Do this Before You Kick 2016 to the Curb

The other day I did something I’ve been wanting to do for months, possibly even a year or two. But fear and lack of technical understanding kept me holding back; and you know how I feel about holding back. You see, I’ve been hiding behind the written word for the past couple of years. In a way, writing was a wonderful way to allow my voice to emerge, but it’s time to up the game.

I do not consider myself to be a writer. I’m a thinker. A strategic activator. I want to share ideas and begin or further the dialogue. I want to call out your deeply authentic voice because I want to hear it and I believe it matters. A couple of months ago I started offering more videos, and I will continue to do so. But I also want to try audio. So I started recording audio and today I’m going to share with you an edited transcript of that audio, along with the opportunity to listen. Just press play – or read – or both. Whatever works best for you. Then let me know what you’re going to bring to 2017!

Own 2017

I understand why so many people are discouraged with 2016. It’s been a doozy! Between the bloodshed around the world, the US presidential election and the loss of so many pop culture icons, let alone your personal pain and loss, I completely understand why you might be ready to move on.

But if you are ready to kick 2016 to the curb, please don’t throw your hands in front of your face, turn away and then say, “I hope you treat me well, 2017 because 2016 sure didn’t.”

I get it. Truly, I do. Some circumstances can leave us feeling frozen as victims to our circumstances. But I would be remiss if I stayed right here and didn’t call out the deeper, stronger YOU.

Who Are You?

In 2016, WHO YOU ARE didn’t change. WHO YOU ARE came out more powerfully because of what happened in 2016. That’s what’s going to happen in 2017, as well. Whatever happens in 2017, it is going to call out the depths of who you are and ask, “How are you going to meet me?” 2017 doesn’t have anything to say about who you are, but it will definitely call you out.

Most likely, you’re not a victim to 2016. Because WHO YOU ARE doesn’t have to change based on your circumstances.

We put the blame on 2016 – circumstances – other people – God – whomever. And we say, “It’s your fault that I feel so crummy.” And there is some truth to that because we are effected by one another. But we have a choice about how we’re going to respond to our circumstances.*

There is something really critical about the moment that you realize that you feel oppressed. Because in that moment you can’t be complacent anymore. It’s that moment that you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Am I going to fall to my circumstances or am I going to rise up? Am I going to let other people tell me who I am or am I going to tell other people – show other people – who I am?!”

Are you going to let other people and tell you that your voice doesn’t matter – that your contribution doesn’t mean anything? Or are you going to look at them and say, “But it does. And I’ll show you how.”

Find Your Grit

Grit says, “Ya, knock me down, but I’m going to get back up and keep going.” You can choose to lay down and give up. I’ve certainly done that before. But the thing is that most of us have a choice. There are people in this world who are seriously oppressed. But that is not most of us. Most of us have choices. Most of us could rise to the occasion. Most of us could get up and look at our circumstances and say, “I’m going to keep going.”

I look at 2017 and I’m nervous. But I’m also excited. I want to keep pressing on and moving forward, no matter how many people pay attention.

What does it mean for you to show grit in 2017? Are you going to blame 2016 for everything negative thing that happened to you and to your ideals? Or are you going to look at 2016 with grit in your teeth and say, “thanks for the experience. It’s time for me to show 2017 WHO I AM.”

Remember who you are. Own it. Keep moving forward and build momentum as you head into 2017. How? Be sure to listen to the voices that help you do so and use discernment to tune out the ones that don’t. Subscribe to this blog, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and/or SoundCloud. I plan on being a voice that helps you remember WHO YOU ARE.

*If you truly have no voice in your circumstances, whatever they may be, I want to encourage you to seek out help from someone who will listen to you and possibly help you move out of them. I know it may be complicated, but know that I’m for you.

Stop Waiting to be Discovered; You Can Fight Darth Vader, Too

It wasn’t like she asked for the opportunity. We simply walked into the auditorium to save seats up close because we knew Grant was excited to see the Jedi training show on our Disney cruise.

Amelia Jedi TrainingA woman stopped Amelia in the aisle and inquired, “Do you like Star Wars?”

“Ya,” Amelia responded.

What was she supposed to say? She never showed an ounce of interest in it until that morning when she decided to join us for the little show, but it might be rude to say anything else.

“Would you like to come up on stage and be trained as a Jedi?” the woman offered.

“Sure,” Amelia shrugged.

My stomach sank to the floor and before I could stop it, I turned into the ungrateful mom who asks for an extra freebie for her other child. “Her brother would like it so much more,” I pleaded with my eyes as the words came out. I knew Amelia wouldn’t mind giving up her spot so her brother could do it.

