So. Last week, I was able to have breakfast with my cousin.
When we were growing up, we saw each other a lot, practically every weekend; sometimes until the wee hours of the morning.
I miss the games of Monopoly, and LIFE, playing hide and seek in the tall grass field next door until well after dark, the camp fires, and the times when we watched the vacation photos off those slides, on that funny little screen.
There’s a funny thing about cousins.
They get you when no one else does, because they were there when no one else was.
This cousin in particular, was a soft place for me to land when I was a high schooler – her being SO GROWN UP with her age being five years beyond mine.
As a young mom with two littles, a lot of time was spent around her kitchen table, making sense of how things were, how they could be.
We learned together how to trust God, and how to allow Him to lead and guide us through some really rough times.
We both had them, but we held on tight.
Somewhere when our kids became full of school activities, and life got crazy – we lost each other.
Well, not really.
Our hearts have been joined all these years none the less.
We just couldn’t get together as much as we liked.
But you know what?
Being together again last week, seemed to begin closing that gap again.
We are still so much alike, maybe even more now, and we know that we can still benefit each other by just spending time together, telling our stories.
Another thing that we know is that we can help some outside of our family as well.
There are, near as I can tell, only a few other relationships in our lives that can compare to the cousin relationship, and they would be a sibling, a spouse, or if you’re lucky enough a BFF.
These are the ones who can help soothe your soul, hide your crazy, or talk you off the ledge.
All this being said, what my cousin, what my siblings, what my Spouse and what my BFF all know for sure –
Even we will fail.
Humans are not infallible.
We can say we want to help, and truly mean it, but for whatever reason there is a disconnect.
We can strive for that perfection, but will not really ever reach it, at least not here on earth.
So even with all of these human fail safes in place, there still is only ONE who can foot the bill – Perfectly – Forever.
His name is Jesus.
I read this article, 7 Ways Jesus is the Best Friend You Could Ever Have.
I was impressed by the simplicity with which the author describes what an authentic friendship with Jesus looks like.
She begins by stating that ” Christians think of Jesus as their Lord, Savior, King and Master. However, believers rarely think of Jesus as being a close friend. Though that might sound strange to you at first, Jesus actually wants us to think this way.”
Clicking on the link above will take you to the complete article.
Let me end by saying that I hope you have those in your life who will give you the boost you need, or even the kick in the pants if you are stalled out somewhere.
A cousin, a sibling, a BFF, or a spouse, even a blogger friend; but even in the absence of one of those, you can always give Jesus a try.
I would welcome your dialog if you need some help getting started.
I told him I would likely cry through the whole movie.
He told me that was OK, and every time I did, he reached out and held my hand.
As a young man in his first year of college, I am so proud that he isn’t afraid to let his love be shown in that way.
He tells me that he remembers watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood with me when he was very small.
I can only hope that some of those thoughts and ideas carried into his heart to this day. I believe they did.
He is all at once an excited, ambitious young man, but with a heart as tender as can be.
After seeing the movie, my love for the man, Mr. Fred Rogers, has been rekindled.
I have read more on him, watched more documentaries, and seen him on YouTube maybe more than I ever have.
I’ve had to ask myself the reason why, and the answer I think, has been cooking in my heart for quite some time.
This is turning into a post much different than when it began, but maybe while I continue to process, you can find something helpful for yourself as well.
Several years ago, I noted in myself a critical spirit.
Sometimes it was one that could be noted by anyone within earshot, but mostly, it was simply thinking and speaking the way the world thinks and speaks, perhaps not even perceived by them, since they did it as well.
Always having been the object of scorn growing up, I felt a serious need to fit in.
So any time I could comment – just comment – on someone else, I would do it, and I guess I thought it helped me to fit in.
What I know now, is that it was building up inside of me a critical spirit.
One that would not only harden my heart, take a whole lot of inner work to realize, and change.
Anyway, in literally EVERY piece of media I consumed about Fred Rogers, he was calling our and speaking to the weakest among us.
