Keeping your Faith in College

I am kind of a big Carrie Underwood fan. My dad and I danced to this one song at my wedding and I decided it would be quite fitting to share a bit of the beginning lyrics with you. Because it very much paints a perfect picture of my childhood, right up to the day my parents dropped me off in the beautiful state I like to call “The Mitten” (Michigan) for my freshman year of college.

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Are We Really Perfect Just As We Are?

I have spent my entire life trying to be perfect.

Well, actually allow me to clarify that- I have spent my entire life trying to do everything perfectly. And that constant striving for perfection has been exhausting. Here’s why:

I AM NOT PERFECT.

And I never will be.

But you see, here’s the thing: IT’S OKAY.

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The Battle of “No”

My one and a half year old son’s favorite word is “no.” Raise your hand if you are the least bit surprised. No one? Shocker.

Sometimes it’s a subdued “nah” when I ask him if he wants to finish his dinner. Hey, at least he’s polite about it. Other times, it’s straight out of a scene from Jurassic Park. You know, the one where the Tyrannosaurus Rex chases after the Jeep? Except I’m being chased by an insane toddler who is SO mad that I won’t allow him to play with the broom (#meanestmomever). While I appreciate your desire to sweep, child, you are making a bigger mess and I’m going to have to wrestle this out of your hands later and then you’re going to throw the most epic tantrum ever, thankyouverymuch.

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How to Be Yourself

I’m currently moving some old blog posts off of an old blog and onto this one. So, here’s a post I wrote seven years ago! It’s about something that proved very difficult for me: Learning to be myself.

 

People say “just be yourself” like it’s this simple addition problem where you can add brown hair to an outgoing personality and … poof! … there you are.

But it’s not that easy, is it?

Maybe part of the reason I struggle to know how to be myself is because I’ve lived most of my life underneath layers of masks…

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How do we love others that we don’t like?

[Introduction: James and I are beginning to write blog posts to answer some of the questions we most frequently receive (or don’t have time to answer) during our Textinar messages. Here’s one that’s been asked several times.]

Question: How do we love others that we don’t even like?

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” – Matthew 5:46-47

The Girl I Didn’t Like

I grew up at a swim club in upstate New York. Every summer, we lived at the pool. When it opened, we were there for swim lessons and swim team, and when it closed, we were the last ones out, with our coolers and water bottles now empty. It only made sense to start lifeguarding there as soon as I was old enough to be certified, and continue guarding there all through college.

During those years, I never realized how I was perceived by others as someone who was stand-off-ish. I felt so insecure around the other lifeguards (almost entirely girls), and acutely aware that I didn’t fit in, so I just didn’t say much and tried to look really pretty everyday. I found out later in life, that they all just thought I was stuck up and annoying.

So it only makes sense now why they teased me.

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Comparison: How to manage what we can’t escape

 

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[I am so excited to share this guest blog post about comparison from my mentor Pastor Mark DuPré! For more about him and his wife (who have literally been life-changing for me), scroll down to the bottom!]

As long as there are people around, there will be comparison.

It will always be with us.

Of course, unfair comparisons can hurt, and we need to be on guard about the damage they can do.

But saying “Don’t compare” is fairly useless.

It reminds me of stress. When I was in the business world, I noticed a shift in training over the years. In the beginning, there were sessions on “stress reduction.” Then apparently the folks doing that kind of training looked around and realized that was an unwinnable battle for most people. Then we had sessions on “stress management,” which made a lot more sense to everyone.

Comparison is like that. We’re not going to get rid of it, but we can manage it.

How? Well, by different thinking and by redirection.

Mental Shift #1: Comparison can be a learning moment.

We need to realize that comparison can be a greatly beneficial learning moment for all of us.  Through properly observing others (i.e. comparing myself), I’ve learned how to be gentler, how to handle difficult situations, and how to have healthier perspectives on any number of topics. If we think of ourselves as lifelong learners, and as everyone else as the source of life lessons, we can learn every day. 

Mental Shift #2: Resist its accompanying negative voices.

Sometimes comparison is accompanied by attacks on ourselves. For example, noticing that someone is a better singer or better looking offers us the chance to turn in on ourselves. We have to choose whether or not to listen to voices that generalize and condemn, such as: “See — you’re a failure in this area” or “you’re ugly.” Let’s learn to resist those voices! Notice I didn’t say “avoid the comparison,” because that’s impossible. The problem here isn’t the comparison per se; it’s listening to the negative voices that can accompany it.

