How I’m Coping With Corona Burn-Out

When people ask, “how have you been during all this?” I say I’ve been doing pretty well. Lately, though, I wonder if the whole “life-being-disrupted-for-over-six-months” thing is affecting me more than I’ve realized.

Creating care packages for “sunshine deliveries”

My days are primarily spent at home aside from working out with my trainer, attending church (don’t worry–social distancing and masks required), and the occasional doctor’s appointment, “nail salon with grandma” tradition, or other excursion. I feel relatively content and accomplish several things most days. I’ve still been writing blog posts, reading others’ posts and also books, serving volunteer roles in church and United Methodist Women (just finished our last quarterly newsletter of 2020–yay!), completing my newspaper installments, etc. Compared to others who are borderline depressed, unmotivated to be productive at all, or worse, I’m coping well.

But my motivation and creativity are waning. Some days are worse than others, but still… I’m not having many blog post or Bookstagram ideas. I haven’t even shared a blog post to Bookstagram in weeks. I’ve always procrastinated with replying to comments, but I’m a month behind now, which is excessive even for me. Days melt into weeks that melt into months; time passes in a blur.

As a sort of ‘mindfulness’ exercise, I’m going to list some things that perk me up and get my brain juices flowing. I hope this reflective task urges me to make more deliberate choices and seek out what inspires me. Perhaps you could contemplate what refreshes and re-energizes you.

Going out by myself

Taking a drive alone rejuvenates me–and playing some good tunes in the background adds icing to the cake. I know some readers are handicapped and/or don’t have a car. So, take a drive, or take a walk, or take a roll down the sidewalk. In whatever way you can, I highly recommend getting some time to yourself and getting in motion.

Plants

My newest baby is a red maranta (prayer plant)

I never cared about them until the pandemic, but I’ve accumulated several this year. I love nurturing them and just gazing at them. There’s something neat about beholding a living, growing, lovely piece of creation that relies on me as its caretaker. Great light-hearted hobby for anyone in any living space at any age–just be sure your lighting conditions align with the plant’s needs. 🙂

Prayer

Praying re-centers my spirit. By thanking God for my blessings and uplifting others in need, I’m pushed to re-adopt a mindset of gratitude. It brings me an inexplicable peace of mind. I feel close to God again; my focus and purpose are sharpened. Take time to reconnect with God and find tranquility.

Exercise

Exercise pumps blood throughout my body and engages all my muscles, then the happy chemicals rush into my brain to add another layer of awesomeness to the good feelings. Additionally, the simple fact of its occupying a couple hours (change-work out-shower-get dressed) provides a welcome change of pace on slow days. Many of us have some limitations, but to whatever degree you can, try to get some exercise; you won’t regret it.

Improving my space

I don’t generally WANT to do chores–straighten up a cluttered drawer, clean off a dusty bookshelf, organize the mail–but it’s beneficial to my mental health. Since I spend so much time in my environment, I feel better when I do small things that make it clean, quaint, and cohesive. I bet you will, too, if you do the same.

Creating & consuming art

My latest purchase from “funky by nature” ♥

My paintbrush is the proverbial pen (technically a keyboard), and writing can be therapeutic for me. I’m forced to reach inside myself and yank out my thoughts and ideas, which still float around but are sometimes drowned out by the loud hum of monotony. Generating that metaphor felt great, actually, so I think I’ll start writing poetry. I’ve never been a profound poet, but hey, weird times call for new creative outlets.

I’ve consumed art by making some purchases from small crafters. As with the plants, I simply appreciate looking at it. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, right? I don’t know how to describe it, but unique, one-of-a-kind artwork inspires me. Find what inspires you, friends. ♥

Thanks for reading! How are you coping with burn-out…making crafts, staying in touch with friends, finding cool shows to binge, trying out recipes, discovering music, nature walks, new hobbies, etc? Let me know in the comments. Peace and joy be with you. 🙂

Is Mental Illness Romanticized? Angst vs. Illness, Prescriptive vs. Descriptive Art & More

Mental and physical ailments have always been stigmatized, so it’s great that we’re breaking down some of the barriers to understanding, like fear and ignorance. I wonder, though, if some of our acceptance of mental illness has been amplified and distorted to romanticize mental illness, while the actual victims of it are still met with judgement.

I was scrolling through my Reader on Monday when I stumbled across Victoria’s post on the romanticization of mental illness. When I realized how lengthy my response would be if I typed all I wanted to say, I thought hey, this could be a post!

Angst vs. illness

One could look to things like Tumblr, a blog site that features dark, pensive aesthetics and sooo much melodrama, along with shows like 13 Reasons Why (debatably promotes the idea of “getting back at bullies” by committing suicide) as two of many examples that mental illness is being romanticized. But, let’s get real: young people have always been angsty. Look at Nirvana for crying out loud! I was in high school 2007-2011, meaning I grew up in the “emo kid” era–bangs to hide one or both eyes, pop-punk and screamo music, clothes from Hot Topic. I’m sure all of you remember how “teen angst” was channeled during your adolescent years.

We should realize that angst and illness are different. One thing I recall from the emo era that falls more in line with illness is the normalization of “cutting” (see pic to the right). Tumblr is mostly an outlet for teen angst, but a show promoting suicide for vengeance feels like crossing a line. As I continue, remember that while angst should be distinguished from illness, there is always some overlap between the two.

