Social Media Guidelines

I recently decided to take a month off of social media.  It was one of the best decisions I made for that whole month.

Here’s the thing.  I really don’t know how to do social media “right.”  And by right, I don’t mean how to have my particular brand and get followers and post really cool things.  I mean, I don’t know how to do those things either.

But in this instance, when I talk about “right,” I’m talking about how to do social media in a way that feels healthy for my soul.  Maybe you’ve got a lock on this.  I really hope you do.

But maybe you're like me and you’re using social media but there’s a sneaking suspicion that it might be too much of a distraction or an addiction.  Or it might be feeding into a sense of narcissism.  Or it might be giving an eternal sense of FOMO.  Or it might be feeding into insecurities about why more people didn’t like and comment on that last post.  Or it might be causing jealousy and envy.

That’s a lot of ways social media can wreak havoc in my soul.

So I stepped back for a little bit.  In part just because I was in a season where I needed to create a little more quiet and a little more space for myself to process a lot of life that was happening.  But also in part because I wanted some time to think about what in the world I was even doing with social media, and what the real motives were behind why and what I chose to broadcast to the world.

I helped run a social media channel for a non-profit for a few years, and have a small role in helping with some of our social media channels for Saddleback Small Groups.  Basically, I’m nowhere near an expert, but I do know a few basics.  I know about the importance of building a “brand.”  Having a consistent voice/look/feel across channels so that followers know what kind of quality and content to expect and why they should follow you.

But I also kept wondering why I needed a brand.  I mean, I get it for a business or an organization or a ministry.  But why do I, Laura, need a brand or followers?  Why do I need to advertise my life?

Y’all, there were some major wrestling matches that happened with these questions.  And now as I slowly start picking back up social media, I can tell that I’m doing it pretty tentatively.  I actually miss the quiet and space it created in my soul when I took a break for a month.  I think I still have more questions than answers about how to do this in a way that is best for my soul.

But as with most things in life, avoiding it doesn’t actually bring resolution.  So I’m going to wrestle.  And I’m going to be oh-so-self-aware about what’s going on in my soul.  And I’m going to use it as a way to bring to the surface what’s really going on in my heart as I broadcast my life to the world.

As I move forward, I’ve given myself a few guidelines to help keep me on track.

Reasons NOT To Post

1.  To get more likes or more followers

I’m sure you’ve never done this, but there’s been times when I post things just because I think it will get a lot of “likes” or will help me attract more followers.  But…why is that a good thing?  Again, I’m only talking about the scope of an individual, not for an organization.  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you want more followers?

Popularity?  Influence?  Ego?

As a follower of Jesus, I’m not called to make myself popular.  Getting 1,000 followers means NOTHING if the character of Christ is not being developed in my heart.  So I’m trying to avoid posting just because it’s something that is trending.

2. To impress you, make you think I'm cool, brag about my life, or pretend to lead a life different than I actually do

I’s a pretty normal human thing to dream about how our lives could be different.  It’s another thing to pretend and actually try and convince the world (and ourselves) that our lives are different than than they actually are.  There is a very real danger of falling in love with a fake life.

You are exactly who God made you to be.  He didn’t make a mistake when he made you the way he made you.  You are loved exactly as you are.  And if you spend all your time pretending to be someone different, you might never do the important work of self-awareness and growth that will help you reach the full potential of who God made you to be.

3. To entertain myself

Waiting in line at the store?  Why not post to Instagram?  Wait, what?

I’ve done this so many times.  And it’s not the worst thing in the world, but I wonder what it would look like if I used time when I’m bored to text something encouraging to a friend, read a few verses on my Bible app, or take a few minutes to pray for people.

Reasons it's OK to post

1.  Mark important moments in my life

I live far away from a lot of family and friends, and one of the greatest gifts of social media is keeping up with the Taekwondo tournament my niece participated in, or the new project my dad just completed in the backyard.  You better believe that when I ran a marathon this last year I posted about it, and it was so sweet to get to share and celebrate that moment with people far away.  Tell me when major events happen in your life, because I want to celebrate with you!

With this though, my hiatus from social media reinforced the value of not just posting but also calling or texting or setting up a coffee date to keep people updated on my life.  I went to a Dodger game during that month off, and while my friends were posting to social media I sent a picture to my dad and brother because they’re also big Dodger fans.  Not every moment has to be shared with the world; it might be better shared more personally.

2. Inspire other people

A surprising number of people have mentioned to me that they love seeing how I do so many outdoor adventures.  They say it inspires them to do it themselves, or it gives them ideas of places to go and things to try.

