Wednesday, December 7, 2016

On getting snubbed…

A few days ago, I got snubbed. I was ignored, dismissed, and left to feel small. The cold shoulder in pure form.

I was talking to my friend ‘Jan.’ As we were chatting ‘Constance’ started to walk towards us. I don’t know Constance well, but we’ve seen each other around. Constance walks up to our conversation, and then BAM – Constance snubs me. She starts chatting with Jan, completely ignoring me. I tried to enter back in on their conversation only to have Constance slightly turn her back towards me. #coldshoulder
I get it buddy - it sucks.
What the shit, right? A snubbing from a grown ass woman! Who does that?

The next day I found myself obsessing over the encounter. Why would she snub me? I’m not mean, I’m not cruel. I’ve never done anything to her, have I?

Why would Constance do this? I bet she needs to think she’s better than everyone else because she feels small. I bet her husband is a jerk to her so she takes it out on other women. I probably intimidate her with my Honda Civic and stats talk, because that is SO intimidating.

I called my best friend and told her about the snubbing. I just needed to hear someone be like, “Do you need me to slap this chick – I’ll do it!”

Then, I started comparing myself to Constance. Of course, I won in every comparison. I’m smarter than Constance. I’m prettier. I have a better job, a nice house, and a better husband. Who does Constance think she is to treat me like that?

But after way too much thought, all of my thoughts boiled down to two questions.

1) How could one simple action result in me feeling so small?

I drifted back to second grade, which is the first time I lost a friend.

Jenny and I were best friends. One day Jenny and I were playing on the playground. Then, the new girl Tony wanted to play with us. I was excited for a new friend. Within days, Jenny stopped playing with me and became best friends with Tony.

Tony never liked me. I remember crying to my mother about losing a friend. I remember feeling small and unimportant. Why didn’t Jenny like me anymore? What the heck Tony?

I had forgotten about that moment for decades because – I mean – I was seven years old. But with a simple turn of the shoulder, Constance brought me back to second grade.

In second grade I learned that some people just won’t like you. I learned that some people do not want to be your friend. I learned what it is to lose a friend over pettiness.

The situation left me feeling inferior because deep down I have an insecurity that people will not like me as I am. I think a lot of people are terrified of that, which brings me to the second question…

2) What gives another woman value?

I’ve spent the last few days wondering about what gives someone value. Change is constant. If I set my value in changing things they are likely to be lost in a moment.

I have a good job. What happens if I lose that job? Do I still have value?

So I have a good husband. What happens if my husband dies (Del, you're not allowed to die - FYI)? Am I no longer valuable?

I’m pretty. Beauty is not eternal. Do I still have value if I’m no longer pretty?

When I think of why I’m valuable, it comes down to one thing: I am valuable because I am child of God. I am His, so I am worthy. That is constant. That is true.

Furthermore, when that is my standard it makes me think of Constance differently.

I am a child of God, and so is Constance. She cannot be better than me, and vice versa. God loves us the same. And if He loves us the same, I am called to love Constance.

I can see why Constance is loved. She is good with people (other than me, apparently). She has wonderful taste in clothing. She seems to have an abundance of friends.

So I’m taking my best friend’s advice, “You have to kill her with kindness. It’s a long-term plan, but in the end it’s the only thing that works.” She went onto say, "And the kinder you are, the more it highlights what she is doing."

I don’t need to snub Constance or cut her down (although I’ve toiled with the thought). Because deep down, I’m guessing that she is like all of us; just a bundle of weird childhood insecurities we need to overcome.

However, I don’t need Constance’s approval or even her friendship. I’m not seven anymore. I like who I am. I love myself, because God loved me first.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

On how to survive the holidays with a food restriction…

So, you have celiac disease. Welcome to the club. Or a nut allergy? Glad you’re here. Allergic to eggs? Fish? Wheat or soy? Well, I bet you fear the holidays as much as I do.

My name is Stephanie, and last year I was diagnosed with celiac disease. On top of that – I’m allergic to nearly every damn food on this green earth.