The influence of social media & meme culture

Why have anxiety and depression become popular? It seems like everyone is dealing with these struggles! I credit social media and, specifically, meme culture. [SN: Efforts to remove the stigma of mental illness have likely enabled more people to get diagnosed, too.]

Social media is a marketplace of attention with countless competitors. There’s always been a certain “badassness” about angst, and being badass tends to attract attention, so there ya go… 2+2=4. I also think talking about mental illness has become trendy, which is where meme culture comes into play.

A few months back, I wrote a post on self-deprecating memes where I noted a vast uptick in the last couple years of memes so self-aware they border on sad/cringey. In that post, I contemplated where one draws a line between being vulnerable and relatable vs. accepting personality flaws or personal issues and laughing at them rather than working on self-improvement or seeking help. In this same vein, many people use real or self-proclaimed mental illness to deprecate themselves (examples below).

Prescriptive vs. descriptive art

One factor to consider is how we differentiate prescriptions vs. descriptions. This conflict is relevant to other questions, such as whether rap music glorifies drug/gang culture. Some would answer with a resounding yes; just listen to the lyrics! But others would argue this music describes what people have been/go through rather than prescribing that behavior to others. The art we make generally reflects our thoughts, feelings, and experiences (rather than just condoning or condemning things).

Whenever this question arises, the conversation has to be nuanced. With rap music and with uses of mental illness in art, memes, books, TV shows, etc, we have to examine things on a case-by-case basis. Some rap music promotes “thug life,” but some rap music imparts the lack of privileges and decent options that leads one to dangerous lifestyles. Some mental illness depictions romanticize it, but some share the good, bad, and ugly of it and all the unglamorous parts.

Conclusion

Of course, this discussion could go way more in depth, but these are just some of my musings on the topic. To wrap it up, I think there are a few contrasts to consider when asking whether something (in this case, mental illness) is being romanticized or just normalized–prescriptive vs. descriptive art, being honest about it vs. making light of it, showing only the good (or, in this case, “cool”) side vs. all sides. Going off that last one, I wonder if role-playing as a depressed, anxious, bipolar, OCD, etc. person to seem different and edgy is more harmful than helpful to the real victims. This is why I don’t share memes like the ones above. Yes, I have stressors and struggles in life, but I do not have a mental illness, so I’m not going to pretend I do just because it’s trendy.

Also, we should acknowledge the distinction between angst and illness. Though there tends to be a mixing of the two that we should beware of, angst is perfectly normal, especially among young people.

Thanks for reading! Do you feel that mental illness is being romanticized online? What’s your two cents on teen angst, the mixing of angst and illness, prescriptive vs. descriptive art, etc? If you deal with mental illness, what’s your take on others appropriating it for cool points? Let me know in the comments.

Catching Up With Retrospective Lily

Whew! This week has flown by in the seeming blink of an eye. September is my favorite month because, for me, it represents an excitement about new beginnings–the incoming fall/holiday season, a new school year (for most of my life). It’s always been a time of busy-ness, too, and that feeling has somehow carried over even in the ‘Rona era. So today, let’s just spend a few minutes catching up.

Church

From about May to now, my church has met outdoors for worship–social distancing and wearing masks, too. Not gonna lie, there have been a few times where I wanted to shower right after the service; the NC humidity is no joke. But overall, it’s gone really well. Back in the normal times, I taught the adult Sunday School class. We had such enriching conversations where we dug deep, challenging ourselves and growing closer to God in the process. Because of the circumstances, we hadn’t held SS in months, and I was really missing it. As it turns out, others shared my feelings.

We decided about a month ago to start having SS after the normal service. I’ve been leading the class, and since my pastor preaches from the lectionary, I choose a gospel parable or story that aligns with the sermon passage each week. In SS, we read, analyze, break down, and discuss the parable or story while also connecting it to the sermon passage. Many of my normal SS attendees are participating along with others who weren’t staying for SS or had been in a different class beforehand. Last week, my mom counted 17 people who stayed. Praise God for the little things! I think this new venture, which is shaping up like a Bible study course, will turn out to be a huge blessing for all of us! Meanwhile…

Devo Life

I’ve been praying hard for a lot of things. Continuing the thoughts above, I’ve asked God to draw our members near to Him and help us love Him and our neighbor. We are starting a new mission group called NOW (Nurture, Outreach, Witness) to figure out how to minister to both our members and our community under the current limitations. I’ve been asking God to give us His direction and all the tools we’ll need–creativity/visions, wisdom/insight, unity, compassion, zeal, boldness, faith, etc.

Generally, I’ve been continuing my prayer and devotional life in a similar fashion to what I described in this post. Lately, I spend 30-45 minutes in prayer and 30-45 minutes reading scripture (note: I’m not perfect, so I don’t do this every single day–just more often than not). I’ve said it 100 times before and will keep reiterating it: the Psalms have taught me how to pray from the depths of my spirit. As far as scripture reading goes, I’ve been spending most of my OT time with the major prophets–Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. The dark tone of the books seems fitting during a pandemic, and the emphases on justice and helping the needy have correlated well with national conversations around inequity. This was not at all planned (I was just continuing through the OT in chronological order), testifying to the fact that God works in mysterious ways. I’m all over the place with my NT reading; thanks to its brevity, I’ve read it all multiple times.

Work

For those who don’t know, I’m a contributing writer for a local newspaper. I haven’t done much during COVID-19 aside from my usual installments–the Crime Report and the Calendar Events. There haven’t been too many of the latter lately, but the former is entertaining as ever. We switched to a biweekly publishing schedule because advertising has decreased, but we are still doing comparatively well under the circumstances, considering that some small businesses have suffered much worse.