But they didn’t have time to wait for him. So they whisked Amelia away and the next time we saw her, she was wearing a brown robe and holding a coveted light saber. Grant was giddy when he realized she was going on stage but by the time she had her turn doing what every Star Wars fan ever dreamed of doing (fighting Darth Vader!) the question hit him.

IMG_7442“Why her and not me?”

I knew exactly how he felt. For years I read other people’s books, watched other speakers give presentations and listened to other people’s podcasts. And all the while I wondered, “Why them and not me?”

Maybe you’ve asked that question before.

Why did he get that part and not me?
Why is she married and not me?
Why does he get to travel for work and not me?
Why are they happy in their marriage and not me?

I’m sure we can all come up with answers to those questions.

He sucked up to the director.
She’s must be more comfortable talking to guys than I am.
He’s been in the job longer than I have.
If I had a spouse like that I’d be happy, too.

Maybe there is truth to some of these assumptions, or maybe they are just excuses. My reason for not doing what I longed to do certainly was…

“Because they haven’t discovered me yet.”

Do you hear how passive that sounds? I was waiting and waiting for someone to see me in a crowd and say, “I choose you, Andrea. It’s your turn now!” Because I assumed that the powers-that-be were the only ones who could finally give me my big break. They were the ones who could decide if I’d get that book deal…that speaking engagement…that interview. I was waiting to be discovered so I could make the impact I longed to make. 

%22I don't know what you long to do, be or say. But whatever it is, you won't get there by waiting to be discovered.%22

 

The statement, “God will make it happen if it’s supposed to happen,” is just as passive.

Yes, I just said that. Do you want to know why? Because whatever you believe about God, you still have to get up out of bed in the morning and put one foot in front of the other. God doesn’t do that for you.

Sometimes YOU have to act. YOU have to move.

You work your tail off for the next part.
You take risks to become more comfortable around guys.
You display the integrity, intelligence and grit it takes to travel for your job.
You stop demanding your spouse to make you happy and find your happiness in something more reliable.*

What are you waiting for?

Grant was quite disappointed by the time the Jedi training concluded. He tucked his head into my neck and I picked him up to carry him out of the auditorium. I let everyone else move on and then I paused in the aisle to speak to my son.

“Grant, I know you’re disappointed, but that happens a lot in life. Look up at that stage. Do you want to be up on that stage someday? If you really do, I believe you can. If you want to be a magician or get a job as a Lego Creator, I believe you can. But those things don’t just happen. You have to focus and work hard for it instead of being upset with others when you’re not chosen.”

Grant came home with all of the moves Amelia learned in her Jedi training and now the boy is ready to fight his own Darth Vader.

I don’t know what you long to do, be or say. But whatever it is, you won’t get there by waiting to be discovered. Take a risk and take action. Someone needs what you have to offer. 

*Relationships are complicated. Please seek wise counsel if you are struggling in your relationships.  

AJW_FacebookProfileImage_11

Would you like to read my story? Read the Prologue HERE or go directly to Amazon to purchase the book HERE.

 

The Story Behind My Top 10 Articles of 2015

Did you know it’s sling-shot week? That’s what I heard from author Jon Acuff yesterday. The week after Christmas and before New Years is the time in which we have to review the past and look forward to the future. I love that picture. This week I’ve been pulling back the sling, analyzing the past year and strategizing where to aim for next year. Taking aim and firing is necessary – even if it lands me on a completely different target.

Pulling Back

Grandparent Magic Border

The most popular Facebook image of 2015

Do you have any year-end rituals? Do you create a picture book or even look through the ones on your phone? Do you run that year-in-review app on Facebook or go through your Instagram feed? The year-in-review I’m facinated with this time is the one that shares my website statistics. It’s interesting to look back at the posts of my first full year of blogging. Each post is a little piece of my heart and I remember something special about each one. Here is the story of my 10 most popular posts of the year (in no particular order).

To read an article, click on the title 

I sat trembling in the old Da Buzz coffee shop on the little couch by the electric fire while writing Behind Closed Doors. I was scared out of my mind and just wrote the truest thing that would flow through my fingertips. The morning of the first day of school for Grant, I went to the patio in our backyard to write  The 1 Thing I Hope Our Son Remembers About Our Fairy Tale, tears streaming down my cheeks. I am particularly proud of Your New SuperpowerIt represents a struggle Amelia and I have while demonstrating a moment of compassionate clarity. I don’t recall where I was when I wrote When It’s Not The End Of The World, After All, the story about our dog getting hit by a car, but I remember constantly refreshing the statistics page and laughing as the post was shared and viewed by more and more people. Aaron was concerned that I was becoming obsessed with the stats.

