On Election Day

I’m going to let you in on a secret.

A nerdy, slightly embarrassing secret.

When I was a kid, I really loved Election Day. Especially when it was a presidential election.

I couldn’t vote, and I didn’t understand most of the intricacies of our government (still don’t, actually), but I loved the excitement of going to the polls with my mom. I would watch the returns as they began to roll in and get excited when Missouri came on the screen and the commentators would declare who would receive our electoral votes.

I loved it all because it felt like I was watching history happen. I knew that someday, some distant descendant would read about this election and study it, the way I did in social studies, and I’d be able to say, “I remember that.”

This morning I voted in an election that will undoubtedly go down in history. But the joy that had characterized my childhood fascination was absent. Voting is a privilege, but it wasn’t one I enjoyed today. This election season has been divisive and disappointing, and many went to the polls today feeling like me, respectful and awed by the fact that we get to vote in a world where many don’t, but flummoxed by the choices we faced, saddened by the division in our country and confused by the negative, hateful comments many have felt OK with spewing at those with whom they don’t agree.

We’re not just watching history happen today; we’re living it. By the end of the night, we should know who the next president of our country will be. Whether your candidate wins or loses, tomorrow will come just the same, and we’ll all be faced with the same question: how do we move forward in this new reality?

I can’t tell you what to do, but I’ll tell you what I’m planning to do.

I will honor the office of the President of the United States. I will be respectful of those with whom I disagree. I will allow my speech to be seasoned with salt and kindness, more about edifying others than tearing them down. And I will pray for those who lead our country and trust in the One who holds eternity in His hands.

Today is not a day to despair, but a day to hope and to have faith.

 

100 words on starting again. (AKA reflections on a new job)

When you walk into a new chapter of your life, it isn’t easy. It means relationships change—not necessarily for the worse—but they change just the same. New patterns, new interactions, new ways of doing things are all difficult. Change is hard, but it doesn’t have to be bad. Change can also mean a sense of fulfillment, freedom, and challenge you didn’t even know you were searching for. Starting again doesn’t mean leaving friends, coworkers, or mentors behind. It means building on what they’ve taught you; it means taking that step of faith into the future that they prepared your for.

Be thankful.

Last week, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and read a post that made me pause.

“The cure to anxiety is thankfulness,” it read.

Nervousness and anxiety have always been a part of my life. I’ve mostly accepted it as a quirk of my personality. I was that kid who quietly worried about the start of every school year, the what-ifs of if this or that did or didn’t happen.

But it’s been as an adult that I’ve allowed anxiety to become something that eats at away at the joy of life. I’m talking about the kind of anxiety that keeps you awake at night or wakes you up in the middle of the night, so that you spend the wee hours mulling over everything and worrying and trying to pray. The anxiety that you can feel welling up in your chest and crushing in on your throat. The kind of anxiety that becomes more than worry or fear, but a stronghold you can’t overcome on your own.

I’ve read lots of ways for dealing with this kind of debilitating worry. Memorize Scripture. Focus on what you know is true, not what you feel. Find someone you can be honest with and share the burden. All of these things are good and useful. But they don’t cure anxiety. They push it aside for awhile.

Don’t get me wrong. I think memorizing Scripture is important. And choosing to focus on it in anxious times or moments when I don’t understand has been life-changing. It’s even better when the Holy Spirit brings a Scripture to mind, reminding you of the faithfulness of God in the midst of your chaos.

Likewise, focusing on the truth of Scripture helps to refocus my eyes off of me and the current anxiety. Feelings lie, and I’m all too prone to listen to and live out of them rather than basing my life on the truth of Scripture. People who can walk alongside you in good and bad times are vital. There’s no such thing as a lone-ranger Christian and the fellowship of believers is one of the greatest blessings of the church.

These things help me to refocus, but they don’t banish anxiety. But they do combine to bring me to a place where I can set aside whatever is worrying me and refocus. They are instruments that bring me to a place of thankfulness. Because when I am thankful, I recognize all that God has done for me. When I am thankful, I can see all the other times throughout my life when God has taken care of me. When I am thankful, I know that every good gift comes from the Father and that I am held in His tender care forever, because He has already paid the price for every one of my sins. Thankfulness calls me to remember God’s faithfulness, to number the blessings He has given me, and to revel in the love He has shown me. When I am thankful, I take my eyes off myself and the things that seem insurmountable and refocus them on the One who has given me so much and tenderly cared for me each step of the way.

And to the anxious, worrying heart, that is like a balm. You don’t have to worry about what you can’t control, He seems to whisper. See how I have taken care of you. Count the things you have to be thankful for. I’ve got this. You can trust Me. 

When I am anxious, I’m essentially telling God that He doesn’t know what’s best or He can’t figure out how to handle the situation. When I am thankful, I know that He is trustworthy and His promises are true. And I can rest.

Be thankful today.

An open door

On July 31, I gathered up the few items left in my office, logged out of the computer one last time, and quietly slipped away to my car.

I was walking away from a job I’d had for 12 years, from people I loved who had become like family. The thought of not seeing them every day brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat.

I cried. A lot. So much so that when I thought about it later, I was embarrassed.

Making the decision to leave was hard. I had known for awhile that my time in my previous job was probably coming to a close, but I didn’t got looking for a new  job. It found me—and God opened the door to allow me into a new chapter and a new opportunity that challenges and excites me.

I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what the next chapter of my life will be like. But I do know that I have to walk through the doors that God opens.

So, I’ll keep walking. . . and let Him write my story.

