intentional living

Keep Learning From Mister Rogers, Your Soul Will Thank You

As soon as Fandango told me our town had a viewing, I absconded to the theater to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the new Mister Rogers documentary. It was a moving movie, and even though my husband and I bought our tickets late and had to sit in different rows, it was such an enjoyable theater experience. Stephen Thompson from NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour Podcast expressed that “the movie feels like you are getting warmly and softly hugged for an hour and a half,” and that’s the best description that could ever be said.

Why was it such a feel-good experience? It is rare for someone to tell you-you are liked. It’s even rarer to be told that you are liked just the way you are. Mister Rogers said it, sang it, believed it, and lived it. Mister Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister who attended seminary on his lunch hour over a period of eight years. He believed that God liked him just the way he was and he should, therefore, feel that way about every God-created person. He looked through the screen and openly invited the whole world to be his neighbor, and he believed that everyone who knew they were liked would in-turn like their neighbors also. The world could be a very different place, not because of just one sweater-clad friend, but it could be different because of God who is love, the Holy Spirit that Rogers relied on as translator of this Devine message, and us — his neighbors.

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As a little girl, Mister Rogers was my friend. He made me feel safe and heard. He told me things I still need to hear as an adult.

1. Express your feelings.

Mister Rogers frequently and intentionally included the message that we all have feelings and it is good to express those feelings in healthy ways. Last year, I became very discouraged in the ministry. My husband and I had been serving at a very missional church for twenty years, and we were both feeling burnout. We began seeing a therapist to help us work through our tough time, and one of the things he told me was that I was afraid of my feelings. He said to me, “It is like you view your feelings as a dark closet, and if you let one feeling affect you that you will be engulfed in the dark closet and you won’t be able to get out.” As an adult, I’ve had to relearn that lesson that we all have feelings, and I’ve had to allow myself to feel and express those feelings.

There’s no ‘should’ or should not’ when it comes to having feelings. They’re part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.
— Fred Rogers, Life According to Mister Rogers

2. Slow down.

One of the most countercultural pieces of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood was the pace of the show. His slow speech and slow movements were a subtle cue, as was his life-sized traffic light glowing yellow. The show had the ambiance of a Saturday spent at grandma’s house. He would often bring out simple props like paper, instruments, or cups and play with the props in an unstaged, unpracticed way, letting the paper accidentally tear where he didn’t intend or letting the cups fall across the table. He gave his neighbors the nudge to accept that it is good to slow down and try new things. When my husband and I experienced ministry burnout, we went to a week long ministry retreat that was intentionally slow paced and were reminded of the importance that rest has in the kingdom work. As an adult, I need slow. I need permission to try and fail. I need to let the cups fall sometimes and pick them back up again.

It seems to me, though that our world needs more time to wonder and to reflect about what is inside, and if we take time we can often go much deeper as far as our spiritual life is concerned than we can if there’s constant distraction.
— Fred Rogers, The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth

3. Be yourself.

Vulnerability became a mantra and catch-phrase to many after Brene´ Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability and shame when viral in 2010, but Mister Rogers was modeling vulnerability every day in his neighborhood in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. He sang his easily-poked-fun-of self-composed lyrics, wore his mom-made sweaters, and never tried to be someone he was not. Even when being interviewed on edgy late night talk shows, he spoke slowly and appeared to be the same guy who welcomed me with a song and a shoe-swap as a kid. One scene in the documentary we are shown footage of his neighborhood show where his shares his love of swimming with his neighbors. He is completely at home with himself, even when he is donning a speedo and swimming loops in the pool. We get the feeling that it never even crosses his mind to not be completely himself, and we are told that we made today special by just being ourselves.

