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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Know Their Story

“Friends, we have to know their story.”

“Their story impacts the way they learn.”

“Their story impacts their behavior.”

Three words can define the two years I spent working under a principal who cared deeply about the kids in her school: “Know their story.”

Whenever we had an issue with a student, we were reminded that what happened to them before they got to us mattered. What happened in their homes mattered. And not only did it matter, it influenced their performance and behavior in our classrooms.

At least once during every faculty meeting, we were reminded to take our students’ stories into account when dealing with behavior or learning difficulties.

There were some horrible stories in my classrooms. One of my students had been through more in their sweet seven year old life than I can ever expect to endure in my privileged, sheltered world. There were other stories that would break your heart if you thought about them long enough. But to know the children and teach them appropriately, I had to know their stories. Even if knowing was painful or uncomfortable.

That year, knowing stories taught me why I needed to comfort the little one who stole granola bars, because he knew what real hunger was. Or why the children in foster care needed a few more hugs, and an occasional kiss on the top of the head. I needed to know whose parents were deployed, so I could identify the kids who would be extra sad until the family adjusted to their new normal.

When I look at children, especially ones with behavior I don’t necessarily enjoy, I recognize the importance of knowing a person’s story. Because children don’t know any better, and most of the time they have no idea that what happens at home has an impact at school.

But today, I realized I could take that knowledge and apply it to my friends. And my not-so-friends.

This morning, while discussing relationships with my small group at church, I was gently reminded of the idea that knowing someone’s story might help us understand people we don’t necessarily get along with. That, by knowing a little more background, we might be able to identify with someone in a new way—or at least get a better understanding of the way someone ticks.

When we know someone’s story, our hearts change: Someone who rubs us the wrong way becomes a person who is wounded and in need of a little grace. Someone who fails to parent correctly becomes a person who is trying to avoid repeating the mistakes of the people who raised them. Someone who is quick to put others down is most critical of themselves.

Knowing their story makes even the most intimidating person approachable.

So, how do we go about knowing the stories of others?

I think the best way is to share our own story. Everyone has a little bit of ugly that has influenced their lives. Eventually, God will present a time when He’ll use your ugly to help others. If you ask me, that’s one of the reasons he gives us some junk. It refines us, and it gives us a way to relate to other people. It makes us real. And once someone knows our story, they’ll be willing to share their story with us. When we’ve made this connection, we build healthy relationships and communities. The darkness we’ve kept inside is exposed, and we’re freed from the shame of that part of our story.

 (I like to think that when this happens—when we share our dark stuff with one another— Jesus does a touchdown dance in the end zone and yells “In yo FACE!” at Satan.) (Okay, I’m pretty sure Jesus hasn’t ever done that.)

“Know their story” sort of led me to a famous Bible lady (which is a technical term, by the way). We don’t know her name, but we call her The Woman at the Well.  This woman was a Samaritan, who by all accounts, Jesus shouldn’t have even acknowledged. Instead, He approached her and had a conversation with her. Before Jesus ever spoke to the woman, He knew her story. He knew all of her ugly. I believe knowing the woman’s story impacted the way he dealt with her, and the gentle way he pointed out her sin changed her heart.

When we take the time to consider someone’s story, we have the opportunity to relate to them, as well as encourage and offer advice (when it’s requested). We also show them a little bit of Jesus.

When we don’t rush to judgement, and listen instead, we show people Jesus.

When we hear someone’s truth and seek to empathize, we show people Jesus.

When we establish a story-based relationship with someone, and gently discuss their sin with them, we show them Jesus.

We’ll never do any of this perfectly. There will always be people who work our nerves, or seem to be difficult just for the sake of it. We have to understand that even they have a story. And their story matters just as much as those who make our lives a delight. 

It’s important to remember, that like The Woman at the Well, Jesus knows your story too. Whether your story is dark and sad, or rainbow-filled, Jesus sees it, knows it, and loves you just the same. Even if you don’t want to share your garbage with another person, you have a listening ear. You are never alone with the chapters you wish you could tear out and burn. Jesus is here, and He already knows.

Here’s a challenge: The next time someone says or does something hurtful to you, remember they have a story, too. Instead of retaliating or responding, extend grace, and pray for them instead. It’s hard to be angry with someone you’re praying for.  And remember—everyone has a story.

** How has someone sharing their story helped you share yours? I’d love to read all about it in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Share the Love: A "For The Love" Giveaway and Book Endorsement

Today is FINALLY the day!!!

It’s launch day for Jen Hatmaker’s new book For the Love:Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards!!!

I’ve blogged and posted a few times about being on the Launch Team for this book, and I just can’t tell you what a fabulous and beautiful experience I’ve had sharing life with people around the globe.  We have prayed over, cheered for, and cried with one another through births, deaths, health scares, and homelessness. The community in our Launch Team group is the kind of community Jen writes about in her book.

In April, as a Launcher, I got the opportunity to write an endorsement for For the Love.  Mine didn’t make it into the book, but I wanted to share it with you, and expand on it a little more.

So, here’s what I wrote:

First, I need to share something personal and a little frustrating with you. I became a Christian at the age of twenty-five, and was baptized when I was twenty-six. Three weeks after my baptism, we moved. The church home we chose at our next duty station was an amazing place, and it was full of young families like us. My struggle as a new Christian was finding an older “been there, done that” woman to mentor me and help me grow. There weren’t many older ladies, and I was too embarrassed to say “Hey, I’m new at this!”, so I simply went without a spiritual guide, and pretty much adopted the motto “Fake it til ya make it” for a lot of years.

In 2012, I read “interrupted” by Jen Hatmaker. For the first time a woman, with much more experience and knowledge than I had, was mentoring me with each turn of the page. And all she did was point me to Jesus. There was no “5 Things You Need to do to Be a Better Christian” sales pitch. It was simply “Read what Jesus said and did, do your best to live like Him, and love people.”   Now, Jen has said many more things in many more books, but the reason I love her so is because, no matter what, Jen always points to Jesus.

For the Love is a very different book than Interrupted, but its message is just as urgent and relevant in our lives:

“A worthy life involves loving as loved folks do, sharing the ridiculous mercy God spoiled us with first.”

The idea is that we should be so completely grateful for the mercy shown to us by God that it overflows into the way we treat others and ourselves. Our friends, coworkers, families, and even enemies are deserving of our mercy because we are so undeserving of His. Jen also believes in showing ourselves mercy—because so many of us are our own worst critic.

I could write so many more things here, but I want you to read the book instead! So, here’s what I’m going to do: 

Yes, you read that right! I’m giving you a copy!

Actually I’m giving you two. One for you, and one for a friend!!!!

Here are ways to enter the random drawing:

First: “Like” the Becky Yurisich- Author Facebook Page. (this is the only mandatory part!)

Next: “Like” this blog post on Facebook. (One Entry)

Then: Share the post on Facebook. (One entry)

 Last: Comment on this blog post in the box below.  (One entry)

For Bonus entries: Tag a friend you would like to share your extra copy with in the Facebook comments. (One entry for each person you tag!)

You can do one of these things, or all of them! Just make sure to “like” the Facebook page for your entries to count!

Entries will be accepted from 10:00 am EST on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 until 10:00 am EST on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. Any entries after the time expires will not count toward the drawing. 

Winners will be announced via the Becky Yurisich- Author Facebook page on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. 

*** Facebook is not affiliated with Becky Yurisich, and is not liable or responsible for this giveaway.***

Click the image to print!
Yay for free stuff!
Watercolor image was created by Angie Makes!

Friday, August 14, 2015

For The Love of Jen Hatmaker Quotes- Friday Five

Hello, Sweet Friends!

This week, I’m trying something new!

I’m participating in a link ups over at Mrs. Disciple and Empty Plate. Full Heart! Kelly and Andrea host these link ups every Friday, with their Friday Fives.

This week’s “Five” are quotes from Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For theLove.

There are TONS of thoughtful, poignant, funny, and wise quotes from the book, so I really had my work cut out for me in only choosing five.

So, without further ado, my Five Favorite Quotes from For the Love:

1.    “Be kind. Be you. Love Jesus.”

Click on the image to print! 

As a mom who’s raising future adults, this was especially meaningful. I want this for my children. If my kids couldn’t write their own name but loved Jesus and others, I would be just as proud as I am of their straight-A’s. I really, really would.

This has become something of a mantra for me, personally. It will probably be found on my actual body in tattoo form one day. 

2.    “Faithfulness is not easy, but it is simple. You are already able, already positioned, already valuable in your normal life on your normal street next to your normal neighbors in your normal work. The priesthood of the believers is real.”

I love this truth! We take Jesus wherever we go! Not every gesture must be grand—we can do small things to show God’s ridiculously lavish love to people we encounter on a daily basis.

These words opened my eyes to see that as Christ followers, our very lives are a ministry. Everyone who meets us, or reads our words on Facebook, Twitter, etc., meets Jesus too.

3.    “Let the young whippersnappers duke it out; you and your people are busy enjoying a bottle of wine on the deck.”

This year has been the year of extra chub, gray hair, and, well, just not feeling great about getting older. Jen’s perspective on aging was hilarious and full of wisdom.