I wrote a couple of highly popular posts about my experience at Walmart: When The Walls Close In and Why I Wear Sunglasses In Walmart And Perhpas You Should Too. I do not hate the store, but shopping there brings out my struggles with sensory sensitivity. It is an issue that effects at least 20% of the population, yet very few of us have any idea of what we or our kids/loved ones are facing.

Be More Of Who You Are was a labor of love. I worked hard on that piece, the first one where I highlighted other people. It’s one of my favorites. I waited a long time to post Book Impact: Schema of a Soul because I love the author and wanted to get it right. I look forward to sharing about more special books that have an impact on me in the future.

I found out I needed to submit my trial article for Her View From Home the week my last living Grandparent died. This Too Shall Pass will forever be one of my favorites. Gospel singer and my childhood idol Sandi Patty announced her last tour and a few days later I shared An Open Letter To Sandi Patty, which she apparently read because she re-tweeted my tweet about it on Twitter. (Can I say tweet and Twitter any more in a sentence?!) It is my most-viewed article of the year and it reminded me of the power and accessibility of the Internet and that my voice matters.

Taking Aim

Where do I go from here? I do not write for myself. If I did, I would keep a journal instead of sending the message out. This is my job, and I take it very seriously. You have the potential of playing an intregal role in helping me know where to aim my offerings for 2016. My analysis is based on statistics (popularity of posts) and direct feedback. I’ve been paying attention to what you say in comments here and on Facebook and in person and I’ve noticed a few things.

WMe & Belleould you agree with the overall messages I’ve heard from readers this year?

  1. Stories of real-life and my internal response to it are the most interesting to you. They often give words to your own feelings.
  2. The idea of sensitivity is intriguing and you’re curious about it on some level.
  3. You really aren’t all that interested in my thoughts about my experience with writing (though you may read it because you want to support me.) 😉
  4. You aren’t looking for advice as much as you want to know you aren’t alone.

What would you add or change about those points? How can I best serve you in 2016? Please comment honestly here on this post, on Facebook, or send an email to me at awenburg@gmail.com. 

May your sling-shot week end with a clear target and may you fire with confidence into 2016!

Deeply,

Andrea

Christmas photo 2015

It’s Bigger Than A Dress: Part 3

As a team, we declare that every woman, man and child is valuable, no matter their socioeconomic status, culture, race, age or gender. Every voice, every life, every heart matters. We do not speak for others, we can only hope that our voices (what we say and do) will turn our ears to hear the voices that are hidden, diminished and abandoned.

The boy sent out on the small boat to fish 14 hours a day.

The girl whose manipulative relative visits her room at night for his own pleasure.

The man who is told he must work or his family will be killed.

The woman who gives herself away to pay for the medical needs of her young child.

What you can do:

  1. Recognize the power you have and use it to empower others.
  2. Refuse to use other people to make yourself feel more valuable.
  3. Don’t blame victims.
  4. Believe you have dignity so you can recognize the dignity of every other human being and help them recognize it.
  5. Support – through prayer, relational interaction and finances.

What’s better than raising $1,000 for a cause? Doing it arm in arm with others. Donate through our Dressember team to International Justice Mission and A21 here: #YourVoiceMatters team page.

If you are inspired to donate to another organization fighting human trafficking (there are many!) or to act/think differently, would you let us know? It would be so encouraging for us to hear that our advocacy is making an impact.

Stephanie Sutphin, Wife/Stay-at-home Mom/Lover of crafting

StephanieWhy did you decide to participate in Dressember?

I saw a blog post about Dressember through a friend. I wanted to join in right away! Human trafficking has always been something that deeply bothered me, and learning more about the injustices people are enduring daily made me want to fight for them, do anything I could. I rarely wear dresses and am nursing my baby girl so I knew it would be a challenge for me. That made the choice to participate even more meaningful. I choose to put on a dress every day because there are millions out there who don’t get a choice. I am also making decorating glass candle holders to raise money that are available to buy here: Etsy Candle Holders.

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?

It never seemed like my voice could matter. I’m not on the front lines with IJM helping people, or even a writer who could raise awareness. Recently I learned that sex slavery is happening in the United States, not just the rest of the world. That really hit me, but I still didn’t see how I could change things. Participating in Dressember has made me feel empowered. My voice does matter. I can make a difference by being an advocate to people who are treated wrongly, by valuing myself and others, and by raising my family to treat every single person they meet with dignity and respect.