I was diagnosed October of 2015. The harsh reality of my food restriction didn’t hit me until I was eating Christmas dinner with my in-laws. While my in-laws were dishing up their food, I came to the harsh realization that I would never be able to enjoy another holiday the same way again.

When you don’t have any food restrictions, all you have to do for most holidays (or parties, or meals, or anything) is just show up. But when you might vomit/have diarrhea/go into shock from consuming the smallest quantity of some food item – you start viewing eating food with a group of people a little differently.

Last year, my holidays were sad because I didn’t know what to do. One year later, I’ve learned. I wanted to share what I’ve learned and recommend how you can prepare for the upcoming holiday feasts/potential reactions season. If you read this and have more tips/recommendations please leave them in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!

1) If this is your first holiday with a restriction – it’s ok to cry... for a minute.

My ham brought me to tears. It brought me to tears because in a house full of food, it was the only thing I could eat. If you find yourself in a similar situation, it’s ok to cry for a few minutes. But then (and sorry to be so harsh here) you have to pick your ass up and get over it. No amount of crying is going to feed you. So feel sad, and then go find yourself some amazing food that you can scarf down. Wine is one of my go-to consumables.

2) When you come to someone else’s house – don’t expect to be able to eat anything.

Last year I somehow thought I could just eat the stuff that didn’t contain gluten. But then, I saw my GF cookies nuzzling the gluten-filled cookies. I thought I could just eat the turkey, but then I saw someone graze a plate of turkey with the stuffing spoon. Within seconds all of my plans were destroyed. The worst part was, I didn’t come with a plan B. Honestly – what is fair for me to expect? There are 20+ people at this event. It is unfair and unreasonable for me to think everyone should shift their plans for me. It is my responsibility to make sure my food is safe. I think this has been one of the most difficult things for me to overcome, but it's gotten better.

3) Bring your own food.

I went to a Thanksgiving party a few days ago with my close friends, and I brought all of my own food. Everyone at the party knows my limitations, so they weren’t freaked out when I was munching on my own numnums while they were scarfing down the food I couldn’t eat. When you can – just bring your own goodies. Cheese and crackers are relatively potable, so are Lara bars. And I mentioned wine, right?

4) Eat ahead of time.

Realistically, you can’t always bring your own food. You’ll either look like a cheapskate or seem crazy. When you can’t bring in your own food, eat ahead of time. And if you don’t want to feel bitter about watching strangers eat the food you can’t enjoy – eat something AMAZING. That way, you won’t feel sad about Timmy eating bonbons because you’ll have had some GF pizza, or nut-free donuts, or whatever.

5) If you can, cook at your own house.

By the grace of God, we are hosting Thanksgiving this year. I won’t have to bring all of my own food. I won’t have to starve. And the best part – I won’t have to worry about when I’ll get sick from cross contamination.

6) If you’re cooking for someone with an allergy – ask them about their preferences.

I trust about three people to cook for me; one is a chef and the other two are super GF. It isn’t personal, it’s just that I can’t afford to get sick. If you want to provide food for someone with an allergy, just shoot them a message and ask them their preferences. And if they say “Don’t do anything,” please don’t be offended.

Happy and safe holidays everyone.
Captain Jack knows what's up.

Friday, November 11, 2016

On what I've learned from my friends...

Last week I was talking to someone about the election. Yeah – my mistake.

Half way through the conversation the person said, “I don’t know how anyone could vote for candidate ________________.” The person then went on to say, “Any people I know that support ___________________, I am no longer friends with. I got rid of those people.

We are all entitled to form with relationships with any people we please. But the idea of quickly throwing someone away over a political disagreement makes me feel sad.

So I wanted to shift the conversation away from differences, and focus on something positive: what the amazing people in my life have taught me. I thought of all of the incredible people I’ve had the privilege of meeting, and then I thought about what I learned from our friendship. To the people in my life – I love you. Thanks for helping me become a better person.

Without further ado, here are the lessons I’ve learned from my friends. 

