Wisdom and hope from a diary of a young girl

“I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart.”

So often we gloss over quotes like these as inspirational yet kind of cheesy. Probably not this specific quote (due to its origin), but likely something with a similar basic sentiment can be found artistically written out on a wooden art piece somewhere in your house or office. It’s easy to sterilize the depth of words like these when we don’t really think about them.

This is probably the most famous quote from Anne Frank’s diary. Many people read the diary in middle school or high school while learning about World War II and the Holocaust. But that “many people” is dwindling, I think. I didn’t read it when I was in school, and recent discussions have led me to believe fewer and fewer kids are learning about the Holocaust in school. I actually read an article in The (not at all failing) New York Times today about that very thing. Continue reading

One year later

February 2016 was probably the roughest month of my life. The busiest stretch of the year at work meant I was working close to 80 hours per week without any sign of rest or a single day off. Frustrations mounted as what I thought would be my dream job turned into more of a nightmare. And in the midst of it all, on a Monday night my mom called me in tears.

Her big brother, my Uncle David, had been killed in a snowmobile accident.

My first thoughts and concerns were for my mom and her other two brothers, my Aunt Renee and cousins Trisha and Amy and my grandparents. Then it hit me – I couldn’t get away from work to be with them in this time of mourning. Continue reading

It’s Mother’s Day, not Mothers’ Day

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. In case this is news to you, there’s still time. Not much, but some.

This seems to be the kind of announcements we receive from advertisements each year as Mother’s Day approaches: hurry now before it’s too late! Don’t forget to buy something for your mother to show how much you care on Mother’s Day.

We’re missing the point. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get your mom something awesome for Mother’s Day; I’m sure she absolutely deserves it and more. But that doesn’t change the fact that the holiday was created not for cards and flowers but for genuine expressions of love and appreciation.

I did a quick Wikipedia search (side note: as Michael Scott explains, Wikipedia is always a good research tool), and I discovered that the women who originated Mother’s Day in our country actually began boycotting the holiday not long after it became official. She resented how quickly companies like Hallmark began exploiting the day as an opportunity to make more money.

So what does Mother’s Day really mean? I think it should be different for each person, because everyone’s relationship with their mother is unique. And lest I incite an angry mob of mothers coming after me, in no way am I saying not to get your mom a present. I’m simply saying the focus of the day shouldn’t be “Well, it’s Mother’s Day so I have to get something for mom.”

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Yeah, weeds are pretty much the worst

I hate working in the yard. I highly doubt I’m alone in this stance, but I’ve always found weeding tedious and ineffective. No matter how much work you do, it takes very little time for it all to be undone.

Yesterday I was tearing out the weeds in my front yard when Kelli came over. She pitched in to help a bit, but it was a question she asked that stuck with me. She wanted to know where the weeds come from, since we’re ripping out the roots and obviously don’t plant them.

It’s a good question. I’m sure garden experts would know the science behind weeds and why they exist, but it made me wonder. I don’t know why weeds return after we go to such great lengths to remove them; all I know is they do. We work so hard to make a beautiful garden, but without constant maintenance the weeds soon overwhelm and destroy.

Of course this shifted in my mind to thinking about other aspects of life where we see the same thing (apparently weeding is a very existential time for me). We’ve been going through some relationship curriculum along with another small group with friends, so naturally I started thinking about relationships. It’s amazing how much you can plant exclusively good things into a relationship and still find weeds sprouting up.

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The best laid wedding plans

Alright, I’m about to drop some legit wisdom on y’all, and I’m guessing it’s something you’ve never heard or experienced before. I’m quite certain I’m the first to actually think about this.

Wedding planning is hard.

I know, right?! It takes a lot of time, thought (and money), and then something else comes up that you never even considered and now you have to deal with it. I’m kind of surprised no one has pointed this out before.

For serious, though, planning our upcoming wedding has been quite the experience for Kelli and me. I think my favorite part is when people ask how the plans are coming. It makes perfect sense – they know we’re planning our wedding and have an idea what all that entails so they’re simultaneously asking about how we’re doing and providing encouragement that we can make it.

But here’s the thing: I have absolutely no idea how the planning is coming. I think it’s going really well. But since this is the first wedding I’ve had to plan (well, kind of…), I don’t really have many points of comparison. And I’m sure despite all we’ve accomplished to this point and how good we feel about our progress, we’ll come up to the final two weeks and discover all of the things we hadn’t previously considered. That will be fun!

One of the biggest difficulties has been balancing traditional aspects of a wedding ceremony with our (okay, mostly my) desire to have the experience reflect who we are as a couple. I don’t want the stodgy, super-serious wedding because Kelli and I are only mostly stodgy and super-serious.

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How much potential do we really have?

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about potential. I think some of that has to do with my current status of seeking employment and trying to discern which listings suggest the best fit and provide the best opportunity for both the company and me, but it goes far beyond that.

Last night I had a deep and lengthy conversation with one of my best friends. We talked about a lot of things, with one of those being the idea of potential. I’ve always bristled at the notion that anyone can be anything in our world. It’s kind of an over-the-top rosy worldview that has some value (it’s good to encourage kids growing up to dream big) while also creating the possibility for great struggle (feeling like nothing you do is good enough because it falls short of the lofty ideas you had when you were younger). While it’s absolutely important to push people to strive for improvement and to maximize their gifts, it only causes heartbreak if you convince someone they can (and should) be able to achieve something they simply cannot.

My go-to example is basketball. I’m 5-9 and unathletic; I never had a chance at an NBA career. Now someone could point out that there have been a select few who overcame similar height challenges to have successful professional careers, but they also had tremendous athleticism far beyond anything I could ever aspire to even with nonstop effort. It doesn’t hurt me at all to know this is not a possibility for my life. It’s actually quite helpful to realize when something is not an option because it allows me to narrow my focus on those that could be.

This is where the question of potential comes in. Every decision we make is a simultaneous choosing of one thing and dismissing of all others. Each step eliminates countless possibilities and sets us down a certain path that narrows itself naturally as we continue to put one foot in front of the other. Thankfully we have time and ability to choose several different paths to varying degrees, but each step in one direction is a step away from another.

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When qualifications distract from what’s really important

Our world often gets caught up on the idea of qualifications. As I’m currently going through a job search, one of the most important pieces of any job post is the list of qualifications. Within a few bullet points, I can quickly discern whether or not I have the required experience and expertise. If not, it’s time to move on to a different job listing.

The reason behind this makes a lot of sense. I know when I hired students to work for me in my previous position, I wanted to know about their past experience with sports and writing. I wanted to see if they would be able to quickly pick up on the tasks I needed them to fulfill. And nobody should ever want to hire me with my communication degree to work as a surgeon.

But I find it fascinating to look at these qualifications lists and compare them to the early chapters of the book of Acts. To be honest, the first few chapters of Acts are some of my favorite in the Bible because they show just how quickly and powerfully the hope of Christ spreads when we get out of our own way and allow the message to do the work. On a side note, I encourage everyone to regularly review Acts 2:42-47 and 4:23-37 as a reminder of what we should be doing as the Church.

But back to the idea of qualifications. Here’s the thing: most of the apostles didn’t have any. Jesus plucked people from every walk of life – except the religious elite, the only ones who, by the world’s standard, would have been qualified – to be his closest followers and the people who would lead the first generation of the church after his death and resurrection. To fulfill Jesus’ plan, they didn’t have to have great speaking skills or great education or upbringing and experience. They only had to have an open heart.

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