United Methodist Women

I guess it was raining when the mailman brought the postcard.

United Methodist Women is a women’s mission organization in the UMC. We usually have a few annual events in our district and conference, but they’ve all been cancelled. Our biggest event of the year, in which we celebrate the previous year’s accomplishments and decide the next year’s budget, officers, etc, got moved to a Zoom Webinar. Since I serve as “communications coordinator” for our district, I worked my butt off spreading the word–front page article of our 3rd quarter newsletter, a postcard, a mass email. Other ladies on our team also did their best to plan a great event and ensure it went smoothly on the technological side. By the time the day rolled around, I was ready for the event to be behind us! All went well, and we had the highest attendance of all six districts in our conference. Also, our “hands-on mission project” was to collect soap, toilet paper, and dish detergent for local food pantries or community charities. Several units participated, so it’s awesome that we made a small impact on our neighbors’ needs.

Now, it’s time to lay out the 4th quarter newsletter and plan how to market a social action workshop on the school-to-prison pipeline via Zoom. On to the next one, as they say. 😉

Personal

I don’t have much to report but did want to say that the wedding plans are on indefinite hiatus. Ah, well. I want to host the wedding in my church, so at least we don’t have to deal with booking or unbooking a venue.

Thanks for reading! Is anything new with you? Let me know in the comments.

Musings on Body Insecurity (as a Disabled Woman) + a Letter Thanking my Body

No matter how many “self-improvement” products are created, marketed, and sold, we still have plenty to feel self-conscious about–our bodies, our skin, our hair, all that fun stuff. So many skincare products, hygiene products, hair products, makeup products…so many diets, weight loss supplements, specially made foods…even dime-a-dozen gyms that feel like the fitness version of drive-thrus (looking at you, Planet Fitness)… Despite it all, we peruse Instagram and watch TV commercials that bombard us with Facetune, Photoshop, etc. and instantly remember our flaws.

As a human being and especially a woman, I relate to feelings of inferiority born from comparison. I shell out big bucks for indulgent skincare products and usually feel self-assured in my not-perfect-but-relatively-clear face. Then, I see a beautiful girl upload a selfie with glowing skin…AND perfectly striking eyebrows…AND long, voluminous eyelashes…AND AND AND. I’m reminded that, despite my nice skin, I’m not as fabulous as “the other girls” on several fronts. I exercise regularly and stay pretty toned, but since God blessed me with a short torso and long legs, having some amount of belly is basically inevitable. Still, I put in the work to earn my body confidence. Then, I scroll social media and see a girl wearing a bikini whose abs are flat as a board; the insecurity creeps up again.

We all have those attributes we nit-pick about ourselves.

As a person with a disability–particularly a progressive one–these feelings take on more facets. Maybe I have some power over how my face and stomach look, but how about when I see a girl standing in a fun, flattering pose for the camera? I cannot change my inability to stand unassisted. Fixating on this would drive me crazy, and I’ve watched as the inevitability of it all sent FA’ers into a spiral of self-loathing. Thank God, those thoughts don’t drag me down most days; I pray for inner and outer strength and simply do what I can (at the least, stay in shape). However, even that is complicated by progression. Yes, I’ve basically come to accept myself and focus on what I can control…but the “what” in that equation keeps changing. Year after year, some abilities quietly slip away (like my ability to walk without my left ankle turning) while others increase in difficulty. Working out, along with everything else (like getting out of bed and getting dressed), takes longer now because my limbs seem to be set on “slow motion.”

With all of society’s influences, typical human insecurities, and my personal struggles circling around my head, I just feel exasperated some days. Though many of you reading this hopefully don’t share my struggles, I’m sure you have also felt negatively towards your body for your own health issues, stubborn areas of fat that won’t go away, a body part that doesn’t work quite right, some perceived imperfection like a crooked nose or lazy eye, etc.

As I worked out at home the day before writing this, I felt frustrated as per usual. As I tried to move and complete the exercises, I felt like I was wading through molasses. I don’t know why (perhaps the result of people praying for me?), but I had a surprising epiphany in the midst of it…

What if I gave my body grace, appreciating what it can do, working patiently with it on the hard things?

I’m going to try and take a different, kinder approach to myself from now on (emphasis on “try,” as patience and gentleness are not virtues that comes easily). With abilities, appearances, and everything in between, we need to give ourselves more grace. We can spend so much time wishing our bodies were somehow better that we forget how much they do for us. To remind myself of these things, I’m writing a letter to my body. I encourage you to think of the good things your body does for you!

Dear Body,

Thanks for waking up and keeping me alive every day. I know combating this progressive disease is hard on you, so let’s make a pact: I’ll be good to you if you’ll work as hard as you can for me. I understand that dynamic will change with time, and you won’t always be able to do what you can now. I’ll be forgiving; just don’t give up fighting.

To my eyes, thank you for allowing me to read books, appreciate the beauty of creation, and see the faces of my loved ones. To my ears, thank you for enabling me to hear music, chirping birds, and the sound of ocean tides rolling into shore. To my nose, thank you for enabling me to smell pizza, pie, and that “just rained outside” aroma. To my tongue, thank you for enabling me to teach classes, preach sermons, and lick ice cream cones. To my brain, thank you for enabling me to appreciate the intellectual and the spiritual. Shout-out to my other inner organs for doing your thing–you’re the unsung heroes. Lastly, to my hands, arms, feet, and legs–well, you tend not to do what I tell you, but thank you for all the little things from typing this letter to stepping in the shower.

