Saturday, 20 October 2018

How to Do Leadership Jesus-Style


In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus has some rather pointed things to say to Christian leaders. "Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

I think it’s easy growing up in India to think that an authoritarian style is what is expected of anyone who has to take on the mantle of leadership. (Authoritarian: favouring or enforcing strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.) People have been under such leaders, served their time, and by the time they reach that position, without examining whether it is effective or right, they start doing the same thing. 

I haven’t had to lead many people, but I have been in various positions of leadership of small groups of people over the years. I thought I was a pretty good leader, or at least doing okay until I received a couple of talks about leadership from my organization.

To my shock, I realized I was doing everything wrong, because I didn’t really know what was expected of me as a leader. In my mind, a leader makes sure everyone know what they’re supposed to be doing, keeps everything running smoothly, organizes schedules and structures, and if necessary corrects or reminds people if they are failing in their duties.

This is what I found after listening to those talks, and observing my own leaders, and making plenty of mistakes of my own:

1. A good Christian leader’s first responsibility is to his or her team members, even ahead of getting things done, being productive or successful. People before tasks. I am not running a machine or a business, but I have PEOPLE who have been entrusted to me. That means their needs and feelings and thoughts and problems are more important than even ‘the good of the community’. A community is made up of individual people. They are not just cogs in a wheel, or projects to be fixed so they fit better into a structure or a plan. 

2. It’s my job to KNOW and LOVE those people. Even if they are very different from me, I need to know what makes them tick, what blesses them, what they’re good at, what their love language is, what their struggles are, where they need healing and mercy. The point is not to make best use of them, but to make sure they know they are loved and known. You can’t love what you do not know. You can't use people as resources.

3. It’s my job to ‘waste time’ with these people. I love how my leaders are constantly kidding around with us, finding something to joke about. I’m sure they have enough things on their mind to keep it strictly to business, but they deliberately choose to set those things aside for a while.

4. It is my job to SERVE my team! That means not just letting them know what they need to be doing, but going out of my way to do little tasks to bless them:
  • Cheerfully going the extra mile, or picking up the slack in menial tasks, washing dishes, sweeping floors, mopping up spills
  • Being quick to jump up and serve everyone including children and the poor and people under me
  • Being quick to respond to any request for help even if it’s inconvenient, not just serving when and how I prefer
  • Getting up and going to the next room when someone says something from there and I can’t hear what they said
  • Offering to make food, tea or whatever people need even if it’s not technically my job
5. I need to be their greatest encourager and cheerleader. I’ve failed miserably at this one. Not just on birthdays or special occasions, I need to make sure they know I believe in them, I value them, I think they’re pretty awesome, and that I’m blessed to be serving alongside them. There have been so many times that my leaders have just looked around the room and with sincerity (and sometimes with tears in their eyes) said “I am SO privileged to be serving with such sacrificial, holy men and women!” This also means when they come up with a new idea or try something new, I need to be the person saying, “I believe in you! You can do this!”, not primarily being a critic or a naysayer. Of course some words of guidance or prudence are often needed, but they should not be the only things I say.

6. I need to be very careful while exerting my authority: In the Gospel, Jesus said "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you.” Mark 10: 42-42 Authority is important, but it is so easy to misuse. The primary relationship between a leader and anyone under them should be one of love and encouragement. Exerting authority or asking for obedience should only happen in important matters, it should not be the norm in the way they relate. It should never be used just to make a point, or in matters that are my personal opinion or not my decision to make. There are times though when I do need to exert that authority, but I should do so kindly and in a way that is easy to swallow. 

7. I am in charge of setting the tone: A leader needs to be joyful, holy and sacrificial because usually they are the ones setting the standard. If I’m not praying every day, it is quite likely my community members will not think it’s that big a deal if they don’t. If I walk around with a long face, being grumbly and downcast (been there, done that), that mood is sure to spread. But if I am cheerful, upbeat, if I jump into prayer and song regardless of others’ long faces, that spreads too! I also need to be willing to be vulnerable, admit my fault, and share my struggles, because people need to know that it’s okay to struggle as long as we keep returning to Jesus, the only perfect one.

8. I need to pray for them and remember God is in charge: It can be easy to feel like I am the primary shepherd of this person… but I am not! God is, and He is able to heal, restore, love, guide and shape this person far better than I am. I have no need to be anxious or irritated if they are not where I feel they should be, but regularly pray for them and entrust them to His care.

9. If I set high standards, I need to help them meet them, and be merciful if and when they fail. They need to know they can come to me and tell me they are struggling. They should know I am not inflexible or unsympathetic, but merciful like Jesus. 'For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.' Heb 4:15-16

I have failed very often as a leader. But I am trying to do better. I am helped by seeing models of what I want to be, and of course by following Jesus, with His extremely counter-cultural leadership style. Actually this list is good for not only leaders of teams or ministries or communities, but for parents, teachers, priests and sisters, anyone who has people in their care. If we are good leaders, we are forming not just good disciples but also people who themselves will be good leaders one day.

Here’s a quick list to print if you want to do a regular check (check yo’self before you wreck yo’self):

Have I encouraged or praised the people in my care today?
Have I really listened to their thoughts and feelings or dismissed them?
Have I prayed for them today?
Have I ‘wasted time’ with them today – chatted, asked how their day is going, played a prank, made a joke?
Have I given in when possible, or insisted on my way when it was not necessary?
Have I encouraged them in their own ventures and interests and efforts even if those were not my idea?
Have I been a joyful presence?
Have I been gentle when giving correction?
Have I told them how blessed I am to be their leader/parent/teacher?
Have I found out their love languages and tried to use them?
Have I served them with my hands today?
Have I asked them questions about their likes, dislikes, thoughts, feelings and opinions?
Have I set aside my other tasks when I noticed they needed a listening ear?
Have I been humble and open about my own faults, struggles and weaknesses?
Have I asked their forgiveness when I have lost my temper, been over critical or distracted or impatient, or failed them in any other way?
Have I said and done things the way I would prefer to have them said and done to me?
Have I been sympathetic when they shared their struggles or failures?

Monday, 15 October 2018

The Slow Crawl To Excellence


Every now and again I read an old blog post that I wrote and cause my sister and mom to roll their eyes as I exclaim, “Wow, this was great writing! I feel so inspired!” Or I start giggling all over again as I read a funny blog post that I wrote. Yeah, humility is my middle name.