The world will be a better place when more people do more of the things that make them come alive.  So post the things that give you life, and inspire people around you to do likewise.

Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Post the kind of things that will spur your followers on to live a life filled with meaning and purpose and joy.  Jesus came to give us an abundant life; don’t be afraid to live it.

3. Share resources and ideas that have helped me grow

I love books and podcasts, and I love sharing about what I’m learning.  I love when other people share resources that have helped them grow, because I’m always on the lookout for a good book or podcast recommendation.  If I’ve found a new podcast or book that’s been particularly helpful, you’ll be hearing about it!

4. Talk about things that matter and people that matter

As someone who struggles with FOMO, I always hesitate when posting pictures with friends because I hate to inflict a fear of missing out on others.  While being sensitive to this, I also think it’s really important to celebrate community.  It’s a good moment for me to check my motives and make sure I’m not trying to make myself look popular, etc., but I love getting to celebrate and express gratitude for the amazing people God has put in my life.

I also think there’s times when it’s important to talk about hard issues.  Specifically, there are times when I make a point to talk about things I struggle with.  It’s not because I’m looking for sympathy, or trying to get some group therapy or social media therapy.  It’s just that we all struggle and sometimes it’s good to be reminded that you’re not the only one, and that God’s grace is sufficient.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul writes:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

There’s an appropriate way to boast about our weaknesses.  I always find it so interesting when I’ll have coffee with a friend and an hour later read something she posted about a personal struggle she said nothing about when we were meeting.  Social media is never the place to work out your problems.  Social media therapy is never the best way to share.  It’s not “just being authentic.”  True authenticity is looking someone in the eyes and sharing, and opening yourself up to their response in person.  That being said, I do think there are times when it’s helpful to share honestly and appropriately because you never know who else is struggling with the same thing.  I just make sure anything I post to social media is something I’ve already been talking out with a real live human face-to-face before I broadcast to the world.  I don’t share hard things because I’m looking for a response; I share hard things because I know someone else is struggling and might need to know I’ve been there too.

5. Share the story of my life in such a way that Jesus is the hero.

I hope you’re still with me because this is the most important point.  I don’t want to craft an image on social media that makes me look great.  I want to tell the story of my life in a way that only points to how great Jesus is.

 

What about you?  What are reasons you think we should post or not post to social media?  Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Tahoe


My first solitude retreat to Tahoe was almost by accident, really.

It was summer of 2014 and I had planned a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway to see my brother who had just recently moved to the Northern California coast, and then on to visit my parents in Oregon. On a whim, I tacked on a few days in Tahoe to break up the long drive back to Orange County.

I bought my first paddleboard while I was in Oregon, strapped the 11 foot bohemoth to the top of my tiny little Corolla, and set my GPS for DL Bliss State Park at Lake Tahoe.

I fairly collapsed into Tahoe that first year.

I was burnt out, exhausted from ministry, and ready to throw in the towel. I told God I would give him these next three days to work a miracle or I was out. And then I waited. And God worked. And God spoke. And God breathed life back into my soul. And God took my hardened heart and broke it in all the right ways to put it back together better than before. God gave me a miracle that first year at Tahoe. There are still moments from that trip that I look back on as moments when God was closer than I had ever experienced before.

That's when I decided Tahoe needed to be an annual trip for me. Each year has been different, but significant in its own way. There's something incredibly sweet about the memories I'm creating with Jesus in this place. When I hike past certain places, or take my paddleboard out to watch the sunset on the lake, it's an invitation to remember just how good God was to show up here before. It's like when you get together with an old friend and reminisce about the good old days and tell stories until your sides ache from laughing. It's like that, only I'm recalling stories about how God showed up met me in life-changing ways, and I get to remember his faithfulness, even as I ask him to do it again.




This year was no different. I wish I knew how to bottle the magic of Tahoe and take it back to my everyday life, and also so that I could share it with you. I'm learning how to change my daily rhythms to bring some of Tahoe and the closeness I find with Jesus back into my everyday hectic life.

But I'm also convinced Jesus lives here at Tahoe, or he at least has a vacation home, and I'm kinda ok if there's a special magic about Tahoe that can't be found anywhere else.

Have you found a place like Tahoe? Would love to hear from you in the comments! Where is the place you feel closest to God?


