Monday, July 27, 2015

Living Confidently

||"Believe in yourself!" -The lamest confidence quote that is supposed to make all your insecurities go away. (how???)||




My debate partner got me socks for Christmas and I love them.

They're not normal, solid colors. They aren't no-shows. They are knee-high, purple and green/black and purple striped glories. And I wear them with my suits.

Don't freak out. I don't wear them into speech or debate rounds. That would be a little far. But I do walk into tournaments, totally professional from hair to knees. Pencil skirt, hairspray, blazer, blouse. And, of course, knee-high bright green socks.

I don't wear the socks to get compliments or attention. I wear them because they're awesome, and wearing them with my professional tournament attire is a beautiful summation of my personality.

When we talk about confidence, the conversation is all too frequently reduced to positive self-talk and smiling more often. But saying "I am beautiful," or "I can do this," just doesn't do it for me. Believing in myself sounds like a great idea, but what happens when I fail? If I, "myself" don't measure up, cute sayings and inspiration Pinterest photos aren't gonna cut it.

There was a time in my life when I would spend time trying to fit in with the people who I thought were "cool" (what even qualifies some to be cool?). I would hangout with these people, and the day or evening would start out with me feeling like I could totally be best friends with them. But by the end of the day, I ended up feeling bad about myself for not liking the same things they did because I thought they were cool. I didn't share their interests and I had very little in common with them, so when I tried to fit in with them, I failed miserably and wanted to cry. But when I hang out with people who encourage me to be myself, that's what I am.

||"Confidence is being 100% real with who you are and not being afraid to [show] it." -Katie Gregoire||


If you're most yourself while throwing a Frisbee, or while putting on makeup, or while making Youtube videos, or while writing novels, then rather than hiding behind what you think is "normal" or "cool," you need to embrace those things. Don't do things because you want to please other people. God made you to be you, not your best friend, your siblings, or that kid you think is sooo cool. He made you to be you for a reason, on purpose.

To me, living confidently means choosing to trust that who you are is who you are meant to be, regardless of how cute your outfit is, how good you are at ping-pong, or if you wear crazy (awesome) socks or not. Yes, you should believe in yourself, but with an attitude of humility, not self-importance. Inspirational Pinterest quotes won't give you confidence because confidence is a choice you have to make every day. Acting like someone else will only take away your confidence. And that's what's up.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Living Gracefully

||"Cease striving and know that I am God." -Psalm 46:10||



One of my friends from youth group is a ballet dancer. Every year, from early September to late November, is Nutcracker Season. At the busiest part of this season, she's in the dance studio seven days a week. She and the other dancers practice hours each day, memorizing each dance, learning to move to the music with every limb in place, a smile on their face.

Oh how I admire ballet dancers.

Thanksgiving weekend, they perform. And it's beautiful. The dresses and sets are nice and all, but the real beauty comes from the dancers. The movements are smooth, practiced to perfection. The months of practice come together in one fantastic show. These girls have learned exactly when and where to move in time to the music.

Sometimes I live my life the same way.

Don't get me wrong. I have about as much coordination as a baby elephant. Ballet is not soon to be listed among my list of talents (which currently includes writing decently, eating raw cookie dough, and procrastinating).

What I mean is that I rehearse, I try to choreograph my life. I'm also pretty bad at it. Looking back over the past twelve months, next to nothing has gone how I planned it. Looking forward, there's a cloud I'm trying to decipher.

I want there to be a rehearsed answer to every question. I want every question to be "yes" or "no" like cross-examination in a debate round. I like knowing the answers. I like raising my hand in confidence when my debate coach or youth pastor asks a question I know the answer to. I like the feeling of flipping to the right verse at the right moment.

But life has been throwing me questions that aren't easy, that aren't yes or no, that I don't know the answer to.

What do you say when a friend hurts you but you don't want to lose them?
How can the answer be no or not yet when everything in you says yes?
How can you believe everything will be all right when everything seems all wrong?
Will what I write today matter mean anything to anyone?
Is it possible for my one small voice to make a dent in all the noise?
Is it okay to want so badly to be loved?
Can I ever be good enough?

