Ask less, praise more.

That’s the resolution that I have gotten from today’s sermon by Carl Schenck at Grace United Methodist Church.

He talked about how repetitive prayers can become, and how often they devolve into a series of requests. The problem with prayers that only revolve around requests, he says, is that they imply that God is like a slot machine, in which we put goodness coins so that we can get the outcomes we want. These requesting prayers suggest the ridiculous notion that God, the Creator of the Universe, somehow needs to be reminded of what we want, and will forget or not know unless we pray. Schenck suggested that if we need guidelines for prayer, we can turn to the Psalms, which can be used for a variety of prayers.

My prayers have been repetitive. I’m a graduate student, so even though I follow the “ACTS” guideline (Affirmation, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), my prayers often go something like this:

Dear God,

You’re awesome. Thanks for creating people and our capacity to love. And for my friends, because I get lonely.

I’m sorry that I don’t spend enough time getting to know you. I’m sorry that I turn to vices for comfort. Like eating too much. Or spending too much time on the computer. And by computer, I mean Youtube.

Thank you for my friends and family and for this shelter above my head and that I have a bed to sleep in.

Please bless this sleep to my body. I ask that you be with my family and help us to love each other. Help me to know what the right thing is to do.

In Jesus’ name,


Actually, when I’m tired they go something more like this:

Dear God,

Yawn. Thanks for letting me sleep.

Help this sleep to work, because I’m definitely not getting enough.

Sorry for not reading my Bible.


*collapses into bed*

Pray these prayers night after night and it seems like I am stuck in this endless cycle of tiredness and failure. Combine that with a propensity to think, “If I don’t do this, then this horrible thing will happen” or “This horrible thing happened and therefore I will never be this type of person that I want to be” or “I really want this good thing to happen, but I don’t know how to do it and if I don’t do it, then everything will fall to pieces and I will never get what I want.” Then you get a negative, neurotic, panicky outlook on life. Yuck!

Therefore, my resolution is to ask less, praise more. This extends to friends and family. From them, I should ask less of them and recognize more what they have done for me or who they have been to me. And in life, I want to demand fewer expectations and be better with acknowledging what is going right.

After all, it’s usually annoying whenever people demand, “Gimme, gimme more…”

Except when Britney Spears sings it, of course.

Queen of Pop. Can’t stop.


Think like a runner.

I ran my first 5k today, and I survived! Despite an utter lack of training and the terrifying anticipation of a) wheezing behind all my friends and walking it and b) needing to pee every ten minutes out of fear, I ran it in less than thirty minutes, with none of those fears coming to fruition!

The secret? I put one foot in front of the other and kept a good momentum going. I didn’t think about how long it would be or when I would get to the end. I celebrated the victories– one mile, two, three, with whoops and cheers. I encouraged others, including the volunteers. What I said to other people, “we can make it!” “almost there!” “yeahhh downhill!” I said to myself. I stayed in the moment, focused on breathing well and driving myself forward, propelling myself at a natural speed.

I need to do that in life. Focus on the steps I need to take now, keeping a good momentum going. Don’t think so much about how long a situation will last or when I will get to the “end,” or what “the end” should look like. Enjoy the process, celebrating the milestones with joy. Encourage others and in doing so, encourage myself. Be in the moment, breathe well and keep going at a natural speed.

I was able to get my laundry to spin finally. And then my landlord came and is now installing a new washing machine.

I also have a medal for my run. I think it’s a waste of materials and I don’t know what I will do with it in a few years, but for now, it is a treasure. Sometimes you need something that seems frivolous to remind you that an event is worthwhile.

Don’t let anyone make me feel weird for not drinking.

It’s super easy to feel weird for not drinking:

a) In a social work graduate school program. We’re social and we constantly learn about and work with heavy duty topics like poverty, homelessness, and abuse. Alcohol seems to be the social lubricant/anesthesia of choice.

b) As a twenty-something. Because you gotta live it up before languishing in the suburbs where you only drink wine, and only at meals, for antioxidant and heart health purposes, of course.

c) In the Midwest. Especially in winter, where you need to drink yourself a sweater.

d) In St. Louis, home to Budweiser, Schlafly, etc. The city where a Magic School Bus and a Captain Morgan Bus coexist on the same public transportation system.