Alex Cash – Think about everything. Question everything. Remain open-minded.
Alexa Zimmerman – By the time she is age five, your niece can easily become a better person than you may be.
Amy Gafjken – While it’s tempting to correct people when they’re wrong, sometimes it’s better to remain silent.
Ashley Woods – Life is full of so much joy, so grab all of that each moment you can.
Barry Schmidt – Read the news, watch the news, and listen to the news. Just be informed.
Ben Klomsten – Don’t break the rules, find ways to make them bend.
Ben Vance – When the chips are down for a friend, be the person that calls to pick that person up.
Brian Goins – The most talented people need not brag, because their confidence comes from what they can do.
Brandy DeLeo – Be kind as long as you can. If being kind doesn't work – just shrug it off.
Bri Campo – Great friends are sacrificial.
Bri Fox – Advocate for yourself. Speak up for your needs. And never be scared to ask a good friend for help.
Cassi Hodgson – Any moment can become a silly moment.
Chris Cooper – You don’t have to put up with a shitty spouse. A good person will treat you well.
Courtney Kruse – Don’t rush through life. Take moments to do fun and silly things.
Danielle Dobies – Share your challenges with people – it helps them understand that life can be difficult.
Dan Kruse – Some people were born to give clear, concise directions.
Darrin Matthew Voris – Be the person that brings people together.
Del Belcher IV – Be kind to people. Try new things. Spend money on things you love.
Drew VanTongeren – Find ways to turn negative conversation into something productive.
Frances Gibbs – Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never done before.
Gary Miles – Energetic children are a thing of joy, and their adventures should be shared on Facebook.
Gloria Klomsten – It doesn’t take anything away from yourself to compliment a stranger.
Guy McHendry – You really can have amazing discourse on Facebook, if the person leading knows what they’re doing.
Haley Mulroney – The first person you love more than yourself will likely be your niece.
Heidi Rhodes – The greatest joy in life comes from being with your friends.
Jack Campo – When you’re at work, give people your best. Help them. Serve them.
Jason Zimmerman – When giving people gifts, go all out.
Jessica Pierce – Children are amazing, and we need to do everything we can to understand them.
Jill Shaffer (I could probably devote a few blogs to how much I learned from Jill) – Before you speak, take a deep breath and think about what you’re going to say.
John Voelz – Be yourself. Always.
Jolene Schatzinger – You really can be kind to everyone.
Julia Belcher – Speak with everyone. Listen to them.
Justen Rhodes – Don’t just talk about helping people. Actually help people.
Karysa Trombley – Be boldly confident in the person that God made you to be.
Kelly Heath – You can be a busy and active mother, and raise outstanding children.
Mary Sterrett – Arrogance doesn’t look good on people. You can simply exist as an amazing person.
Mandy Stutenberg – Women can do anything and everything. And they can do it with unparalleled strength and grace.
Megin Worsham – Just because someone is quiet, doesn’t mean they aren’t the wisest person in the room.
Melissa Rickert – People are attracted to the person that gives them a kind smile.
Nancy Belcher – Diplomacy is learned over time, through interactions with people different than yourself.
Nicholas Quade – You don’t have to agree about everything (or even anything) in order to be friends with someone.
Paul Health – Be kind to your children, and make sure they always help the Sunday school teacher pick up a mess.
Renee Guerrero – Be passionate about what you believe in.
Robert Huschka – A good leader is willing to listen to anyone in the room.
Ryan Rammelt – The average person has more depth than you’ll ever know.
Shane Ebel – There is no problem too great than cannot be improved with one solid hug.
Stephanie Klomsten – A well planned party is a thing of beauty.
Stephanie Wright – Advocate for people that need help.
Steve Klomsten – Try to understand people. Seriously try.
Steve Trosin – Love your community, and try to make it better.
Terri McGarry – When people are talking to you – stop what you’re doing and listen.
Theresa Sieg – When cancer gets you down, tell cancer to go fuck itself.
Tim Maynard – Never doubt the power of well-placed sarcasm.

How about you? Who are the people you've learned from in your life? How have they helped you become a better person?

Image result for friendship lesson

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Can you please stop saying I'm not a Christian...