Love, Lily

Thanks for reading! Are you critical of yourself and your body? What are you thankful to your body for? Let me know in the comments.

Christian Musings on Cancel Culture: Discussing Accountability & Who “Deserves” Mercy

Over the last month or so, I’ve seen everyone from local residents all the way up to celebrities get “exposed” for something bad they’ve said/done. The reasons have ranged from “racial insensitivity” to “borderline pedophilia,” though we’ll focus on the former in this post (more info at bottom)*. The person may go on to lose their job, have their reputation tarnished, etc. Since I support accountability and want prejudice stigmatized, I should feel vindicated. As a follower of Jesus first and foremost, I’m feeling conflicted.

Owning up to past mistakes

Last night (6/28/20), I learned that OG YouTuber Jenna Marbles, who has been on the site forever and has ten million followers, “cancelled herself.” She’s been called out for less-than-tasteful jokes she made in the early 2010’s. A few days ago, she published an apology video that ended with her stating she is taking an indefinite break from YT. I think it’s sad that she feels the need to punish herself for long-past mistakes. Her genuine apology video, in which she takes total accountability for ever hurting anyone with her words/actions, speaks volumes to me. I feel that full acknowledgement of and remorse for her wrongs is enough to “atone” for her past “sins.” She deserves mercy. Most people I’ve seen discussing the situation feel the same way and applaud her graciousness.

Not owning up to recent mistakes

Contrast that situation with this one: a local racetrack owner made national headlines with similarly tasteless social media posts. Also, when the dust of the Bubba Wallace FBI case had barely settled, he listed “Bubba Rope” for sale on his Facebook page. I read an article in which he shared about the backlash he’s incurred. All but two sponsors have pulled their advertising from his racetrack, the FB page has been bombarded with bad reviews, and his loved ones and him have received death threats. He would’ve at least started to build back some good will had he owned up to his wrongs. Instead of taking a more humble approach, he insisted in the interview, “They took a joke and made it racial. I’m not racist.” Considering his complete lack of “repentance,” he seems less deserving of mercy. [To be fair, I found another article in which he said, “I’m responsible. I’m responsible for trying to make jokes.”]

But, just after saying that, he breaks down and sobs for 19 seconds. Imagine being the interviewer–how long and uncomfortable does 19 whole seconds of watching a stranger weep feel? After composing himself, he says that he “wants no violence,” following up with a recent story about a rat on the track he had put off killing because he doesn’t like to hurt anyone/anything.

Contemplating mercy and accountability

The comments on that interview were mostly vengeful, cheering for this man’s demise. Meanwhile, I felt a mixture of emotions brewing in my heart. Maybe I’m too sympathetic…then again, Jesus never said, “Don’t be too forgiving. Don’t love your neighbor too much.” As I read the post, I thought to myself, This is just a man. Yes, he said insensitive, even cruel things. Is he ignorant and likely close-minded on the topic of racial inequity? Evidently. But he is just a man–a man created in the image of God and beloved. It’s one thing for someone to face consequences for their actions, but it feels wrong to wish anguish on someone.

On the other hand, we cannot underestimate how attitudes/jokes like this man’s have contributed to an inestimable amount of suffering in the black community. I don’t want to forget or minimize that. I recently heard the quote that personal racism justifies and perpetuates systemic racism–great point. When people hold racist attitudes in a general or even subconscious way, it’s easier to rationalize injustices. For instance, if we have a mindset that black people are more violent, we can ignore that 33% of the prison population is black, though blacks make up 12% of the population. Here’s a source for that; this article also points to a general decline in crime and incarceration, which gave me hope and propelled me down a rabbit trail of research. [Obligatory sidenote: There is more violence in black communities, but we need to have conversations about how poverty leads to crime and the complex factors that have led to high poverty rates among blacks.]

This post is not meant to provide answers, just provoke thought. I know some but not all of the answers…

Should people be held accountable for their words and actions in the present? Absolutely.

What about words and actions from ten years ago? Yes and no–acknowledge, apologize, move on.

In my first question, does “being held accountable” include getting fired from one’s job and/or having one’s college acceptance revoked (I’ve seen several examples of both)? ????? Where do we draw the line between people who do or don’t deserve mercy? ??????

Thankful God didn’t cancel me

I used to be close-minded and even hateful at times (as in, calling anyone who cared a “social justice warrior” or “virtue signaller”…I was fully on board the “young, edgy right-winger” train). God miraculously changed my heart through His Living Word. One could dig up incredibly ignorant things I’ve said in the past, and if that happened, I would do as I said above–acknowledge, apologize, move on. I’m just so thankful for the grace of God. Not only did He NOT “cancel” me, but He deemed me worthy to transform and use for His glory, in spite of all the flaws I had at the time (and I’m still not perfect). Did my cynical, arrogant, ignorant self deserve a chance to know Jesus for real–not just in my head but in my heart? I don’t know. As Relient K once sang… The beauty of grace is it makes life not fair.


This post doesn’t have a tidy moral, but here are a few take-aways:

  • Being humble usually ends better than doubling down (bonus: God also condones humility).
  • Try to look through a lens of compassion at each person, even those who don’t seem to deserve it.
  • Listen to and believe people who tell us they’ve felt the unjust sting of prejudice (WWJD?) .
  • Thank God for His steadfast love and mercy.