Rosanne Moore: Homeschooling Mom of 4, Reading Instruction Specialist, Writer/Editor/Spiritual Director

RosanneWhy did you decide to participate in Dressember?

I think I grew up with the wrong belief that women involved in the sex trade did so as a matter of choice. As I became more involved in ministry that allowed me to sit with women of a variety of backgrounds and hear their stories, I learned about the realities of human trafficking and have prayed for opportunities to do something about it. Since becoming a single mom about 4 years ago, I live with a strong awareness that single mothers in other parts of the world – women who are without my family support and educational opportunities – are incredibly vulnerable to sex trafficking. And as a follower of Jesus and the mother of a daughter, I want to intervene on behalf of victimized girls and women with the same passion that I would want shown by others toward me and my daughter, if we were being harmed. Dressember offers me an opportunity to support my sisters around the world actively.

Andrea made me aware of Dressember last year, and this year, I decided to participate as well. Seeing Andrea’s daughter Amelia involved made my middle school-aged daughter decide to join me. It’s been a stretch for us both as she’s active kid and I haven’t worn dresses much since my kids were born. (I spent too much time on the floor w/ little ones!) However, we’ve both unexpectedly discovered a new freedom to embrace and celebrate our own femininity during this time of solidarity with our sisters around the world.

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?

There have been some dark seasons in my life during which I surrendered my voice, both with God and others, because I felt powerless and discarded. Believing my voice matters is tied to a greater hope – that no matter what the result of speaking truth looks like in the short-term, in the long-run God hears and answers our cries. He is always at work to make all things new, and when I refuse to be silent in the face of injustice or deception or the status quo of self-interest, I affirm the truth of His character in the midst of circumstances would otherwise call for despair.

Living in the US and having spent some time in a 3rd world country also gives me a sense of responsibility to use the place of blessing that I’ve been given as an opportunity to serve those in far more challenging circumstances. All that we have, both in terms of material possessions and of options unknown to most of the world, are gifts that we can steward for God’s eternal purposes. What a privilege that is!

It’s Bigger Than A Dress: Part 1, Part 2

It’s Bigger Than A Dress: Part 2

We didn’t know who he was, but someone else at our workshop pointed him out. On the way out to lunch Aaron and I walked over to John Cotton Richmond and thanked him for his work as a federal human trafficking prosecutor and former International Justice Mission-India director. We visited for a few minutes, astounded at the his confidence in the idea that it really is possible to end human trafficking, and end it soon. I’m not sure I would have believed it coming from anyone else.

IMG_5044“What can we do?” I asked. He encouraged us to support those doing freedom work and participate in Dressember again. He’d just visited with Blythe Hill, founder of Dressember, the week before.

I admit, that’s not what I wanted to hear. I was leaning toward not participating this year. Though we’d raised $1,000 last year for International Justice Mission, I remembered how discouraged I was through most of the month, wondering why I bothered wearing dresses when most people didn’t realize why I was doing it. Most of December 2014 I felt discouraged, uncomfortable, frustrated, ignored and insignificant. But then I remembered that those very feelings are what gave me a sense of solidarity with others fighting for freedom. Maybe participating in Dressember is worth it.

So this year when it came time to register, I took a bit of a leap and created a team #YourVoiceMatters. It is  a phrase used in other contexts, but it has great personal meaning for me. I not only want to believe that my voice matters, I want to encourage others to believe their voices matter, too. It’s one of the themes of my life. I was surprised when we ended up with 13 participants on our team. A couple of women even did it because they saw me do it last year. Maybe my quiet month of everyday-advocacy did make a difference. Maybe my voice matters.

December is the giving month. It’s the month that every non-profit hopes to collect what they need to make it into the new year. It’s the month that we look at our pocketbooks and wish we had more to give. But don’t let the enormity of the need and the smallness of your ability keep you from believing that you can make a difference. Your $5 , $10 or $100 matters. Your attitude toward others matters. Your prayers matter. Your word of encouragemet matters. Whatever it is, your offering matters.

Donate here: #YourVoiceMatters Dressember Team

In Part 1, we heard from four of our Dressember teammates. Allow me to introduce you to two more impactful young women in North Platte.

Alena Evans: Reader/Writer/Chinese Restaurant Hostess/Babysitter/Home-school Student

Screenshot 2015-12-16 at 5.58.47 PMWhy did you decide to participate in Dressember?