But a couple of days ago I started to dig a little further into the past. I was looking for any good writing I had done for an ebook I am thinking of putting together. I unearthed the first blog that I started back when I was 20 years old. It was called ‘One of Five’. I went through the four years of posts that I had written in my early 20s and I was utterly humiliated. Good grief! Was that me? So clichéd, so immature, so nondescript. So embarrassing.

Maybe my next blog was better? I wrote for three years when I first became a Catholic volunteer and lived abroad. I was 24 when I started it. But no. Most of that was pretty painful to read as well. My writing revealed my unsureness, my lack of confidence in my own voice and even thoughts. They were largely about my faith, and yet they were lacking in substance. Those posts stuck to the most obvious of my beliefs, and didn’t explore nuances, didn’t seem to challenge me or anyone else.

I knew my writing was not good enough. When you read a lot, it’s easy to differentiate good writing from bad writing (for example, read Pride and Prejudice, and then read a cheesy free Christian romance novel. Yeesh.) But it’s a lot harder to create good writing.

I started my third blog in 2013. I was 27 years old. I knew that I wanted to write differently and better and realer. But also, I had changed, I had grown, and I had found my voice. I was sure about some things and not as worried about having things that I was still working out. And over the next five years, I began to slowly write better. Less links and more real writing.

A few years ago I realized that writing is one of my charisms. A charism is not just a talent, or a skill, but ‘graces that pass through you and me – with our cooperation – to convey God’s truth, beauty, provision, healing, and mercy to someone else’. I don’t have a very big audience (comparatively), but I often heard back from people that something I wrote drew them closer to God. Very often I would go back and look at that blog post, and it seemed as if I didn’t remember exactly how I put those particular strings of words or thoughts together. It seemed like more was coming out than I was putting in.

But I have come to believe that a charism or even just a skill or a talent doesn’t come out perfect the first time. It must be developed. It must grow and mature and be sharpened (or sometimes softened). I know I have a long way to go to reach excellence in writing. I only blog at the moment, which is a very chatty and informal style of writing. But there are so many other ways to write that I have barely touched. I have never even done a writing class. But I have my life ahead of me, and I’m happy that I have started this journey.

These are some of the things that I think have helped me reach where I am:

1. A lot of reading of GOOD writing: As a blogger, I realize I have picked up all these little tricks and styles from other blogs and authors that I have read extensively over the past 12 years. Somehow while I feel I am sometimes a weird mixture of Jennifer Fulwiler, Simcha FisherCamp Patton and Dave Barry, perhaps with a splash of Mama Knows, Honeychild, I am still me. But it’s not just blogs. If I had been reading only cheap romance novels or thrillers from the time I was young, I highly doubt that I would be writing particularly well. But thankfully I have been exposed to many, many talented authors, and delightful books, a wide vocabulary, subtle characters, and well-woven plots, and all that has subconsciously given me a foundation upon which to build.


2. A lot of bad writing: Embarrassing as it was to read my poor attempts at writing through the years, I probably would never have reached a place where I actually like to reread what I’ve written if I hadn’t gone through the bad years. Just like going through awkward social situations when you are a teenager eventually helps you become a self-possessed adult, you just have to get through the bad to get to the good. There are no short cuts. You don’t ever pull out a pen… I mean, open a Word document... for the first time and create a captivating bestseller.

3. Regular writing: Especially after starting my Patreon page and committing to write four posts every month, I’ve found that I have gotten better. Apparently in order to be a writer, you just have to write! My mum used to say that to me when I was a kid – “If you want to be an artist, you just have to pull out a pencil, look at something, and start sketching!” I can’t write just every once in a while and hope to get better at writing, which is I think how I thought it would work with my first two blogs.


4. Live life and write from the real life that you live: When I was in my early 20s I remember saying, “I want to write a book. But you’re supposed to write what you know. And I don’t know anything. I haven’t been anywhere or done anything or lived outside my bubble. So I think I need to live life before trying to write about it.” I have done a lot more living over the past 12 years (and I have a lot more to do), but my best writing comes from the life I live. I don’t ever want to stop living life and just write, because I would have nothing to write about.

5. Write what you want to read: If I write something, look at it and say “Boring!’, I usually just delete it. Or rewrite it better. I have a short enough attention span that I won’t bother reading something that isn’t snappy enough. I skip over nature descriptions in books. My eyes are drawn to dialogue, to words and thoughts that are unexpected, engaging. So I try to write what I like to read. If I find it boring, why would I expect anyone else to find it interesting? I write about topics that haven’t been written about a zillion times. Or at least I try.

6. Say a prayer: I usually shoot a quick ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before I write. Whether it’s a comic sketch about scary insects, or a serious post about anxiety or negativity, it can all be inspired by the Holy Spirit. I once wrote ‘People are Disappointing’ after not having any idea what to write about, sitting in front of my open laptop, and saying a prayer. It wasn’t one of those catchy posts about romance or marriage. ‘Hopefully someone will read it,” I thought. I knew titles usually need to be a little catchier. Few people liked or commented. But a few days later, an old friend (and patron) messaged me to tell me that it was exactly what she needed to read and that God was speaking to her directly through that post. So I’ve been a little more committed to that prayer-before-writing since then.

Well, that’s all I have for today. If you feel called to write, start writing! It may take a while, but you have something to say that the world needs to hear. It may be another creative venture like art or Youtube videos or song-writing or podcasting. Pray about it, and move forward! Be not afraid!

Recommended Reading 

Charisms FAQ

Bearing Fruit by Living Your Charism

How to Begin Dreaming [Abiding Together podcast]

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Tale of a City Girl in Nature


My niece E in Panchgani- she's supposed to be a younger version of me. 

Prologue 

"I think that Panchgani is where I am my truest self!" I announced to my sister and father.

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, I feel more clear-headed, I can breathe and think, and I even WANT to go on walks here. This is my true home where I belong. City life just fogs up my brain and makes me lethargic and tired."

I fondly considered a future where the hills would be my home as I energetically lived life as a new and improved version of Sue. If I had thought of it, I would have broken into a chorus of 'BOORN FREE AS FREE AS THE WIND BLOWS AS FREE AS THE GRASS GROOOWS BORN FREE TO FOLLOW YOUR HEART!' Unfortunately, I didn't think of it then. (Fortunately, from my sister's perspective.)

Unseen by me, the Creatures of Panchgani snickered in the background.

Chapter 1: Leaping Lizards 

I sat on the window sill drinking my chai and soaking in the sunset when suddenly two frisky lizards appeared close to me. I jumped up, spilling my chai and grabbing at my phone and bag to get them out of the way. "I'm not SCARED of lizards- I don't mind them when they're calmly hanging out on the ceiling. It's only when they're frisky that I get worried." My dad chased them out (without much drama, as compared to the past when chasing lizards out usually involved flinging pots of hot water and removing corpses), and I resumed my at-one-with-nature persona.