He was calling out to the social injustice he saw.
But most of all, he was telling all the “Less thans”, that they were “More than” they ever believed.
They were not defective, or broken, or unimportant, but that somewhere in them was a special strength and purpose given to them by their creator.
He so reminds me of my very favorite Bible verses –
Psalms 139:13-16 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works, my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one of them, the days that you formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. –
God knew about my every day, He knew who I was, and who I was to be; and to me, it seemed like maybe Mr. Rogers did too.
How can I not aspire to be more like that; seeing others the way God sees them.
After all – that is why I’m here!
It’s an inside job, difficult, but worth the work.
A softer, less critical spirit is easier for others to live with, and for myself as well.
Until next time – consider your own insides – Do what it takes.
It has two abilities; it can put you in a place where you are stuck in the dark, or it can shine on that darkness, and give you a means to get into the light.
We get to choose.
So here I’ll do some inner work right out in the open.
Feel free to stick with me while I ruminate.
In my previous post, I listed three separate areas that are always on my mind, but somehow, there seems to be some cognitive dissonance going on.
Helping people isn’t clear enough.
*What are the two cognitions that aren’t fitting together? My desire to help people vs. my desire to stay at home with my own thoughts is clearly at odds with each other.
*What actions would I need to take to eliminate that dissonance? I need to MAKE time for others and observe people better for places where they can use help.
*Do I need to change any specific behaviors? Or do I need to change a belief or a mindset? Be more discerning.
Sometimes helping people is not only physical, as in helping them clean out a closet, paint a room , or move across town.
Sometimes it is simply sitting quietly with them while they take time to grieve or to try to figure things out.
Discernment and timing are most important here.
The belief I need to change is that in many cases, I feel like folks can work it out themselves, why would they need my help?
When likely, they are too afraid to or shy to ask for it.
How many times do we say “I don’t want to bother you but….?”
They probably do too.
*How important is it for me to resolve the dissonance? Resolving this dissonance is imperative.
Just writing isn’t enough.
*What are the two cognitions that aren’t fitting together? It is said by many, that to be a writer, you must write.
Writers write. That’s what they do.
Every day; I need to write every day.
Also, great writers read, a lot.
I go in cycles, even though I know that writing often, makes writing easier, and reading many different sources, whether you agree with what has been written, or not, causes your brain to be more creative, and more critical in its thinking, allows thoughts to flow more freely.
*What actions would I need to take to eliminate that dissonance? I have journals and documents full of junk.
Inside those tomes of junk though, there are jewels.
Abundance of joy portrayed, even atrocities forgiven.
I need to take more time to excavate them, and share the most helpful parts.
*Do I need to change any specific behaviors? Or do I need to change a mindset or belief? I believe my mindset to be sound, but my behaviors can get out of sync.
I am very good when I have a schedule; I have a schedule.
When cognitive dissonance shows up, my schedules go out the window. Laziness or fogginess then prevails.
One thing I have found, is that just because you have a schedule, doesn’t mean it is forever.
Recognizing when it becomes obsolete is a big thing.
When this happens, I need not delay – but change it!
Changing it up is most helpful. How about doing that instead of binge watching something on TV?
*How important is it for me to resolve the dissonance? One of my mentors, Sharon, tells a story of her driving passed a graveyard once, and having to pull over to the side of the road because she was weeping so hard. (She is not a crier!)
She prayed and asked why she was having this response, and the answer she heard was that she was weeping for all thegifts and talents that were buried there in that grave yard that had never been realized.
Well I’m not much of a crier either, but if I had the the sense of going to my grave without sharing all that my experiences have taught me, well, that would make me cry too.
Enjoying taking photos isn’t enough.
*What are the two cognitions that aren’t fitting together? I enjoy taking photos of natural things.
I love clouds, skies, sunrises, sunsets, rivers, and mountains. All of these have found their way into the view finder; on my phone.
I have a regular camera. I don’t know how to use it.