Let’s release the positive power of comparison by redirecting our focus.

Instead of deepening the rut of comparison that leads to self-attacks, let’s cut a new mental pathway and embrace the many learning opportunities out there provided by the people around us.

It’s like nature—sometimes we just have to stop and take a good long look around us at the physical beauty of this world. When it comes to people, let’s free them and us by taking on the role of the continual learner, and grab all the lessons we can learn. There’s a lot of free learning available out there! Yes, a few folks may even provide lessons of what not to do (“Wow—note to self: Don’t ever do that!”)

If we have the right perspective, we can grow every day.

Hey, comparison with the proper learning context could be your new best friend.

—A little bit about my mentors, the DuPrés:

Without the mentorship of Pastor Mark DuPré and his wife Diane, I would not be the person I am today. With their help and prayers I gained freedom from the final stages of my disordered eating, and healing from past relationships. 

When he shared these insights on comparison with me recently, I had to share them with all of you. Sometimes we fight so hard to feel like the most beautiful woman in the world, or the most talented athlete, and we hate comparing ourselves with others. However, I know I’m not the most beautiful woman in the world, and I no longer have to feel that way. I will always notice if others are prettier or not prettier than me, but that comparison doesn’t have to be accompanied by negative voices. What a relief!

To read more of his life-changing, practical wisdom, check out Pastor Mark’s “How to Act Like a Grownup” book and blog, as well as his personal site.

Devo 11: Time Management: Making Time for God

DEVO #11:

Last time’s devo talked about comforting others even in our brokenness.  This week’s devo is another challenging message that asks us to put God before ourselves, to change our priorities.  Yes, ladies, this is where we pause a moment to talk about time management.  (I’m shaking in my boots too.)  It’s something almost all of us struggle with – I know I do!  How do we find – no, make – time for God?

~Tiffany Dawn

Amanda Pitcher:

How to describe Amanda Pitcher?  The picture that comes to mind is eclectic, classy, spunky, giving, and sweet rolled into one amazing woman.  I met Amanda through her husband Jeff, who was one of my fellow music majors in undergrad.  And let me tell you – the two of them are ADORABLE together!  They play in their own band (“One Less Star” – check it out by clicking here! so fun to watch them play), have a big house with the coolest little closets and nooks and music room, and they love Jesus with all their hearts.  Amanda is a junior/senior high vocal music teacher at Northville Central School, which is close enough to her house that she can walk to work in the morning.  Get ready – her blog is challenging, and you’re going to want to make some changes in your life.  So do it!  Ladies, it is my privilege to bring you…Amanda Pitcher!

Amanda’s Profile:

Favorite color: dark purple
Favorite food:
my step-dad’s chicken fajitas
Describe yourself/life in 3 words: musician, wife, Trekkie
What you want to do with your life: full time music ministry with my band, One Less Star
One interesting fact about you: I used to stutter
Most dangerous thing you’ve ever done: walked through mid-town Albany, N.Y. alone at night
Favorite quote: “The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away.” ~ Dorothy Day

Favorite Bible verse: “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:12
What is one secret to living life as a woman of God in today’s world? Don’t worry about what others think of you. Don’t put on any pretense. Be yourself and love it, knowing that you are God’s beautiful creation. And as long as you’re living in God’s will and obeying Him, you have nothing to fear. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you.” Matt. 6:33

“Time Management: Finding Making Time for God” by Amanda Pitcher

My husband, Jeff, and I just bought a house in my hometown in upstate New York. I am currently in my second year teaching music at my alma mater. I replaced my music teacher and am now teaching a lot of the courses I took as a high school student. I am directing my first musical this year, a musical that may very well merit its own discussion: Godspell. At the same time I am taking online courses for my master’s degree in music education, giving private guitar and piano lessons after school, fronting my band One Less Star, and somehow saving some time for my husband each evening, and more importantly, finding time for God each day.

Here is what I should tell you. I should tell you that if you have difficulty finding extra time like I do, suck it up and make the time for God. Get up earlier in the morning and read the Bible and pray. Not just ten minutes earlier, but maybe a whole hour earlier. I don’t mean to sound harsh or preachy, but this is an issue I have been dealing with a lot lately, and it has been getting harder to ignore (that’s when you know God’s really trying to tell you something). It’s a lesson I need to learn and get better at every day. Sometimes we just have to say ‘no’ to certain things when we get too much on our plate.

I wrote a song with my band, One Less Star, which talks a lot about waking up to life and living out each day for God. The chorus goes, “He is light, and He is love, and He is worth every moment of your time. He’s above and all around. It’s time to wake; the world does not revolve around you.” The song is humorously titled, “Daydream Believer”, which has nothing to do with The Monkees, but it was fitting for the content of our song. The point is, don’t just find the time; make the time… After all, we owe Him our lives.

I don’t feel like I have any other real solutions to this other than cutting out things in life (especially things that do not glorify God) and making the time to thank Him for His blessings. To be honest, most of my praying and “quality time” with God is in the shower every morning and evening. Now, for me, that’s only 25-30 minutes (2 showers) out of the whole day, but (and here’s the important part) supplementing that with a constant connection to Him throughout the day will enrich your relationship and spiritual well being. That constant connection is really like praying without ceasing, as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  Keep an open line to God throughout the entire day. Say quick prayers, thank Him every once in a while for little things, hum a song that praises Him, and so on. The point is to keep in touch with God while you go about your day, keeping in mind to do everything for His glory. Now, of course this practice can’t stand alone without your quality God time, reading His word, and serving Him.

Again, I’m not saying that 25-30 minutes of “quality time” is enough. You’ll probably never feel like what you’re giving is enough. I certainly don’t. We could never give as much as God has given for us: His Son, Jesus. Time is the most valuable thing we have. In today’s world it’s easy to spread our time thin among many things. Don’t forget God. Of the time that you do have, give it to Him and you will be blessed. †

The Widow’s Offering

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.

But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-43

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For devo #12 by Allison Foster, click here!

Devo #1: Snow White, Stereotypes, and Soul-Searching

DEVO #1:

When I read Beka’s devotional, I thought it was the perfect start to this blog. It got me thinking: “What picture comes to mind when I hear the words ‘woman of God’? What does that kind of woman really look like, and how do I fit into that picture? Who did God make me to be?” So here you are, the first devotional for this blog to get you thinking those same questions…

~Tiffany

Beka Watts:

Reading Beka’s devotional was ironic to me, because when we were college RAs together, I remember her being the image of perfection. The first time I met her I was sore about being single, as I thought every gorgeous, sweet girl was (by default) in a relationship. Beka walked in the room with her long, dark hair, sweet smile, and cute outfit and I was instantly jealous. Of course she has a boyfriend, I thought grudgingly. But come to find out, she was single too! That might sound weird, but it was comforting for me to see that my singleness didn’t necessarily mean there was something wrong with me. Memories aside, Beka reminds me of hot cocoa because of its pure, rich goodness and ability to warm you up on the coldest day. There’s something about her peaceful, inviting presence that instantly cheers you and settles your soul. And apparently underneath the pure goodness exists a surprisingly sarcastic and spunky side. Post undergrad degree in English, Beka couldn’t bear to leave Roberts Wesleyan College, as she now works there as an admissions counselor. It is my pleasure to bring you a taste of her intensely entertaining, amusing, and gripping insights on life as a woman of God. Ladies everywhere, this is Beka Watts:

Beka’s Profile:

College you graduated from/are in and your major: Roberts Wesleyan College, where I spent five whole semesters as an elementary education major trying to convince myself I wanted to be a teacher, then finally gave in and went with what I was passionate about all along: English.

Favorite color: I love colors. As in pure adoration of paint chips and awestruck wonder of the Crayola factory. But my favorite color by a landslide is green (I’m Irish and a Packers fan so I really never had a choice).

Favorite food: Does coffee count as food? Since it’s the foundation of my food pyramid, I vote yes. Otherwise, I am a huge fan of brownie sundaes, chicken fingers, panzanella and Mediterranean food.

Describe yourself/life in 3 words: Just one word will do: Caffeinated.