Chapter 2: Nature Documentary Outside Our Window 

"OHMYGOSH did you see that? It's practically a baby alligator!!" (Who me, a drama queen?) It was a few minutes later, and our window was safely shut, but on the outside, a giant lizard appeared eating large winged insects. "Eek, that's disgusting!" We could hear the flutter of insect wings and the lizard feasting on them. "Gross! That is HUGE!" "Just close the curtains!" my dad said, and came over and drew them shut. With the uglier side of nature out of sight, we continued our conversation.

Chapter 3: Network Magic vs. The Wild 

"I'm not getting enough network to download an image on Whatsapp." I wandered around the house trying to find the Internet sweet spot. I needed to see that image. Finally I realized my only option was to go out. With the vision of that large lizard fresh in my mind, I was extremely reluctant, but the allure of the Network Magic was strong too. I decided to do a quick foray outside and run back in. "I've practically grown up here. What am I scared of?" I walked out with my phone into the pitch-black night, my ears strained to hear sounds of the giant lizard or any other dangerous creature. The terrifying flutter of unseen insects almost unnerved me (where there are fluttering insects, there are giant lizards) but as I walked down the path, I almost stepped on something ALIVE.. And I gave up on network and fled inside locking the door behind me.

Chapter 4: The Unnerving Incident of The Moth in the Night-time 

My sister and I retired to our bedroom for the night. There was cold air coming in from the window, so I went to shut it. A large motionless moth was attached to the screen, and a few cockroach-looking insects jumped in as I opened the screen to shut the outer window. "Eugghh. I mean, no big deal." One of them jumped into my sister's bag but I didn't want to freak her out in case she expected me to help her de-insect her bag. "It's just a little one. No biggie." She only half-believed me and had her own little freak-out moment while I chortled from the safety of my bed.

After we were both in our beds, we began to hear another noise. The moth had awoken, and was trapped between the screen and the closed glass window.

Flap-flap-flap. Flap-flap-flap. Flap-flap-flap.

We tried to ignore it for a while, but the flapping was incessant. Why not just let it out, you say? Well, if I opened the screen, it would most likely come rushing into our room, with every other creepy insect that was hanging out in that space. And that was a risk I was just not willing to take.

Flap-flap-flap. Flap-flap-flap. Flap-flap-flap.

Why did I feel like an animal-torturer? It's not like it couldn't breathe or anything.

Finally I gave up. I knew what my other option was, I just hadn't wanted to face it. It was to go outside the house in the dark and open the window from the outside. It had to be done, and I had to be the one. (Not because I'm braver - on the contrary, I usually leave all insect-related activities to my roommates. But this time my sister was sick, burning up with fever, so I had no excuse.)

I crept out of the house using my phone flashlight. It was past 11 pm and my dad was snoring in the next room. I had played it all out in my head. It was no big deal. I kept my eyes on the ground praying I wouldn't step on anything, then reached the side of the house, and opened the window. But the moth wouldn't move for a few seconds.

THEN IT DID. It flew out.... DIRECTLY INTO MY FACE AND LONG OPEN HAIR! I did what anyone would do in such a situation - I freaked out, my hands flailing and trying to get it out, and let out a few loud choice bad words. Then I ran back in the house, my pulse racing and my heart pounding in my chest.

"I heard you saying some bad words," remarked my sister, instead of congratulating me on my bravery. We reflected a few moments on how bad words aren't sins if they slip out accidentally, but how they can still cause scandal to some people, so I should probably work a little harder at finding replacement words for moments of stress and terror. I also gave thanks that my dad slept through it all, and that no one other than my sister had been there to witness that moment.

Conclusion 

I still think Panchgani is my true home. However I also have come to the conclusion that I am really a city girl at heart, and pretending to be a country girl will probably give me heart failure one day.

Related Reading

A Tale of a Mouse in da House 

A Horrific Evening of Nightmares Come True

Monday, 8 October 2018

The Delicate Touches of Love


I’ve often struggled to understand how we can experience God’s love apart from the knowledge that He suffered and died on a Cross for us 2000 years ago. Isn’t that enough, ask my religious readers. Well, yes, but as a young woman alive in 2018, every now and again I want to FEEL God’s love HERE and NOW.

 But if we know our theology well, we know that just because God loves us doesn’t mean that He gives us everything we ask for, nor does He take away every suffering in our life. On the contrary, He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. His blessings come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and not all are easily recognizable as blessings. And yet they all are. He can and will bring good out of every uncomfortable and unexpected twist and turn of our lives if we offer everything to Him, including getting stuck in traffic, a baby up crying all night, a disappointment in our love lives or careers or families, ants in our kitchen, and everything in between. Even good feelings are not guaranteed in our walk with the Lord.

But we walk with the hope that one day every tear will be wiped away, that our desires for love will be fully met, that everything that is wrong will be made right. ‘I consider our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.’ Romans 8:18

But the Christian walk isn’t just pain and suffering and carrying our cross. God IS a Lover, if an unconventional One, and He desires to lavish His love on us. He allows us to suffer, and asks us to meet Him in that suffering, but He also wants to meet us in the little joys of life. I read a cool story which I can’t look up right now – I think it was about Saint John of the Cross exhausted and starving in the desert, and how he found a bunch of asparagus that he loved to eat tied up under a bush in the desert. In Story of a Soul, St. Thérèse of Lisieux's autobiography, she writes about how she begged the Lord for snow on the day she received her habit , and against all odds, it snowed!

This walk on earth is a pilgrimage, and a journey. It is not home, we are not in heaven yet (and woe to us if we forget that). But along this path, God leaves little tender signs of His love… if only we will ask for them or notice them.

Last weekend I was feeling a little low. There were a few different circumstances of my life that ganged up on me, and left me feeling alone and abandoned. It was just a weekend, not my whole life, but it was a tough weekend. In the midst of that, I called out to the Lord and just asked Him to comfort and console me. I kept busy, did the tasks God had given me to do, but my heart continued to hurt, and I just longed to be loved. I remember thinking of Panchgani, a beautiful place in the hills that my family usually visits in the summer, and wishing I could be there – a place where I always felt loved and close to the Lord.

A few days later my dad texted, “Anyone wants to go to Panchgani?” We thought he was joking because he and my mum had just been there the previous week, and it was unlikely he was going to return so soon. But he was serious – he had some urgent tasks to do there, and he arranged his dates so that my sister and I could go with him, and be back in time for school on Tuesday.