The Middle East: Part 1

It’s taken me a month to even begin putting words to my trip to the Middle East.  There’s a chance if you’ve seen me in person and asked about the trip that I didn’t have much to say.  It’s not because nothing happened; rather quite the opposite was true.  So much happened that it felt impossible to know where to start, or how to do justice to the weight of the things I saw and learned.

And so, long overdue, I’d love to share with you one short story from my trip and one or two things I’ve been learning through this process.  

Let me start by introducing you to Hana (Please note: all names changed name to protect identities).

Hana grew up in a small town outside of Aleppo.  She was curious to learn more about Jesus, but everyone in her town was Muslim so there was no freedom to seek or ask questions, and there were no Christians that she could talk to.

When Hana and her husband left to seek refuge and a better life in Beirut, she was invited to a church with resources to help refugees.  As Hana and her husband started getting connected through the refugee relief programs, she was intrigued by the love she encountered and wondered what made these people so kind and compassionate.  

I met Hana at the church in Beirut, and later my team and I went to visit her home.  While we sat on thin mattresses on the floor of her tiny one-room apartment, the conversation quickly turned to what Hana had been learning about Jesus and some of the questions she had.  She mentioned Lazarus and that she wanted to learn more about his story, so I asked her if she would want to read the story together.  Our translator helped her download a Bible app on her phone, and together we read John 11 and talked about how Jesus not only had compassion for Lazarus and his family, but also that Jesus is incredibly powerful and can conquer death.

Hana kept coming back to how loving Jesus is, as well as how loving the followers of Jesus are.  “The love is unbelievable,” she kept saying in reference to the Christians she had met in Beirut.  And while Hana said she still isn’t ready to call herself a Christian, she did invite our translator to come with her to church, and she said she couldn’t wait to talk to her husband that night about what she was learning about Jesus.

Much like Hana, millions of refugees have fled their homes under devastating circumstances.  In the midst of this mass migration, people who otherwise never would have heard the gospel are resettling into new communities and for the first time in their lives encountering the good news of Jesus Christ.  Not only that, but the hostility and violence of an extremist Muslim sect like ISIS is causing many in the Muslim world to reevaluate their own faith.  So when these refugees flee the violence of their hometowns and are met with the unbelievable love of followers of Jesus, it results in a movement of the Holy Spirit unlike anything I could ever have imagined.  

I heard story after story of Muslims who had dreams or visions of Jesus and are now Christians — our team even met a former ISIS soldier who is now a Christian because of a vision he had about Jesus.  

In the midst of incredible hardship and darkness, the beauty and power of the gospel continues to shine brightly.  One of the most pressing questions I’ve wrestled with while on this trip and ever since being home comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi:

 “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ.”

As I consider the refugee crisis, and stare in the face of the greatest humanitarian crisis of my generation, I’ve been thinking about the gospel in a new way.  Is losing everything, fleeing a war torn country, and living in impoverished circumstances worth it if that’s what it takes to come to know Jesus?  In my comfortable life here in America, this verse is a nice abstract idea.  In the countries we visited, it’s a reality.  Many people did lose everything, and yet they gained Christ.  Many face persecution and death threats from their family if they leave Islam to follow Jesus, yet still choose to become a Christian anyway.  

It’s no wonder there is a revival happening in the Middle East because the followers of Jesus are holding nothing back.  In Hebrews 11 we read about men and women of faith “of whom the world was not worthy.”  As we spent time with the churches, pastors, staff, and volunteers in the Middle East, that phrase kept running through my mind.  I met so many men and women of incredible faith, worked in churches that are a bright light of hope in their community, and walked alongside pastors that are spiritual giants.

It’s been a month since I returned, and the truth is I still don’t know how to adjust to being home.  My mind and heart keep wandering to the people I met, the devastation I saw, and the ways I witnessed God at work.  I’m sure over the next couple months I’ll continue to unpack and process all that I saw and learned, but there’s two things I know for sure coming back from this trip:  there’s a revival happening in the Middle East, and I’ll never be same because of this trip.

Please continue to pray for the churches and the refugees in the Middle East.  God is up to something incredible in that little corner of the world!

I Believe in You

One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was the way they believed in me.  From their vantage point, there was nothing I couldn’t do if I only worked hard enough.  Their confidence often gave me the courage to keep going when I wanted to give up.  Whether it was making the Varsity soccer team or doing well on a math test, I knew my parents believed in me and that spurred me on to success.

Sometimes all we need in life is someone to believe in us.  Someone to say, “You’ve got this.  Keep going!”  A friend or family member to call us out to be the best version of ourselves and keep believing in us when we’ve stopped believing in ourselves.

