly have enjoyed this?” But then there’s always the possibility I’ll love it even more reading it now and that I missed out on things because I lacked perspective. I’ll keep reading through my shelf but I may be scrambling at the end of the year when I have only my absolute favorites left and I’m still paranoid I’ll hate them!

You’ll Always Be Uninformed About Something

The world is moving fast and I’m living my life in a little town in Ohio paying off student debt. I don’t have time to keep up on every political or national story.

I have some pretty political friends on my Facebook. Some I agree with and some I don’t. Sometimes a friend will post something and I’ll watch the short video or read the paragraph and realize how much exists outside my own perspective. Sometimes, when I disagree, I want to start a discussion. Usually I don’t. I’ll just move on. I’m confident that my view is solid but I don’t feel like proving it at the time. I’m tired from work or maybe it’s a topic I have a strong opinion on but suddenly realize I don’t know a lot about. So I adjust my opinion to a more quiet opinion in the future, remind myself to research later, and keep scrolling.

There was one week… I started getting into comment discussions. I call them discussions because I really try to have a discussion and not a shouting match through the keyboard. I saw a few things I disagreed with and knew something about so I commented and gave my opinion on several posts.

I realized something pretty quickly about this strategy of sharing: it got me worked up for no gain. I got angry and upset over other people’s opinions about politics and news because I thought they were wrong. I didn’t gain anything from that. Well, I gained anxiousness. I was always waiting for someone’s response. Thinking up what they might say back and what I would rebut them with. Constantly checking Facebook notifications and hoping that when they responded I’d have time immediately to give them a healthy dose of reason and logic. But sometimes there would be no response at all and I’d be left waiting for what felt like months (in reality a few days) for that argument that wasn’t coming.

That’s really what had happened to me. When I was responding and commenting on almost everything I had an opinion about, I stopped looking for a discussion and started looking for a fight. It strikes me how easy it is to do that. I have a particular friend on Facebook who I went to school with. She’s a pretty great person and we got along pretty well. She and I have VERY different views on many topics. I don’t post a lot to Facebook about my political views but she tends to share a decent number of posts that reinforce her own views.

We’ve had a few discussions (yes, discussions. We’ve never dissolved into shouting at each other and I really appreciate hearing her thoughts and opinions because she presents herself in a an even-mannered and reasonable way). I think that week I had started something with her and somewhere in the middle of the conversation I just stopped. I looked at what I had been writing to her and it had become more and more angry. I wasn’t in the right mindset to respond anymore so I didn’t. I chose to keep my opinion to myself because I wasn’t prepared to defend it like an adult. I was ready to mudsling and shout and use irrational arguments to make my points.

It’s so easy to look at recent news and immediately have a strong opinion. When you see someone who has a strong, opposite opinion from yours it’s easy to get angry.

“They’re so blind! How can they believe these lies?”

“What a heartless person to agree with this policy!”

“I guess they don’t care about anyone but themselves!”

Part of me just stops caring about the news. Like, it’s just going to make me angry or sad so why bother with it at all? I’m just another uninformed American in the vast sea of the uninformed world. It’s incredibly difficult to keep up to date on everything. You would have to be reading or watching the news constantly then you’d need to do some of your own research to confirm their sources are accurate. That’s like more than a full time job. I don’t know anyone who has time for that.

So most people, I think, tend to stay up to date on a few things. They follow some stories and research some policies and overall know some things generally. Some. Some things. No one can be one hundred percent, fully informed about everything going on in the world.

But you’re usually informed about what you really care about. I study the Bible because I want to know as much as I can about it. It’s my core. I keep up on a lot of pro-life stories because it’s something I believe very strongly in and it’s a core value for me. I like hearing about advances in environmental awareness/care but I don’t always have strong opinions on it so I’m not always investigating each individual change.

Pick your battles. You don’t have to know everything about everything. Be willing to discuss and not yell because many things are connected. Maybe that person who knows a lot about European history is going to shed some light on why a policy you really care about isn’t enforced as well as another one. For the most part, our opinions are just opinions. They’re not going to greatly affect the world at large. If you stay civil you can learn from each other. I’ve never come away from an argument thinking that I understood the other person’s view better but I have come away from a good discussion with more understanding and that’s what really counts.