And so here I sit on the edge of a cliff, feeling filled and loved and content and at peace, knowing that I have to be back tomorrow and continue to fight the good fight, but content to be loved by the Lord for this brief moment, knowing that this is a glimpse of heaven, that this is a sign of His intimate, personal love for ME with my Panchgani-hungry heart.

I went on a retreat three years ago where the retreat speakers told us, “Every day ask the Lord – ‘Show me your love today’. And then look out for those signs of His love.” I often forget to ask or to look because I focus of the struggles. But I think that He would like me to meet Him in His sweet gestures of love too. Because suffering and struggles and discomfort can be borne so much more easily when you know that there is One who loves you at your side.

Related Reading 

Jesus Knows My Love Language


Sunday, 30 September 2018

Blog Post Categories

I've realized I have written a LOT over the last six years. Some blog posts deserve to be retrieved and re-shared, and some don't. Click on each category title to see all the articles with that tag. I've selected a few articles to give you a taste, but there are a lot more under each category. If you like my blog, please like, share and comment on the posts that strike a chord. And also consider becoming a patron!

-----Being Single----


9QT: 9 Things Christian Singles Are Secretly Afraid Of

1. That if we are too 'content to be single', God might take us at our word, and decide to leave us that way. Someone actually said that to me once when I said "I'm pretty happy being single.""Noooo!"she shouted, "Don't say that! God will never send you anyone!" We KNOW that's not how God works, but it's a little superstitious fear. Or maybe we think if there are not enough eligible guys going around, then God will choose the girls who are more needy. And since I'm independent and strong, I CAN survive, so I don't get picked. 

The Questions You Always Had about Christian Women’s Households

Many people in India are shocked to hear that I do not live with my parents even though we live in the same city. I live in a flat with three other women (at the moment, it changes), down the road from the school at which my team serves. There are usually amazed questions that we have all faced from people who think only college students would choose a life like that, and can’t imagine what our life looks like. So here you go, some common questions (plus some we made up) and our honest answers.

Dr. Beth on the Chronic Singleness Disorder

Dr. Beth, 8 (pad and pen in hand): Can you tell me your name and the sickness that you have?

Me: My name is Humility and I suffer from chronic singleness. What can you do for me, Dr. Beth?

Dr. Beth: Well.. I need to ask you. When you watch shows about couples, do you feel sad for yourself, or good for the other person?

Me: I feel good for them, but I also feel bad for myself

Life Begins when You Meet the Man of Your Dreams

Just kidding! Of course it doesn't! (Sorry, this is not a relationship or engagement announcement.)

REAL life begins when you die.

So I was just thinking about how my early life plans were to marry early and have a bunch of kids (just to be counter-cultural, plus it sounded romantic). If I had to think about my life at almost 28 when I was 14, I would have been horrified to think that I was still single with no prospects of marriage in sight. Pretty much all my dreams of a future involved a Special Someone.

A 27 Year Old Atypical Indian Girl's Thoughts on Marriage (The Post You Were Waiting For) 

In urban India, 27 is pretty much your last chance for people to consider you marriageable (at least if you're a girl.) After that, you've moved to the Desperate and I Wonder What's Wrong With Her shelf. Also, in India, marriage is not considered an option, or a good thing that happens if it happens. In fact, 'if it happens', is just not an acceptable phrase. One MAKES it happen. You're of marriageable age? Then get married, beta! Of course I come from the Great Land of Arranged Marriages, or Glorified Set-Ups, whichever degree of control or involvement your family exerts.

How (and Why) Not To Fall in Love

On my FB newsfeed (aka my reading list) appeared a New York Times article called 'To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This'. It is about a study basically saying that you can make men and women fall in love by using a set method. In the study, 'a heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes.' And apparently that's enough to fall in love.

Where's MY Person?

A couple of months ago I was going through one of those self-pity days, where it seems as if being single was the single most unfair fact of any person's existence (never mind terminal illnesses, deaths of loved ones, mental illness, or financial struggles).

I started complaining to the Lord, which is what I do, when I'm in a bad mood. "I have to do so much of travelling, up and down, dragging my heavy bags along, ALL ALONE. Couples are always looking out for each other. One can watch the bags while the other one goes to the loo. I have to drag all my bags into the stall with me."

----- Romance and Relationships -----


A Real-Life Catholic Love Story 

Genevieve and Thomas came from very different worlds. Growing up in DC in a divorced Catholic family, Genevieve had spent most of her teenage and young adult years constantly in a relationship and living the party lifestyle. The strict judgmental God she knew had no place in her life except for Sunday mornings. “Maybe one day in my thirties or forties I will prioritize my faith. But I’m young now!”

Meanwhile Thomas, a young seminarian from Kansas, was struggling with his desire for marriage and family. He had always had this desire, but he also had a deeply wounded perspective of God as a demanding God who wanted him to sacrifice everything he desired in order to win His love. 

What Not To Look For in an Indian Spouse 

I recently achieved the heights of my ambition a few months ago when someone texted me to ask if I could ‘look for someone for his brother’. I don’t know what I did to deserve this honour. I was under the impression that you had to be a middle-aged auntie with an opinion about everything to have that kind of know-how. Then again I’m practically 32 and I definitely have an opinion about everything, so I suppose it makes sense. Not to mention, I’m kind of a church lady. 

On Vocations, Discernment and Asking Girls on Dates

I came across a couple of interesting articles: Two Hard-Won Tips For Your DiscernmentThe whole discernment anxiety thing is largely a Catholic problem- what is God calling me to? Priesthood or Married Life? Consecrated Single Life or Religious Life? Diocesan Priesthood or Religious Priesthood? Religious Life or Married Life? Pick one! Quick!

Hand-Holding and Other Such Indecent Behaviour

I remember as a little kid companiably holding my cousin's hand as we walked home from Sunday School. Through most of my childhood, my parents would go on walks with one or more of their kids, and we often held hands as we walked. We're not a super physically affectionate kind of family, but that was one form of affection that was normal to us.

-----Introvert Life----- 


How an Introvert Socializes

First of all, introverts don’t hate people. We just need to plan when, where, how, and for how long we want to be with them. So, here’s a list of what works and what doesn't for this particular introvert.

