The Mentoring Mess

lets-do-life-together-digital-hand-letteringWe all need each other, but it can be difficult to find someone who truly invests in our lives. On the other hand, it can also be difficult to set aside time to authentically invest in someone else’s life.

I wonder sometimes if we make it more difficult than it needs to be.

Are we too particular? Using wisdom in guiding us to the right people is important, but I wonder sometimes if we get too picky. Do we overlook people as possible mentors (or mentees) because of the differences between us? Or perhaps our self-doubt or insecurities get in the way. We don’t want to make the first move in case it’s the wrong move, or the first time we meet doesn’t work out well, and we give up too soon.

Are we too programmed? Do we feel the need for someone to set up mentoring for us? Perhaps we experienced mentoring done really well through a particular program or ministry, and we simply want someone to duplicate the same experience for us. Is that too much to ask? Well, yes, it just might be. Programs and ministries can help with connections, but it takes personal sacrifice and effort to keep them going. That’s up to you.

Are we too unwilling? We can try to justify our unwillingness by claiming we’re super busy, not the right fit, or a myriad of other excuses, but perhaps we’re simply not willing to give what is needed to establish and maintain mentoring relationships.

Mentoring puts us in a vulnerable position, whether we are giving or receiving. We have to expose our lives to others. That’s easy for some of us and incredibly difficult for others. Mentoring seems so elusive for some yet seems to come naturally to others. That’s frustrating or exhilarating, depending on the side you fall.

No matter what, mentoring is not easy. It’s messy, because it involves people sharing life with each other. That includes everyday situations, crises, and celebrations. Sometimes it feels as if we’re coasting down a hill as we ride bikes on a beautiful day. It is almost effortless. Other times, we get worn out as we struggle to make it up a steep hill of challenges. Both are part of the journey.

Both make mentoring worthwhile.

Truth be told, mentoring is really much simpler than we make it. We want it to be well-defined, because that makes sense to us. We think mentoring is a relationship between two women (or men), usually one older and one younger, where the older woman imparts wisdom into the younger woman. It is so much more than that. Often, the women are close in age. They both feel they get benefits out of the relationship; in fact, you will hear many say they get the best end of the relationship, that they feel as if they receive way more than they give.

We all need others. We need to find partners to help us through the relational, spiritual, emotional, and practical ups and downs of life. Of course, Jesus is our ultimate mentor, but God gifts us with community, people who surround us to cheer us on and challenge us. And we surround others. If we’re honest, at all times, we are being mentored and are mentoring. We need to be intentional about both. We need to recognize that others are not perfect, just as we aren’t. Other will let us down, just as we do to them. Relationships require sacrifice of time and energy, but God is the one who gives both, so it’s best to spend them His way anyway.

How can you find and maintain mentoring relationships?

  • Pay attention. Set aside your assumptions and open your eyes and heart to the opportunities God is placing in front of you. Relationships often begin with eye contact and a brief exchange of words. You don’t have to instantly decide how deep the relationship will go or how long it will last.
  • Persevere. Just because you hit a bump in the road doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. Be patient and diligent. Put in effort and be humble through the process.
  • Stay healthy. The best thing you can do for any relationship is to be the healthiest you can be. Determine to grow spiritually each step of the way. You might find you need to move on from a relationship. Yet you might find God sharpens you through one you’d rather set aside. Trust Him to lead the way.
  • Transition through seasons. Just because a relationship works well for a while doesn’t mean it will remain in your life forever. Growth requires changes. Saying goodbye (and saying hello) takes courage. It’s difficult. Yet it’s essential to healthy spiritual growth. Again, let God lead.
  • Accept the mess, but don’t be content to stay in it. Set aside your idealism about relationships. Know they will be messy. Be willing to work through the mess, admitting everything won’t ever be completely neat and tidy, yet as you work through issues, you can choose to rely on and get closer to God.

Mentoring might be more mess than magic, but when you invite others into your life and authentically invest in each other, the experience will help you grow in unrivaled ways. Give it a try!

Losing A Generation

“Why won’t the young people come to help?”

“Young people these days feel entitled to all the things we worked hard to get. They’re not willing to sacrifice anything. They only think of themselves.”