I'm learning, though.

Not the answers. Those are complicated, hard, hidden in the fog of the future. I'm learning that I don't have to know the answer.

The art of living gracefully is found in Psalm 46:10: Cease striving and know I am God. It is found in Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. God doesn't tell us the future, not in so many words, but he shows up the next step. He doesn't give us a To Do list. He gives us grace.


||"Graceful, in this case, doesn't mean perfect. Instead, it means free. Free to believe Jesus rather than the voice in your head that says you aren't good enough. Free to hope even when things look and feel hopeless." -Emily Freeman, Graceful||


Living gracefully means letting go of having to know the answers, letting of the lies that say you aren't enough, living step by step, even when you don't know where the path is leading you.

On Tuesday nights, I go swing dancing.

After a couple of weeks practicing with my friends, I started dancing with strangers. At first, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep up with some of the more advanced dancers. I soon found, though, that as long as I had a good lead, following was easy. I hadn't rehearsed a fully planned dance for weeks or months, like my ballet dancer friend. The song didn't have specific steps. Swing dancing is about freedom and having fun. Mistakes frequently turn into new dance

God will lead us into each move individually. We cannot see the end of the dance. We don't know every step to come, but we can trust our Lead to guide us through the next one.

Cease striving ... Stop trying ... Don't predict ... Be still

Know that I am God.

||"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." -John 6:29||


Believe. You don't have to try so hard. You don't have know all the answers. You just have to believe in the One who holds the future and receive what He has given you. And that's what's up.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Living Honestly


||"I'm a mess and so are you; we've built walls nobody can get through. Yeah, it may be hard but the best thing we could ever do ... Ever do ..."||


(If We're Honest by Francesca Battistelli)



I sit across the table from him while the others listen to another generic pop song. We started out discussing a debate ballot, but the conversation has gradually reached a different point. Though my friend already knew some of the story, even more than most people, I knew I needed to share the whole story.

For the past seven months, I'd been keeping my friends at an arms length away. After losing a friendship the summer before, I didn't want to get hurt like that again. But that night, in mid February in a hotel in Missouri, I chose to trust again.

***

Honest is one of the bravest things we can be.

We have this instinct that tells us we have to be perfect and happy all the time, or at least look that way. So we build a wall to keep our friends out, and they do the same. We build these bright walls that say "I'm fine" and "I'm happy" and "I'm perfect."

But you're not, are you?

Neither am I. Neither is anyone else who looks perfect. Jesus is the only one who has never sinned, but even He struggled with temptation. He experienced pain just like we do. He wasn't happy all the time. And He was honest (Mark 14:32-36). He cried (John 11:35). He hurt.

Honesty requires bravery because it makes us vulnerable. What if people think differently of me? What if they won't accept my brokenness? What if I'm the only one? But honesty is a beautiful, necessary thing. It's how friendships deepen and people grow. Beyond that, living honestly allows us to heal.

That night after the debate tournament, I started overcoming the pain brought by the lost friendship. I was able to forgive my former friend, and trust my current friend. That doesn't mean that pain is gone forever, but I don't have to listen to it anymore.

When we're honest with our struggles, other people see that and feel free to be honest as well. It's like an honesty chain. I admit I'm struggling with trust, and someone who relates to that admits a similar struggle. We're naturally influenced by the actions of others, especially our friends, so when we see other people share their brokenness, we feel free to share ours, And when we share our brokenness, we learn we are not alone.

***

As I spoke to my friend across the table, he listened patiently, never making an excuse for me or my former friend. Instead, he related to me by sharing a similar story. I was honest with him, and he was honest in return, and I thank him for that.

Living honestly requires a little bit of bravery. It's not easy, but it is healing. And that's what's up.

||"Bring you're brokenness and I'll bring mine, cause love can heal what hurt divides; and mercy's waiting on the other side ... If we're honest."||

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Thing About "the List"

If you are a teenage girl who has ever read a relationship related book or blog post by a Christian woman, you've heard of "the List."