Marriage Isn’t Everything

Marriage Isn’t Everything

I’ve got marriage on my mind again. No, I don’t have anyone in mind for myself and I’m not interested in getting married right now. I’m not even interested in dating. I’ve just been thinking about marriage recently because of things going on in the lives of those around me.

I think I’ve mentioned before that there’s an unspoken expectation in the Christian community that young people should be at least seriously considering marriage. I think it stems from a genuine sentiment that marriage is a wonderful thing. It is. Don’t get me wrong in this post, I’m sure marriage is great. So those who are married and especially those who have been married for a long time feel like it’s been such a good thing in their lives that they can’t imagine anyone NOT wanting to experience that. They begin to lack the perspective of a single person because they can no longer fathom a life apart from their spouse.

The expectation also comes from celebrating marriage. It should be celebrated. Bridal showers, bachelor parties, the wedding itself, and then if the couple has children then it’s a whole new set of celebration about the couple and their new family. Then there’s the anniversary every year when it’s mentioned in the bulletin at church or at least if you know the couple then you’ll hear about it verbally or if it’s a ‘big’ anniversary then you might be asked to participate in a celebration. So every year you’re reminded that these two people are committed to each other.

It’s great, I think they should be celebrated.

But then there are the single people. They don’t get celebrated. I mean, there’s our birthdays but couples have birthdays too. There’s nothing to really celebrate for single people. We can celebrate being single but then that’s not really something we always like to draw attention to. Sometimes it feels like the church doesn’t want to celebrate single people too much because, I don’t know, maybe it would make them think there’s an option to live your life without being attached to another person.

Okay, I don’t think that. I don’t know why it feels like that in the church because there are plenty of churches with singles classes AND couples classes. And while people will ask about your dating status, it’s often just an interest in knowing you as a person rather than a judgement. I think it’s really just that married people really push marriage, sometimes without realizing it, because they see so many benefits. So us singles get a lot of, “Just wait until you meet the right person!” or “God has someone out there for everyone!”

Oh, does He? Would you have said that to Paul? You know, the UNMARRIED apostle who wrote down almost half the New Testament? He even said it was good to remain single because you could focus ALL your attention on spreading the Gospel: “The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:34). When you’re married you have to think about caring for your spouse, supporting them, focusing time and energy on them that could be focused on the Lord instead.

I’m not opposed to one day getting married myself. But I’m not ready for that. And I don’t have to be. I’ll repeat that, I. Don’t. Have. To. Be. Ready. For. Marriage. Right. Now. Surprisingly enough, God made me an entire person all on my own. He designed me to be who I am and I AM WHOLE IN CHRIST. I don’t need anyone else to ‘complete’ my personhood. God has already completed me. I wasn’t born missing any essential part of my personality that needs to be filled in by a man in my life. I don’t need a man to support me or hold doors or smash spiders. I don’t need a man to serve God. God didn’t make me a man so I think it’s safe to say He didn’t think I needed one for my basic survival.

I think it’s easy to fall into the ‘marriage is the only option for me’ camp. Even outside the church it’s still really pushed hard on young people. If you’re a 20-something-year-old who feels that pressure, know that I am on your side. If you have a significant other then that’s wonderful and I’m happy for you! If you don’t or if you just got off a bad relationship, are thinking of delving into a relationship, or are taking a break, remember you are a whole person. God made you exactly you to bring Him glory. You don’t NEED anyone to complete you because you’re NOT incomplete.

If God has someone out there for you then being discontent and whining about your singleness won’t make His timing move any faster or slower. Singleness is not a curse. Be content with being you. All on your own.

The One About Modesty

The One About Modesty

Modest

With hot weather fast approaching, there are bound to be many bloggers, especially Christian bloggers, who will write about being modest. These articles will be specifically geared toward women and girls. I figured at some point I would hop on the bandwagon. I haven’t seen any articles come across my newsfeed yet but I’m sure they will once June hits.

