Monday, March 11, 2013

Vulnerable: Guest Blogger

  • Dear Friends, I've invited a woman from the younger generation to write to you today so we can catch a glimpse of her relationship with God, herself and the world.  I'm sure some of you can relate to her inner life and journey. Spiritual growth is like a good run in Oregon's wine country: when we first start out we can barely catch our breath but the longer we go at it, the more freedom God gives.  How would you encourage this precious one on her spiritual run?

    I don’t really know how to write this journal entry other than just being completely honest and vulnerable with you and myself. I am a people pleaser, perfectionist, and one who likes to take and have control. I didn’t think turning 25 would be so pivotal in discovering who I am. I already thought I knew who I was. Maybe it’s that I’m finally realizing that I’m not perfect and that’s OK.  I don’t know how you will react after reading this post, but all I ask is that you read it with an open heart and know that this has been a long time coming. Ladies, do you know when you run out of foundation, it’s not just your foundation that needs replacing. For me, it’s my foundation, powder, face wash, moisturizer, shampoo and conditioner that seem to run out all at the same time. This is a perfect analogy to my life circumstances.  Everything is happening at once, it’s all running out and I need to be refilled by the only one who can refill me. 
    This is a little glimpse of who I was and still am in some ways.  In college, I would never leave my dorm without looking completely put together. My hair, outfit, jewelry and face had to look perfect and if not, I didn’t feel complete. I have always been a person who had to have it all together. I found my self worth in the way I portrayed myself and the friends I had.  Thankfully, now I prefer to live in my Nike spandex and Loft over sized sweater. My hair doesn’t have to be perfect and I don’t need eyeliner.  My friends come in all shapes, sizes, personalities, career paths, and socio- economics. I love each one so dearly and couldn’t be more blessed in my relationships. I am not as concerned of what others think but more importantly I am finally getting comfortable in my own skin.  
    My parents adopted me when I was 3 months old from Korea.  I don’t want anything I write to degrade the love and care they have poured upon me. I love them beyond this world.  My parents always said I seemed like an only child with the way I acted and they way they spoiled me. However, I share my parents with 11 other siblings. This is something that I still struggle with even today. I am a selfish person who wants my parents to myself and I know I will never have that. I can relate to a quote my pastor said, ” I am so frustrated with the way I am wired, for it is far from what Christ exhibits. Christ is patience, slow to anger and abounding in love. I have to work extra hard to exhibit these characteristics. It doesn’t come naturally for me.”
     I grew up in a white community. I never really appreciated my ethnicity because I never could relate to anyone in that sense, besides my little sisters.  Just note, that I loved high school! I had a great time and don’t regret a thing. However, I remember feeling different because I wasn’t white, like my friends. I tried to be as white as I could and tried to forget I was Korean.  In high school, I was not unpopular, so maybe I placed more emphasis on the way I looked because I had a status quo to uphold.  I really don’t know. But I remember thinking I wish I was white. I tried to compensate my Asian features with my thin figure. Since middle school, I had a love/hate relationship with food and my body image. I read that if you seek professional help, you have an 80% of being cured and living normally from an eating disorder. This has probably stemmed from multiple things but all I know is that I am tired of it controlling me. By the grace of God, I am seeking professional help and will continue on the path to recovery. 
    Recently, I have been experiencing this deep sense of loneliness that I can’t figure out why or how it started. I see my friends in these relationships where they are loved for, cared for, pursued and sought after by a man. I wonder why I can’t have the same thing.  I feel pressured by society to be in relationship with someone. I know in God’s time that perfect man for me will come, but why isn’t it now? I am frustrated with His plan. I am frustrated because I have family members and friends asking me why I am single, like I have something to do with it. They try and give me tips and advice to find someone, like I don’t know already. Satan knows this weakness of mine and relishes at the chance to throw other self-doubting questions my way.  Why was I given up for adoption? Was I not loved?  Why can’t I let guys get close to me? Am I not worthy of a man’s love? 
    I am tired of having to hide and pretend I have it all together. I am a girl who just wants to live a life God has intended her to live. I am a girl who is working overtime to learn how to accept God’s plan and allow Him to lead. I am a girl who just needs someone to listen to her heart speak truth and not judge her for when it does.   
     Writing this has helped me acknowledge that I am imperfect and it’s okay.  It’s a place for me to be vulnerable with you and share my feelings, struggles, and victories. I am terrified that by showing my weakness, you will be disappointed in me. I hope that you aren’t and if you are, I am terribly sorry for letting you down. I am just a girl trying to figure out what it means to be true to herself yet true to others. 
    “Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.”- Isaiah 26:4
  • Tuesday, March 5, 2013

    Open Letter To Christian Women Over 40

    Open Letter to Christian Women Over 40
    We must build relationships with the next generation.