The List, if you don't know, is the concept of making a list of qualities you look for in future husband (I don't know if there are guy books/blogs out there that encourage the dudes to do this for future wives, but I guess that's a possibility). It's well-intentioned, and in the right circumstances, it can be beneficial.

Typically, the List starts off with one of the various ways of saying the 'obvious':


1. Must be a die-hard Christian


There are a thousand ways to say it, but that's the basic idea. This obviously isn't a bad thing to want/need. There's nothing wrong, with wanting to date and marry a Christian. In fact, you should date and marry a Christian. But all too frequently we end up with this unclear idea of what a Christian is.

And so teenage (and even preteen) girls start writing this list, put the obligatory "Christian man" at the top, and then anything goes.

2. Must be super-duper funny in every way...


3. ...But he also has to be serious at all the right moments.


4. I'm not saying he has to be hot, but he has to be hot.



Then there's there are the other obvious ones: must love cats and also dogs; must know how to dance (preferably swing); must be ENFJ (or other specific MBTI personality type); must wear Converse and/or flannel button-downs. And it goes on.

Honestly, the times I've tried making a list have turned into a rambling about all the things I like about the guy I have a crush on (I'll not say what those things currently are). While you should definitely have standards concerning your "significant other," (okay, is it just me or is that term kinda weird?) all too often, the list turns into an Instagram-esque reading of "relationship goals." 

Often times, we limit our options to this super strict list of must-haves, thinking we know what we need. The problem with this is that we could also be limiting God. Obviously, God can't actually be limited. But when we have such a specific list of what we "need" and someone comes into our lives who doesn't match up with every little detail, we instantly discount them because they haven't cured world hunger yet

If you're looking for a perfect guy, you aren't going to find him. People aren't perfect. If you want perfection, the only place you'll find it is God.

God's plan for you life rarely (never) looks the same as your plan for you life, and his plan is always best. It may be messier than you expect, but it's also so much greater. Whether you make a list or not, always pray and trust God to help you make the right decision. Maybe your future husband will fit every detail on the list, and maybe he'll totally flip you expectations. Just don't freak out if God tells you to go out with a guy who isn't 'your type.' Thing's don't always go according to plan, and it's better that way. And that's what's up.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Say the Next Yes

Normally when people think about being brave, images of sky diving and roller coasters are what appear. Or maybe you think of people going on missions trips to third world countries. We think of big, bold choices and actions.

But bravery isn't always big.

The seed of starting a blog was planted in my head when I was twelve. I told my youth leader Sarah that I wanted to be a writer, and she mentioned blogging to me. A couple of years later, I started Kitkats and Impromptu, which focused primarily on speech and debate life. It was a small decision, one that I second guessed more than I should have. I started the blog for fun, mostly so I could ramble about speech and debate to people who would relate. It's still really fun. I get to draw stick figures on paint and write about something I love.

Occasionally, I would write about more serious stuff. Those posts rarely got as many views as my funny posts or my parodies. But I still wrote them.

However, they felt out of place. Having a post totally unrelated to speech and debate just didn't fit with the theme. The thing was, starting a new blog was scary. So for months, I kept coming close but not taking that step forward.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a Youtuber named Katie Gregoire. I watched all of her videos in one night, even though I kept telling myself I should save some of the awesomeness for later. She was one of the first teenage Christian girls I saw online, actively encouraging other Christian teens. That was the night I decided to start this blog.

It was a small decision. I was just like, "I'm gonna do it." I said yes to what I knew God was asking me to do. There wasn't some huge booming voice from the heavens saying "HADLEY YOU MUST START THIS BLOG!" That would've been a little scary and I might have cried because I cry when I'm scared. Even without that big voice, I knew what God was calling me to do. So I said yes. It was a little yes, not something like moving to a new city or choosing a college. The hardest part was choosing a name (which I changed three weeks later).

I said that yes. Then I said yes to a blog post. And to another blog post.