Firsts and Lasts

I remember my first day here.

I was 24, about to graduate from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and excited. I’d bought a new hair product—and accidentally used too much, and it made my hair look oily. But at that point, it was time to leave for work, so I decided to pretend like this was normal and make the best of it. I rushed out the door, headed to my first real job, not wanting to be late.

I was about 30 minutes early.

I didn’t know then that I was starting an adventure, that I would meet people who would become friends for life. I expected hard work and deadlines; I didn’t expect laughter and practical jokes.

For awhile, my coworkers liked to play jokes on each other when someone went on vacation. We covered Karen’s office in sticky notes. We put an old typewriter in Emily’s office, complete with a note from the first president of LifeWay. Once, I came back from vacation to find a speech bubble taped to every piece of furniture, my bookshelf, desk, chair, and lamps all declaring they had missed me.

I didn’t know the breadth and depth of the experience I’d get. From interviewing musicians and authors to editing devotions and short-term studies, I had a chance to a little of everything. I’ve run a monthly magazine, edited ongoing curriculum, and been on site for video and photo shoots.

But most of all, I’ll remember the little things. The note from a reader who said that EC helped her to draw closer to Christ. The coworker who stopped to pray with me when my grandma had a massive stroke. The people I got to mentor and train and encourage.

On Friday, I’ll walk out of LifeWay and close a chapter in my life’s story. It’s a good chapter, full of growing up, learning how to interact with others, and becoming a good editor.

And there’s a new exciting chapter just about to start.

So, keep reading. This book isn’t finished yet.

The day Facebook injured my vanity.

I’m a sucker for any kind of quiz on social media. From finding out which Disney character I am to what old lady name best fits me—if it’s a quiz, I’ve probably taken it.

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The picture in which I apparently look 42. Or 29.

The other day, I saw a “How old do you really look?” quiz. It analyzed your Facebook profile pic and spit out an answer.

And do you know what mine was?

42.

Yeah. 42. That’s a great number for Jackie Robinson, but it’s not for me.

Not to offend any 42-year-olds out there, but I’m 36. And, to be frank, I don’t really want to look 42 until I’m actually 42. It would be even better is I didn’t look 42 until I was 52!

Random Facebook quiz, you injured my vanity.

Thankfully, how-old.net made me feel a little better. It said I look 29

(And that was based on the same picture. . . )

3 types of social media posts that make me crazy

I love social media. I still use Facebook and like that I can keep up with friends from high school and elsewhere, no matter where we may live now. Twitter keeps me up-to-date and is usually good for a laugh.

But there are a few things people do on social media that make me a little crazy. And I’m willing to bet some of you agree, too.

1. The Lure.
The Lure is that social media post designed to elicit a response from the reader. It takes many forms, many of which you probably know well. I’m so OVER it. Can’t take it anymore. I can’t believe he did that! Maybe those examples seem a little melodramatic, but I’ve seen similar posts many times. The lure is often passive aggressive. It’s meant to draw attention to yourself and cause readers to ask questions like: What’s wrong?, Need to talk?, or How can I help? I’m not saying every status update or tweet has to be happy; that’s not real life. But they don’t have to be passive aggressive. So, if you think you might be about to post “The Lure,” ask yourself:

  • Is this designed to get a response that makes people feel sorry for or focus their attention on me? 
  • Am I being intentionally vague so that people will ask me a lot of questions?
  • Is my desire to feel like the center of attention? 

2. The Sell.
I love that you have found a product you love or a company that you want to work for. I really do enjoy seeing posts about the amazingly crafty things you make and have for sale. But I don’t like it when EVERYthing you post is an attempt to sell me something. Truth be told, I don’t buy into the essential oils craze, I think losing weight involves more than drinking a specific drink, and your skin products are probably amazing, but I can’t afford them—and I don’t want to join your team. For me, social media is social and about connecting, not advancing business. If you want to sell on social media, I’m fine with that. But create a page or separate account for your product or business and use that to sell your wares, not your personal account. Questions to consider if you’re a repeat offender of “The Sell”:

  • Are my social media posts on my personal pages more about my business or my life? 
  • When I interact with my friends via social media is it about actual life stuff or trying to sell them my product?
  • Are there people that THE only time I interact with them on social media is to ask them to buy something?

3. Private Made Public.
Maybe this one is just me. Perhaps I’m just too sheltered or think some things should remain private. I truly get when you want to wish your spouse or significant other a happy anniversary or birthday, or even just honor them in some way publicly. And I think choosing to publicly honor that special someone is laudable. Who wants to be with someone who never says they love you in front of others? But you don’t have to overshare in those posts and outline every aspect of your relationship. A simple Happy Anniversary! Thanks for standing by me all these years, even though I don’t deserve it! would suffice. We don’t have to read the personal note you’d inscribe in a card or letter thanking him/her for being your best friend, lover, encourager, etc. It’s your relationship and part of what makes that special is the intimacy. Guard that intimacy; don’t slap it on social media for the world to see. Questions to ask if you think your post might be TMI:

  • Would I be embarrassed if my mom, dad, brother, sister, teen child, pastor, boss, etc. read this? More than that, will it embarrass my significant other?
  • Is this something personal that would be better said in person or shared in a personal note, card, or letter?
  • Am I striving to create a facade of intimacy online, rather than investing in the relationship in person?
  • Is there a simpler, less exploitative way to let people know how happy I am and how much I love this person?

I’m sure there are many more social media faux pas that make you crazy. Share them in the comments!

“A finished person is a boring person.” Anna Quindlen