You are exactly who God intended you to be.  He who makes no mistakes gave you precisely the right mix of natural abilities, personality, and spiritual gifts.  You are His workmanship, and He has created you perfectly and particularly to accomplish specific tasks in this world (Eph. 2:10).

Over and over again in the Bible, God calls out the screw-ups and least of these and says He is trusting them to carry out His mission in the world.

“Gideon, I know you’re from the weakest tribe of Israel, but I’m going to use you to free my people from oppression.” (Judges 6)

Ruth, I know you’re an outsider, but I’m going to use you to save your family and be a part of the lineage of the Messiah.”

“Peter, I know you’re a hot-headed fisherman, but I’m going to use you to build my church.”  (Matthew 16:18)

I struggle with believing in myself.  Every day I seem to find a new insecurity or a new reason to doubt myself.  It helps me tremendously to read these stories in the Bible and be reminded of how God uses imperfect people to perfectly accomplish His mission in the world.  On good days I can move past my insecurities and believe that God is bigger than my mistakes.  On good days I trust that He will use me and all my flaws to help push back the darkness in this world.  After all, the greatness of the gospel shines the brightest through the cracks in my life (2 Corinthians 4:7).

But on some days, I need more than that.  On some days, my insecurities are crippling.  I need a friend to tell me they believe in me, and remind me that God believes in me too.  I need someone who will call out the good in me, and remind me of who God made me to be.

One of the greatest gifts you can offer someone is to speak the truth of who God has made them to be.  Offer the gift of believing in them, and remind them that God believes in them too.  Is there someone in your life you can encourage today by telling them you believe in who God made them to be?  Be specific, and call out their strengths.  Tell them because you see this specific character trait in them, you know they have what it takes.  Remind them that they are not alone, and that God will provide the strength that they need.

And if you’re on the other end of the equation and need someone to believe in you, then know that I believe in you.  I believe in the potential God has given you, and that you can and will do even greater things than you could ever imagine if you will just keep trusting God.  And, more importantly, know that God believes in you too.

I believe in you

 

 

4 Helpful Responses When a Friend Shares Something Vulnerable (And What Not To Do)

[Originally written for the Small Group Network, and can be found at http://blog.smallgroupnetwork.com/it-would-be-a-shame-not-to-deal-with-the-issue-of-shame-by-laura-copeland/]

If we want to talk about community, we have to talk about authenticity and vulnerability.  If we want to talk about authenticity and vulnerability, we have to talk about shame.

Shame is the greatest barrier to community. If we can’t learn how to address shame properly, our churches and our small groups will struggle to grow into authentic and transparent communities that experience transformation at anything deeper than a surface level.

New York Times bestselling author Brene Brown has researched shame and its effects on relationships for more than a decade. According to Brown, guilt says I did something bad, while shame says I am bad.

She further describes shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”[i]

Guilt correlates to our actions as bad. Shame correlates to our worth and identity as bad.

To put this in a biblical perspective, we know that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), our value, worth, and identity are all secured by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19) and our sin, selfishness, and stupidity are completely forgiven and we are in right standing before God (2 Cor. 6:21).

If shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging,” then it has no part in the life of the believer, and no part in our small groups or our churches.

What, then, are we to do in response to the weight of shame that is crushing many in our churches, and that hinders our small groups from experiencing transparency?

  1. Refuse to use shame as a weapon.

    Leveraging shame can be a powerful motivator, and has been wrongly used by religious authorities to coerce behavior for centuries. It’s tempting to use because it’s effective in the short term, but in the long run it destroys community.

  2. Leverage empathy as the antidote to shame.

    The power of shame lies in darkness and the fear of what will happen when hidden things are brought to the light. Empathy is the skill of connecting with someone in their hurt, pain, and brokenness in a way that says, “I’ve been there too, and you’re not alone.”

When people share something vulnerable, especially something that potentially has some shame attached to it, here’s what we need to communicate:

  1. Thanks for trusting us enough to share that.

  2. We love you, and this doesn’t change how we see you.

  3. God loves you, and this doesn’t change how He sees you.

  4. It sounds like this is something really painful in your life, and we want you to know that you’re not alone.

Real community is messy, and real transformation is hard. Shame is the greatest barrier to authentic community, but the body of Christ can provide an incarnational expression of the gospel of grace as we learn to respond with empathy and love to the struggles of others.