I believe the Bible and I believe if you claim Christianity then you better be following it. Before we get to the definition from the dictionary, let’s take a quick look at a little of what the Bible says about modesty.

1 Timothy 2:9 – “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,”

1 Peter 3:3-4 – “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”

(Also, here is a helpful list of more verses)

So, these verses talk about modesty and something I notice is that in no place does it say that my skirt has to reach below my knees. Also doesn’t say that I should think about men’s reactions to me when I put my outfit together. If you grew up in the Christian community then you might find that odd. “You mean to tell me that God DIDN’T ban two piece swimsuits from summer camp?!” Crazy, right? It’s almost like modesty isn’t a legalistic matter but a matter of the heart.

Here’s where the definition comes in: moderate, humble, free of vanity, no showy extravagance, decent, etc. I don’t know how this can be any more clear. Your clothing is a way you express yourself to those around you. If you’re dressing to show off then you’re not dressing modestly. That doesn’t mean you have to dress down all the time or that you should feel like garbage about your appearance. It simply means that when you dress, you think about honoring God instead of trying to honor yourself. You can look nice and not be showing off extravagance. I try to put together cute outfits for myself and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

I think it’s pretty obvious when someone is dressing for showing off. Whether trying to show off wealth or trying to show off bodies, you know who you are. God says our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and dressing with modesty is part of honoring Him, with that gentle and quiet spirit.

A quick few words about the inevitable modesty dialogue that comes up: “If girls don’t dress modestly then they’ll cause their Christian brothers to stumble into sin!”

Here’s a verse for you, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28

Wow, look, God really blamed that woman for someone lusting after her. She was obviously in the wrong. WAIT A SECOND. THAT’S NOT WHAT IT SAYS AT ALL! Yeah, it’s not, because God isn’t unreasonable. It’s not my fault if someone sins. Me dressing modestly is between me and God. Your sin is between you and God. The end.

My parents played a role in teaching me modesty by setting legalistic boundaries when I was young but now that I’m an adult I set boundaries for myself. I think legalistic boundaries can have a place in the conversation regarding young children. My modesty boundaries may be different than another Christian’s boundaries. There’s nothing wrong with that. It always bothered me at youth group events growing up when us girls were held to different standards than the boys. We couldn’t wear two piece swimsuits but the boys could wear their swim-shorts below their hip bones. Like yeah, THAT wasn’t distracting at all for the girls. But I digress.

Modesty is a matter of the heart. With warmer weather coming I’d say the most applicable thing right now for Christian girls is to remember that we are in the world but not of it. God has placed your true beauty in your heart and the value He places on you is worth infinitely more than any validation the world can offer. Dress accordingly.

IT’S BEEN A YEAR

This week marks the one year anniversary of this blog! Crazy, right? Well, I think it’s crazy.

Whether you’ve been with me for 11 months or 6 months or this is only the first or second post you’re reading, I value you. I started this blog thinking everything was going to fall into place easily. I thought that I would have five-thousand followers in a week and I’d break into the publishing world in a heartbeat. I thought I would write all my posts well in advance, days or weeks before needed so I could carefully polish each one so they were each perfect. So none of what I thought would happen actually happened.

As of writing this, I have 33 followers. Which, to me a year ago, is almost none. But to me now, it’s a lot. I can’t believe that 33 human beings actively decided to keep track of my writing. 33!! That’s more people than I have in my immediate family so I must be doing something right! It amazes me that anyone but my very close friends are even vaguely interested in my thoughts. It’s probably going to continue amazing me for a long time.

It’s been a long and short year. I published an ebook. I finished redoing the front porch with my dad. My family saved and re-homed three kittens. I ranted. And I ranted some more. Okay, I ranted a lot. I made goals for the new year (which I need to revisit but I think I’m doing okay). I got a couple jobs. I quit one of those jobs. I got promoted at the job I kept.