    Dear women of my generation,

    How did there come to be such a divide between older and younger women in the church? How is it that today’s generation of Christian women are more likely to list a celebrity like Angelina Jolie as their hero rather than a mentor, leader, or female friend in their own congregation? We, as Christian women over 40, have some work to do.  The work I am referring to is about our call in building a close relationship with our younger sisters in Christ.  We are being called to understand, learn and listen to this next generation and not mis-lead them.  Our authentic response will help more than we realize.

    At a recent conference, I sat stone still as Barna CEO David Kinnaman quoted one statistic after another about young people leaving the church and their low knowledge of Scripture. I prepared to hear the proverbial five steps to protect our children, students, and younger co-workers from the evils of today’s Babylon, but Kinnaman said just the opposite.
    “Let’s take exiles more seriously. . .we’re more like Mordechai than Esther; the younger generation needs a relationship to trust,” he said, encouraging us to come alongside the young Christians so they can grow. The message to stop avoiding the fact that we live in Babylon was clear.

    Honestly, I was relieved. I’d recently interviewed 20 women under 40, asking them about their spiritual lives, their faith, and their relationships with older Christian women. When I asked them to describe their spiritual lives, the majority said they pray constantly and want to be close to God, yet, they feel a distance. Then I asked, “Do you need to be in a relationship with an older Christian woman to grow spiritually?” Hands down, each one said, “Yes!”  I listened with eagerness hoping to hear stories of older Christian women connecting with these young, dynamic women. I was not, however, prepared for what these young, educated and professional Christian women told me: There’s a distance between us and them.

    Like many women our age, we’re living with the daily disconnect between the generations’ spiritual lives.  And it’s real. Barna found that two-thirds of evangelical women over 40 describe themselves as deeply spiritual compared to about half of those under 40. 
    We, as an older generation, have a depth of faith to offer this younger generation of women, who want to grow spiritually and want relationships with women in the church. It’s complicated, the relationship part.
    What I hear the younger generation asking for is us to admit to the suffering in our lives. Are we living transparently about the emotional pain we actually feel?  Even to ourselves? What draws a younger woman closer to us is when she can connect her own doubts and struggles with our honest talk.  Even though Christian women are blogging online with more authenticity, these younger women long for face-to-face contact, or as Kinnaman calls it, “skin time.”

    So what would it look like for us as women in the older generations to mentor or disciple a younger woman in the Christian faith?

    Listen with Wonder
    It helps us to not generalize the younger generation. We live in the same culture, evil as it may be, as the younger women. As we listen to them, it gives us a moment to reflect on how we live out our Christian faith as women living in this culture – the culture Kinnaman calls Babylon – the place where Daniel and Esther were famous and where many Jewish people enjoyed wild success as business owners.  When the younger women listen to us, our transparency ignites a sense of wonder – a sense of astonishment at the lively inner life feelings matching their own.  It’s not a sense of “now I know your weakness,” rather it’s a sense of understanding. 

    Create a Safe Place
    We can offer our time and create safe place for conversation with younger women. The idea of sharing in a small group is popular in church and Bible studies, but they are not always the best venues. Safe to us is not what is safe to them. It’s not enough to see them in church and ask them how their family is doing. In a church setting, this age group tends to feel ignored. Meeting one-on-one with the intention of transparent talk feels like spiritual life to them, though it can take a lot of time and commitment for that to happen. We need to sacrifice our desire for the younger generation of women to be just like us. They are not like us. Their spiritual lives grow differently. One reason is they are more likely to see themselves as leaders than we do. There’s a confidence about the younger generation of women in which we need preparation.

    Live without Misleading
    In the Barna survey, there’s an interesting twist. Although 47 percent of young women do not see themselves as deeply spiritual, they still consider themselves leaders. They are more likely than us, their mothers, and their grandmothers to take on these leadership roles.
    With great respect and honor for past ministries, what we know as mentoring should be rethought.  If younger women are more likely to serve as leaders, we need to listen to them and not mislead them by the way we are living.  Apparently, they are watching us and waiting for our initiative and pursuit.
    Even though this conversation can sound familiar – the younger generation leaving the church, them Loving Jesus but not the Church – the actual skill of mentoring the next generation of Christian women requires practical knowledge
    Today in Babylon, you and I are church.  Living a “reverent life”(yes, I am referencing Titus 2:3 here) means we pay attention to the women younger than us in the faith. We boldly invite one or two into our lives to meet twice a month for a little more than an hour, and we ask good questions, reveal our pain, and refuse to shift our eyes when we hear something we cannot relate to… like being a vice president of a company at 24 or having multiple sexual partners because they were lonely. The honest and humbling truth is that as a relationship like this one grows in the protection of a safe place, we, the older generation, will grow exponentially in our faith as they are more likely to teach us about Jesus Christ and His Will for this world than the way we’ve been doing Church in America.
    Let’s continue this conversation for the long haul.  I see myself loving the younger women by writing this to you and representing them well.  Join me?