4

If you want to learn more, start with this TED talk by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

[i] http://brenebrown.com/2013/01/14/2013114shame-v-guilt-html/

Do No Harm

When it comes to the dating game, no one seems to know the rules anymore. And it’s hard to play a game when there are no agreed upon rules. But what if we all agreed on one rule: that we would try to leave people better than we found them?

It’s really hard to play a game if you don’t know the rules.  It’s even harder if everyone is making up their own rules as they go, and no one is playing by the same rules.

I love playing sports, and one of the things that makes a sport a sport is an agreed upon set of rules.  It’s how I know if I’m playing soccer (where there are penalties for anyone but the goalie using their hands), or if I’m playing basketball (where a kicked ball results in a turnover).  There are such things as out-of-bounds, fouls, and goals.  In sports, rules actually make the game more fun to play.  Without rules, everything quickly dissolves into chaos and the likelihood of someone being injured is high.

When it comes to the dating game, no one seems to know the rules anymore.  And it’s hard to play a game when there are no agreed upon rules.

  • Who should ask whom out?
  • Who should pay?
  • If we hang out one-on-one, is that a date?
  • Should men open doors for women?
  • Is it appropriate for a woman to make the first move?
  • Can dating be just for fun?
  • Should I only date someone I can see myself marrying?
  • How long should we wait to kiss?
  • How long should we wait to have sex?
  • How long do I wait to call or text?

Poll a random sampling of 20’s and 30’s, and you would get vastly different answers.  And this, I think, is one of the greatest difficulties of dating today.  How are we supposed to navigate dating if no one is playing by the same rules?

It’s a confusing time to be single.  I have my own set up assumptions and guidelines I bring to dating, and I personally know how I would answer all of the above questions.  But I can’t assume that someone I’m interested in would answer them the same way.

I’ve dated men who insist on opening doors for me and paying (which I appreciate, by the way).  But I’ve also dated a guy who didn’t open doors for me because a girl from his past refused to let him open a door, accused him of chauvinism, and needed to prove that she was more than capable of opening her own door.

I know women who would ask a guy out if she’s interested in him, and I know men who would be completely turned off by that scenario.  (By the way, if a woman asks a man out, is she obligated to pay?  Should the asker also be the payer, since the date was her idea?  See, it’s so confusing!)

In the midst of all the chaos that comes from the absence of agreed upon rules, I’d like to suggest one dating rule that I hope we can all agree on.

 

Leave peoplebetter thanyou found them

Leave people better than you found them.

When I was a kid, my parents drilled into me that if I ever borrowed something, I should return it in as good or better condition than I borrowed it.  What if that’s how we thought about dating?

What I want to keep in front of us is the simple reminder that all humans deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  But somehow, when we date, we can lose sight of this simple fact.  Instead of seeing one another as humans, we can slip into thinking of the person we are dating as the sum total of all of our dating expectations and they become an object instead of a human.  Rather than thinking about how our actions affect another human, our selfishness comes out and we only think about things from the perspective of what we want out of the situation.

Leave peoplebetter thanyou found them-2

How is the way you date forming your character?  How are the patterns and habits you reinforce now in dating shaping you to be a better spouse one day in the future?  If your goal in dating is to find the person you want to marry, then the way you date is creating patterns for how you will treat your eventual spouse.  Even if you’re dating just for fun, I doubt you intentionally want to date with the purpose of hurting another human being.  And yet, when it comes to dating, there is so much pain and so much baggage.

We’ve all either hurt or been hurt in dating relationships.  Some of that is a necessary risk that comes with all matters of the heart.  A break up is a break up, and no matter how you slice it there will be some pain.  However, there are ways to date and even break up with someone that still communicates their dignity and worth as a human being.  The worst pain I’ve experienced in break ups didn’t come from the break up itself, but how the break up was handled.

When we love someone, we should be willing to put their interests and well-being above our own.  Love is meant to be sacrificial.  This is the kind of love it will take to have a healthy marriage one day, and selflessness is also the kind of character trait that takes time to build.  Thankfully, dating provides us the opportunity to practice learning to treat others the way we would want to be treated, and to practice selflessness.

We know we’re supposed to treat people the way we would want to be treated, but somehow when it comes to dating we seem to throw this rule out the window.  If we just stick to this basic principle, I think we’d see a lot less emotional damage being done.  I suspect, too, that if we treat people with dignity and affirm their worth as a human being throughout every stage—from initial meetings, to texts and phone calls, to first dates and first kisses, to committed relationships, and to breaking things off — that we would make a lot of progress towards leaving people better than we found them.

