Under The Table


Middle school is rough.

You feel like a ball of raging hormones, your social circles are changing more than ever, you’re in what feels like “maturity limbo,” you’re beginning to realize that life isn’t all about birthday parties and ponies, and to top it all off . . . the pressures to perform well in sports and at school are increasing. I know. I was basically a walking billboard for how awkward and difficult those 3 LONG years were. But you know what? I survived. I learned a lot from it all, too.
They say experience is the best teacher, and I would have to agree. When I approach ministry, I have a different vantage point and understanding than our kids do because I have been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. One of my best learning experiences came out of middle school. It was embarrassing and profound all at the same time, and that combination always makes for a good read.

Before I get started, remember what I said about the whole ball-of-raging-hormones thing? Yeah, keep that in the forefront of your mind.

I grew up a pastors’ kid, so I had always been at church and had longed to be in the youth group since as early as I could remember. But today, I had finally arrived. I was in the youth group. In fact, it was my very first event in the youth group at church.

My brother, who is 4 years older than me was an old pro. A 10th grader who was a pretty solid part of the group. His class was the largest. The coolest girls were his friends. I was set. I remember walking in with a confidence I had never felt before. I could just imagine them all saying to each other, Look! There’s Mendy. She’s Jonathan’s sister, she must be so cool. Today was going to be great. So what did I do?

I went crazy.
I went overboard.
I was annoying.
Remember that part about being in maturity limbo? I was there.

My brother was there to witness it all. He sat back in horror as I completely bombed my attempts at portraying coolness and confidence. So, my brother did what any loving brother would have done in a moment when his sister is making a fool of herself. He approached me calmly. He pulled me aside. He started to quietly talk some sense into me.

Looking back, he was being such a good older brother-so mature! He was protecting me and looking out for me by discretely calling to my attention that I was making a fool of myself; however, my 6th grade self did not see this at the time. I saw my older brother trying to embarrass me. I saw my bossy brother correcting me in front of all my new friends and trying to make me look bad. So, I did what any middle school girl would do.

I tackled him.

Yes, a 6th grade girl flattened her 10th grade brother. It was me. I did it. Ball of raging hormones moment.

And then I immediately realized what I just did. In front of the ENTIRE youth group. So, again, I did what any middle school girl would do. I ran from the scene and hid underneath a table and started to cry. Another ball of raging hormones moment.

But what happened afterward is what I remember the most from my first day in the youth group. What I vividly remember was my brother’s response.

Immediately after I had flattened Jonathan and ran away to cry under the table and hide in shame, he got up off the ground and started to search for where I had gone. He found me curled underneath the table, got in there with me, and started to again explain to me what he was trying to tell me from the beginning.

He told me that he cared about me. That he wants what is best for me. That he doesn’t want to embarrass me, but that he thinks I might need to calm down a bit. He was telling me something I needed to hear, but didn’t necessarily want to hear. Only this time, I was listening. I knew he was right. He was trying to save me from embarrassing myself, but instead my inability to trust and listen resulted in me making things worse.

So yeah, middle school is rough. At least my experiences in middle school were.

As I work with students, I often go back to this moment in my life. I try to put myself back into my 6th grade self and look at the world through that lens so I can begin to understand what our students face and how they might feel. How they might take the words I’m saying, whether it be a joke or a moment where I’m trying to speak words of truth into their lives.

When those conversations don’t go as planned, I look back to when I was underneath that folding table in the lobby of my church. I see how my brother made an effort to look for me and to get under the table with me. I see how, that day, my brother showed me how Jesus responds to all of His children-even the annoying ones. He searches for us. He lovingly calls us out of our hiding and our shame. And when we don’t have the courage to come out, he gets under the table with us.

This week, how will you seek out others? How will you loving share truth and let them know there is a life out there that is better than second-rate? How will you meet them where they are at, under the tables where their fragile hearts are hiding, and show them Emmanuel, God with us?


