5 Tips for Becoming a Better Conversationalist

women091107_468x398[1]Talking is hard. Here are some things that I’ve learned from all my years of saying words:

1. Bring up subjects that you both have in common. Some people have an extremely bad habit of talking about things that are extremely uninteresting to the person that they’re talking with. It’s adorable for like a second, if they’re passionate about the subject, but then gets old. I have a friend with an annoying tendency of talking about video games and video games only. I personally despise video games. Although he probably enjoysgetting to talk about something that he loves, I never enjoy listening to him. A conversation needs to go both ways. So, bring up things that you know the other person will have something to say about. If you’re just meeting the person for the first time, focus on your surroundings or the occasion as the topic of conversation. For example, you’re meeting someone for the first time in a class, ask them about what they think of the subject material. If you’re meeting them at church, ask them what specifically brought them there.

2. No monologues. This goes for both you and the person that you’re conversing with. If you feel yourself talking too much, ask a question that either relates back to the other person or asks their opinion on the subject that you were going on about. For example, recently I was enjoying some time with friends, telling them about patterns of behavior I had noticed in my family. When I sensed that I might be talking too much, I asked the others in the group if they had noticed similar patterns in their families. Which leads to…

3. Questions, questions, questions. You probably already know this one. People love to talk about themselves. Asking questions is the best way to keep a conversation going. However, avoid questions with yes or no answers, as they tend to kill conversations. Some of my favorite (very personal) questions are: What really frustrates you? What are people surprised to find out about you? What were you like when you were younger? (Obviously, these are questions that need to be built up to.)

4. Cut the small talk as soon as possible. Small talk is fine, as a means of introducing oneself or reconnecting. However, don’t linger on it. It’s not memorable, and it’s usually just a precursor to more interesting talk. I personally dislike when someone asks me about work or school, not because I dislike work or school, but because I’ve already told the previous three people I’ve spoken with about my experiences there because they, too, have asked me.

5. Be present. I struggle with this a lot. If I’m in the middle of a conversation that’s not particularly interesting, instead of trying to make the conversation better, I’ll get distracted by my surroundings or by other thoughts. When I really focus on the other person, I find them both more interesting and easier to talk to, because I’m picking up on verbal and physical cues that I wouldn’t otherwise. It becomes much easier to keep a conversation flowing. Almost nothing is more flattering than a person who is devoting their entire attention to what you have to say.

Be the person that you would want to have talking to you.


I’m Only Friends with Boys

We’ve all heard it before. Some of us have lived it. While the prospect of wanting to align oneself with only the men in one’s life to establish more peaceful relationships seems noble, this is actually some pretty dangerous thinking, especially for Christian women.

The two major issues in this school of thought are that it’s a pitfall of pride and it’s divisive. Women are not to be trusted? I beg to differ. This first part is tricky. Love is going to get tough here, just a fair warning. When you put down the rest of womankind –deeming them judgmental, catty, and ultimately, unworthy of respect– you elevate yourself above them. However, you turn the tables on yourself because you then become judgmental and catty – the very things you hate. It’s the vicious cycle of this particular breed of pride.

What can be done to end it? Philippians 2:3 offers some instruction on how we should view others. Paul urges his readers, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Some versions say rivalry rather than selfish ambition, which I think better applies to this situation.

Don’t make rivals out of other women. Your relationship with them should not be marked with trophies won of who has more male friends. [At this point the writer lost the will to administer tough love.] It may not be easy, especially if you’ve ever had to sit with the dreadful thought that another girl was talking about you behind your back. But, as time goes on, you’ll find that rivalry isn’t very easy either.

You’ll also find that girls change. Sometimes, they were never really all that bad to begin with. Let the pride wall crumble down, and give other women their due respect, all to Christ’s glory. You may think that strategically making only male friends is a foolproof plan to avoid drama, but in reality, it’s only making things worse. It drives a wedge between you and them, thus fueling the aforementioned drama. It’s another vicious cycle. It’s uncomfortable enough in a school setting (albeit entertaining, if we take the Mean Girls approach), but it’s downright insufferable in a church setting. The end of Sunday service is a race to the nearest exit. Youth group gatherings get awkward. The mere idea of a girls’ Bible study is almost more than you can bear! Does this sound ideal? Of course not! Of all places, your church should be a place where you can celebrate like-mindedness in Christ. So stop drawing lines between the pews.