Let me leave you with 5 practical ways you can leave people better than you found them:

1.  Avoid the silent treatment

If someone has called you, texted you, sent you a carrier pigeon, or used one of the 100 other ways we have these days of communicating with one another, honor them with a timely reply.  Even if you’re over them, even if you don’t want another date, they still are a human and no human deserves to be ignored.

2.  Follow through on your promises

Did you say you would call?  Then you should call.  Did you ask for a second date?  Then take them on a second date. Don’t get in the habit of telling people what they want to hear with no intention of following through.

3.  Stop hooking up

Bodies are not commodities.  We are more than simply physical beings, and we need to stop using one another for physical pleasure outside of an appropriately committed relationship.  When you engage in any sort of physical intimacy with someone, you’re training your body that this action is okay to do with someone whom you associate your current feelings with.  If you make out with everyone on the first date, then you’ve taught your body that making out is casual.  If you want it to mean something when you kiss someone you really do like, then stop making out with all the people that you don’t really care that much about.

4.  Use clear language

If you want to go on a date with someone, use clear language that indicates this is what you want.  “I’d like to take you out”, “Can I buy you dinner?”, or “Would you like to go on a date with me?” are examples of clear language.  “Hang out”, “Meet up”, or “Grab a drink sometime” are less clear.  If someone asks me to hang out, I assume it’s not a date and act accordingly.  So if you actually want to go on a date with someone, use language that makes your intentions clear.

5.  Practice appreciation without expectation

One of the things that messes us up the most in dating is our expectations.  We all bring in a truckload of expectations of what we’re looking for, what we’ve been waiting for, what we want, and how we want to be treated.  When we place all this on the person we’re just going on a date with, it brings a ton of pressure and paves the road to objectify the person across table based on how they do at meeting your expectations.  And, let’s be real, you probably have some unrealistic expectations.  So instead of seeing how someone does at meeting all of your expectations, just be grateful and appreciative of what they do bring to the table.  I never assume or expect that a guy will pay on a first date, and I usually offer to split the check.  However, I really appreciate if he does offer to pay.  Expect less, and appreciate more.

 

 

The Most Valuable Thing I Learned in 2015

A couple months ago, a really wise person in my life introduced the importance of moving what we know in our heads down to our hearts, practicing it with our hands, and then once that cycle is complete we are ready to share it with others.

In Rising Strong, Brene Brown puts it this way: “We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands. We are born makers, and creativity is the ultimate act of integration — it is how we fold our experiences into our being. The Asaro tribe of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea has a beautiful saying: ‘Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle.’”

  
When I write, or talk with others, I’m so often tempted to short-circuit this cycle and move from my head straight to my mouth, parroting out words without having tested them myself.   

I set out to write this blog about a few of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in 2015, but then I asked myself which of the lessons I wanted to write about was fully integrated into my heart and working its way out through my hands…and I came up as a still-very-messy-work-in-progress.

And so this, instead, is my biggest lesson from 2015: That I need to do more than just learn something in my head and repeat it back as a hollow echo.

A few weeks ago I was finishing one of the best books I read in 2015, Rising Strong by Brene Brown. And while I was reading this book about finding the courage to live authentically and vulnerably, I was going over a scenario in my head that I was really frustrated by. I’m naturally conflict-avoidant so rather than do the right thing of getting in touch with a friend to talk out how I’d been hurt, I just sat there, feeling more and more frustrated as I read a chapter about compassion, whole-hearted living, and being brave enough to tell others how we really feel.

I had one of those ridiculous inner-monologue moments where I knew I could either keep reading a book about the kind of life that I want to live, or I could actually go do the thing that would put into practice the kind of life that I want to live. And so, with a lot of eye-rolling and “Are you kidding me, God?” self-pity, I got over myself, put the book down, took the initiative, and reached out to repair a relationship.

There are a lot of lessons that I learned in 2015, but a lot of them are still in my head. A few are working their way down to my heart, and even fewer are working their way out through my hands. But when I think about the kind of person I could be at the end of 2016 if even two or three of these lessons actually became fully integrated into my life, I feel hopeful and excited.

As a follower of Jesus, I have the most incredible resource for wise living found in the Bible. I’ve got so much of it rattling around inside my head, and in 2016 I’m hopeful to see how God continues to use the everyday moments and lessons to establish these ideas more deeply in my heart and help me live them out in my day-to-day interactions with others.

And hopefully, this time next year, I’ll have a few more hard-earned lessons that I can share with you.