What you want to do with your life: Mostly, be effective. I want to be a good steward of the abilities, opportunities, and plans God has for me in order to make the most impact possible. Other than that I want to do about a thousand other things (visit every state in the US and every continent in the world, work on an overseas organic farm, run a marathon, emulate the reading habits of Nancy Pearl, successfully blog, adopt children, be a barista…the list is virtually endless). Unfortunately, none of these things point me to an actual career, unless I just do all of them and label my fabricated career “miscellaneous.”

One interesting fact about you: I was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. Pennsylvania.

Most dangerous thing you’ve ever done: Probably driving down a mud-laden mountain in Thailand. When we weren’t sliding through the mud we were pushing the truck out of it. And nervously peering over the edge.

Favorite quote: “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato

Favorite Bible verse: Proverbs 3:27: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act.”

What is one secret to living life as a woman of God in today’s world? Compare and contrast is an essay question on a midterm, not a strategy for life. (And if you’re like me and need constant assistance in combating the comparison mentality, reference Isaiah 55. A lot.)

“Of Snow White, Stereotypes, and Soul-Searching” by Beka Watts

I have this picture in my head of the perfect Christian woman. She’s someone akin to a holy Snow White in sneakers. This is the type of person whose habits include going for a 10 mile run (during which she memorizes eight to ten chapters of Deuteronomy and rescues a kitten from oncoming traffic) and returning home to shower to perfection before preparing a complete breakfast for her family of twelve. All of this occurs before 6:00 am.

I am not that woman. If you are that woman, you have my eternal awe and respect.

On most days I more closely resemble Liz Lemon from 30 Rock than the Proverbs 31 woman. I find significantly more similarities between myself and the socially awkward dating disaster than the woman who rises before dawn to make her own “bedspreads and belted linens” (and what exactly is a belted linen, anyways?)

Sometimes I think I’m not trying hard enough, and other times I’m fairly certain that I’m just not hardwired to quote flowery sayings and then stitch them onto a pillow. Or to routinely purchase markedly Christian paraphernalia, i.e. t-shirts, bumper stickers, wall-hangings. I am also missing the genetic coding for successfully preparing a substantial multiple course meal. (Confession: I was the one who burnt the pie on Thanksgiving because I was watching the Packers/Lions game with tunnel-vision focus.)

This causes me to wonder: What in the world is wrong with me? Should I work harder to subdue my (abundant) quirks to fit the traditional meek and mild stereotype of Christian femininity?

That idea makes me cringe a little bit. And I think that might be a good thing.

I feel like women receive so much pressure to be a certain way, even (and sometimes, especially) in Christian circles. There is an expectation for the kinds of books a Christian woman should read, the profession she should enter into, the age at which she should be married, the committees and charities she should join, the things she should say and think and feel, even the cut and color of her hair. By no means is it a negative thing to be the type of person who naturally gravitates towards the norm – but if you are not that type of person it can all feel a little suffocating, and more than a little overwhelming.

It’s been a recent passion of mine to break away from those expectations and discover the “wonderfully complex” (thanks, Psalm 139) person God made me to be. The one who would rather watch ESPN than HGTV.

Surely, I could benefit from a hearty dose of Proverbs 31 work ethic in my life. I mean who doesn’t want to be strong and energetic and compared to a merchant’s ship? But perhaps I can still do that without becoming the Christian version of a Stepford wife.

I’m learning that I want to honor God’s creation in all facets of life: the beautiful world that we live in, the fantastically diverse people we are surrounded by, the carefully crafted soul we each have. And I think that a huge part of honoring God’s creation is investing the time to figure out who he created when he created me and the effort to develop that person to the fullest extent.

Here’s my inventory so far: I am a coffee devotee, zealous football fanatic, snow enthusiast, budding bibliophile. I’m a lover of quick wit, soft lighting, magazines, dark chocolate, color, photography, and blogs. I am aspiring to become a woman who lives fearlessly, gives generously, and loves passionately. I want to be the Proverbs 31 woman who fears the Lord and selflessly provides for those around her, and I also want to wholly engage the unique individual God created in me. I don’t think those two are mutually exclusive desires; they are two equally necessary halves of one whole.

I will probably never be able to name all of the disciples in alphabetical order while knitting a sweater. And that’s probably ok.

For more of Beka’s blogs, check out: http://theorchardnews.blogspot.com/

 

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To continue on to Devo #2 (by Greta Johnson) click here!