The Strange Effect Weddings Have on Me


Since last July I have been in the Age of Weddings. One of my closest friends married my cousin, another friend married another cousin, and then another cousin got hitched, and an uncle and now a brother... You get the idea. I used to think weddings were super fascinating, with all their details- bridesmaids' dresses and choice of hymns, first dance, colour schemes, bridal entourage photo shoots, etc. Partly coloured by watching too many Hollywood rom-coms at a young age, no doubt (Runaway Bride, 27 Dresses, The Wedding Planner... for all the broken marriages, looks like Hollywood is still pretty obsessed with weddings). 


Thoughts of an Introvert at a Party

Pre-party: 
"A party that starts at 8.30 pm? That's almost bedtime! Why would any party START at 8.30?"
"I'm so tired. So tired. Sooo tiiired."
"Didn't I just read an article about introverts that said introverts can survive on two to three social occasions per week.. I've been in four social situations JUST TODAY!"


An INTJ's Guide to Praise and Worship

As an INTJ who grew up in the Charismatic Renewal, I have faced and battled with many of the natural clashes of this personality with a very demonstrative and uninhibited style of prayer. My theory is that 'T' (thinking) type personalities gravitate more towards more structured, less demonstrative and intellectual forms of prayer like Adoration, the Rosary, Lectio Divina (reflect and share about bible passages.. yes, please!), etc, and 'F' (feeling) type personalities gravitate towards more ‘touchy-feely’ forms of prayer.

-----The Funnies-----



Shudder.

Are you sure you are ready for this?

I’m not sure I am. Perhaps it is too soon.

A Tale of a Mouse in da House

There comes a time in every woman's existence where she looks deep into herself, searches her soul and asks:

'Which is worse- a live mouse or a dead mouse?'

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Minutes: The Christian Version

I love to tell people what is wrong with them, how to live their lives and how to achieve true happiness. In other words, be bossy, condescending and overall annoying. People say guys can’t listen to a problem without immediately jumping in and giving advice.

Childhood Memories that Turn out to be Hilarious

When we were kids, our family used to go up to close by hill station every summer for a couple of weeks. We would pack our bags, be up super early, stumble around, and gagging, force the bitter Avomine pill down our throats. All five kids would go down to the car, half asleep… and then we would wait for about 20 minutes while my dad set up our security system.

-----God Stuff----


The Tale of the Free Wedding Dress

“Let’s go wedding dress shopping!” A normal statement for a maid of honour to make to a bride-to-be. But this wasn’t a normal situation. Kristi* and Annie* were Americans, working as full-time Catholic volunteers in Taiwan and India, respectively, and the conversation was happening in the Philippines. And the bride wanted a free wedding dress.

13 Ways Parents Can Help Their Kids Choose Christ

Most of us who had religious parents have semi-funny and semi-frustrated stories of how our parents made us do religious stuff against our will when we were kids. Remember when we HAD to say the rosary every time we travelled on family holidays, only all the kids had strong motion sickness medicine so everyone would start slurring and fall asleep between the Hail Mary and Holy Mary EVERY TIME? 

Broken Phones and Unknown Futures

A couple of days ago I broke my phone. Again. It just slipped out of my hand… Okay, let’s be honest, I was juggling too many things, didn’t want to bother putting them down, and trying to open a door that was stuck, so of course I dropped it. I’ve dropped it several times over the past two years that I’ve owned it, but the case always seemed to protect it. Not this time. This time the screen turned to white. The phrase that flashed across my mind was one I had seen the last time I googled broken iPhones. It’s an ominous phrase….

The White Screen of Death. (shudder)

Jesus Knows My Love Language

I went for Confession two weeks ago, and my penance was unexpected. "Ask God to let you experience His love more. Maybe you are turning to some of your sins, because you don't fully believe God's love can satisfy."

Where was God when the Earthquake hit Nepal?

Inevitably when it comes to death and suffering or anything out of our control, our thoughts also turn to God. And we wrestle with some difficult questions.

"Why did God allow this? Was he not ABLE to stop it? Was he not MERCIFUL enough to prevent such suffering if He could? Or did He not KNOW?"

-----Family-----


A Glimpse into the World of Siblings

People who don't have siblings might assume that siblings fight over toys or possessions. But the reality is much stranger. These are some of the things my siblings and I fought over:
  • Who got the chipped plate- the Chipped Plate was the Plate of Shame. No one wanted to land up with the Chipped Plate. So the sibling whose job it was to lay the table, would carefully place it at the seat of the sibling they were most mad at.
Small Family = Happy Family... Really?

Or the root of all India’s problems is TOO MANY CHILDREN. Or the population. Overpopulation, population control, population problems, we never heard the end of it. To the point that, any family that had more than two kids is considered unpatriotic, anti-progress, and probably kinda uneducated.


The other day my sister said to me, "I can't think of a good reason to tell people they should have children. I mean, I think they should, but rationally, why?" I thought about it. From a secular perspective, saying 'God said go forth and multiply' didn't sound very convincing. Besides again, why DID He?Biologically, to carry on the human race, but hey, there are plenty of people who exist already, so doesn't look like the human race is going to die out any time soon. Carrying on the family name? Maybe that's important to some people... like European royalty, maybe?

-----Catholicness-----


How Not To React to the Sex Abuse Scandal in the Church

If you follow American Catholic media at all, and even if you don’t, you’ve probably heard some shocking news in the past few weeks – specifically revelations in a Pennsylvania grand jury report about decades of abuse and cover-up by predator priests and church official as well as credible sex abuse allegations against now-ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Euggh. How do we even react to this news?

Rad-Trads, Liberals, and Finding Balance in the Catholic Church

I once wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog post about Catholic Camps, people who identify themselves as liberals or traditionalists. My views haven't changed, but once again I've been thinking more about this topic. It seems like most Catholics fall into one or other extreme, and lose track of the holy balance God is calling us to. Why does it worry me? Because both sides can lead others astray, and both have loud voices and influence on the faith of simple uncatechized Catholics, and people joining the Church, who don't know what to think. And it seems like leaders of both extremes are leading their flocks astray.

When I Get Tired of Being Catholic

Sometimes (especially when I am sleep-deprived and am feeling swamped by negativity), I get so tired of the Catholic Church. Okay, that's not totally true. I get tired of the local branch of the Catholic Church- my parish, and everything involved with it.


One of the homilies Catholics hear a lot is the 'We are the Church' homily. It goes something like this- 'Look at the letters CH_ _CH. What is missing? U R! The Church is nothing without the people! The Church is not just the priests and the sisters! You are the Church!' Every time I hear that I have mixed feelings, because we ARE the Church, but... the Church is not us.

----Indian-ness----



Where do I even start with this one? First of all, I really am Indian. I promise. I may have some Portuguese and French-Lebanese blood (don't ask), but I'm still mostly Indian. (Definitely not pure-blood though.) However, my excuse for the following is of course the fact that India was a British colony for about three hundred years. Somewhere in my ancestry, my family became more British than Indian, and my very strange family culture is the result.

Fluency in English is the White Privilege of India

English privilege. We grew up with it. With a much-coveted Convent education, jokes mocking those who spoke ‘broken’ English were too common. ‘On the light’ Ha ha! That’s ‘PUT on the light, or SWITCH on the light!’ ‘I’ll tell to Miss that you are teasing me!” “That’s ‘I’ll TELL Miss’, not ‘tell TO’! Gosh!” But practically everyone in school spoke ‘broken’ English at the beginning, because it was their second language. They came as little four year olds from homes where Marathi or Hindi was spoken, and were whipped (not literally) into English fluency through twelve years at an English medium school.

A Catholic Perspective on Arranged Marriages 

The concept of arranged marriages is as fascinating and repulsive to the Western world, as it is natural and normal to most of India. Most of my friends’ parents had arranged marriages, most likely all of their ancestors before them. Some of my schoolmates, and many of the students I’ve given talks to have shared that arranged marriages are a normal part of their family culture, and expected of them as well. Surprisingly, many Catholics from more traditionally Indian cultures have also retained this custom.

Save Us from Social Embarrassment

I once heard a priest make an ad-lib prayer at the end of Mass, and I just remember the phrase, “Save your people from social embarrassment”. “What the heck is that supposed to mean?” was my immediate holy thought. 

The Great Indian Road Race

Like most young (I use the term loosely) middle class adults in big Indian cities, I spend a lot of time zooming around the streets on my two-wheeler (aka moped by non-Indians). I have often found myself thinking how well Indian roads would lend themselves to an excellent video game.


All of us in India know that ‘conversions’ are a very controversial and sensitive issue. Maybe because religion is a very integral part of how most Indians identify themselves, a change of religion can cause a lot of emotional reactions. The religion you are born into is almost seen as your identity, quite apart from your personal beliefs.

----Anxiety----


My Experiences with Anxiety and Peace

A couple of days ago, I had a vivid dream. In it, I was hurtling forward in a plane that was trying to land, but couldn't find a place to stop, towards... wait for it... the end of the world.

Yes. Subtle, my dreams are not.

The Antidotes to Anxiety

A small problem – someone mad at me about something, a plan that goes awry, an unpleasant task that I’m avoiding, news about Trump, or hearing about reasonable people who are suspicious of Pope Francis – suddenly begins to feel like a huge problem, a symptom of a larger disease, a doomsday scenario, with everything crashing and burning and pointing to the truth that there is no hope and things are never going to change.

-----Negativity----


The Poison We All Breathe

I live in a big Indian city, surrounded by pollution-saturated air. We breathe it in as a matter of course, and consider it normal life to regularly get sick, to have skin break outs and  grimy hair after being out in the traffic for a while, to have breathing problems, especially in the winter. But a couple times a year, my family heads to the hills, and suddenly everything feels different. Our bodies start feeling healthy and energetic again, we breathe deeply of the fresh, clean, pure, cool air, and our sleep is sounder, deeper and more refreshing.

When You Are in a Dark Place and Can’t Get Out

I’m so confused. I’m so annoyed with myself. Everything seems hazy. I feel like there’s something wrong with me, and I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel like I wasted the whole day, and yet I don’t know what I should have been doing… 

...I feel lost and empty. I’ve been trying to fill myself with food... I feel so unhappy. And I don’t know what to do with this feeling. I feel like there’s nothing I can do to change this feeling.

-----Learning To Love-----


How To Love Well - Some Practical Tips

One thing that the world in general seems to agree about is that love is important. Love your kids, love your family, love your spouse, love your neighbour, love the poor, love your enemies, (okay, perhaps that one isn’t as popular). But what we often don’t seem to know is HOW to love, and how to help someone FEEL loved.


But here's the thing. We NEED hugs. I need hugs.

Well, we need whatever a hug really is. What is a hug? What's happens when one person envelops another in their arms?

Avoiding Eye Contact and Other Ways to Kill Your Soul

Are you a good person? Yeah, me too. I’m basically a good person. Aren’t we all? Most people think of themselves as good, as their particular sins as somewhat excusable and insignificant, and everyone else’s as shocking and reprehensible.  But in my walk with Christ, I have learned a life-changing truth. And that is, that each of us is capable of becoming either a monster or a saint by the little choices we make each day.

Monday, 24 September 2018

How To Love Well - Some Practical Tips


One thing that the world in general seems to agree about is that love is important. Love your kids, love your family, love your spouse, love your neighbour, love the poor, love your enemies, (okay, perhaps that one isn’t as popular). But what we often don’t seem to know is HOW to love, and how to help someone FEEL loved.

Christians have some wonderful words about love – ‘Love is willing the good of the other’. ‘Love is patient, love is kind…’ Good stuff.

But often people say they love others, but their love takes the form of protection, coddling, correction, advice, service, provision, etc. Most Indian parents may not say the words ‘I love you’ to their kids, but we can see through their sacrifice and acts of service that they do indeed love us. Our siblings tease us, and we know they love us. Teachers can be considered very strict and demanding and still their students know that they loved them because they pushed them to be better.

Yet there is something missing in many of these expressions of love. There is a higher way, a way even more needed, and far more revealing of the love of God. It is this - ‘To love someone is to show them their beauty, their worth and their importance.’ Jean Vanier*


Let me share with you about my friend’s mom, M. I met her a few years after being friends with her daughter. She’s American and came down to India for her daughter’s wedding. She and her family stayed with us. From the first moment she met me, she looked at me with approval and delight. She always had something kind to say to me and about me. Did she know that I was very far from perfect, that I had hurt her daughter with some of my weaknesses and sins? Probably. That didn’t stop her from choosing to see the goodness within me. And through her words, I felt myself becoming more of the woman that she saw.

I began to notice that she did it for everyone (apparently I wasn’t the only most awesome person she knew!) And everyone I knew blossomed under her loving, affirming gaze. She was very intentional about speaking those words of affirmation at every opportunity, saying them with sincerity and often writing little notes to people. I’ve met a few other people like that. They just look at me with love, acceptance and delight every time we meet.


Everyone needs someone like that in their lives. Maybe it’s too much to expect that everyone can be like that, but if we have a few people who believe in us, see the good and encourage us to be that person, we are richly blessed. I know I have several - my friends R and T in particular who I've lived and served with, and I know believe in me and see me as more than my weaknesses. But it’s easier to see when others (especially family) are NOT doing it for us.