Let’s see…last year my friend posted a picture in her dress with the Dressember link. She never wears dresses so this really caught my attention. When I read about what she was doing I was kind of like “That’s interesting.” and moved on–the issue at hand didn’t really stir anything in my heart. I saw Andrea post a picture about it too and I remember feeling like maybe I should pay attention to this, but I really didn’t.
Then over the summer another friend of mine went on a missions trip to Thailand, and when she came back she talked about how much human trafficking there is in Thailand. She told me about a woman she had met who had been able to get out of trafficking, and about just the way these girls end up there, and it was all so heartbreaking to me!
Well I had forgotten all about Dressember until November when Andrea posted about starting a team. I actually kind of wrestled with it the moment that I saw your post, because it didn’t seem like I would be doing a lot, and it’s not like New Mexico where you can get away with not wearing pants in the beginning of the winter–I live in Nebraska! But then I thought, ‘Get a hold of yourself! This is what you’ve been waiting for, and you wear dresses for work half the time anyway.” So I jumped in, and I’m really glad I did! It feels great to be a part of the team, instead of on my own.

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?

I guess to me that means that I can have influence over people with my words, and so I should be careful with what I say. The way I speak and what I pipe up about matter because it is what the Lord cares so deeply about. At least, I want it to be that way.

Megan Wullschleger: 17 year old Avid Writer/ Lover of Stories/ Blogger/ Musician/ Student

HaitiWhy did you decide to participate in Dressember?

My friend, Olivia Youngs got me involved with Dressember. I didn’t understand what it was all about until I had watched the video on her blog of what Dressember was and I fell in love and I knew that I really needed to do this. I knew it was going to be a challenge, and it is! But it is for such an amazing cause. And it holds a place in my heart.

www.bonafidemegan@blogspot.com

What the phrase “Your Voice Matters” means to you?

At times we feel as though we aren’t heard. And though we may feel that, we really can be even though we think we aren’t. That’s how the victims of sex trafficking feel and so through this we are showing them we care and that they are heard…your voice matters in any situation. And someone does care.

It’s Bigger Than A Dress: Part 1

It’s Bigger Than A Dress: Part 1

Dressember

Sometimes I scare myself. I think of crazy ideas to connect people and make an impact on the world but then every once in a while I actually say them out loud. Eeek!

After participating in something called “Dressember” last year, it occurred to me: “It would be awesome to gather a team of people to participate in Dressember with Amelia and I next year!” All they would have to do is wear dresses every day in December, raise money and spread the message. Right? By this November, I was nervous as all-get-out to throw the idea out to the world. What if no one joins us after I put myself out there and actually ask for help? But I was committed, so I explained our mission and invited others to participate with us (read more about Dressember here). After a few days with no response, a number of women and some of their friends joined our team called #YourVoiceMatters. These women are passionate and powerful and I am thrilled to introduce some of them to you in a couple of posts entitled It’s More Than A Dress.

As of today, our team is comprised of 13 adults and two girls. We have raised $975 of our $3000 goal! Check out the creative ways each of these women are using their voices and their gifts to amplify the voices of others. Each woman has her own fundraising page that connects to our overall #YourVoiceMatters team page. Donate through them and you’re donating through our team.

Olivia Youngs: Wife to AJ, Mom to two girls, Writer and Coffee Lover – View More: http://a-momentphotography.pass.us/olivia-editpassionate about simplicity        North Platte, NE

Why are you participating in Dressember? 

My roommate from college participated in Dressember last year, but because I was breastfeeding my oldest daughter at the time, decided not to join in (wearing a dress isn’t the most convenient choice for breastfeeding moms). This year though, as I’m nursing my second baby, I realized that it was too great a cause and too huge a problem for me not to participate. I’ve blogged about it here and am selling handmade items to fundraise here.

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?

“Your voice matters” is an incredibly empowering phrase. To me, it means that I have the ability to make an impact; that my words mean something, no matter how inadequate they may feel.

Rachael Miller: Author, Artist, and Wife to a green-eyed Tolkien enthusiast.    Greeley, CO

Why are you participating in Dressember? IMG_0776

I was approached by my sister-in-law Olivia Youngs about joining Dressember. She was really passionate about participating this year, and wanted to know if several of her friends and family members wanted to join. At first, I was hesitant about joining the movement. Though I do care about the issue of sex trafficking, I didn’t feel passionate about it like I thought I should. The “challenge” of wearing only dresses for a whole month was intriguing, but I wanted my heart to be in it for the right reasons. I didn’t want Dressember to become just another thing I was doing because my friends were doing it. Also, I lived far away from the other members of the #yourvoicematters team, if I were to do this, I would be practically alone.