The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.
— Fred Rogers, Life According to Mister Rogers

4. Invite everyone to be your neighbor.

The genius of Mister Rogers is that he was able to translate the second part of the Great Commandment into simple, secular terms and model loving your neighbor in a practical way. This command is a great struggle for everyone. Loving and liking others doesn’t come naturally, but doing this is essential to Christian life: seeking wholistic ministry, valuing and carrying out the Great Commission, having a healthy family life, confronting racial prejudice and bias, and seeing the image of God and the preciousness of life in each and every neighbor.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if God and neighbor are somehow One. ‘Loving God, Loving neighbor’ — the same thing? For me, coming to recognize that God loves every neighbor is the ultimate appreciation!
— Fred Rogers, Life According to Mister Rogers

5. Remember the invisible.

Posted above Mister Roger’s desk was a saying in French from The Little Prince. It said, ‘What is essential is invisible to the eyes.’ This quote is very much like what Paul penned in Second Corinthians 4:18, “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” We must always be focused on the unseen, realizing that these things are not just important — but essential.

Beside my chair is a saying in French. It inspires me every day. It’s a sentence from Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, and it reads, ‘What is essential is invisible to the eyes.’ The closer we get to know the truth of that sentence, the closer I feel we get to wisdom. That which has real value in life in any millennium is very simple. Very deep and very simple! It happens inside of us — in the ‘essential invisible’ part of us, and that is what allows everyone to be a potential neighbor.
— Fred Rogers, Life According to Mister Rogers

Can we see the world as our neighborhood? Can we see the good in others and like them just the way they are? Can we recognize our feelings and express them in beautiful ways? Can we remember to keep our eyes on the invisible, unseen Kingdom work? Can we slow down rest, play, and be vulnerable? I think we can. Mister Rogers showed us it could be done.

 

I still need all these lessons as much at forty-one as I did when I was four. 

 

I think the big question for our soul is this: Can we accept that we are liked by God just the way we are, not the way we’ve decided we need to be to fit in or to try to be liked? Can we accept that God likes the deep down person we are at the soul-level of our creation, with all our faults and feelings? I’m asking myself that question.

Why do I feel the need to question it?

I think I need to recapture the childlike faith that didn’t question Mister Rogers sitting on my living room carpet with my pigtails in front of our console television.

God likes me just the way I am. Can I say it, sing it, believe it, and live it? Can you?

           Photo by  Pawel Kadysz  on  Unsplash

          Photo by Pawel Kadysz on Unsplash

The Kindle version of this is on sale for $0.99!

Have you accomplished the goals you set for this year?

July 1st will start the second-half of 2018. The halfway mark of anything is always a good time to check-in. I've made you a worksheet that will help you do just that.

How did I come up with my 2018 goals?

I used Jennie Allen's Dream Guide to set 9 goals for 2018. In January, I evaluated my spiritual growth, relationships including marriage, kids, and friendships, health, personal growth, dreams, and work life. I also did a quick read through my to-do lists from 2017 to see what I had done the year before to see what I wanted to repeat or not repeat in 2018.

Six months into 2018, I know there are goals I've met, goals I've partially met, goals I'm working on actively, and goals I've forgotten about.

I need a reminder and a fresh dose of inspiration to finish the second-half of 2018 well. I need to be intentional about going after those goals and dreams that will change what my life looks like.

It is important to be intentional about our goals. Well thought out and accomplished goals can be the building blocks to an accomplished dream.

What makes the difference between wishing and realizing our wishes? Lots of things, and it may take months or years for a wish to come true, but it’s far more likely to happen when you care so much about a wish that you’ll do all you can to make it happen.
— Mister Rogers

How am I doing?

If you are wondering, I've completed 3 of my 9 goals. There's another goal that is almost accomplished. Two other goals are partially completed. And three goals have been completely ignored. I felt it was important to ask myself some tough questions about these goals that have been ignored. It was also important to take a thermometer on my wishes and dreams and then make sure my goals refected the direction I want to be headed. Lastly, prayer should be a big part of this process. 

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
— Philippians 4:6-7 The Message

How are you doing?

How are you doing on your 2018 goals? Download the Mid-Year Check-In Worksheet and see where you are at and get some inspiration to finish well.

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Does the idea of goals make you anxious?

Are you dealing with people pleasing or not sure what God wants from you? My book Paper Tigers might be the message you need right now.