Bravery is about small choices we make every day. It's choosing to turn off an immoral TV show. It's choosing to forgive someone who doesn't deserve it. Bravery isn't usually glamorous, and it's not always seen. But being brave isn't about the glory and praise. Bravery is about saying the next yes, even if no one else sees, even if all the eyes are closed and heads are bowed. 

||Bravery is about small choices we make every day|| 


I was reading Let's All Be Brave by Annie Downs the other night. One random phrase at the end of a sentence reached out and grabbed me. (Not physically, obviously. It was just ink on a page.) "[I] said the next yes." I was so touched by this one phrase that I wrote "say the next yes" on my whiteboard, mirror, and hand. I circled that phrase and put a big star on the page. That one little phrase, stuck onto the end of a sentence, is what it means to be brave. 

Say the next yes. Or maybe say no. Maybe say later. Not every decision is going to turn your life completely around, but after 100 brave yeses, after 100 brave nos, you look back and see how much different you were a year, a month, a week ago.

||"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin." -Zachariah 4:10||

Don't disregard a small decision as being unimportant. One yes leads to another yes which leads to a no which may lead to a bigger yes. And so on. Bravery is saying yes to a blog, a blog post, a commitment to truth, encouraging others. Nothing good happens before you say yes. That yes isn't always easy, but when it's the right one, it'll make all the difference. And that's what's up.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What I Learned in June

When I was thinking about what I learned this month, I realized just how many things have happened to me in the last four or so weeks. I've grown a lot, and been in situations I've never experienced before. Here's what I learned in one of longest months I've been through.

1. Swing dancing is seriously amazing


My friend had her 16th birthday party at a dance hall in a sketchy part of Fort Worth, and when I saw the place for the first time I was like "what the heck did Kat get me into?" But once I got inside and started learning how to actually swing dance, I learned I'd been missing out on something amazing for years. If you get the chance, you should grab a few friends and go out dancing!


2. I am ridiculously sentimental


I cleaned out from under my bed this month, and I realized that I keep way too many things. I honestly don't care about the crafts I made in VBS when I was ten, but I still had all the little cardboard baskets and picture frames and horribly painted animal things. I keep every letter I get, even thank you notes. I keep shoe boxes and put all those sentimental things in them. It's honestly ridiculous.

3. Shopping is only fun if you let it be


Going shopping--with family or friends--is only fun if you want it to be. It can be a totally miserable experience. Trying on clothes, walking around everywhere, price tags, sales, blah blah blah. It can also be a ton of fun. My advice is to not worry about the actual buying of clothes and whatever else and just focus on being with the people you love. It'll be a thousand times more enjoyable.

4. Conversations even remotely related to confrontation terrify me

At the start of this month, I felt I had to talk to one of my close friends about some stuff that happened at speech and debate nationals, and we talked over the phone. I am not good at phone conversations, and I was kind of freaking out before the actual call happened. It ended up going fine, but it was still nerve wracking and I do not want to do that again.

5. Dreams are nothing without bravery


This month I reread Emily Freeman's book A Million Little Ways, and I was inspired by how she talked about dreams and desires being something from God, and not just selfish things from sinful hearts. God created us to do the things that make us come alive. But if we don't step out in courage, our dreams will never be realized.

6. Inside Out is an amazing movie


Go see it. It's fantastic. I cried. A lot.

7. Talking to friends is different than writing in a journal


A few weeks ago, I was texting one of my good friends and I told her about some of the stuff I was going through. Even though I'd written about those things in my journal, it was so helpful to just vent and also get her perspective on the situation. Unfortunately, my phone deleted those texts.

8. Kittens will attack anything that moves

I'll have to write more about my cat Lucie later, but for now I'll just say that she attacks literally everything, including my feet. And my face. She's a stinker!

Lucie! She's precious :*


This has been a really long month, and a lot has happened in it. It's weird that all this stuff happened in the last month. June has lasted for forever, and now it's over and I'm starting to look forward to all July will hold. And that's what's up. :)