Even now, though I still do not feel a burning inside my heart for the cause, I’ve realized that supporting something can function a lot like love. When you love someone, you may not always feel passion for them; love is a choice to remain committed. From the moment I put on my first Dressember dress, I was choosing to offer more than my passion. I was offering my support and my commitment to ending this great evil of our time.

I’ve made origami dress ornaments available for a donation of any amount to the cause.

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?   

It means that whoever you are, whether you have a large circle of influence or a small one, you still leave your mark upon the world. Choosing to speak up or remain silent—both have an impact on the future.

Jenny Maestas: Lactation Consultant (I help moms breastfeed their babies)       Lincoln, NE

IMG_0991Why are you participating in Dressember?

I would hear about human trafficking, but really had no frame of reference for it. I didn’t really know any of the statistics or have an idea of how wide spread it was. I wanted to be forced to really look at the issue and learn more, that putting on a dress every day wouldn’t just be a normal routine in my day, but would serve as a reminder to look outside of my everyday and see what was really going on in the world. I work with babies every day in my job, and I want to play a part in creating a safer, more secure world for them in the future, as well as for my own children.

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?

It’s so easy to listen to all of the horrible news around the world and in our own backyard and think that there’s really nothing you can do to make a difference in it. It’s easy to live in fear. But that’s a lie that I can so easily believe, when in reality, each of our voices collectively has the potential to create real change in our world. We can give a voice to those who are unable to speak for themselves.

Lanae Pierson: High School Biology Teacher     Columbus, NE

Why are you participating in Dressember? 10317804_10204216190274706_8704194780087415230_o

I saw that my friend Jenny Maestas was doing Dressember.  I spent a few days thinking about whether I should donate to her campaign or just join her team.  Since ending human trafficking is something I believe strongly in, but have never done anything about, I decided to join her team.  Though I do want to raise money to help International Justice Mission and A21, my primary reason for joining the Dressember campaign is to build awareness.  I’m doing so by taking a daily picture of me in a dress holding a sign that gives a fact about human trafficking.  I further expand on each fact in my blog (lifelogoflanae.wordpress.com).

What does the phrase “your voice matters” mean to you?

It means that although the issue of human trafficking is huge, what I have to say about it is important.  I, as a single person, can make a difference in this world.  This is why I didn’t just donate money to the Dressember campaign; I became a part of it to build awareness.  My voice matters (and yours does too)!

 

Click here for the #YourVoiceMatters Dressember Team page.

A Short Message for LEADERS

 

I know. I need this message more than anyone else.

There is a place for self-evaluation and growth. But when self-awareness turns into self-deprecation, you turn into someone who JUDGES.

Belittling yourself in front of other people makes you UNSAFE and influences others to believe that it is normal and even good to belittle themselves.

I want to see people grow in their positive impact on the world. I want to see an END to slavery in my lifetime. But my voice is counterproductive to the #enditmovement when it is self-deprecating.

So I’m calling all leaders and all activists and all mothers and fathers and older siblings and anyone who has influence over anyone else…

If you want to be a leader and make a difference in the lives of others, take this to heart:

build up - tear down

Let’s end it.

Why I Love Being Alive In 2015

When I was younger I felt like a prude. People would laugh at jokes I didn’t think were funny or get excited to do things I didn’t think were fun. Sometimes I just felt out of place. I know I wasn’t the only one. But I also know that I was really serious.

Why can’t I just let go and have fun like the other kids? 

I wondered if I should have been born 50 years ago? Then I wouldn’t feel so out of place, right?

Well, now that I’m much older there are plenty of times that I still feel out of place and too serious for social settings. But there’s something about 2015 that I never would have had in 1965, and it’s got me feeling really good about being who I am, right where I am, in 2015. The Internet.

2015

What a Web!

When I was in 8th grade I volunteered to be one of two kids to go to a workshop about this new thing that had to do with computers called the “World Wide Web.” Honestly, I had very little interest in computers, I just wanted to get out of school for a day and have this special opportunity…because I wanted to be special. The whole workshop explaining how information could be shared with other computers all over the globe was beyond my comprehension. I stared at the green screen all day, thinking that one of my techy friends should have been there in my place. They tried to explain how the WWW would change the world, but I didn’t get it. I was bored and had no idea how this computer deal would mean much to me.

I get it now!

Seriously. I know a lot of people are unimpressed with social media and its many negative effects (to say the least). It is certainly true that I can get distracted by it and start comparing my life with the pictures and stories others tell. I need mindful boundaries for how I use and process it.