Review of Falling Free by Shannan Martin

Shannan Martin has the kind of personality that makes you feel like a friend instead of a reader.  

Just look at this photo she posted on Instagram this morning, the day her book Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted released.  She doesn’t have a pretentious bone in her body.  She’s going to set you down with a cup of tea and an fun, interesting conversation.

By reading Shannan’s blog and following her on social media, especially her dreamy Instagram feed, I keep finding these random things about her that make me say, “ME TOO!”

Number one is her infatuation with making salsa and late-night salsa binging.  Me too!  Number two is her love of vintage: dresses from decades past, the sweetly aged items that decorate her home.  Me too!  Number three is her addiction to gingham.  Gingham makes my heart feel warm.  Number four is her heart for adoption and her Jesus-fueled love for people.  Me too!  I could go on, but I don’t want to encourage a restraining order.

There is one important thing that I should mention that I feel I have in common with Shannan.  That is our life not lead.

Shannon begins her book with this phrase,

I’m suppose to be a farm girl. Right now I should be wearing a prairie skirt, traipsing barefoot to my gardens, staking my delphinium with vintage ribbon, catching raspberries in the bowl of my apron. That’s how I always saw myself. It was my secret dream, and I knew if I ever got there, I would have made it.
— Shannan Martin, Falling Free

It makes sense that the sub-tile of her book is “Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted.

That sub-tile has weight in my soul.  I feel it.  In high school I only dreamed of a big career.  I wanted a job that had a big paycheck.  I even dreamed of stressful deadlines, and knew that they would fill me with a sense of importance that nothing else could.  I watched shows set in offices and big cities and thought of all the professional clothing I would wear, lady suits and flowing blouses.  I picked the college major of accounting and set my sights on a big six firm.

As I was beginning school, God was writing another story.  My sophomore year of college, boyfriend’s dad, who would become my father-in-law, had a life-saving   liver transplant.  He had been a pastor for 25 years, and after coming so close to losing his life, he didn’t want to go back to usual ministry or normal church.  He moved into an old building in downtown Amarillo and started Citychurch, an inner-city ministry to children.

By the time I earned my accounting degree, God had changed my heart and called me to that ministry.  I never got to see what that life I thought I wanted looked like.

Shannan did.

SHANNAN MARTIN HAD THE PERFECT LIFE: A CUTE FARMHOUSE ON SIX RAMBLING ACRES, A LOVING HUSBAND, THREE ADORABLE KIDS, MONEY, FRIENDS, A CLOSE-KNIT CHURCH—A SAFE, HAPPY EXISTENCE.
But when the bottom dropped out through a series of shocking changes and ordinary inconveniences, the Martins followed God’s call to something radically different: a small house on the other side of the urban tracks, a shoestring income, a challenged public school, and the harshness of a county jail (where her husband is now chaplain). And yet the family’s plunge from “safety” was the best thing that could have happened to them.
— Nelson Books

Since I had already be rescued from the life I thought I wanted, I supposed that I had already learned all the lesson Shannan would share in her book.  As I read through the table of contents, I saw “Get Risky,” “Have Less,” “Unplan,” “Live Small,” ”Open the Door,” and other topics definitely related to.

I was wrong.  I may have lived through risky and small, learning heart-changing lessons as I transitioned from an ambitious college kid to a home school mom in urban children’s ministry, but Shannon had new insights.  She made me rethink things I had already wrestled through.

Shannan's stories draw me even closer to that every pressing goal of thinking, talking, acting, and living more Christlike. She shows the grey, the not easy, in the pressing on and pressing in. All of this idea-wrestling is done with lovely, kind, poetic, beautiful words. Her book is a friend that isn't afraid of the hard days.

Shannan's writing is relatable, kind, interesting, inspiring, and down-right challenging.  I know you will love it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that we all have lives that we thought we wanted that don’t line up with the better life that God has graciously planned for us.  God has a deeper, richer, more fulfilling life planned for you, and all you have to do is fall free.