Thanks for reading! What do you think of this “cancel culture” era? Would God have cancelled you already if not for unconditional love? Let me know in the comments.

*The day AFTER I wrote this rough draft, the whole scandal with Shane Dawson (another huge YouTuber) making inappropriate jokes involving minors came to light. Now, people want or predict he’ll be “cancelled.” We’ll see where the chips fall!

P.S. I’m going to the beach next week and may or may not make my weekly post. 🙂

Striking Balances Without Becoming Paralyzed (Coronavirus & Black Lives Matter)

The last couple months have been uncertain and panic-ridden, then the last couple weeks added icing to the chaos cake. The contentious issues facing us are causing extreme polarization. I wonder how we can strike some balances and truly listen to people’s different concerns while still being bold, loving defenders of truth and justice.

Coronavirus

Opinions vary greatly on the pandemic and social distancing. As I pointed out in my post on the double-edged sword of the internet, theories range from “this is an over-hyped political hoax” to “the worst of the pandemic is yet to come.” For the better and the worse, people don’t believe “the media” anymore. If mainstream sources are unreliable, only fringe sources and/or people’s own judgement (frequently based on hot air) can be trusted. I can’t contribute an educated viewpoint since I’m not qualified in medicine, business, sociology, etc. But there are several factors we must weigh carefully–preserving public safety and “flattening the curve,” the consequences of shutting down businesses, the mental/social ramifications of prolonged isolation, etc.

Black Lives Matter

People’s perceptions also vary on the backlash from George Floyd’s murder. I was glad to see almost everyone–race, age, gender, and political leaning aside–stand with George Floyd and demand justice for his murder. Many have participated in peaceful protests seeking understanding and compassion for the black community and black lives. As the sun sets, those protests morph into riots. I have pondered the rhetoric and the arguments from different viewpoints. Some unequivocally condemn looting as a criminal act; some compare looting to the Boston Tea Party and Nat Turner’s Rebellion; some insist that most cops are good people; some provide evidence that cops are instigating violence at protests.

Musings

In both cases–Coronavirus and BLM–there is no room for nuance. Is this even surprising, given the state of our politics? Every single social issue is arbitrarily deemed partisan. I digress…

This made me giggle…A Birmingham Prize Fight, W. Allen, 1789

Do you wear a mask? You’re just a sheep.

Do you NOT wear a mask? You’re an inconsiderate idiot.

Do you think we should’ve kept businesses closed longer? You don’t care about people’s livelihoods.

Are you visiting the beach or eating in a restaurant? You’re cavalier and ignorant.

Do you think looting is wrong? You’re privileged.

Do you think looting is a valid form of protest? You’re insane.

Do you think all cops are bad? You’re narrow-minded and unfair.

Do you NOT think all cops are bad? Again…you’re just a sheep! Open your eyes, man!

My eyes are wide open. I wish I could shut them sometimes; then again, I know the God of the Bible does not call me to complacency. All the pain adds a heaviness to my spirit. A lot of things do, actually. Like the fact that people who have a relationship with the same God as me think I’m doomed to hell for preaching a sermon as a woman. And married Christians who treat their spouses with so little grace and respect that I cringe in their presence. And all those in the world suffering from anguish, abuse, starvation, despair, persecution, etc. every single day. Just to name a few. At times like these, I’m grateful the Holy Spirit intercedes in my prayers, enunciating those groans in my spirit, casting my heart cries on the God of peace.

There is no easy answer to these problems; this post can’t have a tidy moral. But I am realizing a fruit of the Spirit we all need more of–gentleness. I need more gentleness–the strong, wise, Godly version anyway–to process the information, the viewpoints, the endless articles and newscasts, the disturbing videos. I need more gentleness to hear those who worry about their health along with those who worry about paying their bills. I need more gentleness to listen to and believe stories of racial injustice. I need more gentleness to understand the devastating toll looting can take on small business owners. I need more gentleness to unravel how poverty and racism intersect to destroy communities.

However, I also have a balance to strike between gentleness and boldness. I don’t want to be paralyzed into silence; I must weigh everything thoughtfully, but I’m just a tree with no fruit if I don’t stand with truth and justice. Dr. MLK Jr. wrote of the “white moderate,” who values order above justice. The God of the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament demand justice and condemn oppression (along with idolatry, greed, materialism, and vanity–read the prophets and the gospels if you don’t believe me). May God guide me in striking all these balances. Lord, open my eyes, my ears, and my heart.

Thanks for reading! Two cents welcome, but please be GENTLE. I feel nervous when I post anything remotely controversial or potentially alienating, especially since Christians are called to the ministry of reconciliation. Then again, my feeling hesitant to call Christians into partnership with Jesus speaks volumes on how biblical messages have been distorted and ignored. Reconciliation requires addressing the complex, not-so-pretty topics; reconciliation means we must care enough to speak and act.

Not to worry–I’ll presumably go back to normal next week. 😉

P.S. #WearTheDangMask (might as well be safe) & #BlackLivesMatter (God’s heart hurts when His children hurt; protests in all 50 states and 18 countries reveal a world of pain)

How the Internet Is Really Helpful Yet Super Confusing (& Sometimes Dangerous)

Ah, technology, the good ol’ double-edged sword. On one hand, we can read our favorite singer’s Tuesday morning thoughts (thanks, Twitter); on the other, trolls no longer live under bridges (thanks, Twitter). 😉 But, on a serious note, I’d like to discuss how the excess of information online can be educational…but it can also be intimidating and/or misleading.