But social media has given me the opportunity to stay connected with kindred spirits around the world. Friends both across the street and around the world in Australia, Turkey, Malaysia, Moldova and England to name a few. I enjoy thinking of them, praying for them and interacting with them. Staying in touch with such friends helps me remember that I am a small dot on a much bigger picture. But even small dots can have a voice on the Internet and make a difference.

Social media has been the primary vehicle through which I publish writings and use my voice the past year. It’s fun to share my heart with others on a regular basis without having to wait for someone to choose me. “Pick yourself,” says forward thinker and bestselling author Seth Godin. Indeed. Pick yourself and then let others decide if they want to listen to what you have to say.

And then there’s Twitter. Dear Twitter. It took me a LONG time to get Twitter. IMG_2161But I sure do now! Yesterday Her View From Home published my article, “An Open Letter To Sandi Patty” (read it here). I tweeted (posted) the article and tagged Sandi Patty. And then she retweeted it, indicating the article made her tear up. I could have written a letter to a special influencer in my life in 1965 and they may or may not get it and may or may not read it. I could have written a letter to the editor and it may or may not be read by others. But on Twitter you know. You have direct access to people who otherwise seem out of reach. “Star” status doesn’t mean the same thing it did 20 years ago. I know normal people are getting attention for minimal things, but for the most part, social media can help us remember that we’re all human. Followers or not, likes or not, we’re all accessible and can have an impact on one another.

I am so grateful that I could share my love with someone who was a large influence on the formation of my voice. I’m grateful I could bless her hear heart by using the voice of my heart, expressed on the Internet.

Your voice matters on the Internet. How will you use it?

The #1 Problem with Standing Out

And 5 situations when it's worth it.

The world came to a screeching halt as all eyes turned on me and I turned beet red. “Is she supposed to sing that loud?”  My worst junior high fears were coming true in the middle of the music room. My voice was too much. Our teacher disagreed with my classmate and we moved on, but I took note:

Don’t stand out or someone might call you out, Andrea.

Indeed, they may. This very point is one reason why I struggle so much with figuring out what to say and how to say it and why it took me so long to start writing. But here I am. I’m sure it means that eventually I’ll be called out for one thing or another. But I’m at a point that I’d rather speak up for others than hide from them.

Stand Out

I wonder if the possibility of getting called out is why so many people hold back when they have something real to say in conversation? It seems safer to blend in unnoticed than go “off-script” and say something that questions the status quo and makes people think. Maybe we all have a tendency to get stuck in the unofficial script written by the tribe around us. It’s nice to have social norms to help us know how to interact with others, but there are times those norms become a cover for the real voice inside.

Perhaps when someone asks how are you, you say “fine.” But what if you’re not fine?

Maybe when you tell someone you are struggling, you say “but God is good.” But what if your heart really isn’t sure of God’s goodness in the midst of your brutal struggle?

What about the times when someone gives you a compliment and you say you’re “no big deal?” What if you really are a big deal and saying you’re not is saying your friend doesn’t know what they’re talking about?

Photo by Laura Bernaro www.laurabernaro.wordpress.com

Photo by Laura Bernaro
www.laurabernero.wordpress.com

I know a lot of amazing people. If I’ve met you, you’re one of them. (If I haven’t, I hope to get the privilege someday.) And each of these amazing people are way more amazing when they use the voice of their hearts instead of simply saying what they’re supposed to say.

I know a lot of people who are quiet. I love those people. They seem to have wisdom I long to hear. Quiet wisdom is powerful, but there is a difference between quiet and silent. Many people have great things to say but hold back because they are afraid of standing out for fear that they might be called out for rocking the boat or upsetting someone else.

Go Off-Script

It’s hard to know when to go off script, but I would like to suggest a few times when it’s good to say what’s on your heart. Find “Words To Say” that go with these situations by subscribing to my weekly email “Voice Lessons”.

If you want to connect with others and nourish their souls, try going off-script in these situations:

  1. When you see someone who is struggling. Imagine what it’s like to be in their situation. What might touch your heart in such a moment? Don’t worry about inflicting pain, they’re already in pain. What if you were the friend who let them release their pain in your presence without hushing them? Connecting with you in such a moment has more potential to stir life in them than advice or hushing.
  2. When someone puts you on the spot, the temptation is to immediately agree with whatever they say. Why? Probably because we don’t want to cause waves or appear confused or weak in the moment when we don’t know what to do. But you do not need to give people immediate answers. Most of the time it is best to put space between the conversation and your response when you feel caught off guard.
  3. When someone gets upset with you. I hate it when people get upset with me because their disapproval makes me feel like I’m worthless. Sometimes we fight back. Sometimes we silently seethe. But there is another way. You can own your mistakes. You can question the other person’s response. You don’t have to say whatever the other person hopes you’ll say.
  4. When someone starts gossiping. You do not have to participate in gossip. I realize that it is difficult to back out of conversations like this without judging or making others feel uncomfortable, but you can do it. You don’t have to nod your head and agree. You don’t have to laugh. You can smile and redirect the conversation. You can.
  5. When you feel annoyed. I know. It’s tempting to lash out or be passive aggressive when you feel annoyed. Me too. But we don’t have to react to others with anger. We can ask ourselves what is making us sad in this moment – because if we’re angry, there’s most likely sadness under that anger. So dig a little. What life-giving words could you say?

I realize that going off-script in these moments can be really difficult. That’s why I created a little list of things you could say in each of these instances called, “Words To Say: 25 Sayings for Awkward Moments.” You can have this pdf to print or keep on your computer or phone, along with a weekly email from me offering resources and inspiration to help us communicate in life-giving ways that make deep impact. Find it by clicking here: Words To Say.

Words To Say

Please share this post with others who might be interested. I am hoping to give another 30 copies away this week. I will have more to share very soon!

 

Deeply,

Andrea Joy

Emergency Cancellation

Choose Love Anyway

Do you ever do something spontaneous and exciting? This week I made a last-minute decision to sign up for a workshop in Nashville. It’s the kind of workshop that could help me clarify the way I talk about my message now and for the future work I do. I would get to confer with business leaders and expert storytellers to help me make the most of what I am offering. I’ve been hungry for something like this for months and this was finally the right thing at the perfect time.

UnknownA couple of days ago I took off on a 3 1/2 hour ride to Denver so I could fly out the next morning. After a restless night sleep, I was up and on the shuttle by 4 a.m., ready to embark on my little adventure. That’s when I took this picture to send my kids.

I feel bad for the unsuspecting girl in this picture. She has no idea that she’s about to be really disappointed. A few seconds later I checked my email and saw this headline: Emergency Cancellation. Sure enough, the workshop team had to cancel our gathering due to a family emergency.

Oh.

When you get news like that at 4:00 in the morning it feels a bit like waking up from a dream. Surreal. Disappointing. This wasn’t ever real, anyway.

I took my zombie self to the ticket counter and cancelled my flight. An hour later I heaved my bag up the stairs of the shuttle, lowered into the chair and finally spilled the tears pooling in my eyes since I got the news.  There’s nothing like a vacant bus, driving away from the airport under the early morning stars, to usher in a moment of grief. Back at the hotel I wiped the tears, thanked the gruff bus driver and headed home.

Decision Time

There came a point, post-tears, where I knew I had a decision to make. Will I choose to love in this or not? Writing is good for me, if for no other reason than that I think about you in moments like this. Will I live what I say I believe or will I give into the temptation to cover, hide and blame? I handled it differently this time than I would have a few years ago. Perhaps you recognize these things in yourself.

My Choice:

Photo by Linda Liljehorn

Photo by Linda Liljehorn

  1. I let myself cry. I didn’t deny the fact that I was disappointed. I didn’t throw my tears onto any unsuspecting person around me, but I was honest with myself and God. I cried my little heart out on the way back to the hotel and then released myself from over thinking my sadness after that.
  1. I own my decision. It’s tempting to say all kinds of disowning comments when things don’t go as planned. I could say “it wasn’t meant to be” or “maybe something bad would have happened if I would have gone.” But there is no way of knowing what could have happened had I gone, because I didn’t go. I could say, “I must have been wrong about this opportunity, since it didn’t work out,” but I don’t believe that. I own my desire and pursuit of this little dream, whether I get another chance to go or not.
  1. I am not defensive. I had to explain why I felt the workshop was a good idea when my husband and I were deciding whether not I should go. Ultimately, he was very supportive and we made the decision together. (We make all decisions like this together.) However, years ago I would have felt like a fool for proposing such a thing and then being “wrong” because it didn’t go as planned. And when I feel like a fool, I act defensive. I would have walked into our home with a chip on my shoulder even before seeing him. But I didn’t this time.

This time was different. This time I let myself cry, I owned my decision and I didn’t get defensive. And you know what? I am still a little sad about the whole thing. But I am not carrying around additional pain from holding back tears, forsaking my decision and acting defensive whenever I talk about it.

This time, I choose love.

Which of these three choices is the hardest for you to make when you feel disappointed? Why? (They’re all hard for me!) 

Answer in the comments below or on the Facebook post.