Thoughts on Striving for Deeper Connections

When I read this week’s focused topic which is addressed to the family groups (Bible talk groups) on a section called Directions of the TVCOC online bulletin, I found myself guilty, on some levels, of emotional disconnect. The message talks about helping others in the family group feel a deeper sense of “family.”

TVCOC Directions, Weekly Email Bulletin

TVCOC Directions, Weekly Email Bulletin

I appreciate the nudge. It’s a healthy reminder. I also see this gentle push applies to the other relationships I have.

“Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” Galatians‬ ‭6:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So what do I need to know so I could do better? Watching Brené Brown again on her first TED talk provides some clarity. It’s summed up in one word – Vulnerability.

Although I am highly aware that I have a lot to improve on, I do place pretty well on the vulnerability scale. It’s not always like that. I don’t see vulnerability and authenticity with the same pair of eyes I had when I was younger and a much more determined person to prove others of my value.

Practicing authenticity invites grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.

Authenticity by BBrown

Do you remember the times when you stepped on a yucky gum and annoyingly feels stuck while desperately trying to scrape it off? Ironically, that’s how my inner-self would use to look at vulnerability – as a pestilence, and the goo in my human existence. The thing is, there’s no way we could establish a deeper sense of connection with another person and show our real authentic self without vulnerability. Vulnerability empowers us to give our imperfect self the permission to be seen even with the fear of judgment and rejection. It allows us to tell our story, use our voice even when faced with a lack of support and plenty of doubts from some people. It gives us the confidence to consider a fundamental truth that we are enough and that we are wired to love and care for each other. And above all, it frees us of our predisposition to negotiate with God, and instead, it makes us surrender wholeheartedly to His will.

Even now I still experience, although not often, moments where I fight the essence of a vulnerable spirit, especially so when the desire to be in control is higher than what’s needed in the flow of events. Being in control is easy. Being vulnerable is not easy. And it’s not supposed to be. It takes lots and lots of practice and showing up even when the going gets tough to get accustomed to it.

Let me go back to TVCOC’s Direction’s gentle nudge of the week. There’s no doubt that I love the different relationships I have in my life and that includes my family’s Family Group Bible Talk. The members fought a good fight of faith and unity for this family group. We acknowledge that the next steps we need to take would be on the strengthening of the bonds of the relationship that was established. What can we do to ensure that everyone in that group feels loved and cared for by each other? How do we maintain connected in between meetups? How do we grow that connection? What’s my role in all these?

Here’s what my quiet time has revealed to me.

While it is true that I need to fight a little harder everyday for a deeper sense of connection, it is also true that given the hurriedness, hectic schedule, and personal challenges that I have to deal with these days, it is not easy. And when you have to battle with, among other things, chronic insomnia while refusing medication indicated for it, it’s even harder to care for new relationships.

Often the daily schedules and the physical burden I carry prevents me from individually reaching out on a much more personal level to the beautiful people in our family group. Sometimes the disconnect also lies in fear that I’d be misunderstood or that I could offend or inconvenience people of my struggles, and not to mention, be perceived as intrusive of their personal life when encouraged to share how they’re doing. Maybe I hesitate to ask for help because I either don’t want to burden others or be seen as a burden. Or maybe I’m more scared that the other person will say yes because when you’re used to hearing a no, you’re lost when you start getting yeses. Perhaps, I don’t offer help as much as I want to because of rejection fears or of my insecurity that I have nothing of particular value to others. After all, it’s not uncommon to feel frightful when we put ourselves out there and allow us to be seen in a state of vulnerable nakedness. And also, there are that physical fatigues and pains that are just hard to explain to others, mostly difficult because being misunderstood or not understood adds to the exhaustion, quickly.

Let me bring back Brené Brown and her helpful insights. She talks about letting ourselves be seen – being authentic by having the courage to present our imperfect self,  loving with our whole heart even without guarantees, practicing gratitude so we could lean on joy, and accept that we are enough.

Psalm‬ ‭34:5‬, “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”
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So, here’s a link to Brené’s TED Talk on vulnerability. She talks about being authentic and real – being vulnerably seen. I watched it probably gazillion times and every time I do; I gain fresh insights. Her research on vulnerability and shame and the book Daring Greatly were referenced many times by Todd Spatt, a minister and a psychotherapist in his couples’ address during last year’s Marriage Retreat.

Cheers to all of us! And let’s all feel – not just know – that we are well loved. We are loved! We just need to do a better job at making each other experience it on a sensory and emotional level. Also, we need to be forgiving and gracious, patient of each other’s various facets of awkwardness and social faux pas without becoming an enabler. Moreover, we have to be encouraging and nurturing of our attempts to foster closer bonds.

Most likely, we’ll get it wrong more than we’ll get it right, but having the heart and the courageous vulnerability to get back to wanting to work for much deeper connections is worth the love and the appreciation we all deserve to enjoy together.

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Staying in your Joy, Thoughts for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a few days away, and I hope the hurriedness of everyday living doesn’t take from the excitement of the occasion. Every so often, I had to be reminded to take few extra time from my already hectic schedule to take care of myself so that I could be a better person for others, too.

Mothers often feel that everyone is a priority but themselves. As a mom, it’s not that I haven’t realized that this is an unhealthy perspective, but because of the military lifestyle and the constant geographical relocations that my family was subjected throughout my husband’s military career, I didn’t think it was realistic. I also didn’t believe that prioritizing my well being was practical. And because it would seem like it was a cultural taboo for moms to put their personal requirements above others, I also didn’t feel it was right to put my needs ahead of others including my loved ones.

Proverbs 31

Although I did try to take care of myself the best way I could, I kept falling back to feeling less important than everybody else. In the last few years, I made the decision to shed the guilt and rearranged my list of priorities. Doing this doesn’t mean that the value I put on others has now become less. What it means is because I get to purposely make the time to care for myself and my needs, I get to be a better person for others, too. And that seeing to my overall wellness also brings me to a place where I can appreciate others wholeheartedly.

Last Sunday, Kai, the lead minister and pastor in the church my family attends, finished his series of lessons on the Resurrection of Christ. It was refreshing to be retold about and relearned God’s eternal love for us. As beautiful as his sermon was, there was one line that stuck with me. He said, “Stay in your joy.”

Stay in your joy. It’s a fantastic reminder, especially, that there will alway be something – big or small, expectedly or unexpectedly – in our daily living that could shake our calmness and challenge our steadfastness. And sometimes, as a mom, it’s hard to stay in the joy when worrying about how best to protect your brood becomes the forefront of your living. It’s impossible to stay in your joy if the desire to be in control of every situation is more important than trusting in God’s infinite wisdom. There’s no way to stay in the joy if the fear becomes bigger than the faith you have in Him.

If everything comes to pass anyway, isn’t it foolish to give in to the temptation and surrender fortitude to irritation and worriedness? But what I would really love is when that thing did come to pass and then genuinely I could claim that I fought a good fight of faith to stay in my joy.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms around the world! We may not get it right all the time, but God’s not wrong for choosing us to mother our children. Let’s practice self-kindness and kindness towards one another. Let’s help each other stay in the joy.

In closing, here’s a wonderful TED talk delivered by storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy about a human connection which starred her Cuban mother and she’s called it, “You’re going to miss me.” 

http://ted.com/talks/view/id/347

 

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Be Bold for Each Other

International Women's Day

March 8 is International Women’s Day! The organization designated #BeBoldForChange as the campaign theme of 2017. Being of strong faith and a woman of God, I understood that my value as a human being is the same of anyone in this world. It’s now ingrained in me that I was a good enough reason for Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and a recipient like everyone else of the opportunity for redemption. My task to the day I die is to help my girls embrace that truth and make my boys be champion advocates of that innate universality. And hope that when it’s their turn to do so, they’ll pass on that legacy to their children, too. #BetheChange

My local church is celebrating the Women’s Day this month via a breakfast gathering of women. The event’s theme touches the basic psychological need of belongingness. The organizers are highlighting the affair with an invite that says, “Every woman needs to feel she belongs.” As a volunteer and participant, I expect a stronger response to the theme at the end of the gathering.

Although part of the beautiful graphic art for the event’s advertisement includes a puzzle piece, the message is much bigger than just fitting in. The illustration is a small component of an impactfully significant affirmative. We’re not just pieces to a puzzle that fit together to form a bigger picture. That’s too easy and somewhat incomplete. What’s crucial is our ability as a group to connect the shared individual stories, lesson-learned, triumphs, and personal quiet times and turned these into breathing parts of a purposeful, collaborative, unifying life where everybody doesn’t just feel accepted in God’s family, but also celebrated for their uniqueness. First things first, we each begin with the individuals in us.

In my personal reflection, I purposely connected to the original theme, the subthemes of intentional and attitudinal acceptance, unity in diversity, and belonging to the family of Christ. Hence, I’m envisioning a take away that boldly declares, #EveryWomanBelongs. Consequently, I’m continuing a life-long mission that’s not just centered on gender parity, but more rightly towards a parity on human value.

The photo invite included in this short video was beautifully created by one of the church members.

Intentional and Attitudinal Acceptance
The difference between tolerance and acceptance is huge. Tolerance does not require acceptance, but acceptance cannot exist without tolerance. Acceptance, however, is beyond just tolerating. And in the virtue of intentional and attitudinal acceptance, there’s an involved complexity of expectations. For instance, acceptance in a deeply invested relationship requires a commitment to get to know the other person very well and in the process provides a willingness to recognize that person’s equal value as a human being.

Unity in Diversity
A diverse group that’s unified understands and accepts it’s individual differences. And in the process, the members had successfully utilized their unique gifts to bring the team together. A truly diverse community is composed of effectively cross-interacting, multi-homogeneous groups. It does not only recognize individual differences; it also exemplifies synergism. While it acknowledges that there are areas for improvement, a genuinely diverse community will capitalize on the strengths within all its subgroups. It is not so much about understanding, but accepting that there are views and customs that not all of us share.

Belonging to the Family of Christ
Ephesians 2:19-22 best explains the heart of belonging to the family of Christ, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him, you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” In a previous blog I published, The Tangram Puzzle of Love and Belongingness, I described how I understood God’s leadership over His people and the unity and sense of belongingness He desires for the body of Christ. The amazing gift of uniqueness that God bestowed on His people gives confidence that we’re not just individual pieces to a whole puzzle. We are a creative link to a variety of possibilities. Ephesians 4:16 says, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

Bottomline, to attain a genuine unity and lasting peace and to make this world a better place for everyone, we have to be bold in our intentions and deliberate actions. We need to be bold for each other. We have to make bold connections and accept that we all share a common need of belonging and that it’s in our hands to make every woman belongs.

#BeBoldForChange
#EveryWomanNeedstoFeelSheBelongs
#EveryWomanBelongs
#ParityinHumanValue

Every Woman Belongs1

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