The girls in their twenties can have their bikinis and low-calorie meals. I’ve reached Tankini Age, and all my business fits in my bathing suit, thankyouverymuch!

4.       “We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.”

It’s nice to be awesome, isn’t it?

But being awesome is really exhausting.

So, remembering to make wise choices regarding how I spend my time is really important.

Because you can’t be awesome if you’re face down on the floor in a puddle of drool.

Click on the image to print! 

5.    Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing.

Can we please lay the Balance Monster to rest?  PLEASE?!

Finding balance has nothing to do with how much you can do before you collapse, but instead figuring out what you can get rid of in order to keep yourself from being institutionalized.

So there they are—my Friday Five!

Don’t forget to preorder your own copy of For the Love here or here!  It’s also on shelves in some Barnes & Noble stores! 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Four Ways You're Nailing Motherhood

Being an adult is ridiculously hard.

I mean, one day, you’re in high school, smacking your gum and making out in cars, and the next, you’re thrown out into the world expected to pay bills and get out of your pajamas.

Most days, I’m cool with adulting, but others—well, I just. CANNOT. deal.

Now, let’s make things even more fun. You’ve sorta got this adult thing figured out, and you’re cruising for a bit. Then a little plus sign shows up on a pregnancy test and now you’re about to be “Mommy.” You’ve been living off Spaghettios and Cap N Crunch for the better part of ten years, and now you’re responsible for someone else. What in the actual world!?

You don't know the first thing about motherhood, so you buy some books, ask your own mom, and talk to some good friends. Their advice is either awesome or terrifying. 

Then your own baby is born, and things are off to a bumpy start. And sometimes, the middle part is bumpy, too. 

Motherhood is one of those things that everyone else seems to master, and you feel like the only one who’s getting it wrong.

Your friend’s kids wear matching sailor suits to play dates, and yours wear the Garanimals you got on clearance last season.

Your baby screams like a banshee from dusk ‘til dawn, and your sister’s precious angel has slept through the night since birth.

Your toddler yells and snatches toys, while her peers share quietly.

How is everyone else getting it right, while you’re failing so miserably?

First of all, you’re not failing! You’re comparing your weaknesses to someone else’s strengths, and that isn’t good for you or your kids. It places crazy expectations on you and on the munchkins you brought into this world. 

Focus on what you’re good at! Maybe you can’t turn your kids’ lunches into fantastic works of art, but I’ll bet you’re awesome at helping with homework. Your kids don’t really notice what you’re bad at, anyway. They just like to have a happy, funny, sometimes goofy mom.

If you’re still not convinced that you’re qualified to be Momming, here are a few more ways to gauge whether or not you’re on your game:

1.       The Children Are Fed and Safe.

A few days ago, we were in Barnes & Noble. Mak noticed an entire section of the store was dedicated to parenting.  I asked her if I needed to find something in that section, this was her reply:

“No, I think you’re okay. I mean, you’ve kept me alive for eleven years. Good job!” (Thumbs up added for emphasis.)

Count your children. Are they all present? Good.

Did you feed them today? Yes!

Congratulations, you’ve made it another day!

2.       You Are Alive.

An important part of being a mom is being alive.

Take a deep breath. Check your pulse. 

All good? Nice!

You’re on the right track!

3.       You Think You’re A Horrible Mother.

Every mom who thinks she’s doing terribly is actually a tremendous mother. It’s when we think we’re done growing and couldn’t be any more perfect that we need to start worrying.

Do we all have room for improvement? Yes. Do we need to kill ourselves by striving to be the best mom on the planet? No. (See #2)

4.       Your Kids Are Mostly Happy

Do your kids smile sometimes?

Laugh at all?

If so, then you’re probably even more successful than you thought!

If happy kids stem from happy moms, you are WINNING at this.

I say mostly happy here, because kids are also human beings, and they’re going to have occasional moments of dissatisfaction. Like when you refuse to watch the thirteenth episode of Peppa Pig in a row, or when you forbid any more rounds of indoor Frisbee.

(Disclaimer: If you have a moody teenager who never so much as smirks, you’re probably still doing just fine. Said teenager will most likely smile again when he reaches college.)

Sweet Mom, if you’re doing your best, your kids will see it! You’re feeding their bellies and their hearts each and every day. You are ROCKING this whole Mom Thing.

We all have moments of doubt, shame, and dread about parenting.  Showing up is 90% of the battle. Keep pressing on. Nobody could ever be a better Mom, Mommy, or Momma to your kids than you.

 Once you’ve tucked them all in tonight and thanked God for them, pour yourself a nice, refreshing drink and congratulate yourself on a job well done. 

I know you can’t see me, but I’m giving you a “thumbs up!