God offers a better way: have less and do more. He inverts our plans, extending the option of total surrender like a May bouquet of decadent, gutsy, full-bloom peonies. It’s not some dreary prison sentence, meant for the poor souls commissioned to overseas ministry, or monks or nuns. It’s a hold-on-to-your-hat promise that life is actually far too long to risk squandering it on the wrong things. We’re offered the gift of becoming laser-focused on doing more for his kingdom.
— Shannan Martin, Falling Free

I’m recommending this book to you today, and I can’t imagine a day when this book will not be on my top 5 list of recommended books.  So either click this link to order it it or get in your car and head to the bookstore.  If you don’t, you’ll never hear the end of it.

Intentionality and our adoption

God called us to adoption from Africa in 2013.  It wasn’t immediately that I realized that I what having a child with black skin would mean or everything I would have to think through.  I don’t think figuring out how race will affect my child’s life will ever end for me.  It is a complicated, heartfelt issue that is constantly evolving in our culture and in my brain.

Our adoption agency helped us to begin thinking through a few interracial adoption issues by requiring us to read books on the subject and asking thought provoking questions on our home study paperwork.  Here are a few of those questions.

What cultures do you feel you have knowledge about?

What are some events you could participate in as a transracial family?

How diverse is your neighborhood, church, family, and friends?

How will you answer questions about adopting a child from another race? What about questions from your child?

Since first answering these questions 2 years ago, I begin to think about how to make our life circumstances fit better answers to these questions.  Our church is diverse.  Our family is somewhat diverse.  Family doesn’t change often.  

I realized I have control over three things: my knowledge about cultures, how diverse my friends are, and how diverse my neighborhood is.

I have always been naturally interested in learning about foreign cultures.  I didn’t know God put that desire in me because some day it would be important to my family.  Now I know, and I have soaked in cultural information with a new purpose.

I have also been intentional about making friends.  Just like when I decided to home school our children and was intentional about making home school friends for my children’s benefit, I have been intentional about making friends who have adopted internationally and friends who have transracial families.  I know it is a beautiful thing to have a more diverse group of friends, and I take joy in it.

We also were intentional about where we lived.  When I filled out that survey 2 years ago, we lived in CityView (a brand new housing development.)  We had moved to a newly constructed house when we had a newborn baby, because we wanted to never fix anything on a house again because it was taking away from precious sleep time.  Sleep was what I wanted to be intentional about.  Can I get an amen from a momma with a baby?

Looking at our neighbors, there wasn’t very much diversity at all.  I wanted that to change.  When we found our house, I loved that their was diversity among our neighbors.

I was also happy when I realized that our house was only a few blocks from the most diverse high school in our city.  I knew God was leading us to have our daughter attend that high school.  We are now very close to having her first year of public high school complete, and I know it has been the right decision.

This blog post has been difficult to write, not because I don’t want to share, but because, gosh, I’m afraid I say something wrong or offensive.  It is easy to do when race is the issue.

I have not meet my child yet, but my heart is full of love for my son with a beautiful Ethiopian culture.  I want the best for him, just like I want the best for all my children.  If living intentionally makes his life slightly easier or slightly better, I’ll do it.

The truth is God has blessed me with every choice.  I love my house.  I love my neighborhood.  I love my daughter’s school situation.  I love my friends, new and old.  I love learning about Ethiopia and traveling to Ethiopia.  I love being more tuned into race issues.  I love being involved in orphan ministry.  I love being more dependent on God.  And I love that my faith has grown because of this adoption.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” That’s code for want what God wants, and you will get what you want.  In my life, I have found that to be true.

Not everyone who is reading this is called to international adoption.  You may never be asked any of those interracial questions.  I wonder, is there something you have to face intentionally in your life?  Please comment, and let me know.

Everyone loves new.  I love how nostalgic this song sounds while it's talking about being new.  Sounds like it maybe could have been written by Buddy Holly or Bill Withers.  I have to say though, his girlfriend isn't that pretty.  I guess everyone wants to live where the buffalos roam.