“I’m scared for our country/business/family/church when it comes to these kids taking over.”

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I guess I’m considered a “tweener” of generations right now. I’m in my late 40s. I have a lot of friends who are 60+ and even more who are under 40. As I recently interviewed nonprofit leaders, we often arrived at the topic of involvement and volunteerism, and I frequently heard snide comments about “young people.” I’d ask how we can bridge the gap, and more than one person gave a response of “It’s pretty hopeless,” blaming the younger generation.

However, when we stiff arm a generalized judgment about a group of people, isn’t the gap partly our fault, too? If we’re not willing to build a bridge, mentor, teach, listen, and walk through the messes of life of those trying to figure out the things we might have experienced but now see the solutions as simple and easy, we’re not putting forth the effort, just as we’re blaming others for their lack of effort.

Maybe we’re willing to help because we have more available time. Our families are grown, and we might even be retired from full-time jobs. We’re not balancing a young family’s schedule, several part-time jobs or two parents’ work schedules or building a business, financial pressures, constantly fixing used appliances, cars, and houses that we can barely afford, and so on. Yes, we’re busy, too, but we don’t seem to be able to respect what others are facing. We “remember” those days but somehow picture them a bit differently. We think of how much we served even when things were busy, how simple we kept our lives, or how firmly we kept our kids in line. We look back with rose-colored glasses. Or we remember the past as tough, but we survived and so will others, so why can’t they just buck up and pitch in to help and get more involved?

We wonder why the younger generation doesn’t come help us when we plan a service project…but we schedule it during work hours or sports and other kids’ activities. Instead of judging someone for what he or she isn’t doing, what if we verbalize our appreciation for their commitment to work and involvement in their kids’ lives? Instead of trying to compare someone’s life to the way we remember that same time in our life, why don’t we listen to where people are, refusing to give the easy, general answers of “It will all work out” or “You’ll survive and look back at these years and wish you had them back”?

We might not understand everything another generation is going and has gone through, but that goes both ways. How can we expect others to get to know us and be willing to see our perspective of things if we’re not willing to begin the conversation? When will we realize that complaining about others wanting their own way reveals our selfishness, too? How can we live with hope among people who are different than we are instead of being doomsayers who claim all is lost…unless everyone begins to think and act just as we do.

How rude, self-centered, inflexible, and prideful of us.

In the Bible, a generation isn’t limited to a specific age range of people. A generation most commonly refers to all the people alive at that time. Instead of separating groups of people based on life stage and pitting one against the other, it’s reaching around them all and claiming responsibility together. It’s sharing identity without pointing fingers. It’s humbly getting to know each other, and taking the higher ground needed to find common ground.

Are we willing?

If we’re not, we miss out…and so do the people we pit ourselves against.

 

Remember and Forget Well

A newly married woman asked me what I struggled with the most when I was first married.

Um…well…hmmm…probably…I think…

I stammered through my answer. My hesitation wasn’t due to a lack of struggles. I remember struggles, but I don’t remember them well. One reason is simply the passage of time. I’m not sure when I struggled with each thing along the way. But also, I’ve tried to put some things behind me. I don’t want to remember some struggles all the time, because if I live in the past, I miss out on the present.

Yet, as I later reflected on the conversation, I realized how important it is to be able to remember well enough to share with and help others. No two journeys are the same, but we need to be reassured we’re not alone. We can’t just say, “been there, done that, and you’ll survive, honey” and expect the other person to sigh and relax from that point forward. We can’t just say, “Well, I’ve never been through that, but I know what you should do.” We can’t put on rose-colored glasses and diminish someone’s issues because of our optimism. And we shouldn’t pull someone into our muck and mire.

It’s not about us. And we can’t make it all about the other person either. God is the only one who knows what each of us needs to share and receive with each interaction. But this I know for sure:

God brings people in and out of our lives.

We need to steward each interaction well.

We won’t always feel prepared, nor should we. After all, it is in those “caught off guard moments” that we get to most completely rely on God.

Remember well enough to relate to and encourage others. Forget well enough to not get stuck.

Adventures in Faith: Soaring!

adventures in faithToday is the final post in the Adventures in Faith series. Thanks for joining the journey. Let’s continue together with new adventures, beginning tomorrow!

Children, come and listen to me. I will teach you to worship the Lord. You must do these things to enjoy life and have many happy days. (Psalm 34:11-12)

Ponder It.

What’s one adventure that thrilled you?

What’s an adventure that challenged you?

Consider how you grew through each.

Receive It.

When Mom looked out the kitchen window, she saw us in the second-story barn window. My older sisters held me by my legs and arms, and they swung me back and forth several times before tossing me out the window.

What she couldn’t see was my landing. The garage obscured her view. She charged out the door in a panic, rounded the corner of the garage and…saw the hay truck stacked with straw and me rolling in laughter and delight. What a great day! Mom, on the other hand, didn’t share my joy. She was relieved I was okay, but her initial fright gave her enough momentum to yell at all of us and demand we stop the fun.

Bummer! I was having a blast. It might not have been the safest way to pass the time, but many of the “fun” things we did on the farm weren’t necessarily safe. Some of the most memorable experiences are the adventurous ones. We’re creative through adventures. We learn through adventures. And we often struggle through adventures. Struggling often produces growth.

Adventures often involve risks and usually involve excitement. Approach today with an anticipation of adventure. Learn. Struggle. Be creative. Make some memories.

Live It.

This is it: the launching pad of the next season of your adventures. Your adventures didn’t just begin, and they’re not going to end anytime soon, especially as you commit and yield to God’s will. He has a journey of adventures for you. Embrace every single one. Soar!

For more stories about life growing up on the family farm, check out Farm Days.

Adventures in Faith: Opportunities for Adventure

adventures in faithShout to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with joy; come before Him with singing. Know that the Lord is God. He made us, and we belong to Him; we are His people, the sheep He tends. Come into His city with songs of thanksgiving and into His courtyards with songs of praise. Thank Him and praise His name. The Lord is good. His love is forever, and His loyalty goes on and on. (Psalm 100)

Ponder It.

What’s one opportunity you missed and have regretted?

What’s an opportunity you are very grateful you didn’t miss?

What’s an opportunity you would love to experience?

Receive It.

We have a lot of opportunities throughout life and throughout every day. We have the choice not only to take or refuse the opportunity but also to take or give credit for the opportunity. We sometimes feel we’ve “made our way.” We take credit when, in reality, we haven’t gotten where we are on our own. In fact, we don’t achieve in isolation. Even when we think our efforts paved the way to where we are, opened the doors, and made the right choices, we’re surrounded by others. Our lives aren’t lived in isolation. Our paths are paved with relationships. Sometimes, we feel we’ve messed up everything. Taking responsibility is one thing, but thinking we’re powerful enough to mess up everything is the same as thinking we’re powerful enough to achieve anything we want. Whether we think too highly or not highly enough of ourselves, we have pride issues, and just about the time we excuse our pride as necessary confidence, we’ll trip over the stumbling blocks pride puts in the way.

We are never so low that we cannot go higher, and we can never get to a height from which it’s impossible to fall. We have responsibility, but God gets the credit. Obedience is the responsibility; guidance and provision only comes from God. He defines who we are and determines when we’re letting pride slip into our lives. Whether we’re giving ourselves too much credit or not enough credit, our credit is misguided. It’s not about our credit; it’s about God’s glory. So, when you’re faced with an opportunity, give it to God. Let it filter through His fingers and will. Let Him decide how you’re supposed to best respond. When you’re faced with an opportunity, get prayed up and prayed for. Each is indispensable, and neither should be done just when you feel it’s an emergency. God’s presence and will isn’t just the only way when we can’t see another way. It’s the only way when we can see thousands of ways ahead of us. Many ways may look beautiful to us, but only God’s way is undoubtedly, incomparably, the most beautiful ever.

Live It.

Place one of your hands under a faucet and let water run over your palm. Try to hold as water as you can. Turn off the water. As you watch the remainder of the water run down the drain, commit to not wasting a single opportunity God gives you today. Opportunities slip too easily through our hands.

Adventures in Faith: Bench, Floor, or Field?

adventures in faithThere are different kinds of gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve but the same Lord to serve. And there are different ways that God works through people but the same God. God works in all of us in everything we do. Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person, for the common good…Together you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of that body. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7,27)

Ponder It.

When have you felt like you had to sit on the sidelines, and what was your response?

When have you been in the middle of an exciting game, part of a healthy team?

Where would you rather be, on the bench or the floor? Why?

Receive It.

There’s a difference between the players on the bench and those on the floor…but they’re all part of the team, and each and every person plays an important part. At least, God intends for them to play an important part. They can choose not to fulfill that important part by pouting or getting defensive. They can feel they were wronged or that they’re under-appreciated. Just as we can in the body of Christ. God gives spiritual gifts to each person who believes in Him. He didn’t leave anyone out, including you. The problem is usually in discerning what our gifts are and how to use them. We get confused about our gifts and respond to how we think we’re supposed to use them or how we’re insufficiently using them when we’re actually misunderstanding or under-appreciating what we have and what we’re doing.

For example, we sometimes assume our spiritual gifts are something we’re passionate about doing. I’m confident God fans the flame of passion in us, but what if we’re not ultra-excited about something: does that mean we’re not gifted for it? What if that just means we’re being stubborn and not accepting God’s will? If I’m gifted to teach, will I be excited about teaching every moment of my life? I may be gifted in advising others, but will I whole-heartedly want to always listen to people whine and complain? Probably not! We’re human, and we need to not base our gifts and the use of our gifts on our emotions and experiences. Whether we’re on the bench or the floor, we need to give teamwork our all. All of our gifts work together, and each of us is essential to the fully-functioning body of Christ. You’re human. You’re going to doubt yourself. But don’t doubt God. When you question your giftedness, you question God’s ability and wisdom. He knows what He’s doing. No exceptions. God expects you to use your gifts for His glory. Your gifts are yours to use, but you’re not the source. God is. He gave you the gifts. He knows exactly where you fit. Let God settle you into your gifts as He settles His gifts into you.

Live It.

Work together today. Invite someone into your life, and serve. Accept someone else’s invitation for you to serve. Don’t insist on doing it your way. Do it God’s way.

Adventures in Faith: Hiking

adventures in faithSo be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you, and follow the commands exactly. Live the way the Lord your God has commanded you so that you may live and have what is good and have a long life in the land you will take. (Deuteronomy 5:32-33)

Ponder It.

What is the most challenging hike you’ve accomplished?

When have you had a downhill experience, physically or spiritually?

How does the security of your footing change when you are confident with God’s commands and uncertain about what you’re doing and where you’re going?

Receive It.

When you hike in the hills or mountains, you’ll get a fresh perspective with every twist and turn. The goal is to get to the summit, where you’ll have unobstructed views, being able to see for miles with fresh air swirling around you. Even though your muscles and lungs burn along the path, you accomplish something with each and every step. You stop for a break, sip water, refuel with a power bar, and continue to ascend. Every step takes you a little closer. You watch your step. Your excitement and anticipation grows. With every challenge, you grow. You develop. Then you reach the top and savor the moment. You breathe and take it all in. You soak in the sights…and the accomplishment.

But you can’t stay on the top forever. You have to get back to where you live. It’s time to move back down the mountain. It seems easier. After all, going down definitely seems to involve less resistance. Shouldn’t it be almost like coasting? The truth is, many more accidents happen on the way down the mountain than on the way up. We don’t pay attention. We’re not as careful. We’re tired, and the climb down is anticlimactic. There’s really not a lot to look forward to it—except survival, a bath, and a good meal. But if we don’t pay attention to where our feet go, we’ll step on loose rock, we won’t have our feet firmly under us, we’ll slip. And falls on the way down can be disastrous because they’re more difficult to stop. Momentum carries us. We can slip into others. We twist an angle or stress a knee. Tired muscles ache and cramp. But we can’t quit. God will guide and give us everything we need, but we can’t get lazy. Focus. Be intentional with each and every step.

Live It.

Take a hike. It doesn’t have to be extremely challenging or time-consuming. Let God guide. Be careful with your steps but also bold as you proceed. When you move forward in God’s will, you can be secure even with the uncertainty involved. You won’t always be safe, but you can step into God’s confidence. He will show you sights and sounds you wouldn’t have experienced without Him.