To turn it around - What about me? Do I love like that? I thought about it – how often did I love unconditionally and help people feel important and loved? I feel like I and most people do the opposite. We meet new people, and then we wait and watch for them to prove to us whether they are worthy of being accepted and loved. Occasionally the other person says or does something we approve, and then we choose to let them bask in the sunshine of our approval. But often both new people look at each other with wariness, and no one makes that move of love, and the opportunity may pass, or suspicion may grow.

What about in our families? Too often we cannot stop looking at each other as projects, people we need to fix, or critique, or evaluate. And what we evaluate is whether this family member is making good decisions, reacting the right way, living up to our expectations, or relating to US in the way we want them to. If they mess up, we withdraw our love or affection.

But here’s how Christ loves- We love because HE loved us FIRST. 

And we are called to the same. Our love should not be dependent on others’ behaviour. Our love shouldn’t wait, or be rationed out in small doses. There is something good in the worst of us. Love draws forth that goodness. We are set free to become the men and women we were called to be when SOMEONE sees that man or woman within us.

The reverse is true too. When we label, criticize, or negatively evaluate people, we are often trapping them in that place because we are telling them that is all that they are. We say we’re being honest or blunt or real, but we are saying that from an incomplete perspective – because they are more than their negative behaviour or habits or quirks.

We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son. Pope John Paul II


So how can we do this? How can we change the habits of years, the negative, critical gaze into one of delight? How can we show our children, spouses, friends, students, siblings and parents their beauty, their worth and their importance? 

1. Words of affirmation: Look for opportunities each day to say something completely unnecessary but very affirming (and sincere) to those who you live with and work with – It could be about their physical appearance, their efforts, their good qualities, or their normal duties. 'You look radiant today!' 'I love the new haircut!' 'That’s a very stylish combination!' 'You did such a great job with the cleaning – very thorough!'  'You always take such good care of the kids!' 'I notice you woke up early today – good job!' 'You are just so beautiful/handsome – I love to look at you!' Look for something!

2. Physical touch: Go give them an unexpected hug, a ruffle of the hair, a rub on the back.

3. Waste time with them: Listen well when they talk about something you may not find that fascinating. (It may mean putting down your book or phone for a few minutes.) Tickle them and rough house with them, or have an impromptu dance party. My mum would take an interest in football just because my brothers were watching, and it showed her interest in THEM.

4. Listen to and affirm their ideas and thoughts: 'That’s a very unique perspective – I love it!' 'That’s a wonderful plan, let me know if I can help. I’ll be praying for that.'

5. Affirm quirks: Quirks are not sins, but too often we make it a reason to mock people. Or we allow them to see we find their quirks annoying. Through the eyes of love, quirks are endearing signs of the uniqueness of each person. ‘It’s so cute how you always tap your leg before you start a prayer.’ ‘I love how you laugh, it’s so crazy and fun!’

Do NOT 

1. Use negative labels, even in your mind: We’re so used to slapping an adjective on people and then seeing them as nothing but that adjective. You’re careless, lazy, uptight, inconsiderate, indisciplined, greedy, rude, a chatterbox, awkward, annoying, reckless, selfish. (ESPECIALLY family members) Ask God for the grace to see them as more than that, to see them the way He sees them. If we see them differently, we will treat them differently… and that’s the key to helping them feel loved.

2. Constantly instruct, improve or criticize: That just reeks of ‘you are a project and I will fix you!’ Especially avoid negative comments about their body, abilities or state in life. Don't take every comment as an opportunity to give a lecture or advice, or air your grievances or complaints.

3. Only talk to them when you need something from them: When people feel like they are a means to an end, they cannot feel like an object of delight.

4. Compare them with anyone else: They are unique, and they don’t need to be you, or anyone else.

5. See them through the lens of the past: People change, allow them to do so!

When the people in our life feel that we are on their side, that we approve of them, that we think they are pretty darn awesome (even though we are aware of their weaknesses), then they are free to be who they are and become who they are called to be. They are free to KNOW the love of God and BELIEVE in the love that He has for them. They are set free from the lie that we have to do something to win God’s love or that He’s constantly disappointed in us. They are free to believe that His call to repentance is BECAUSE He loves them, and that He is with them against their sin. It is in the context of unconditional and accepting love that they are able to admit and work on their own weaknesses and sins.**

To paraphrase Jennifer Fulwiler in a recent post, they will be free to “go dream big dreams and do great things...but… with the confident, unwavering knowledge that (they) are loved and valued and cherished no matter how much (they) succeed or fail.


 *This quote and graphic are from the Abiding Together podcast- give it a listen. 

**None of this means that we should not do loving confrontations and corrections when necessary. But even those will go very differently if they are done in the context of this kind of relationship.

Related Reading 

A Ten-Year-Old Teaches Her Auntie To Pray 

To Be Someone's Darling

Saturday, 22 September 2018

When You Are in a Dark Place and Can’t Get Out


I’ve written a lot about negativity, anxiety and hopelessness. But I feel like it’s time to talk about it some more because I keep meeting or hearing from people who are struggling with this. Naturally upbeat and positive people don’t get it. “Just focus on the positive! If you just try hard enough, you won’t feel this way!” But if you’ve been there you know it’s easier said than done.

I found this entry in my journal from many years ago when I was living in the Philippines-

I’m so confused. I’m so annoyed with myself. Everything seems hazy. I feel like there’s something wrong with me, and I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel like I wasted the whole day, and yet I don’t know what I should have been doing… 

...I feel lost and empty. I’ve been trying to fill myself with food... I feel so unhappy. And I don’t know what to do with this feeling. I feel like there’s nothing I can do to change this feeling. Maybe I need to focus on something other than my own feelings… I feel useless, and incapable of being useful. I want to go home, and yet I know that’s not a solution. I’ve been spending too much money in the past week, so buying something will not help. I slept well last night, and napped in the morning, so sleep won’t help. I used the Internet, and I’m still sad. I spent so much time talking to T, so company isn’t the answer. I don’t have an answer. I even prayed, Lord. 

I’m tired of the Philippines. I’m tired of this life. I want to achieve something, do something purposeful. I’m in a blue funk. That’s it. I even wish I could ignore this feeling by watching a movie and getting involved in some fictional character’s lives… 

…I thought I could make a difference. And yet I know it’s very difficult to make a difference out of the context of relationships… I feel like a failure at relationships, and hence a failure at being a full-timer. Sure, I teach well. But what percentage of my life is spent teaching anyway? What’s the use of having gifts if I don’t use them? I just feel like a failure at life. 