Here’s the thing. I like socializing, but I don’t like the taste of alcohol, the way it makes me feel and the price tag. I can drink alcohol if I so choose– there is no alcoholism in my family that I know of, I am not allergic to alcohol and I do not hold religious beliefs that prohibit drinking. However, as a twenty-something in a social work graduate school program in St. Louis, it feels like drinking is a prerequisite for socializing and having a good time. This is a place where beer and cake constitute a birthday party, and where drinking itself is the point of an outing. When I go to parties, sometimes I get a cup of soda because I am afraid that people will see me without a drink, and assume I am uncomfortable, and therefore feel awkward on my behalf.

Let me enlighten you. If you give me alcohol, I will get sleepy, and probably complain about not feeling whatever feeling it is that everyone seems to be talking about when they exclaim, “WE’RE NOT DRUNK ENOUGH” or “FREE BEER? HECK YES.” or “I CAN’T WAIT TO GET SHITFACED THIS WEEKEND.” I did get drunk once, and the only parts of it that could possibly seem desirable were the feelings of not caring about anything and having a one-track mind. The rest was awful– food turned to sand in my mouth, I couldn’t sit up and I heaved the contents of my stomach into a beautiful porcelain container. Shit and face are not a favorite combination of mine.

Tea is awesome. Makes me alert and focused. Sugar is less awesome, but not horrible. If you give me too much, be prepared for me to say weird non sequiturs.

I finally felt vindicated and normal when I found this post on advice for someone who was frustrated about being pestered to drink when she did not care for alcohol. To be fair, I initially expressed that I wanted my non-drinking “problem” to be solved. Everyone kept making it seem like drinking was a prerequisite for having fun and socializing, and I began to realize that people were excluding me from social events because they assumed that I would be uninterested because the events revolved around drinking.

After all, if people are going to the bars as recreation, what is there for me to do if I don’t drink? Will I just twiddle my thumbs in boring ol’ reality, watching paint peel as everyone goes off to the delightful land of inebriation? While it is true that I am less enthused about going to bars, assuming that I would not want to go because I don’t want to drink is the same as assuming that the only reason to ask someone out for coffee is to consume the dregs of ground beans. And we all know that’s not true, because if coffee were so exciting, we wouldn’t have adopted it as a last resort after dumping British tea into the ocean.

“The problem is not you not wanting to drink, or why you don’t want to drink. The problem is people hearing “no thanks” and taking that as the opening stage in a negotiation. And I think it is good for everyone to recognize when that is happening and have strategies for shutting the conversation down.

You’re not weird for not drinking. They are weird for taking “I don’t drink” as an invitation to sell you on drinking. Analogous: Someone is not weird for being a vegetarian, or having celiac disease, or being a vegetarian with celiac disease. The person who hears “I’m a vegetarian and I have celiac” and responds with “But have you tried this sandwich of ground animal parts on a whole wheat bun? I think it’s really going to change your whole outlook on things!” is committing a massive, massive faux pas. And that faux pas is coercion. Which we need less of, both generally and around food/drink specifically. Whenever someone behaves like that, I wonder, are they really THAT insecure about what they like? If the people in your life love drinking so much, they can do it without your validation or participation. Someone making a different choice than you would make is not invalidating your choices.

Now, your friends and family should know that you don’t drink, and they should be respectful about that. Which means, warning you if something has alcohol in it, and not making you explain yourself about it, or, if someone is badgering you about it they should also step in and say “Yeah, she doesn’t drink. So, howabout (subject change)?” as well. If they make fun of you or shame you, shut it down, not because you should drink but because people shaming you about choices that have nothing to do with them is shitty.” -JenniferP, Captain Awkward

Note: the only thing I would change is that I don’t want anyone to step in and say, “Yeah, she doesn’t drink. So, howabout (subject change)?” for me. I can do that for myself and I can choose when I want to drink if I want to drink. I can and should be able to change my mind, depending on my mood. It’s not that I don’t drink. It’s that most of the time, I probably don’t want to.

I think this has a lot to do with being yourself and being okay with what you want to do, regardless of what other people want from you.