An over-abundance of search results

Anyone and everyone can use and post things to the big, wide web. And, for that reason, the internet is saturated with information. Some of that is based on facts, science, and statistics, but much of it is based on opinions, subjective experiences, and straight-up BS. [Unfortunately, those in the BS category aren’t required to wear a sign that reads, “Hey, don’t take me seriously; I’m full of it!”]

Shameless plug: While most people use Google for searches, you should try Ecosia because they use their profits to plant trees. ♥

I become defeated quickly when searching things. For instance, I’d like to make homemade potpourri with some aromatic mint leaves. I temporarily gave up because everybody (along with their mamas, their daddies, their brothers and sisters, their cousins…you get the point) recommends a different method. As I type this rough draft Sunday, I’m feeling frustrated that I just spent an hour looking up solutions to hair issues (oily and flat hair, itchy scalp). Again, there are so many search results–all suggesting their own methods for fixing the issues, all recommending different products.

I recently learned not to trust everything these random websites suggest. Because I read Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub last month, I have a heightened, disconcerting awareness of my sugar consumption levels. After noticing there are over fifty grams of sugar + several preservatives in my International Delight coffee creamer, I decided to try making my own. Several websites provided a simple recipe for homemade creamer: combine sweetened-condensed milk with regular milk. I thought, Well, this will contain sugar, but with less sugar than the other creamer and no preservatives, maybe this is a step in the right direction. As it turns out, the taste of sweetened-condensed milk repulses me. Yuck! Talk about trial and ERROR.

What’s even worse than inconvenience–misinformation

Above, I referred to the inconvenience of wading through a flood of search results (like trying to find a cute dress at a ratchet Goodwill). But what’s worse than being inconvenienced is being misinformed. I’ve seen this text image floating around social media, which implies that ignorant people are ignorant by choice, since they could easily look up any question/topic, thanks to the internet.

I acknowledge the point of the post, but I don’t think it accounts for the whole “double-edged sword” concept behind the internet. In other words, this sentiment assumes undeniably blatant truths and answers exist. I’m not so sure. Even where objective truth exists, people will disagree about it, anyways.

Some truths and answers seem clear to many people, but at the end of the day, what/who we perceive as a reliable source affects what we believe. For instance, most people accept that vaccines are good and necessary as “clear truth.” Anti-vaxxers, however, don’t trust the sources that support vaccines. I assume they trust other sources that “clearly” demonstrate why vaccines are harmful. (Not trying to poke a bear, just using a random example)

I hope you see the connections I’m drawing…more info sources on the internet means more choices on who/what to trust…

Misinformation in the pandemic

I can’t be the only one who’s tasted every flavor of Coronavirus opinion or theory. I’m talking everything from “They did this to tank Trump’s economy in his re-election year” to “Far more people actually have the disease than what has been reported” to “Hospitals are claiming more people died of COVID-19 to get extra funding” to “Lifting the stay-at-home orders now will trigger a much-worse second wave.”

I live in NC (in the US), and the question of how to re-open in stages looms over us. We only have a few hundred deaths in the whole state. Part of me thinks Yes, we should re-open; the risk in our state is low. But then, the other half of me wonders, Do we only have a few hundred deaths because of social distancing, and if so, would ending it be detrimental? Many have vilified the stupidity/short-sightedness of those protesting at our capital to re-open the state. I understand the critics’ concerns for public safety; God forbid if someone I know caught this and died! I also saw a meme this week that read, “I lost my home and my business, but at least I didn’t get a virus with a less than 1% mortality rate!” I understand the concerns of those pushing to re-open; will we wind up damaging people’s lives with these rules more than the virus would in its natural course? The fact that so many loud and self-assured voices are screaming their viewpoints on the internet doesn’t help with discerning reality and rationality from panic and outright lies.


Wrapping up my ramblings, I love and hate the internet. It gives every voice a platform, which can be great and also terrible. That’s the price of freedom, baby! Take EVERYTHING with a grain of salt. 😉

Thanks for reading! What’s your two cents on wading through search results, internet misinformation, “clear truth,” or Coronavirus theories? Let me know in the comments.

Random updates on my searches (in other words, advice welcome):

1. I have purchased a few volumizing products that give body to my flat-as-a-pancake hair. Sweet!

2. If you also have an itchy scalp, TRY ARGAN OIL! Started rubbing it on my head after I get out of the shower (if I wash my hair). It’s definitely helping. I was wary of trying it since my hair gets greasy quickly, but it didn’t make my hair greasy somehow??

3. The best homemade creamer my mom and me have concocted so far is almond milk + a few spoonfuls of sugar. Though I’m probably consuming less sugar than I was with the store-bought creamer, I wish I could use little to no sugar in my coffee. But, apparently, things don’t taste as good without sugar…lol!

4. For the potpourri, I plan to mix up the plant leaves, some essential oils, and orris root powder then let it sit for a few weeks. Wish me luck. I hope this is less of a disaster than the sweetened-condensed milk creamer.

How I’ve Been Spending my Time During Quarantine

It’s crazy that my “Coronavirus Came in Like a Wrecking Ball” post was published one month ago. Gah! Today, I want to take it easy and share how I’ve tried to put the extra time to good use.