Digital Tattoos

Digital Tattoos

If you were in our youth group, you’d probably overhear me having a conversation with one or more of our students about what they post onto social media. Why? Because I feel it needs to be talked about as much as possible. You’ve heard the whole the-Internet-is-taking-over-our-lives-and-we’re-experiencing-more-bullying-and-anxiety spiel. Yes. I would 100% agree with you, but that’s not what I am talking about with our students half of the time. I don’t think that will change overnight, at least not right away.
When I pull a student aside, or make a general comment about social media, I often talk to them about their digital tattoos. Because that’s what their Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Vine/SnapChat/Pinterest posts are. Digital tattoos that are hard to remove, if at all.

Last night, I came across this article about a young PR Executive, Justine Sacco, who tweeted as she was boarding a direct flight from NYC to South Africa on a business trip. Here’s what her tweet stated: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” It’s VERY clear that this is highly offensive on many levels. Even though she had a little over 400 followers (which is a little over the following of your standard high school or college student), her post set off a viral wildfire. #HasJustineLandedYet landed in the top 3 hastags while her flight was still in air. When her flight landed, she found herself being fired from her job and a notification center full of retaliation-all because of one tweet that took about 10 seconds to post. OUCH! That’s a big digital tattoo she gave herself, which eventually led her to deleting all of her social media accounts, and essentially removing herself from the Internet.

Justine, like so many of us, find ourselves freely posting any and everything we think to our various social media platforms. In fact this morning I read about what my friends ate for breakfast, saw the battle wounds of a mountain bike accident, saw posts of several friends who made a Starbucks run, and even watched a video someone posted on their love for Hanson (yes, I have a friend that loves Hanson). Pretty harmless, right? But what happens when we create habits of not using a filter when we post to social media? What if we find ourselves lonely, angry, hurt, or just bored? What do we post then? Probably something we’ll eventually regret.

More often than I’d like, I look through my various feeds and I see words of hurt and posts from people who clearly weren’t thinking about how it would affect the person on the other end of their comment/picture/video. If people like Justine can get fired for their job for a thoughtless post, we should be talking about how we can protect ourselves from making the same mistake. Was Justine wrong? Yes. Is she different than us? Maybe not as much as we’d like to admit.

As you continue to engage on social media, please remember that it’s a form of technology and technology is amoral, meaning, it is neither good nor bad. The thing that dictates whether or not it used good or bad is the user. That’s us. If we want to complain about technology, we must first remember that we are pointing our finger at ourselves. Not sure how to navigate through whether you should post or not? Here’s some good tips to consider:

Are you’re hurt, angry, or lonely? If yes, hit delete and open up your journal. Tell God, he can handle it.
Would the post offend someone? If yes, hit delete. If you’re not sure, hit delete. Humor that is at the expense of someone else is cheap humor. In the words of Lady Grantham, “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.”
• Are you showing a certain part of your body that shouldn’t be the focus of your post? If yes (and deep, deep down we all know what should and should not be shown), hit delete. Ladies & Gentlemen, this includes SnapChat. You may never realize how fast someone can take a screen shot until you see that photo on your mother’s phone in a text message sent from the mother of your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Would you be embarrassed if your parents or grandparents read/saw it? If yes, hit delete. If no, post away! My 90 year old grandpa, Poppy, is on Facebook. Every time we talk on the phone, he ALWAYS comments about my posts on there. It’s actually great to know he cares about what I care about!
Would it encourage someone? PLEASE POST IT. Post things like this often! If there’s one thing people need, it’s a word of encouragement.

Being a marketing major, I love Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Vine/SnapChat/Pinterest/Wordpress. But as we now know, we’re all susceptible to the pitfalls that can come from using these platforms. Because a harsh reality is, the world is becoming increasingly more and more connected and that means the line between our personal lives and professional lives is starting to look a little blurry.  Will we get it all right? Probably not, but hopefully with these tips we will learn and grow together in such a way that we will set ourselves up for success and spread words of encouragement and excitement in the digital abyss.

Happy Posting!

Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. | Mendolin