Even though I’m not exactly where I had envisioned I would be by now, I feel like I’m in a good place. I’ve accomplished some stuff this year which includes writing this blog consistently every week. I think I missed one week in there at some point but even writing 51 posts in a year I’m pretty impressed since I tried and failed to write a blog in the past. This has been a real commitment for me. It’s really the only fully consistent writing I’ve done for the year and I’ve loved doing it.

There’s always a nervousness to publishing each week. My brain goes straight to worst case scenario. Like, maybe it’ll be weirdly controversial and I’ll go viral for all the wrong reasons. Or maybe someone I respect will call me out and I’ll realize I had everything all wrong. So far, that hasn’t happened. I do wish I got more tangible feedback sometimes with comments but really, I’m just happy to see people reading.

I appreciate you, reader. Each of you. And I will continue to appreciate you. Whether this time next year I have 500 followers or still just 33, I’m happy. It’s like being a small part of someone else’s life and that’s fabulous. Keep being awesome and I’ll keep writing this blog and hopefully we’ll hear from each other plenty this year!

Teenagers Are People Too

When I was but a wee baby teenager I had a realization that adults have no idea what it’s like to be a teen. Even at the time I didn’t think it was their fault, they had just forgotten. It’s not like they were actively trying to make my life terrible, they were just doing what they thought was best for me and themselves. In all honesty, it probably was the best thing for me at the time. But it was still frustrating.

I said to myself at 16 that I would never let myself forget what it was like to be a teenager. No matter what happened, I would refuse to treat teens like children.

Now that I’m 23 I’ve realized something:

TEENS ARE STILL TOTALLY CHILDREN.

They make stupid decisions and they’re all wrapped up in their own little worlds. They lack perspective more than anything else.

BUT

I still refuse to treat them like children. Because someone has to help them into adulthood and I can tell that plenty of adults are not doing that. When a teenager walks up to my register at work I give them all the same information I would give an adult. I treat them with the same courtesy and have the same expectations of decorum for them as I do for an adult.

Not to say I advocate throwing teens into full on adulthood or that they should be left with no supervision all the time. I just think if you’re telling someone they should be as responsible as an adult then maybe you should also give them opportunity to exercise that responsibility. There are plenty of responsible teens and also plenty of irresponsible teens. But there are plenty of teens who just want a chance to prove themselves.

Teens lack the perspective of adults and that’s pretty much fine. But it doesn’t make their perspective necessarily wrong. A child is not wrong because they don’t understand how to file taxes or because they haven’t struggled to pay medical bills. When they pitch a fit over their favorite shirt being in the wash it’s because they’re still learning how to experience life. This may be just a blip on your radar but to them it’s a life changing event.

So it is also that teens are still learning how to experience life. They’re still gaining understanding and having to work through plenty of problems on their own. Don’t just discount them as unproductive because they’re not as knowledgeable of the world as you are. You have a few years on them.

Sometimes it blows my mind how different people are. My siblings and I grew up in the same house, raised by the same parents, yet we are each very different individuals. Every person you ever meet, regardless of age, is experiencing life differently than you are. Sure there are some similarities across the board and we share the same feelings with others at times. But we are each human and each deserve respect.

I suppose that’s what all this comes down to: respecting others, regardless of age. If you respect someone, you don’t laugh at their feelings even if you think they’re overreacting. Instead of being obnoxious about it you gently correct or offer your own thoughts on the situation. If you’re like me, you’re pretty straightforward about the whole thing but still respectful.

In general, I try to extend respect to everyone and only take it away if they don’t deserve it. Teens may be children but they’re not necessarily stupid or inherently obnoxious just for being young. And neither is any young adult either. Age does not define how much respect should be extended to a person. Even if you don’t remember what it was like to be 16, you probably remember that no one seemed to take you seriously. Even if you don’t remember what it was like to be 23, you probably remember at least one time where you were seen as less competent because you were young.

As a rule, don’t judge a teenager for being a teenager. They have a lot to contribute to the world and it would be a shame for us to lose the next Nobel Prize winner because someone refused to listen to a person just because they were young.