I’m going a little stir crazy since I can’t attend all the church-related outings that come throughout the week and/or month. Fortunately for me, I was already used to the staying-productive-while-being-home-most-days routine, but NOT having those outings sprinkled in my days (along with going out to eat sometimes, nail salon appointments with my grandma, other little activities) makes the time seem monotonous. [In case you’re wondering, I’m a contributing writer for a small, local newspaper.]

Before I go further, I want to say–I pray for you to have strength, peace, and “daily bread” (whatever you need today physically, mentally, or spiritually) if you are still working in public, attending full-time college online, taking care of children 24/7, the owner of a small business, laid off from your job and trying to make ends meet, etc. I’m very much aware how blessed I am to have extra time and comparatively few worries right now.

Clutter is the worst!

Time management has been better some days and worse on others because monotony is demotivating. Overall, I have been blogging, spending more time on devotionals (praying/reading Bible/perusing commentaries), reading books, and tidying up dusty shelves, baskets of unused items, junk drawers, unneeded clothes and books, stacks of papers on my desk, and all those little nooks and crannies that are easier to ignore when the hustle and bustle of life is in full swing. [Check out the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, or one of the countless YouTube videos about decluttering, for inspiration.]

Current reads: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (awesome!♥) and America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis (informative but debatably longer than needed–glad I am reading it but eager to knock out these last couple chapters).

Sidenote: I’ve been utilizing the cleaning time to listen to new (to me) music. Lecrae has so many good albums. GAWVI’s new album HEATHEN dropped last week, and it’s got several bangers. Fun fact: “Fight For Me” by GAWVI feat. Lecrae is the first Christian rap song I downloaded about two years ago. And the rest (my love for Christian rap) is history. 😉

Anways, it’s ironic because I discussed my aversion to cleaning and organizing in my recent post on procrastination. But, alas, dynamics in the world and in my brain have shifted. Now that I’m cooped up in the house almost 24/7, tidying up helps time pass quickly and leaves me feeling accomplished, which makes my life seem purposeful despite being on “pause.” In the same vein, jumping into tidying up enables me to banish feelings of sluggishness. [Who knew dealing with the inch-thick layer of dust on literally everything would be so gross and annoying?! Remind me to get off my butt and do this more often…]

Another thing that helps with sluggishness is exercise, so I am keeping a consistent schedule (1x/week at home, 2x/week with trainer). I’m blessed that I can still exercise with my trainer in his apartment, so that is all I leave the house to do. Funny enough, I think these quarantine workouts are harder; we have no machines, so we just do all the tough body-weight stuff that gets my heart pumping like squats and push-ups. He also lives on the second floor, and part of my “warm-up” is walking up the stairs. Oy vey!

Yesterday, I discussed how privileged Americans are with my fiancee, who works at a grocery store. He only visits a couple times a week right now because my heart condition makes me vulnerable. We notice so many people on social media complain about how bored they are and how much they want this to end. This is certainly not ideal, but we can still leave the house for essential items, we have all this technology to entertain us, etc. We agreed that it’s tragically ironic how we Americans have SO MUCH, yet all we focus on is WHAT WE DON’T HAVE. [Not gonna lie–I low-key teared up because I was impressed by this humble wisdom coming from someone who serves on “the front lines” right now.] LORD, FORGIVE OUR UNGRATEFUL HEARTS! [Please, give yourself permission to feel frustrated/lonely/disappointed/sad about the circumstances, but don’t dwell in that mindset.]

Thanks for reading! What have you been up to during this time? Let me know in the comments.

As much as I want this all to end, I am trying to learn any lessons I can in this time, whether it’s just how blessed we are to have our usual conveniences, how to be hopeful and trust God in an uncertain season, how much we NEED community, how should technology intersect with mission and ministry now and in the future, etc. Between Good Friday and Easter, I read an analogy between this unsure time and the uncertainty the disciples must’ve felt on that day between Jesus’s death and resurrection…poignant!

Exploring Why We Procrastinate & How to Avoid the “Procrastination Pattern”

Procrastination–it’s a plague we all struggle with sometimes. Why DO we do it, and how can we stop? Hmm…age-old questions!

If you search “Why do we procrastinate?”, you’ll find no shortage of articles and videos proffering an answer or several answers. So here I am, adding my little scream into the vast echo chamber. 😉

Reasons to Procrastinate

Some of the answers, according to these search results, are “temporal proximity” (is it a work assignment due tomorrow vs. one that’s due in two months?), “lying to oneself” (ex: “I’m more creative under pressure”), “absence of structure” (ex: having the freedom to pull out a cell phone and peruse social media at any time at some jobs), “shifting blame” (ex: “I would do X, but I need my coworker to do Y”), etc.

Here’s another common answer I relate to in my own behavioral patterns: we procrastinate because of how our brain weighs risk or labor against reward. If we subconsciously believe the reward isn’t worth the risk or labor, we procrastinate. When I put off cleaning out a junk drawer, my brain has decided the benefit of a clean drawer isn’t worth the work of organizing/disposing of/putting away all the contents of the drawer. On the other hand, I don’t put off brushing my teeth in the morning because my brain determines the reward of having a clean, non-morning-breath mouth is worth the physical effort of completing the task.

Reflecting on the Reasons

Bearing the root cause of procrastination in mind, I’ve begun to reflect on some penetrative questions when I find myself doing so–

  • Why exactly am I procrastinating on this? I.e. do I expect it to take a long time, be super tedious, be intellectually challenging, etc.?
  • Considering the answer to the above question, should I get over it and just do it (i.e. quit being lazy) or can I do something to make the task less intimidating?