It’s not unrealistic to believe that there are kind women out there who are adept at maintaining healthy friendships. In Ephesians 4:3, we’re given a bit of homework: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Emphasis added. Don’t be deliberately divisive. Gal pals are meant to be embraced, not kept beyond arm’s length. Remember, this present darkness known simply as drama is only as powerful as you allow it to be. So don’t let it be.

Equipped with the raw power of friendship, I charge you now with this: get out there and love your sisters in Christ – because that’s what they’re supposed to be, your sisters. Be good to each other, my dears. I expect some Leslie Knope & Ann Perkins level affection by the time we’re done here. leslie and ann hug

How to Shop for a Church

Shopping is an art. Experienced consumers know how to appraise every aspect of the object they are considering. Nothing is too small to escape scrutiny: color, design, age, cost. The weight that each of these factors is given depends on the customer. However, this little game of the mind does not only apply to today’s extreme shoppers. Often, the things that are examined in the manner of a customer can’t be bought with money. In the same way, men shop for women. Women shop for men. The average twenty-first century Christian shops for churches.

The process can be different, depending on the person, but church shopping always follows the same major patterns. It can be very difficult and confusing, especially if you are new at this kind of thing. Just remember that feeling comfortable is usually the first priority of church shoppers and you’ll be fine. Not theological accuracy, but comfort.

Before you head out, make sure that you are dressed well. Church is about how you are perceived. After all, it is very important that you impress people. Once you arrive, begin taking mental notes. Is it too drafty inside? Does the building’s design more resemble an ancient cathedral or a hip nightclub? Do the chairs hurt your back? Does the tile in the anteroom remind you of a bad sixties diner? All of it matters. You may begin to get discouraged by all the “flaws” you find, but don’t get too worried just yet. They are not always deciding factors.

Next to consider are the people. You may be more comfortable worshiping and communing with Christians of a similar ethnicity and socio-economic background. After all, people like you will be better able to  understand the specific difficulties that you’re facing. The members must be friendly, but not too pushy. Remember, you do not want to go to a church where you are going to be roped into actually doing things. After all, you don’t want to be involved, but you need to feel included.

Normally, the main church service starts at 11 AM. This is when you need to pay attention. Worship time is very important. Most of the complaints that are made about any church are made about the music. “The songs are too old-fashioned,” or “They sing too slowly.” These are all valid objections. You need to find a church with a worship time that really gets you into your spiritual groove. Music is the only way to worship God, so make sure you’re worshiping in your comfort zone. If you’re really feeling the Spirit moving, don’t forget to raise your hands, or the people around you won’t know how spiritual you’re feeling.

After a heartfelt rendition of the latest Chris Tomlin hit, the lights will come up and the speaker will mount the podium. If you forgot your Bible, don’t worry. It’s no longer considered important to bring one. The verses will be up on the screen in the New-International-American-Revised-Standard-Contemporary-Living-maybe-Biblical version.

Now the sermon will begin. This is where you will get very bored. If you’re lucky, the speaker will liven up his sermon with culturally relevant examples and humorous little stories involving his kids. Fortunately, it is very easy to pretend that you’re paying attention; stare vacantly into space and try not to think about how hungry you are. If you accidentally find yourself listening to the sermon, don’t take anything personally. You want a church that makes you feel comfortable. If one doesn’t, you need to find another where you will be encouraged. What you don’t need is an ancient hypocrite in a suit who doesn’t remember what it’s like to be young telling you everything you’re doing wrong.

On reaching home, coolly and objectively analyze all the information that you have absorbed. Sometimes, you may need to make one or two more data-gathering expeditions before you fully form your opinion. Remember, being comfortable is your first priority. You should be accepted by your church for who you are, because you’re perfect already.

You wouldn’t want to be convicted or anything like that. Right?