Plus, I have a horrible haircut.

I feel like I’m living in my own dream, and it’s just a dream. I wanted to be a full-timer, I wanted to bring Jesus to people, I wanted to make a difference. And most of the time, I feel like I just don’t have what it takes...

Can I watch a movie so I don’t have to think of this anymore? 

…I need to clean my room. A cluttered room is a sign of a cluttered mind. The thing is, I know my mind is cluttered. My room doesn’t have to tell me that. But maybe one affects the other. 

You know what, Sue? This is just a mood. Moods come and go. This too shall pass. 

Oh my gosh, just re-reading that takes me back to the blackness of despair. It’s happened at other times too, but not usually for extended periods of time. But many of us have been there - just lost, disoriented, hopeless. Everything seems meaningless, our own lives feel empty, and nothing seems to work or make sense. No amount of positive thinking seems to help, and people’s breezy suggestions just seem to rub salt in the wound. It’s like being stuck in a dark miry bog that you just can’t pull yourself out of. It’s easy at those moments to give up hope, to have self-harm or suicidal thoughts. 

Where is this coming from? Well, I’m no psychologist, but I've noticed that for many people, it seems to be the effect of wounds or trauma from the past, things that have not been their fault, but have happened to them.

But it’s more than that. It’s a spiritual darkness too. It is the stark feeling of being cut off from God, cut off from love. It is a lie that has become our reality – that we are alone, forgotten, abandoned. I’ve had nightmares like that. It is the best lie the Enemy can come up with because it is the exact opposite of the Truth - that we are known, loved, seen, cared for, surrounded. ‘O Lord, you have searched me and known me... You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.’

So what do we do in the midst of this despair?

1. Cry out to the God you cannot feel. The Psalms are full of similar cries – honest and pain-filled cries to heaven. Just voicing your pain is an act of faith. 'Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.' Psalm 69:1-3 Take time to pray even if all you're doing is crying at the Lord. Journal. If possible, seek out an Adoration chapel where you can do it. Take tissues. It's okay to cry.

2. Go to Confession. Many times the big immovable obstacle blocking us from knowing God is our own sin. It piles up, day by day, and makes us more and more vulnerable to the lies of Satan. The worst depths of darkness I have felt were when I was caught in habitual and serious sin. It sucks the life out of you. So go! Run to Confession. Prioritize as you would emergency surgery. If you need help, ask someone to help you make it happen. Even if you’re in a habitual sin that you are not sure you have the strength to stop, still go! God just asks us for sorrow and repentance, and a willingness to try to get it out of your life. Frequent Confession can HELP you stop sinning. You don’t have to have your act perfectly together before going to Confession. Every time I have gone it has been a dark cloud that lifts, a clarity and peace that returns.


3. Forgive or confront the people involved: Sometimes our darkness comes from unresolved conflicts, or bitterness from the wounds inflicted by others. It may also be because of ongoing toxic relationships. Pray about it, and ask God for the grace to forgive them from the heart. But also go and talk to them. If you try and the relationship is not salvageable, maybe you need to remove yourself from a place of continued wounds.

4. Give yourself a break: Sometimes our most painful wounds are self-inflicted – “Why am I this way? Maybe if I was different I wouldn’t be going through this. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be happy like everyone else? Maybe if I just worked harder or tried harder. Maybe I made a mistake that brought me to this place.” GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! You are allowed to be imperfect. You don’t have to have it all together. Very few people do. It’s okay to be struggling. It’s okay to have weaknesses. Be at peace with the struggle. If God can be patient with you, you can be patient with yourself.

5. Speak aloud your foundational truth: Ask God to show you the lie you are most prone to believe – I am no good, the world is all hopeless, God doesn’t really love me, I am alone. And then ask Him to show you the Truth that combats the lie. Pick just one bible verse, and every day say it aloud for 15 minutes. Don’t just think it, or remember it. ACTUALLY SAY IT ALOUD. Yes it sounds crazy, and maybe if anyone overhears they’ll think you’re crazy, but do you want something new or not? You can’t always control your thoughts and feelings, but you have control over your speech. So use the parts of you that you can control. The Word of God has power and can bring real healing. Also, choose to stop talking about why everything is hopeless and horrible.

6. Go outdoors: And leave your devices behind. Go for a walk or a run. Sit on a park bench and look at the trees. Sometimes that’s what you need to get out of your head.

7. Notice your triggers: Write down when you are feeling this darkness- what preceded it? What factors contributed? For me, spending too much time on social media or watching movies, or staying up late plus tiredness always made it much worse. But when I’m in the middle of it, it’s hard to remember that it’s not random, but there are common factors.

8. Notice the things that spark joy: Every time you feel a flash of joy or a time of peace, write down what helped. Ask yourself at the end of the day- Where did I experience God? For me at the moment, it is listening to Bethel, playing with babies, feeling rested, and praise and worship. Prioritize those things! Do something that gives you joy each day even if it’s just for a little while. They are not unimportant because your heart is not unimportant. Also, look for ways to reach out to others - surprisingly that often helps!

9. Get negative music and media out of your life: We become what we consume. Switch it with music that lifts you up and helps you connect with God.

10. Talk to someone: The more we wallow in the darkness of our own thoughts, the easier it is to start believing they are true. Reach out for help! Ask a Christian if you can come talk to them, if you can regularly meet with them. If you have no people around, plan regular (even daily if necessary) video chats with people who will listen to you, but are unafraid to speak the truth joyfully and clearly and again and again. (Don’t talk to people who drag you further down.)

11. Seek professional help: If you’ve tried it all and this darkness and despair is unchanging and unshakeable, it may be time to seek out counselling or therapy. There are helplines available, you can look online for something accessible. Don’t be embarrassed. I know many people who have struggled with depression at certain times of their life, and sometimes have needed medication to help them for a time. It doesn’t make you a failure to seek help when you need it.

12. Remind yourself that this is not forever: I know it FEELS like it is forever when you’re in the middle of it, but I promise it isn’t! You will feel happy again! You will be at peace one day! This too shall pass. It’s going to get better! There is HOPE!

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139: 7, 11-12

I am praying for you all. Feel free to reach out if you need prayers for a specific situation.

Related Reading 

A Melancholic Searches for Joy 

The Antidotes to Anxiety 

The Poison We All Breathe 

My Experiences With Anxiety and Peace

New Year's Resolutions for the Motivationally Challenged