In the last several months, I’ve heard my brothers and sisters from every side call into question the faith of other Christian brothers and sisters. From every corner of the internet and in public spaces, I’ve heard people question how anyone can call themselves a Christian and…
  •          Vote Trump
  •          Vote for Hilary
  •          Oppose Trump
  •          Oppose Hilary
  •          Be pro-choice
  •          Be anti-abortion
  •          Support Syrian refugees
  •          Not help Syrian refugees
  •          Be a liberal
  •          Be conservative
  •          Support smaller government
  •          Support larger government
The list is endless. There seems to be some person stating they know the “truth” on every corner of the internet. If you want to back up your own point of view, you’re just a google search away. I’m pretty certain I could find some crazy dude with stats on why being racist is a Christian thing to do.

But that isn’t my point.

People enjoy fun ideas. They like hearing about concepts and dreams. But if you want to start a fight, try to hammer out details in a room full of people. The devil lives in the details.

There is one simple truth that spans across Christianity:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Everything else is a detail.

Wine at communion? A detail.
Drums in church! A detail.
Women in leadership. A detail.
International aid versus local? A detail.

Please don’t misunderstand me, details are important. I spend my live digging through details.
But in this – in this fight – what are we really fighting against?

Are we fighting to spread the word of God across all nations? Are we fighting to show people that Jesus has died for them? Or are we just fighting?

I like debates, and I like heavy discussion. But it seems to me like most of these fights aren’t over God’s truth, they’re over whatever we believe personally – with a Wikipedia page to back it up.

The real fight is not against each other, it is against the devil and evil and darkness. And right now, the devil is kicking our asses because we’re so busy fighting over the details. And the details, is where that poop stain likes to live.

For a while, can we stop fighting over these things?

For a while, can we stop calling into question the faith of our brothers and sisters? What purpose is that serving?

Can we take a step back from the details, and look at this big picture. The big picture where Christ died for all so we could be redeemed. The big picture where we are forgiven, if we too forgive. The big picture where we are all children of God, even if we disagree about the details.

Friday, October 28, 2016

On how to help a friend going through a divorce...

The divorce rate has been declining for the last couple decades, and the “50% of marriages end in divorce” stat hasn’t been true for a while (1, 2). Depending on how you calculate it (and the calculations have a TON of differences), closer to 40% of marriages end in divorce (3). The notion that Christians who attend church regularly get divorced at substantially lower rates is a convenient myth (sorry, but it is)(4). Although divorce rates are declining - it remains true that - whether you’re a Christian, a member of another faith, an agnostic or an atheist – you’ll likely know someone who goes through a divorce.

I'm divorced. And my current husband also went through a divorce. Prior to that, I believed I had to succeed at everything in order to be loved. Going through divorce helped me learn an important lesson: that grace exists beyond my failing (Romans 3:20-24). 

Every situation is different, but I wanted to write about divorce. Specifically, since we will also know someone who goes through a divorce, I wanted to write about how you can help a friend who is going through a divorce. 

1)      Don’t pick sides.

Marriage is complex, and messy, and tough. There aren’t two sides to a marriage; there are like… a gazillion. While it’s easy and convenient to think, “It’s his fault because he did X” or “It’s her fault because she did Y” – that is overly simplistic. People get divorced because they’re people, and imperfect. Don’t pick a side, it just makes one person feel like crap and the other person feel justified. And the truth is, no one will ever understand what happens in another marriage. So just listen. Just be kind.

2)      Try to keep in touch.

I have such good friends. When I was going through a divorce they let me call or text as often as I needed. My friends were my life line. They listened to me and loved me when I needed it. If you have a friend going through a divorce, try to keep in touch with him/her. If you don’t want to be overbearing send a text that says, “I love you friend." 

3)      Don’t say, “I’ll pray you’ll get back together.”

People mean well when they say this. They are holding out hope that a friend won’t have to go through the pain of a divorce. But when you’re going through a divorce and someone says this line, what you likely hear is, “You’re wrong for doing this.” It feels like a slap in the face, because you likely already feel like crap for getting divorced. It is also undermining. It assumes that the person getting divorced hasn’t been trying for years to fix their marriage. A better thing to say is, “How can I help you?”

4)      Gossip is the worst.

When I was going through a divorce, I remember feeling like people were talking about me wherever I went. Although I was being slightly paranoid, I’d never felt that terrible feeling before. And despite never asking for gossip reports, things that were said always seemed to come back to me. If you know someone that is getting divorced and you need to talk to a friend about it, do it in private – and try not to be a jerk about it. Gossip has a way of coming back around.

5)      Remember – you could be next.

My least favorite pictures on Facebook are the ones like the below. Divorce isn’t Santa Claus or the tooth fairy – it exists. And unlike Santa, who "supposedly" comes around on the same night each year, divorce isn’t always expected. Today, I’m remarried to a wonderful guy who also went through a divorce. My husband Del and I have had the conversation, “We never thought we would have gotten divorced.” You never know what will happen next in life, or what weird twists and turns may come your way. With kindness I say – before you pass judgment upon someone for getting divorced, remember that it could be something you go through (although I hope it isn’t). And if you ever have to go through it, I hope you’re surrounded by kindness and grace, instead of judgment.
You "don't believe"?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

On all these politics…

I actually like politics. Nay – love it.

In college, I was on student senate all four years. My senior year I was President.

So I LOVE debates, but although I love them – I’ve been struggling recently.

On the Myers Briggs I’m an INTJ. INTJ’s are exceptionally rare, and are most scarce among women. My most extreme trait – is thinking. My colleagues and my friends took the MBTI, and among all of them I scored the lowest percentage for ‘feeling.’ So if you want a cold, calculating, rational, objective person – I’m your gal.

Image result for intj meme

On a practical level, this means that the majority of my decisions are based on thoughts and evidence, and not how I feel (although, it’s totally arguable that I just rationalize my feelings). Please note here that I’m NOT saying my way of thinking is superior to others; it isn’t. There are many valid ways to come to a decision. And this isn’t to say I never make decisions based on feelings. Two months ago I bought an inflatable donut because I just liked it; I try to allow myself 6 feelings-based decisions a year (let’s not get too crazy).

In regards to politics, this means that I’m fully capable of having a best friend that I totally disagree with on politics. And in reality – I do. One of my best friends – politically - is the complete opposite of me. I say tomato, she says tomato. But what we have in common is the fact that we enjoy debate, and can put feelings aside to engage in a thoughtful argument. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

The thing is, most people are not capable of putting their feelings aside.  

And honestly – I can’t always do it. And I am scientifically the most rational person I know.

For the last few months, how people respond to politicians has seemed like a weird, hazy blur of irrationality to me.

I see what someone posts on Facebook, and all I can see is lines of hypocrisy.

Sally said: “This is just SO MEAN.”
Followed by…
Sally commented that: “These people are FUCKING IDIOTS.”


Jim said: “Hillary Clinton is SUCH a liar.”
Followed by…
Jim said: “Trump’s honesty will lead us to greatness.” (ahem... wha?...)

I’m not telling you how to vote here, because science has proven you wouldn’t listen to me anyways.

I am, however, tired of the hypocrisy. And the person I’m most tired of hearing it from – is myself.

I’m calling out Sally and Jim, but I’d be lying if I said I’d never written a scathing post or comment.

I say I’m rational. I say I’m evidence based. But when I think of why I dislike a candidate, its mostly based on a deep feeling. A deep feeling that they are X, and Y, and Z. And I don’t know what to do with that?

I want to trust these feelings. But I’ve seen how feelings play out on Facebook and in business, and usually…. It doesn’t end well. Yet here I sit – feeling pissed off.

Pissed off at the hypocrisy. Angry at people who aren’t doing what they said they would. And angry that the root of it all is a feeling, and not a thought derived from evidence. I mean - why do we even HAVE science?

Image result for you're a hypocrite meme
And I'm one of them.
And at this point, I always come to the same question: “What would Jesus want from me?”

Would he want me to write a comment tearing a brother or sister apart? Probably not.

Would he want me to tie a Bible verse to a political position? Unlikely (although I’d be REALLY good at it).

Would Jesus vote for Hilary, or Trump, or Jill, or Gary? That is impossible to be known.

I don’t have every answer (who does?). But I think what Jesus would want, is for me to love my brothers and sisters. He would want me to listen to them, and share my views – as kindly as I can. He would want me to forgive errors I see and to look hard within myself to understand my own failings. 

And I think – he’d want me to try to feel as much love for my brothers and sisters – especially those I disagree with – as he would have for me.

Because at the end of the day, worshipping a false idol is just wrong (Exodus 20:3).
And at the end of the day, we’re called to love each other (1 Peter 4:8).
And at the end of the day, Jesus is The King (Revelation 17:14).

I think and I feel that is true.

Image result for christ is king
So let's just CTFO!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What is power…

From a sociological perspective, I hate how much I can’t really show you what power is.

Thanks to James Watt, physics has a cool definition with some sweet formuli.

But when I look to social or political science, the definition is so ambiguous.

The ability of an individual or group to achieve their own goals or aims when others are trying to prevent them from realising them.

How the hell do I measure that?

I’d have to ask everyone their goal. Then I’d have to ask them at a later point in time whether they achieved that goal. And if they didn’t, I’d have to figure out the why of it all. But is that too micro? How do I measure structural influences?

But what’s the goal? Is it as simple as whether you’re able to get your work done at your job, or not posting something you want to say on Facebook out of fear? Or is it bigger? Like missing out on higher education, or being able to get that big job?

Likely, it’s all of those things. It’s big and it’s small.

When I think of power, the only semi-relevant quote that comes to mind is from the Jackson native justice Potter Stewart when he talked about porn.

“I shall not attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…”

I know power plays when I see them. I see them play out and I feel them deep inside my body. And they are larger forces playing out in small moments.

They are those moments when another person says or does something to make me feel small. 

And how old are you? I only hear that phrase used when someone wants me to know they’re older than me. Age being used to establish dominance.

They are those quips and phrases meant to keep me in my place. When someone says a woman is a “bitch” because she disagrees – that is power meant to keep a person down. What if I just want to disagree?

“I have the same ________ as a woman!” What? Do you realize what you’re saying here? You’re saying your job, or talent, or body part, or whatever is bad because a woman might have it. What is that saying about women?

Bible passages thrown on Facebook stories. I HATE this. People use The Word to beat people up.

Number of degrees. Number of articles read on a topic. Number of years worked at a job. Well some of these are helpful for understanding background and establishing credibility, I usually hear them used as a way to establish dominance. “Well I have a Ph.D. in X, so whatever your critique may be….”

But they are also more than words. They are body language. My old boss use to sit on my desk with his crotch facing me. He was using his body to make me feel, well, just icky.

But they are also larger than that. They are laws that seek to restrict my personal freedom. They are corporations and lobbyist groups that use their power to limit what people can do.

Science has proven that school integration is the best way to reduce test gap scores. But do we integrate? No, because there is power there. But what does that even mean?

Ask my husband how I experience the world, and you’ll likely get stunned silence. “She is overwhelmed a lot,” he will likely say.

I can’t shop at Meijer without having a panic attack. I have a hard time attending concerts, or theme parks, or stores, or meetings, or anything. Just being still is impossible.

I go into a room, and everything is there. I see every color on every wall. I hear every sound. I remember what people say, and feel what they feel, and notice what they imply. And I feel overwhelmed all of the time. So to subsist, I default to thinking over feeling and spending a lot of time alone.

And when I’m alone, I reflect back on my interactions throughout the day.

And in those interactions I see a complex world full of people. And some of those people are struggling to establish their power over other people. And for those people, my heart sinks.

Because the need to establish power doesn’t come from confidence or skills or ability, it comes from inferiority. A deep insecurity where you feel like you aren’t listened to or just aren’t good enough. Real individual power comes from knowing within yourself that you are good enough, because you simply are.

And it has to come from that, because the reality is that the world is stratified. And no matter how much we love ourselves, external forces exist to try to limit our choices. They’re big, and they’re small. And some have bad hair, and some don’t know how servers work. But they are real.

But because it’s so damn hard to define them, it’s hard to see them. And when it’s hard to see them, it’s hard to stop them. And that’s probably what they all really want. Because you can’t stop what you can’t see.