I’ve always been a watcher, so to speak, but when I started taking photos on my phone, I began to realize that I was looking are so much more than just clouds.
They are an expression of God’s love for me, and these things show me just how much he wants me to enjoy all that He has created.
These things show His power and His majesty.
*What actions would I need to take to eliminate that dissonance? I’ve printed out all the camera instructions so that they are easy to see.
Just like reading, I need to take the time to study the manual, and then actually do the work.
*Do I need to change any specific behaviors? Or do I need to change a mindset or belief? The biggest behavior is what I listed before, Schedule, rework that schedule. I need to schedule time for writing, schedule time for reading, schedule time for learning.
Then stick with it! (Practice what I preach!)
*How important is it for me to resolve the dissonance? It will be the difference between being successful, or being stagnant.
The first part of 2019, I did really well in my journal.
For the second half of the year, my blog posts have been very regular, even if the topics were super varied. (Maybe that is better?)
The last post of the year, and especially the new decade, should it seems, have at least a little weight to it.
Or maybe, a whole lot of levity.
I have neither.
Cognitive Dissonance keeps coming to my mind, perhaps because it is in this season that we recognize where we need change, and decide if we really want to do that or not.
(cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance nounPSYCHOLOGY-the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.)
Most times we begin out new day, week, month, year, decade with great gusto.
There are many things on our minds that seem like they can get us where we want to go; help us accomplish what we want to accomplish.
Problems arise I think, when we do not have a clear idea of the place we want to end up.
I am very guilty of such vaugery.
The vagueness of my thinking, has landed me in spaces of cognitive dissonance more than once.
Helping people, isn’t clear enough.
Just writing isn’t enough.
Enjoying taking photos isn’t enougheither.
Do I do these things simply for enjoyment? If so, that’s OK.
But if I want to excel in any, or all of these areas; to minister to others or to make a bit of money, that’s OK too.
But then my actions must change to reflect that.
For many years I’ve found myself going in and out of the space of cognitive dissonance.
Making the decisions that go with helping people, writing words, or taking photos, are directly related to the amount of effort I am willing to put into them.
At decision time; I’m gung-ho.
Then after a bit, I fall into procrastination, in-attention, fatigue, or just plain laziness; this is where the cognitive dissonance comes in.
I become so disenchanted with my “work” that whatever ends I thought would come, seem to melt away.
Followed by guilt for not following through.
Cognitive dissonance – My actions fail to line up with my goals – enter guilt.
Such a cycle.
I know that it happens to you as well.
I have it on good authority it is a very human thing.
“Decisions are part of life. You have to make hundreds of decisions to get through each day. What you may not know is that decision making arouses dissonance as a general rule.” Understanding Cognitive Dissonance.
My general belief, is that the trauma that I lived through, whether intentionally, or unintentionally placed on me, has shown me how one can not only survive, but forgive, and thrive regardless of the past;
And so I write.
I write with the intention of helping others avoid some pit falls while on their way to healing.
I have always loved looking at the clouds, the trees, the rivers, and the sunsets.
The architecture of buildings, and the things that God has built for us to enjoy, have always been a way of escape;
and so I take photos.
What happens when these two things take place in my life?
I get to exchange the savagery of a past life, for the beauty of a creation that God has given me; a creation that enlightens my heart and overshadows any incoming grief.
It is a constant reminder that God is always there.
He shows Himself to me daily.
I need only look.
And that will be enough.
I want that to be enough; enough to help others out of the darkness that so tries to entangle them.
Since these are my core beliefs, I can tell when I’m veering away from them.
That cognitive dissonance begins to try and bring me down, and away from my purpose again and again.
I hate to leave you hanging, here at the end of 2019, but I need some more time to consider this position.
Perhaps you do to.
I’ll return on the first day of 2020.
Join me here please!
So we can encourage each other on how to make our 2020 just as productive as we possibly can.
So we can face the distraction of cognitive dissonance.