If I can find ways to make the task less intimidating, my brain may not fight as hard against completing it. I’ve been applying this logic to cleaning. When I spend 30 mins-1 hr straightening up part of my home each day, I spend more time cleaning throughout the week; if I make grand plans to clean and organize multiple areas in one pass, I procrastinate day after day. I don’t dread tasks when they seem less burdensome.

[Sidenote: it’s crazy how emotions play into the risk & labor vs. reward dynamic in our minds. When I get in those random moods where I have that cleaning/organizing itch (does that happen to y’all, too?) my brain suddenly weighs the reward much higher…then, I want to do all those things I usually put off!]

Avoiding the Procrastination Pattern

Funny enough, I’ve noticed procrastination leads to more procrastination. This is why 90% of people cannot maintain a regular exercise regime throughout their lives [I made up the statistic, but I bet it’s close to accurate]. Maybe you’re in a great routine of going to the gym for a few weeks. But then, you got busy and had to miss a day. Then, something came up a few days later, so you had to miss again. As they say, the rest is history; fast-forward six months, and you haven’t worked out in four.

This can be a dangerous pitfall for writers like myself–and, really, anyone with a hobby/passion. When we start skipping writing time and let it inch down, down, down the priority list, the same thing happens as with the gym scenario. Six months later, you’ve let the writing muscle atrophy, and a blinking cursor haunts your dreams. This is why I need to blog. I never want to unthinkingly go months without “picking up the pen.”

The “procrastination pattern,” though not irreversible, can still be dangerous. It’s “dangerous” because it can scare us away from a task for a long time or even forever, which is unfortunate when it’s a natural talent or something good for you. Here’s what I think happens–

You put off a task because your brain sees the risk/labor as not being worth the reward. The more you put it off and/or the longer it’s been since you’ve done it, your brain will see the risk/labor of that task as even higher. Thus, the longer/more you procrastinate on a task, the more your brain urges you to procrastinate on it.

If I went to the gym last week, I face a much smaller psychological hurdle with going back than the person who hasn’t set foot through the door since Lord-knows-when. If I’m in a semi-regular writing routine, I’m far less intimidated by a blank page than the person who’s let their passion fall through the cracks of life.

Conclusion

The good news is, once we understand these things, we are empowered to do something about them. If we’re procrastinating on tasks, we can reflect on why and try to mitigate the reasons. Knowing about the procrastination pattern, we can be more diligent to NOT fall in that trap. And if we have fallen in that trap, we might just need to *mentally* give ourselves a swift kick in the pants, defy our brains, and climb back on the horse.

Thanks for reading! Since I’m practicing “social distancing” right now, I’ve had more time for cleaning and organizing…making procrastination less justifiable, haha. What do you tend to put off? Let me know in the comments.

Coronavirus Came in Like a Wrecking Ball

Ugh, hey friends. Has anyone else’s life been turned upside down by this pandemic and the resulting panic?

I spent the first half of the week hauling SASS to finish up the next newsletter for my district of United Methodist Women. Then, on Wednesday, Coronavirus was officially deemed an epidemic. We had a mission study on radical discipleship in the gospel of Mark planned for this coming Saturday and an event the first week of April memorializing UMW ladies who passed away last year–both of which we decided to cancel. Most of our ladies fall in the most vulnerable group who can contract the virus (those who are age 60+ and/or have underlying health conditions). Though I’m just 26-years-old, I have cardiomyopathy due to Friedreich’s Ataxia.

Postponing these cherished events indefinitely feels so defeating. I hope and pray we have a better grasp on this soon. I can’t begin to wrap my mind around our having to cancel even more events in our district, not to mention the big-time events for our whole conference.

I’ve felt annoyed towards God this week. I spent so much time and mental energy completing the newsletter, and now, we’re hitting “pause.” Some of the things I laid out so meticulously might turn out to be irrelevant. Every day this week has been stressful or disheartening. I’ve also fallen a few times, and my gym has been closed for renovation; due to my rapidly-progressive disease, my not walking for a while could have terrible consequences. [I’ve exercised at home, but there are many things–like walking–I can only do with my trainer in the gym.] When I thought things couldn’t get worse, someone close to me confided that they’re constantly exhausted and borderline depressed. Yay, more good news–not!

Having had a little time to process the event postponements, and especially after pouring out my thoughts (complaints) in this space, I realize that I’m just being dramatic. To be fair, I think we all are at times…especially if we live in a first-world country. None of what I’m dealing with even remotely qualifies as the end of the world. It is what it is. Qué sera, sera. Choose gratitude. Rather than being angry with God, I need to dwell in the hope and peace He offers in the good seasons and the bad, too.

FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: I worked out with my trainer in a different gym yesterday. Walking around and feeling the blood flow through my legs was awesome and much-needed! Also, I’ve been so busy this week I didn’t have time for (prioritize) a full devotional time the last 3-4 days. A devotional time looks different for everyone (hey, look–a blog post idea!), but for me, the not-rushed-version takes about an hour–about 30 minutes praying, about 30 minutes reading scripture. I feel 10x lighter right now. The old hymn is true…

When you feel a little prayer wheel turning
And you know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right
(It makes it riiiight)

Thanks for reading, y’all. Maybe I’ll have the wherewithal to turn out a more polished post next Friday; this week has just been too chaotic and weird for me. So, are you taking precautions? Is your corner of the world infected yet? Does anyone else remember that hymn? Let me know in the comments.