What Does it Mean to be Modest? Part 2

In Part 1 of this series (which you can read here), I discussed the fact that modesty as the Bible defines it is quite different from the way that we Christians define it today. Even though it is still true that there are no rules in the Bible about bikinis, shorts, or spaghetti straps, we shouldn’t throw out all rules about clothing. Yes, modesty is all about wanting to draw attention to ourselves instead of God. And yet, how we feel about the clothes isn’t all that matters here.

Wearing clothing or not wearing clothing isn’t good or bad in and of itself. After all, you have to take off the clothes to make the babies, and that’s not wrong. In the context of marriage, of course. And that’s the point: many actions are good or bad because of context, not because they themselves are inherently good or bad. Paul addressed this concept in 1 Corinthians 8. Some believers who were spiritually stronger than others were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Paul admits that there is nothing inherently wrong with this. Idols are nothing, after all. Other believers, however, because of their former association with others, still viewed it as a sin, and they were stumbling when they ate because their conscience counted the action a sin. Paul concludes with these statements:

Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. (1 Corinthians 8:12-13)

Your heart matters, but other people’s hearts matter as well. If you do something that you know or that you think might cause another person to sin, then you are sinning. We are primarily social beings, and every decision you make, big or small affects someone else in some way. Obviously, you can’t control the way people see you. You can’t control what guys are going to think about you. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care. I’m by no means perfect, but I’d like to live a life in which I did everything I could to help the people around me live the holiest lives possible. If that means layering tank tops under low-cut shirts, so be it. It won’t kill me. It won’t kill you either.

Appearance matters. God may know the inside, but often, each other’s outsides are all that we have to go on. You may have all the best intentions, but if you don’t dress appropriately, don’t expect guys to be thinking about how pure your intentions are. Have intentions. Don’t live your own life unexamined. Dress intentionally. Live as if people are watching you, because they are.

10 Quotes about Relationships

I love quotes. The quotes section of Goodreads is pretty much the best thing ever to me. Really, I just love words. So I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you: specifically, some about relationships. biography

1. “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” — Thomas Merton

2. “People change and forget to tell each other.” — Lillian Hellman

3. “God is more interested in your future and your relationships than you are.” — Billy Graham

4.  “Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” — Ann Landers

5. “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather, it is one of those things that give value to survival.” — C.S. Lewis

6. “I think…if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.” —  Leo Tolstoy

7. “Every relationship for a Christian is an opportunity to love another person like God has loved us.” — Joshua Harris

8. “True friends stab you in the front.” — Oscar Wilde

9. “At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.” — Plato

10. “And remember, as it was written, to love another person is to see the face of God.” — Victor Hugo

5 Clothing/Beauty Hacks that will Metaphorically Save Your Life



1. Cut open cosmetic tubes and dilute shampoo with water to make your products last longer. When you can’t squeeze anything else out of that stubborn tube, cut it open. There’s usually a ton of precious gunk (makeup, face wash, etc.) still left clinging to the sides. When you can’t pump one more drop out of your shampoo bottle, rinse the insides with water and use the resulting diluted solution instead.

2. Use a hair elastic to hold down a belt that’s too long. Ever pair a belt with a dress, only to have the end of the belt jutting off into space? Slide a clear hair elastic onto the belt, then slip the end that’s sticking out through it so that it’s secured to the part around your waist. Works like a charm every time. All of my belts have elastics permanently attached to them.

3. Transform your shirts with holes in them into cropped tops. I get those awful holes in my shirts where the belt rubs the fabric into anything I lean against. Turn the shirts into cropped tops by cutting off the bottom and hemming.

4. Wear biker shorts or tights under your dresses to prevent chafing. Most of you probably already knew this, but if you’re too lazy to actually find something that you can wear under your dresses (like I was for years), stop being lazy. Biker shorts are the easiest option, but tights have the added benefit of making your legs look smooth. And they’re just classy in general.

5. Use conditioner, shampoo, or body wash in the place of shaving cream. Getting into the shower and realizing that you have no cream to shave with is awful. Any old goop will do in a pinch. Also, if you have nothing to moisturize with afterwards, check your pantry. Olive oil and coconut oil both work great!

I’ve only included hacks on this list that I know work from personal experience. Share your favorite shortcuts in the comments!