Ze Frank has a good video on the difficulty of being yourself:

Meekakitty has advice on being yourself, in order to get the right people to like you (also applies outside of romantic relationships):

And Captain Awkward references a good post by Jenn Vicious on boundaries and breakups, which has to do with the okayness (I just made that a word– deal with it) of valuing what you want, even when someone else makes you feel guilty for wanting something different than they do.

Get more sleep.

I haven’t been getting enough sleep. It’s hard. Sometimes I feel like I need to do more work. Sometimes I want to hang out with people or watch videos online, and before I know it, it’s late and I haven’t gotten done what I planned to have done. Sometimes I do my work, but get caught up… in reading articles and watching videos… online…

I get out of my house sometimes. I really do.

I can tell you don’t believe me. I feel that judgment through my computer screen. I can change!

I have to change. I feel cold and a tingling in my nose and throat. Either the 100% chance of snow tomorrow (after nice, balmy weather today) is communing with my body in odd ways, much like how birds always seem to know when a storm is coming, or I am getting sick.

I can’t get sick. I have things to do, people to see, Macklemore to support… Yeah, I’m volunteering for a Macklemore concert. What what, what, what?

So I’ve been eating honey like crazy. And… still… don’t feel like changing my routine one bit… it’s 11pm and I still need to shower and as usual, it will be midnight when I go to sleep and I plan to attend church tomorrow morning. If I’m feeling under the weather (har har), I will stay home. There are people with suppressed immune systems out there! If you are in the early stages of sickness, stay home. No one wants you around! Nothing personal. This is a public service announcement, all you snifflers.

This is probably why my body raises a white flag (completely made out of white blood cells, mind you) and falls ill. If you know me, you know that when I am sick, I am (wo)man down. It’s a forced rest. Maybe if I did more enforced rests, this wouldn’t happen.

“Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). But Israel will. For we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. How humiliating to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a suckling infant every day.” –John Piper

“We have been talking a great deal about sanctification – what is it all going to amount to? It should work out into rest in God which means oneness with God, a oneness which will make us not only blameless in His sight, but a deep joy to Him.” –Oswald Chambers

“Many argue that there is no time for rest in their busy lives.  Jobs, children, family commitments and various activities take priority.  But rest is something one must discipline one’s self to do just like all those other tasks.  The irony is that by integrating forms of rest into one’s daily routine, and especially resting on the Sabbath as God intends, one discovers that the must-dos in life become easier to accomplish.  Ironically, too, is that time spent resting doesn’t take away the much needed time required to carry out life’s duties; rather, it seems to provide us with more time..” –Kim A. Talbert

Cultivate true friendships.

Maybe it’s a becoming-an-adult thing or an always-busy-graduate-student thing, but I find that a lot of my friendships are about entertainment. Grabbing drinks, going to things, eating cupcakes. Which is all fine and good, but can sometimes make me feel like I am just adding something else to my busy schedule, rather than choosing people with which to go through life together. I’ve talked to several people my age, and we all agree that it is ridiculous that we have to make appointments to see friends, but it’s reality. I guess the quality of time depends on the people that you hang out with– whether they are people that really ask how you are doing, and really want to know what you’re about, or if they are just people who are bored and don’t want to be alone on a Friday night.

I want true friends that challenge me and hold a mirror up to myself, that make me a better person, all the while knowing what I have been like throughout a long period of time and accepting me nonetheless. This means being more intentional about emailing and Skyping to catch up, and scheduling trips to see them in person. This means choosing which friends to invest in.

Older adults are more likely than younger adults to be socioemotionally selective, which is a fancy way of saying they don’t care as much about being popular. Younger adults get concerned about developing connections with acquaintances, thinking that one day these people will come in handy, for instance, when they are looking for a job. Older adults are not as concerned about being liked by wide swaths of people, and are more aware of the people whose good esteem they do want to keep. Even if it means making choices that make me less popular, I want to be more like older adults who have friends they value and know they can rely on, and less like younger adults who are caught up in trying to be popular among acquaintances who are only around for the moment.

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” –Thomas Aquinas

“9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” –Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NRSV

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” –Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey